The Philadelphia Phillies have waited patiently for someone to mirror the success of Chase Utley, Ryan Howard or Jimmy Rollins since their rebuild started. The Phillies didn’t trade for a Giancarlo Stanton-type player, instead, they built from within. While the Phillies have been punchlines kings throughout the league for the past two season, the laughter will come to a head in 2017.
The City of Brotherly Love is a blue-collar place. The environment is gritty and that’s exactly how the city likes their players. Rollins was the heart of the Phillies during their great run but once he left, he took that pulse with him. Last season the Phillies made improvements. The playoffs were out of the question but the fight in this young squad won the city over and gave hope for the new year.
One player in particular will have eyes glued to his every at bat. Maikel Franco.
In 2016 Franco batted .255 with 148 hits, 25 home runs, 67 runs scored and 88 RBI. Not All-Star quality numbers but it was just enough to get the 24-year old kid from the Dominican Republic the experience needed to take that next step. While his numbers do not rival those of Kris Bryant or Nolan Arenado he’s right on pace to be the spark plug the Phillies need.
Rollins spoke for the Phillies with his bat and mouth. It was his words that the team rode to the World Series in 20o8 and 2009. This is what Franco has to be in 2017 and beyond.
The Phillies are not heavy favorites and that’s what makes them so dangerous. Fans are looking for the 40 home run and 100 RBI guys but Franco and the Phillies will become the king of small ball. As modest as Franco play was last year, you must remember that the team as a whole struggled due to inexperience which caused for poor hitting and pitching. The offseason brought new faces in hopes that some type of balance can be restored.
Franco will enter the season either batting 3rd or 4th in the order which will give him plenty of opportunities to become that quality player. With Michael Saunders now onboard, Franco should have the protection needed to see quality pitches. However, Franco is one of the most patient hitters in the game today. Last season he struck out 106 times, tops amongst NL 3B with over 150 at bats.
Rollins may be gone but Franco is more than capable of handling the mantle.