2016 Fantasy Baseball: Breakout Candidate — Maikel Franco
In some ways, we are all sad to see Ruben Amaro Jr. out of Philadelphia. When he was released as general manager, he left a trail of snark behind him long enough to go from Philadelphia to Boston (where he landed as a base coach for the Red Sox). He reportedly eschewed analytics (although he has disputed that since), and the Phillies seemed stuck in the second division because of it.
The Phillies are finally moving forward in his absence and they actually have a few players worth watching. It will probably take them one more season before they can really run for contention, but watching Maikel Franco play could be fun in the meantime. He finally got extended playing time last year and produced enough to make calling him a breakout candidate questionable. Still, he represents the future in Philadelphia more than any other player currently on the roster.
Odubel Herrera is the other obvious choice, but much of his value is wrapped up in his defense. Franco is an exciting offensive player and easily the best fantasy prospect on the roster and that includes the pitching staff. Much of Franco’s prognosis revolves around simply remaining healthy enough to get in the plate appearances.
Where he has been
A cursory look at the minor league numbers demonstrates that these numbers were not a fluke. A giant part of the problem in Philadelphia was that Amaro had not capitalized on his veterans trade value until the trade deadline last season. It was pretty apparent to everyone by late 2012 that the Phillies were no long contenders. They could have conducted a fire sale back then and gotten a ton of help on the minor league end. They didn’t.
This has little to do with Franco individually, but any fantasy player worth their salt has talent around them to help with the counting numbers. Runs and RBI don’t occur on their own you know. Franco may struggle there since there are some gaping holes in the lineup, but otherwise he looks like the real deal.
Where he could go
There won’t be much of a difference between the projections and the rosy picture numbers. They all think he will play every day and put up numbers like he would have last season had he played every day. Sometimes, you can look like a genius with a prediction that comes out of left field. Sometimes you can look like an idiot when you try to come up with a prediction that comes out of left field. When it is obvious to everyone else it should be obvious to you too.
Where Franco ranks among third basemen is an interesting question. His walk rate is a bit lower than some of the other elite third basemen, so if you play in a six category league he comes in a cut below the established guys. He still might be good enough to be a starter though in standard five category leagues though.
A Rosy Picture
Like I said before, there is virtually no difference here. What is exciting about a player like Franco is the potential for growth that is not reflected in the numbers. 2015 was the first season he repeated at any level (AAA) and he only did that for about six weeks. He punished AAA pitching in that time period and forced a call up. Few think he will respond like that in his second full big league season, but a modest improvement is certainly not out of the question.
A modest improvement might see him hit 25 to 30 home runs and maybe approach 90 runs and RBI. That kind of improvement makes him a starting fantasy third baseman in any league. So, some people will target him and hope they see that kind of improvement this season. There are worse bets you can make.