A reader asked me for a quick take on Philadelphia Phillies prospect Maikel Franco, who was recently promoted to Double-A Reading. Franco was having an excellent season for High-A Clearwater: .299/.349/.576 with 20 walks and 39 strikeouts in 264 at-bats. So far, he's tearing up Double-A, going 11-for-21 (.524) with two homers in his first five games. He's drawn a walk and hasn't struck out yet since being promoted.
Franco is a 20-year-old from the Dominican Republic, signed in 2010. He was not a big-bonus guy, getting a $100,000 bonus, equivalent to what a 10th round or later pick gets under the current CBA. He didn't look good in workouts and most teams weren't impressed with his tools, but the Phillies felt he would have more success in real games rather than showcases.
They've been exactly right so far. He had a rough rookie ball debut in '10, but played pretty well in the New York-Penn League in '11, was very solid in Low-A last year, and is on fire this season. His power is blossoming and he's shown good command of the strike zone. Despite below average running speed, he's developed into a very good defensive third baseman.
Even with his strong hitting over the last year, some observers have doubted Franco due to an "arm bar" in his swing. The fear is that this will make his swing too long to succeed against pitching at the highest levels. I never know quite what to make of complaints like that. if any of you swing mechanic experts can diagnose what you see in that video, please do so.
So far, it hasn't been an issue. Usually a significant problem with swing mechanics shows up in performance slippage as a player advances, but so far Franco hasn't had any adjustment issues and continues to improve even as he faces better competition.
We should get a nice half-season of Double-A exposure for him this summer, and it will be interesting to see if Eastern League scouts and experts perceive this flaw, and if the pitchers can take advantage of it. if he continues to hit as he has, his combination of offense, defense, and youth will push him up prospect lists quickly.
I had him as a Grade B- pre-season. He's a strong B for me now based on the first half, and if he continues to hit in Double-A he'll be a B+ by the end of the season. Depending on exactly what happens and what the final reports are, an A- is not impossible.
(For another take on Franco, visit Crashburn Alley. Eric Longenhagen posted an article there today about Franco with very good, detailed personal observations and no complaints about "arm bar.")