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Maikel Franco call up imminent?

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The Phillies have optioned third baseman Cody Asche to AAA to learn to play left field. Is Maikel Franco on his way up to the big leagues for good?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This was originally supposed to post in the Roto Roundup, but news happened so fast that I decided to publish a separate post.

The Phillies are a bad team. You don't need me to tell you that. But, they have some decent prospects in their farm, including shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford (in High A), pitching prospect Aaron Nola (in AA) and third base prospect Maikel Franco. Franco is showing he is close to being ready for the big leagues in his second stint in AAA, hitting .336-.359-.520 with 3 home runs, 12 doubles, 13 runs scored, 17 RBI and 2 stolen bases in 131 plate appearances. While the power appears lower than expected, his 154 wRC+ tells you he is performing well above league average at the plate.

Then there is this piece, from Matt Winkelman from Phillies Minor Thoughts, where he discusses how Franco has matured at the plate this season, going the other way more than in the past:

Now there is a connection between power and pull side, Franco has 49 home runs over the past 3 seasons and only 4 of them have been to the right of center field.  So this is not to say that Franco should move to an opposite feel approach for all balls in play.  But showing the ability to hit the ball the other way is an important part of Franco's growth.  On a simple level it will make it hard for teams to shift him in the majors.  However, more than that it shows a level of approach and hitting that allows for him to manipulate his contact to go with pitches.  These are all things that are going to be important for Franco at the major league level.  The next step in the process will be showing the ability to combine the different aspects of his game into a single approach to adjust off of.

We learned earlier this evening that Franco is impressing the Phillies front office with his growth this season, and could be on the verge of a call up. Here is more from Jim Salisbury from Comcast SportsNet:

But they are strongly considering bringing up third baseman Maikel Franco. In fact, there's a chance he could be here during this homestand, which ends Sunday.

"He continues to do very well," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said before Monday night's game. "He's getting closer and closer."

Friday is May 15. That has long been a circled date on the Franco calendar. Keeping Franco in the minors until then allows the Phillies to push back his potential free agency until after the 2021 season. If Franco comes to the majors before then he could accumulate enough service time to become a free agent after the 2020 season. For a rebuilding team not expected to win for at least another couple of years that extra year of control is valuable.

Franco could be called up some time this week, as Cody Asche has slumped at the plate after a hot start, and would move to left field once Franco gets the call. Franco has the power to hit 15-20 home runs the rest of the season, but he could struggle at times if he goes back to his pull-happy ways. Either way, he should be up for good upon his call up, playing third base and some first base, and hitting in the middle of the Phillies lineup. If they were smart, they would bat him 8th, just as Don Mattingly did with rookie Joc Pederson to start the season.

Just a few minutes ago, as I was writing the Roto Roundup,  this passed through my Twitter time line, from Salisbury:

So a call up on Friday or Saturday appears to be imminent. Grab Franco off your league waiver wire if you can. He should provide some power with a chance to hit in the.260-.270 range.

For more on imminent Franco call up and the Phillies, make sure you check out The Good Phight, SB Nation's Phillies fan site.