March 04, 2016
CLEARWATER, Fla. – Maikel Franco sized up a pitch he liked from Atlanta right-hander Victor Mateo and teed off on Friday afternoon.
Franco’s second home run of the spring - and second in two days - landed deep in the seats in front of the tiki bar beyond the left field fence at Bright House Field to get a seven-run second inning started for the Phillies. Thankfully for fellow infielder Freddy Galvis, the ball stayed in the ballpark.
Thankfully for the Phillies, and Franco, any lingering concerns of the wrist injury that forced Franco out of the lineup for the most of final two months of 2015 are long gone.
“I’m not even thinking about that, I’m just out there playing baseball,” said Franco, who wears a small, form-fitting shield on the wrist as the only reminder of the injury.
The last player to arrive in camp, Franco hasn’t had any issues finding his hitting stroke. After going 2-for-4 with a three-run home run and a run-scoring single in the Phillies' 12-11 win over the Braves on Friday, Franco is 4-for-11 with two home runs and six RBI in four Grapefruit League games.
It’s fair to say he’s off to a better start then each of his first two trips to big league camp. Franco hit .191 (13-for-68) without a home run in 28 games in spring training in 2014 and 2015 combined.
“Every spring I’ve seen him, he hasn’t hit well,” manager Pete Mackanin. “He’s looked terrible, he chases pitches. He looks like he has better plate discipline right now and that’s what is making the difference. Plate discipline comes from confidence, they kind of feed off of each other. And now he doesn’t have to swing wildly at pitches. That’s a mature player. He’s maturing.”
Mackanin believes the key to unlocking Franco’s spring bat was his breakout summer in the big leagues last season. Franco hit .280 with an .840 OPS and 14 home runs in 80 games with the Phillies last season.
At the time of his Aug. 11 wrist injury, Franco was leading all major league rookies - in both leagues - with a .828 OPS and .490 slugging percentage (min. 300 plate appearances) and only Joc Pederson (21), Kris Bryant (15), and Randal Grichuk Cardinals (14) had more home runs among NL rookies.
“The success he had last year during the season I think helped him gain confidence over time,” Mackanin said. “You have to get your feet on the ground and feel like you belong in the big leagues. Now he knows he belongs in the big leagues and he’s going to grow from there. I think he’s just going to get better and better.”