Philadelphia Phillies: Predicting the Phillies opening day lineup

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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Philadelphia Phillies
(Photo by Stephen Nowland/Getty Images) /

6)  3B Maikel Franco

Justin: Hide him behind Realmuto and let him hit close to .300.

I’ve been on record as saying I’m a Maikel Franco guy. He showed me something last season after basically being demoted as a starter and forced to split time with JP Crawford at third. He could have sulked and moaned about being relegated to every other day type duties, but then Crawford went down with injury, and Franco stepped back into the everyday role. He never really looked back from that and played a strong second half of baseball.

Franco was undoubtedly the guy who was most relieved when Manny Machado signed his hefty deal with San Diego. Now, he can focus on the season knowing he’s the guy at third. Franco made some really impressive plays at the hot corner last season, and I just think he can and will get to another level this season without having too much pressure on him.

I like him to follow Realmuto here and improve on his .270 average last year where he knocked in over 20 homers. There’s doubt about it: when guys like Franco are hot, they’re hot, and if he can provide consistent offense behind the first five, it’s almost like starting the lineup over again. This creates a lineup where there really aren’t any breaks for a pitcher. It’s a nightmare, and I think Franco slots in nicely here.

Pete: “Face of the Franchise” potential; a hidden weapon lurking in the shadows of the Philly Phive.

For the longest time, it seemed like Franco was another promising young star who would fall short of the hype surrounding him. It was as if Ryan Howard handed over the reins as the guy who can’t go the other way. After an initial display of promise in 2015, Franco dipped down to .255 in 2016 and an abysmal .230 in 2017. There were times where it felt like Franco wouldn’t be the long-term solution at third base.

Last year, he displayed flashes of the player with a plethora of star-ability. He knocked 22 out of the park and lifted his average back to .270. A solid glove in the field, Franco frequented the highlight real at third base and made a solid case for the franchise corner man. When the talk of Manny Machado at third base was shut down after he signed in San Diego, all the pressure was lifted from Franco’s chest.

Following the “Philly Phive”, I look for Franco’s numbers to explode this season. After the powerhouse wears down the pitcher in the first five at-bats, Franco will step in as yet another option to go yard. Realmuto’s ability to consistently reach base will leave the third-baseman with a boatload of RBI opportunities.

Franco entered camp looked slimmer yet stronger. While we’ve jumped on him for early struggles in his young career, he’s only 26 years old and another piece of the long-term puzzle that puts the Phillies in position to contend year-after-year for the foreseeable future. He’s motivated to continue improving and become an integral part of the franchise. It seems like he’s determined to put in the work to reach his full star potential.

With that work and determination, Franco could be a steal of a three/four-hole talent sitting in the sixth spot.