When he picks up his morning newspaper, chances are GM Ruben Amaro Jr. goes deep inside the sports section to look at the morning box scores for his triple-A baseball team located in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
That’s because Maikel Franco plays third base for that team, and his major league team is saddled with Cody Asche for now. Sadly though, the 21-year-old Franco not ready to play for his Philadelphia Phillies quite yet, and even sadder, neither is the 23-year-old Asche, whose three errors in a game earlier this week cost Cliff Lee a much-deserved win.
That’s why the big club has no choice but to stay the course with Asche at third. There is no backup plan, no veteran who is a capable hitter and a proven fielder at that position, and promoting Franco before he’s ready could shake the confidence of someone who they consider a future big league star. For a short-term gain of a few extra hits at third base, that’s not a move the Phillies want to make at this time.
When a player is as young as Franco, what’s more important now is a steady transition to big-league pitching. Franco proved that he could handle both single-A and double-A pitching, and his slow adjustment to triple-A pitching is part of that process. At Lehigh Valley now, Franco is hitting .248 with three homers and 17 RBIs in 38 games. Conversely, at Philadelphia, Asche is hitting .240 with three homers and 12 RBI. That’s why Franco isn’t an option now.
Franco’s upside is considerably higher than Asche’s though, as evidenced by Franco’s superior numbers through lower levels of the Phillies’ farm system. Once he builds his confidence in triple-A, that’s the time to promote him — and not before. Asche may have reached his plateau, but the Phillies are stuck with that for now, at least until Franco can get his act together.