Maikel Antonio Franco
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 180 lb.
Maikel Franco made his major league debut in 2014.
Franco was signed by Philadelphia Phillies scout Koby Perez in 2010. He hit .222/.292/.330 that summer for the GCL Phillies, the rare Dominican prospect to skip the Dominican Summer League. He fielded .937 at third base. He split 2011 between the Williamsport Crosscutters (.287/.367/.411, 38 RBI in 54 G) and Lakewood BlueClaws (8 for 65, 2 2B, HR, BB, 15 K). In 2012, he hit .280/.336/.439 with 32 doubles and 84 RBI for Lakewood while fielding .944 at the hot corner. He was among the South Atlantic League leaders in RBI (tied for 4th), double play grounders (24, 1st), hits (141, 5th, between Gregory Polanco and Garin Cecchini) and total bases (221, 7th). He was rated as the #16 prospect in the SAL by Baseball America (between Cecchini and Blake Swihart) and #8 in the Phillies chain. He struck out in his only at-bat for the Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League.
Franco began 2013 red-hot with the Clearwater Threshers, hitting .299/.349/.576 with 23 doubles, 16 home runs and 52 RBI in 65 games. That earned him a promotion to the AA Reading Phillies. He was picked for the World team in the 2013 Futures Game. Starting at DH and hitting 8th, he lined out against Archie Bradley in the third inning. In the 4th, he came up with a 2-1 lead, two on and two out against Jesse Biddle, his teammate with Reading. He struck out on three pitches. That was the World's last good chance as they wound up losing, 4-2. Francisco Lindor pinch-hit for Franco his next time up.
Franco made his major league debut with the Phillies in September of 2014, but hit only .179 in 16 games. He did a lot better in the Dominican League after the season, as his 7 homers in 38 games for Gigantes del Cibao were second in the circuit, one behind leader Carlos Peguero, as were his 29 RBIs, second-most after Moises Sierra. he hit .272/.335/.469 overall.
Franco was widely expected to beging the 2015 season with Philadelphia, but instead he spent five weeks with the AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs, where he hit .355 in 33 games, before getting called up to the big leagues on May 15th. On June 3rd, Maikel hit a three-run game-tying home run off Aroldis Chapman of the Cincinnati Reds in the 9th inning; the Phillies went on to win the game, 5-4, in 11 innings. Earlier, with two outs in the 7th inning, he had broken up a no-hit bid by Mike Leake with a single up the middle. On June 22-23rd, he had back-to-back five-RBI games against the New York Yankees; he went 6 for 8 with a double and three homers in those two games. He was named the National League Rookie of the Month for June, after hitting .352 with 8 homers, 18 runs scored and 24 RBIs as one of the few bright lights on the struggling Phillies. Unfortunately, his season was interrupted when he broke his left wrist when hit by a pitch by Jeremy Hellickson of the Arizona Diamondbacks on August 11th, and he did not come back until October 3rd, the season's penultimate day. He finished the year with a .280 average, 14 homers and 50 RBIs in 80 games. After the season, he joined Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant in filing a grievance over what was alleged to be a blatant manipulation of their service time in order to delay their eligibility for salary arbitration.
Expectations were high for Franco as spring training opened in 2016, as the rebuilding Phillies were counting on him to be the cornerstone of their offense. He quickly captured media attention by being the early major league leader in home runs during exhibition games, as he hit half a dozen in his first couple of weeks. He went on the play 152 games as the Phillies' starting third baseman and hit .255 with 25 homers and 88 RBIs. He followed that in 2017 by playing 154 games and hitting .230 with 24 homers and 76 RBIs. In spite of the numerous homers those two years, he was actually a below-average hitter, as indicated by his OPS+ of 94 and 81 respectively. In 2018, with the Phillies looking to take a step forward after an extended rebuild, he started the season very hot. On consecutive days, April 7-8, he drove in 10 runs to take the early lead in RBIs in the National League. The highlight came in the second of those games, when he connected for a grand slam off Dillon Peters in the 1st inning and added a two-run double that bounced off the top of the wall as the Phillies routed the Miami Marlins, 20-1. He went on to have his best season, hitting .270 in 131 games with 22 homers and 68 RBIs, his OPS+ rising to 106. The Phillies started strong under new manager Gabe Kapler, but failed to make the postseason. It was the same story in 2019 as a Phillies team that was expected to play in the postseason after signing heralded free agent Bryce Harper again finished around .500 and out of the playoff picture. Franco reverted to his production of 2016-2017 as he hit .234 with 17 homers and 56 RBIs in 123 games. His OPS+ was just 80.
Franco became a free agent after the 2019 season, and the Phillies decided to move on as they made no effort to re-sign him. But he found another interested team in the Kansas City Royals, who on December 27th offered him a one-year contract for $2.95 million, with performance bonuses that could take the deal up to $4 million. He ended up playing all 60 games of the pandemic-shortened season for the Royals, and hit .278 with 8 homers and 38 RBIs. His OPS+ was 106 as he got his career back on track. In 2021, he switched teams again, signing on as a free agent with the Baltimore Orioles.
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 3 (2016-2018)
- 2013 Phillies Media Guide
- 2013 Futures Game
- Jesse Sanchez: "Focused Franco eyes big spring with Phillies: With an emphasis on his preparation, slugging infielder ready to compete", mlb.com, February 3, 2015.