PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In his first full season in the bigs, Maikel Franco hit 25 homers, 23 doubles, and knocked in 88 runs.
But the promising Phillies slugger also struck out 106 times, batting just .255 with a .306 on-base percentage.
With the addition of veteran hitters Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders, along with new hitting coach Matt Stairs, manager Pete Mackanin has already seen a change in Franco’s approach which could lead to a huge 2017 season for the 24-year-old third baseman.
“Matt [Stairs] purposely put Franco and [shortstop] Freddy Galvis in the same group as Howie Kendrick because Howie Kendrick has proven to be a good situational hitter,” Mackanin told Angelo Cataldi and the 94WIP Morning Show on Wednesday, one day before the team’s first exhibition game against the University of Tampa.
Listen: Pete Mackanin on the 94WIP Morning Show
“Howie’s not a power hitter, but he gets the little things done. For example, one day [Phillies bench coach Larry] Bowa overhead Kendrick telling Maikel, ‘Look at, Maikel. When you’ve got bases loaded, try to get one.’ Meaning try to drive in one run and you might get four, but if you’re trying to drive in four you might not get any. So little things like that.
“I’ve been watching Maikel take batting practice every day and along those same lines, Matt Stairs is preaching stay in that gap-to-gap, middle of the field. Don’t pull the ball, stay gap-to-gap, and by golly Franco is doing it. He’s really making a conscious effort to do exactly that and I think the combination of Stairs and a guy like Kendrick and even Saunders, they’re all talking. They’re asking, they’re chirping, and it’s good to see. If Franco carries this approach through the season, I’m looking for him to have a big year.”
Mackanin, 65, is entering the final-year of his two year contract, which has a club-option for 2018.
“Not really, Angelo,” Mackanin said when asked if he’s worried about his job status. “If and when they’re ready to do it [contract extension] that’s fine, that’s their decision to make. I’m just taking it day by day and enjoying being out here and enjoying every minute that I’m a manager. And to be honest with you, at this point, I’d rather just talk about the players and talk about how excited I am to see them improve.”