By Andrew Porter

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Phillies are relying heavily on third baseman Maikel Franco to make a big leap.

Bench coach Larry Bowa says the Phillies need to see improvements from their young guys like Darin Ruf, Cameron Rupp, Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez, Tommy Joseph, and most importantly, Franco, who is entering just his second full MLB season.

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“Let’s be honest here, the young kids what they did last year, they gotta do better,” Bowa told the 94WIP Midday Show with Joe DeCamara and Jon Ritchie on Wednesday.

Listen: Larry Bowa on the 94WIP Midday Show


“To me, Mikey Franco is the key to our offense. If Franco has the kind of year we all think he can have and [Howie] Kendrick and [Michael] Saunders are basically the two guys that keep everything going, I think we can have a lot of fun here. But those kids gotta improve.”

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[graphiq id=”hsbE9fVHCZL” title=”Maikel Franco 2016 Complete Batting Splits” width=”600″ height=”523″ url=”” link=”” link_text=”PointAfter | Graphiq” ]

Back in January, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin set the bar around the .500 mark for his season this season. Bowa says that’s fair and would likely mean wildcard contention.

“I see a lot of people talking about .500, if you can get to .500,” Bowa said. “That obviously is a good goal with a young team we have. It’s a goal also, if you’re passed the all-star break and you’re .500 — as you well know covering baseball — there’s wildcards involved. You play close to .500 you’re in the wildcard races.

Bowa says he believes the Phillies are better this year than last year, when they finished 71-91, but so is their division.

“I do think this team is much better than last year, but I also think the National League east is much better as a whole starting with Atlanta, Washington, Miami, the Mets. It’s a very competitive division, they’ve all improved a lot.

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“Our pitching is going to be the key,” said Bowa. “If our pitchers can keep us in games, I think we’re gonna catch the ball really well in the infield. I think with the addition of Kendrick and Saunders in the batting order, it’s gonna lengthen the batting order a little bit.”