Phillies have reason to hope as dreary season comes to a close

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It’s not easy finding silver linings for a team with 99 losses going into the final game of a forgettable season. But there is a big bright spot for the Phillies, who earned the right to select first in the MLB draft in June since the Reds lost Saturday night.

After nearly missing two months with a fractured left wrist, Maikel Franco returned to the lineup Saturday evening. The highly touted rookie picked up right where he left off with a homer and solid defensive play.

‘“I want to go out there and hit,” Franco said. “I feel good.”

Franco clearly looks like a difference maker for years to come.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” a NL scout said. “He can be an elite player. Look at how different the Phillies played with him in the lineup and how they played after he got hurt.”

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The Phillies played their best baseball from the All-Star break until Franco was knocked out of the lineup. If Franco was never injured, perhaps the Phillies do not pick first or second in next year’s draft.

“I love to play,” Franco said. “I’m just glad I had the chance to get out there to see what I can do this season. There’s a lot of good about this season..”

Entering Sunday’s season finale, Franco belted 14 homers and knocked in 50 runs in only 301 at-bats. He also posted an .840 OPS with solid defense. If Franco didn’t get hurt, he would be in the rookie of the year conversation with the Cubs Kris Bryant.

“I don’t care about that,” Franco said. “I just want to play and get better.”

Franco has Cubs manager Joe Maddon’s respect.

“He is a heck of a ballplayer,” Maddon said. “That’s a nice piece the Phillies can go into their next era with.”

It’ll be fascinating to see how the Phillies build around Franco. There are a number of intriguing prospects and there will be a huge infusion of cash, thanks to the Phillies TV deal with Comcast, so when the Phillies are ready, money will not be an issue when it comes to free agents.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what happens (in the future),” Franco said. “All I know is that I’ll be part of it.”

That’s a huge silver lining, a healthy Franco, who has years to play before his prime.

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