Phillies’ Maikel Franco has star potential

Maikel Franco started five straight games at third base. Credit: Getty Images Maikel Franco started five straight games at third base. Credit: Getty Images

The only time Maikel Franco looked perplexed after helping the Phillies beat the Pirates Tuesday night was when he walked from the player’s lounge to his locker. The Phillies third baseman was a little confused initially when baseball communications coordinator Craig Hughner informed him that it was time to meet the press.

But that’s what stars of the game do. Franco singled and doubled and drove in the game winning run against the Bucs. But it was the way he performed that was revelatory.

The only tool Franco lacks is speed but when he hit a high fly ball to right, he was busting it like a slower version of Chase Utley. The ball dropped between the Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco and second baseman Neil Walker, who lost the ball in the lights. Franco dove into second base and proceeded to score the first run of the game.

Ryne Sandberg, who hustled throughout his Hall of Fame career, sounded like Larry Brown when asked about the unlikely double. “That’s playing the game the right way.”

Franco saved a run when he robbed reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen of a RBI double. “That was the play of the night,” McCutchen said.

That was followed up by Franco who went Derek Jeter by inside-outing a fastball into right field for a base hit, which plated the winning run..

“I’m feeling more comfortable out there,” Franco said. “I’m just trying to hit the ball hard.”

During the early days of spring training, Franco hit the ball as hard as any Phillie. But this is a very different atmosphere. Franco has been facing teams in a pennant race and he’s receiving a steady diet of breaking balls. He’s obviously anxious at the plate. Franco’s swinging at most first pitches but he’s learning at the plate and making big plays at third.

“You don’t need to be a five-tool guy to be a success (in the major league),” a NL scout said. “So it’s not the end of the world if Franco can’t run well. There are guys out there struggling, who are labeled five-tool guys.”

Paging Domonic Brown. Franco, who received three consecutive starts at third base is auditioning for the hot corner job at 2015. The young Dominican, who only turned 22 earlier this month, could provide the infusion of youth the Phillies desperately need.

“I just go out there and try to do better each time,” Franco said. “The single (which won the game) was really good since he helped us win the game.”

It was the first of what could be many star of the game chats for the laidback rookie, who is a beacon of hope for frustrated fans.

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