Phillies demote Maikel Franco to Triple-A to cap off disappointing season

Ben Weinrib
Yahoo Sports Contributor

Once considered among the Philadelphia Phillies’ brightest young players, Maikel Franco has lost his everyday role. His 2019 season has been so disappointing that he earned a demotion to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Sunday.

After a busy trade deadline that saw the Phillies supplement their offense with Corey Dickerson, the team will soon have too many hitters, and Franco became the odd man out.

Franco, who turns 27 later this month, is hitting a career-worst .231/.296/.405 with 15 home runs in 368 plate appearances. Some of his bad play may be due to bad luck — his .228 BABIP ranks third-worst among qualified hitters — but his slow foot speed does not do him any favors.

Franco’s troubles have also extended to effort; he got into some trouble with manager Gabe Kapler in June when he didn’t run out a ground ball with the bases loaded. However, that apparently wasn’t a key factor in the Phillies’ decision.

Moreover, the Phillies decided to move on without Franco because he doesn’t make a ton of sense with the rest of their roster. Dickerson or the recently acquired Jay Bruce will play left field, which forces Adam Haseley to center field. That leaves utility man Sean Kingery to shift to third, which takes away Franco’s role.

The Phillies might have kept Franco as a bench bat, but he only plays third base. Sean Rodríguez’s ability to play all seven infield and outfield positions made him a more useful bench piece.

“We just felt that this was the appropriate time to make a move that was difficult for our clubhouse because we all care deeply for Maikel Franco, who is an exceptional teammate and a great person,” Kapler said, via MLB.com. “But we felt that the best roster for the Philadelphia Phillies had Sean Rodríguez on it right now because of his ability to play all over the diamond.”

One other key factor was that Franco actually has reverse splits and hits righties (.243/.303/.421) better than he hits lefties (.198/.278/.360). That makes him a poor fit next to other power lefty bats like Dickerson and Bruce.

The Phillies optioned third baseman Maikel Franco to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Sunday. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Is this the last we’ll see of Maikel Franco?

Franco’s demotion is hardly a good sign for his future with the team, but Kapler made it clear that he would be back when rosters expand in September at the latest. Another injury could allow him to rejoin the team even earlier.

However, there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic that Franco will return to form. While he’s never been an All-Star, even returning to league average would make him a useful player.

For one thing, Franco has been hitting the ball harder than ever this season. His 89.0 mph average exit velocity and 39.4 percent hard hit rate are both bests since 2016. Statcast metrics like expected weighted on-base average show that he’s hitting it better than the baseline results show.

Maybe this demotion will be a wakeup call for Franco, who has been with the team continuously since May 2015. Kapler said the news left his third baseman “upset,” but some time away from the spotlight and with the juiced Triple-A ball may be the cure he needs.

More from Yahoo Sports: