Notable Quotables: ‘Maik’-ing things happen

Maikel Franco was already looking like one of the better breakout stories in Minor League Baseball this summer before he jumped from Class A Advanced Clearwater to Double-A Reading last week. After four games as a Fightin Phil, the 20-year-old isn’t done drawing attention, either, as he’s hit .471 with a pair of home runs and finished a double shy of the cycle Sunday night.

The Dominican third baseman has long shown impressive bat speed and promise as a potential power hitter. That power has actualized this season, as he’s already set a career high with 18 home runs in 69 games. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder also looks like a legitimate third baseman, making up for well below average speed with a plus arm, good instincts and soft hands.

For more on Franco, here are some thoughts from Reading hitting coach, Frank Cacciatore, who has worked with Franco since the youngster played in the instructional leagues after signing with the Phillies in 2010.

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What did you see from Franco when you coached him as a teenager in instructional leagues?

With kids at that stage, when they’re first in the organization, you can see why they sign them. They have a lot of talent. He’s really aggressive, obviously, and of course his plate discipline wasn’t there, but the bat speed and the strength, you could tell the tools were there to work with. It’s neat to see a guy progress like that. Now, he’s staying in the zone a little better. He’s still very aggressive, and he still attacks the ball very well. Now, you’re starting to see somebody starting to get polished.

It’s nice to see him come up after I know he had a nice year in Clearwater, and he’s fit in fine with this club. He’s been a little shot in the arm for us. It’s a work in progress, obviously, and he’s going to continue to get better, but up here now, he’s going to face a cross section of guys with really good arms and veterans trying to get back to the big leagues. That will be a test for him.

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What’s allowed Franco to actualize his power this season?

It all comes down to being a good hitter and learning to be a good hitter, getting pitches to drive. Some home runs can be a result of the process, of being a good hitter. … It’s plate discipline, your hitting plan. Obviously, you can see the work a guy does on his swing, but you use your swing more as a tool. As he hones that, other things become more beneficial. You can see that in progress. I think you see him get pitches he can drive and lay off the ones he can’t. He’s shown that right here, too. He’s already hit a couple homers here.

Does his demeanor/makeup help him at all when it comes to making those adjustments?

He’s always been a quiet guy but not a guy who wouldn’t ask a question or is waiting for you to tell him what to do. He’s trying to get better. He’s a very nice guy and an intense guy. His makeup is great. After being around him for a week, that hasn’t changed since he was a young guy. … You can tell he likes to play, and that’s one of the biggest things. He likes to work and works at his craft.

What kind of progress have you seen from Franco defensively at third?

That’s the same thing as with the hitting. He’s more controlled. He knows what he can do and what he can’t do. When I saw him his first year, everything was 100 percent every play. Now, he knows who’s running and the normal things you pick up. To me, he’s always been a good defender. He has a gun for an arm, so that’s a big asset for him.

Do you have specific improvements in mind for him this season, or is it more a waiting game to see how pitcher’s adjust to him and go from there?

That’s pretty much what’s going to be left to be seen. Obviously, we’ll continue to work on his mechanics and rhythm. You have to go to the range to play the game. You have to hit balls every day, and we’ll continue to do that. As we go along, up here, I try to tell them, “Guys throw more strikes, but don’t give them too much credit. Stay aggressive.” And he has. He’s off to a good start, and he’ll become more aggressive with that, too. We’ll see in a few weeks as guys make adjustments and he has to adjust back. We’ll work together on crossing those bridges.

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