You should never expect too much in a rebuilding season. Wins will be tough to come by. Playoff contention? Forget about it. The one thing you hope to see when your team is bottoming out and looking toward the future is progress from your most promising young players.
The Phillies have had no such good fortune. Odubel Herrera, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, and Aaron Nola have all fallen short of expectations this season, due to poor performance, injuries, or both. The most infuriating of the bunch, though, has been Maikel Franco.
Ace Phillies beat writer Matt Gelb has the details on Franco, and they're not pretty: The league as a whole hits like Joey Votto when ahead in the count…Franco hits like a pitcher in those situations. Hitting coach Matt Stairs said the team grew so frustrated at one point with Franco taking weak swings at bad pitches when ahead in the count, the Phils actually considered giving him the red light on 2–0 counts. But hey, there's a silver lining: Franco falls behind on the first pitch more often than all but 15 National League hitters, so he's getting fewer opportunities to turn those 2–0 counts into four-hoppers to third.
Still just 24 years old and coming off a 25-homer season, Franco still offers hope for a better tomorrow. But he's also been the eighth-worst hitter in the NL this season, taking up residence next to hitless wonders like Jose Peraza and Orlando Arcia. Lacking Peraza's blazing speed, Arcia's excellent glove, and the middle-infield-manning abilities of both, Franco will need to solve his ahead-in-the-count woes quickly, or he'll become one of the worst players in the entire league.