Franco enjoying hot streak to end season

Phillies' third baseman homers in win Sunday over Braves

Franco enjoying hot streak to end season

ATLANTA -- Maybe Maikel Franco got a wakeup call in September.

Franco has been the Phillies' everyday third baseman since May 2015, but his performance the past two seasons has put his role with the club moving forward in doubt. Last season, his struggles were partly put down to his inexperience, but that argument no longer holds up. The Phillies then promoted prospect J.P. Crawford on Sept. 5. Crawford is a shortstop but has started nine games at third.

Franco, 25, hit a solo home run to left field in Sunday afternoon's 2-0 victory over the Braves at SunTrust Park. He has hit .348 (16 for 46) with two doubles, three home runs, eight RBIs and a .949 OPS in the 12 games he has started since Crawford started three consecutive games at third base from Sept. 5-7. He has started 10 games at third, and two at first.

"I just try to go out there every single day and think about what I have to do to get better," said Franco, saying Crawford's arrival has not motivated him. "I try not to think about what the situation is, just try to go out there and play my game and have fun."

But Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has seen prospects push veterans in the past. Perhaps there is something to Franco's improved play.

"I think when those guys come up, it always creates an energy spurt in everybody," Mackanin said. "If that's the case for whatever reason, if Maikel is having a good September, I hope it carries through for five or six months next year. One month does not a good year make. ... Hopefully he's got a better approach and he's going to be more successful."

Franco is hitting .231 with 29 doubles, 21 home runs, 70 RBIs and a .682 OPS this season. His .670 OPS as a third baseman ranked last out of 18 qualified third basemen in the Majors, 64 points lower than 17th-ranked David Freese. Franco's -0.7 WAR ranked 141st out of 150 players, according to FanGraphs.

It's not a sure thing that Franco is the Phillies' third basemen next season. They could decide to keep Freddy Galvis at shortstop and move Crawford to third, if only for one season with Galvis' free agency after next season. Franco's value certainly is not at its highest, but he will finish the season with just under three years of service time. A controllable talent with potential like Franco could be packaged to improve the Phillies' pitching.

"Right now, I'm just trying to finish strong first," Franco said. "After that whatever happens, happens. The only thing I can be is positive and just try to be ready every single day."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.