The Washington Nationals have now won three of their last four games, including two of three in Atlanta against the Braves – and the biggest reason is a torrential stretch at the plate from third baseman Maikel Franco.
Although he’s a former top 20 prospect in baseball (according to Baseball America), Franco has seen relatively limited success in the major leagues. Case in point: He stumbled to a wins above replacement (WAR) of -1.6 – yes, that’s a negative WAR – in 104 games in Baltimore last season.
Washington signed Franco to a minor league contract this offseason, with the intent to make him earn his way onto the Nationals roster. That all changed when Carter Kieboom suffered a flexor mass and UCL strain, but it didn’t suddenly make Franco a player – he was simply viewed as the only other option.
Franco started the season 0-for-13 with four strikeouts and a double play, leading up to his final at bat against the Mets on Sunday.
Since that point, the 29-year-old has nine hits in his last 14 at bats, including a home run and seven RBIs, and his batting average has risen from goose eggs to .346.
It’s not as if his overall tendencies at the plate have changed. He’s still been extremely aggressive and pull-happy, but he’s also made hard contact at an elite rate, as shown below.
Franco and Dave Martinez have emphasized the need for Maikel to chase fewer pitches, particularly ones that are low and outside. He’s improved in that area to a degree, but he also simply isn’t swinging and missing (as illustrated by his “whiff rate” being significantly above average).