NPB’s Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles Sign Maikel Franco

The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball announced the signing of third baseman Maikel Franco for the 2023 season (link via Japan Times). It’ll be the first stint in Japan for Franco, who has appeared in the majors in each of the past nine campaigns.

A top prospect during his days as a minor leaguer, Franco looked like a franchise building block for the Phillies after a .280/.343/.497 showing during his age-22 season in 2015. He never took the expected step forward after that initial MLB success, however, and that year remains the best of his career. Franco posted below-average numbers in each of the next two seasons. He bounced back with an average year in 2018 but was cut loose after another disappointing season in 2019.

After being let go by Philadelphia, Franco bounced around the majors in journeyman fashion. He signed with the Royals for the abbreviated 2020 campaign. He posted decent offensive numbers but was nevertheless non-tendered at the end of the season. Franco played for the Orioles and Nationals over the past couple seasons, logging a bit more than 100 games in each year. He combined for just a .219/.254/.319 line from 2021-22, and he was released in August during both seasons.

Franco owns a .244/.293/.414 line in over 3500 big league plate appearances. He’s connected on 130 home runs and surpassed 20 longballs in three straight seasons with the Phils from 2016-18. He’s occasionally shown the power potential that once made him such an exciting young player, but a very aggressive offensive approach has prevented him from topping a .321 on-base percentage in any season since his rookie year. Franco has rated as a below-average defensive third baseman throughout his career.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Franco has a decent .268/.314/.439 line over parts of four Triple-A seasons. He’ll look to more consistently tap into his power production against NPB pitching. He only recently turned 30 years old and could again be an option for MLB teams in future offseasons if he performs well in Japan.

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