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Deep Pickups 5/14: Hitters

by Nick Nelson
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Maikel Franco, 3B - PHI

Phillies fans rejoice: the Cody Asche experiment is over at third base, and Franco will once again get an opportunity to seize the position in the majors.

The 22-year-old Franco, long viewed as one of Philadelphia's top prospects, got his first taste of the big leagues last year but struggled, batting .179 with a 404 OPS in 58 plate appearances. He opened this season in Triple-A and went on a month-long tear, hitting .341/.363/.543 with 12 doubles, four homers and 19 RBI in 30 games.

That was plenty to get him back up to the Phillies with Asche struggling to the tune of a 632 OPS at the hot corner. Franco is expected to be promoted on Friday, in time for Philadelphia's weekend series against the Diamondbacks.

While the young Dominican is certainly an offensive upgrade over Asche, he's no guarantee to produce despite his red-hot hitting in the minors. Plate discipline was an issue for Franco with the Phillies last year (he struck out 13 times with only one walk) and continues to be one this year in Triple-A, where he's drawn just five walks in 135 plate appearances.

Of course, when you're raking to the tune of a .341 average -- .390 since the start of May -- there's not much reason to lay off anything. It will be interesting to see if he adapts his approach back in the majors.

Even if he is swinging away as usual, Franco has a good chance to offer value in deeper leagues because his bat is so potent. He smashed 53 extra-base hits in 133 games at Triple-A last year and went deep 31 times between Single-A and Double-A in 2013. He's capable of hitting for both average and power and should presumably be slotted into a favorable spot in Philly's struggling lineup.

Aaron Hicks, OF - MIN

This is Take Three for Hicks, and perhaps his last chance to establish himself as a big-leaguer in Minnesota.

In both 2013 and 2014, Hicks was the Twins center fielder coming out of spring training. On both occasions, he failed to live up to expectations and wound up getting demoted to the minors.

This time around, the Twins sent Hicks to open the season in Triple-A, opting for the unappealing combo of Jordan Schafer and Shane Robinson in center field. With that duo struggling and Hicks performing extremely well, the Twins announced Tuesday that they're giving another opportunity to their former first-round draft pick.

During the first several weeks with Rochester, Hicks did everything that could be asked of him, hitting for average (.336) and power (10 doubles, four triples, two homers) with good plate discipline (20/15 K/BB). Producing from the left side of the plate has been an ongoing struggle for the switch-hitter, but he had a 909 OPS batting lefty.

Now, it's all about getting over the hump and making it happen in the majors. With more than 500 MLB plate appearances and a momentum-building start in Triple-A, he should be as well positioned as ever to turn a corner. With the potential he offers in speed and power categories, I think he's worth a flier.

Nick Nelson

Nick Nelson is a frequent contributor to NBC Sports Edge's baseball coverage and regularly blogs about the Minnesota Twins at Twins Daily. Follow him on Twitter @NickNelsonMN.