The Phillies hoped the competition for the third base job would have been more heated. After going 2-for-4 with a solo homer against the Pirates on Saturday afternoon, Cody Asche — the incumbent at the hot corner — brought his Grapefruit League average up to .175. His competition, 21-year-old top prospect Maikel Franco, wasn’t faring any better with a .184 average and a .409 OPS.
Franco has been demoted, CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports. There, Franco will look to build upon his breakout season at Double-A last year, when he hit .320 with 31 home runs. He still has some concerns about his defense, but manager Ryne Sandberg also sees some room for improvement offensively:
“He needs to get some seasoning and work on some things, more on the offensive side,” Sandberg said. “He needs to work on shortening his swing and getting some better line-drive type of contact.”
Asche, meanwhile, will hold the fort down at third base after hitting .235 with five home runs in 179 trips to the plate last season. The Phillies expect Franco to claim the third base job at some point, if not at some point this season, then at this time next year.
Yankees’ special advisor and former outfielder Hideki Matsui expects to help the club “convince or recruit” Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani, according to a report from MLB.com’s Deesha Thosar. The Yankees are currently viewed as the favorites to sign Otani, though there still figures to be plenty of competition for his services when he finally becomes eligible to enter Major League Baseball.
Matsui also told Thosar that while he hasn’t seen a player find success as a hybrid pitcher/slugger in the majors, he’s taken notice of Otani’s success in both areas. “He’s done well in Japan, so as a baseball fan I’m looking forward to how he’s going to do here in the Majors and in the U.S.,” Matsui said, later adding, “If [pitching and hitting is] something he wants to do, and the team wants it, then why not?”
Neither the Yankees nor any other suitor should be too concerned with Otani’s ability to translate his .332 batting average and 3.20 ERA to MLB — at least, not just yet. There are still a few roadblocks in his path to the major leagues, most notably the lack of approval from the Players Association. Per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, the union doesn’t want to sign off on an agreement that would give the Nippon Ham Fighters a $20 million posting fee in exchange for Otani’s services. According to the posting system rules, Otani himself would be eligible to receive no more than a $4 million signing bonus.
The good news in all of this? The union agreed to reach a final decision by Monday, November 21, so there’s still a chance Major League Baseball will see the talented two-way player bring his unique skillset to the field in 2018.