Phillies prospect Maikel Franco -- who broke out in 2013 by hitting .320 with 31 homers and 103 RBIs at Single A Clearwater and Double A Reading -- will see time at first base in addition to third base in 2014.
A third baseman for 346 of his 358 minor-league games, Franco says he has been told by the Phillies that he'll play primarily first base this season, though he'll still see time at third. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. later clarified that the organization still views him as a third baseman.
"More first base this year. They (the Phillies) told me, 'You'll play more first base than third base [this year].' I said 'OK, I'll take it,'" Franco said in the Phillies' clubhouse Thursday afternoon as the Phils showcased eight of their top prospects.
"Thats really, really, really good for me," Franco continued. "Playing third, playing first now, I play two positions. ... I feel more comfortable. I think I have more chance to show somebody [what I can do]."
Amaro pumped the brakes a bit.
"It's not the case, he's not gonna be primarily first base," Amaro said. "He's a third baseman, he may get some work at first base, but he's primarily a third baseman."
Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan said Franco will see time at the corner infield positions so that he's comfortable at both.
Just like last year, when Franco played eight games at first base, the Phillies want him to be able to man both corner infield positions. Franco was invited to spring training, his first with the major-league club, and will push Cody Asche, who is the lead candidate to play third for the Phillies in 2014.
Like the Phillies, Franco still views himself as a third baseman but is relishing the opportunity to add versatility to his game by playing first. He's viewed as a plus defender at third and models himself after one of the best two-way threats in the game.
"Adrian Beltre," Franco responded when asked what player he emulates. "To see that guy, how he plays, I love how he plays. I want to do it the same, or better than him."
It would make the Phillies and their fans ecstatic if Franco could be 75 percent of the major-leaguer Beltre is. Since 2010 Beltre has hit .314/.358/.545 with averages of 32 homers, 100 RBIs and 37 doubles. Numbers that closely resemble the ones Franco put up this past season in the minors.
"I was surprised a little bit," a laughing Franco said of his breakout season. "A little bit. Because in 2012 I got 14 homers, now I got 31. It's amazing."