Could Maikel Franco Be Best Phillies 8-Hole Hitter Since Wally Schang?

Before we begin, it's understood that it's ridiculously early in the season. But after the Phillies' 4-1 start to the season, averaging nearly eight runs a game in the process, the possibilities for this offense are certainly fun to think about.

Case in point: Maikel Franco. He was a fixture in the middle of the order in his career entering this season. But he struggled early last season, and when Matt Klentak injected four All-Stars into the starting lineup over the winter, Franco found himself not only out of the middle of the order, but fighting for a spot in the starting eight.

Back in mid-February, manager Gabe Kapler said Franco would go head-to-head in spring training with Scott Kingery for the starting third base job. Franco seems to have won the job, and he doesn't look like he has any plans of surrendering it.

He has stormed out of the gate with three homers, a team-high eight RBI, and an eye-popping .591 on-base percentage in the first five games of the season. Considering Kapler has sent the same starting lineup out for the opening five games, Franco may be a regular in the 8-hole this season.

Looking back through history, with the help of, we checked on the superlatives in a handful of categories for full-time 8-hole hitters. Knowing what Franco is capable of in an average season, it's safe to say that Franco could have an historic season for an 8-hole hitter.

Here are the top marks for players hitting eighth in a season:

The names don't read out like baseball royalty, but consider this: the teams represented by the six seasons in the table above averaged 94 wins, most of which came in 154-game seasons. If he settles into his role, Franco's late-lineup power could go a long way this season (pun intended).

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