Heading into 2014, many fans thought Philadelphia's Maikel Franco had a chance to earn an Opening Day job with the big league club. But Cody Asche took over everyday duties at the hot corner while Franco went to Lehigh Valley for his Triple-A debut.
The International League proved a tough test for Franco, who turned 22 on Aug. 26. He struggled mightily in April, hitting .172 with a .487 OPS in 23 games. He showed flashes in the first half, but struggled to perform consistently up until around the All-Star Break. He's been a different player since, though, posting a .309 average with 10 homers and an .877 OPS in 46 games.
The No. 3 prospect in the Phillies system and No. 57 overall, MLB.com projected him to hit for average and power, as he's done in the second half of the 2014 season. It's unclear what Franco's role will be with the Phillies this season -- it's been suggested that Asche could move to an outfield corner to make room for Franco, although manager Ryne Sandberg reportedly said Asche will not make that move this season.
Franco wasn't the only notable prospect to get the call to the Majors on Monday. Here are some other names to know as Major League Baseball winds to a close.
Joc Pederson, OF, Dodgers: The Los Angeles prospect was called up Monday after putting together one of the most productive seasons in the Minors. Ranked third in the Dodgers' system, Pederson has had fans clamoring for his arrival all season, but playing time would've been tough to come by in L.A.'s crowded outfield, so he was left to dominate the Pacific Coast League. He did just that, hitting .303 with 33 homers and 30 stolen bases with Triple-A Albuquerque.
Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Royals: Kansas City is making a push for a division title, and as such, it's all hands on deck right now. Among those hands will be the team's 2014 first-round pick (17th overall). Finnegan could have a chance to start long term, but it's likely the team will limit him to bullpen usage in September. The Royals' No. 6 prospect made 13 Minor League appearances (including five starts) across Class A Advanced Wilmington and Double-A Northwest Arkansas, posting a 1.33 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 27 innings.
Daniel Norris, LHP, Blue Jays: Toronto's top prospect (and No. 28 overall) has been perhaps the best pitcher in Minor League Baseball this season, completing his transformation from promising project to polished product. The 21-year-old climbed four levels from Class A Advanced Dunedin to Toronto, posting dominant strikeout numbers at every level. Overall, Norris went 12-2 with a 2.53 ERA and 163 punchouts in 12 2/3 innings. Norris joins Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez as top Toronto prospects to make the jump to the bigs this season.
Dalton Pompey, OF, Blue Jays: Pompey ranks third in Toronto's system and 91st on MLB.com's Top 100, and he's been right there with Norris climbing from Dunedin to the Majors this season. The 21-year-old enjoyed a breakout campaign, hitting.317 with an .861 OPS across three Minor League levels this year. The speedster also has stolen 43 bases while reportedly playing a solid center field. Pompey could be a dynamic contributor in the Majors, contributing in all three facets. He's also among the most intriguing callups from a fantasy baseball perspective, although he may not get the playing time to make an impact this season.
Taijuan Walker, RHP, Mariners: Walker has had a tough time finding his footing this season after a shoulder injury set him back at the start of the season. In 14 starts at Triple-A Tacoma, Seattle's top prospect has managed just a 4.81 ERA, allowing 13 home runs over 73 innings. Even still, Walker got the call and pitched well in for Seattle on Monday, allowing one run over six relief innings in a 6-1 loss to Oakland.