The Good Thing About Franchy

Franchy Cordero is struggling.

His slash line has dipped to .230/.280/.414 after a hot start, his wRC+ to 82. Worse, he’s striking out like Adam Dunn swinging a broom stick in the second game of a double-header after an all-night kegger. As Patrick Brewer noted the other day, Cordero is K-ing at a 44.7 clip on the season, and that number is actually up recently. In eight games since June 18, he’s somehow whiffed 17 times in 24 plate appearances (that’s 70.8 percent) while recording no hits and no walks. Among 357 hitters with at least 90 PAs this season, Cordero has the third-worst contact rate at 59.7 percent. There’s small sample size randomness and then there’s whatever this is.

With Manuel Margot back, Cordero’s been pushed to the bench for now. It seems likely that, for the balance of the year, Cordero will either return to Triple-A to work on making more contact or get regular playing time in left/center with the big club. It makes little sense to use him as a bench piece in the majors now, especially on a team that doesn’t have to worry about trying to win games late with a defensive replacement and/or pinch runner. He needs playing time somewhere.

While Cordero’s first month in the majors has been full of ups (the early power) and downs (all the strikeouts), with a recent trend toward more downs, here’s one good thing that’s been constant: he’s fast.

Now, we knew he was fast even before he reached the majors, but we didn’t know exactly how fast. Was he just fast by normal human standards? Was he fast by baseball-playing standards? Was he fast by center fielder standards? Was he The Freeze fast? Turns out he’s really, really fast. Despite Cordero’s 1-for-2 showing on stolen base tries and a hardly meaningful +0.6 UZR (or +1 DRS), Statcast’s new Sprint Speed metric rates him as the fifth-fastest player in all of baseball at 29.6 feet/second, behind only noted speed champ Billy Hamilton, Byron BuxtonBradley Zimmer, and Raimel Tapia. (Margot is tied for ninth, by the way.)

There have been more fleshed out looks into what Statcast’s speed metric might mean (important note: always tread carefully with new metrics), but just for kicks, I was curious how the fastest players around Cordero have performed in various fielding and speed-based metrics.

  • Hamilton’s the best base runner in the game; he’s lapped the field in FanGraphs’ base running stat since 2014, and he also leads Baseball Prospectus’ one annually. He’s also an excellent defender in center, saving nearly 20 runs per 150 games by UZR (he’s a tick lower by DRS).
  • Buxton has only played a little more than a full season at the big-league level, but he’s already amassed nearly 10 runs on the bases. He’s not quite Hamilton in the field, either, although this season he’s on pace to have a monstrous year by both DRS and Baseball Prospectus’ FRAA.
  • Zimmer only has a Cordero-like amount of major-league playing time, so the numbers hardly matter. Still, he has seven steals in eight tries and very good (*extreme small sample*) fielding numbers.
  • Same thing with Tapia, who only has 110 major-league plate appearances to his name. He’s the only corner outfielder among the top six players, and a huge outlier among right fielders overall.
  • Keon Broxton is a great comp for Cordero all around, if Franchy can clean up the strikeout rate just a little bit. Anyway, Broxton’s above average across the board in base running and fielding, though he’s not quite on the level of Hamilton or Buxton.

Raw foot speed doesn’t necessarily translate to base stealing prowess or great defense. There’s a lot more that goes into it than pure speed, from jumps to acceleration to positioning. Still, having standout speed is a helluva foundation, and as we’ve seen here, all of the top speedsters around Cordero are good base runners and fielders. Even if Cordero doesn’t quite get to Hamilton or Buxton territory in those categories, his reasonable floor is probably something like a league-average center fielder (or a plus corner guy) with a few runs added on the base paths. And there’s a good chance he’s better than that.

Cordero’s a good hit tool away from being a valuable long-term piece, which is kind of like saying that I’m a good understanding of the English language away from being Roger Angell. Probably not going to happen, but one can dream. Either way, Cordero’s combination of speed and power makes him interesting; at worst he’s probably got a place on the next good Padres team in a prominent bench role.

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  • Pat

    Yeah being able to make enough solid contact at the MLB level is so hard he may be a long shot, but here’s hoping!