The rumor mill is in full swing with the San Diego Padres now being connected to the Philadelphia Phillies and their third baseman.
Earlier this week, Jon Heyman reported that the San Diego Padres were in contact with the Baltimore Orioles about Manny Machado. Now, Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Padres have interest in Philadelphia third baseman, Maikel Franco.
According to Rosenthal’s video report, the Phillies are looking to bring back pitching help and a shortstop or third baseman to help fill the void left by a Franco departure and an injured J.P. Crawford.
Bringing Franco to San Diego is a lateral move that serves no purpose for the future of the team. Is there a chance that a change of scenery could alter the career path of a 25-year-old slugger? Of course there is, it’s just another reason why baseball is great. However, looking over the track record of Franco, there are very few positives that his addition would bring.
Franco is currently hitting .255 with a .297 OBP and a .721 OPS. Largely a ground ball hitter this season, Franco is posting a wRC+ of 91 and has an fWAR of 0.1, as of June 24th.
Outside of a 25 point advantage in batting average and a superb strikeout rate of 14%, current Padres third baseman Christian Villanueva is putting up better offensive numbers, across the board. Franco is also two years younger than Villanueva, however, at 27, Villanueva isn’t an old man and is playing in his first full season in the major leagues.
It’s been well noted that Franco struggles against hitting offspeed pitches. He’s currently hitting .174 against offspeed stuff, meanwhile, Villanueva is hitting .173. Lateral move. There isn’t much of a drastic change when looking at contact against fastballs. Franco is hitting .310, compared to Villanueva’s .291. Lateral move.
What about overall performance on balls in play? Franco is posting a .259 BABIP, while Villanueva is sitting at .252. Do I need to say it again? Franco has 17 extra-base hits (seven doubles, one triple, nine home runs), compared to Villanueva’s 16 home runs (plus eight doubles). Both hitters have an average exit velocity between 86-88 mph, the difference being Franco’s 52% ground ball rate.
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If there is one noticeable difference between the two and their approach at the plate, it’s pitch recognition. Franco has done a good job of lowering his chase rate on pitches outside of the zone (now at 31.7%). When he does go after those pitches, he’s making contact 69% of the time. For comparison, Villanueva has a 37% chase rate, making contact on just 56% of those pitches.
While defensive metrics are still a debated measure of defensive worth, let’s take a peak. Using two of the more common advanced defensive metrics, Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating, Franco is posting a -7 DRS and -2.7 UZR. Villanueva has a -2.8 UZR but a DSR of 3. While Villanueva has 10 errors (463 innings) compared to Franco’s six (484 innings), Villy has been making a number of key defensive stops lately. He isn’t great, but neither is Franco. Lateral move.
Sure, Matt Stairs and Franco have a history and Stairs was able to change a few things about Franco’s swing, producing an uptick of production. However, that production was short-lived, resulting in a -0.5 fWAR season in which he reached base just 28% of the time.
Relief pitchers are sure to be in high-demand as the trade deadline gets close. The Padres have a roster full of dominant bullpen arms, but there’s no need to throw them away for the same type of player already on the roster.