“The Philadelphia Phillies sign free agent outfielder Jeff Francoeur to a minor league deal.”
Not quite as exciting to read in the headlines or the transaction pages as “Roy Halladay acquired in trade with Blue Jays”, or “Cliff Lee surprises MLB by signing with the Phillies.” For 2015, however, to expect such headlines would be preposterous.
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No one anticipates ‘Frenchy’ being the 2015 Phillies proverbial finger in the dyke. Hell, the 40-man roster probably doesn’t carry enough digits on all 80 hands to prevent a flood of poor play.
What Francoeur does offer is stability for an otherwise shaky outfield defense. Francoeur is the owner of a 2007 Gold Glove Award. He brings a career .984 fielding percentage in 1,188 games as a right fielder, and also has a very strong, accurate throwing arm.
“Everyday is, ‘Let’s hit, let’s hit.’ He can’t wait to hit.” ~ Jeff Francoeur, on ex-Phils skipper Manuel
He also has real experience, as 1,162 of those games played were as a starter. If he gets the opportunity to play enough inning next to Francoeur, perhaps Ben Revere will come to understand the proper way to judge the routing of fly balls.
Projected over a 162-game season, Francoeur’s career offensive numbers look like this: a .262 BA, 18 HR’s and 81 RBI’s. Not bad for a player entering just his age 31 season. It’s more than a bit ironic that some are saying he is old at this point, yet rave that Cole Hamels‘ is only in his age 31 season.
His eagerness to work with, and admiration for an iconic hitting guru such as Charlie Manuel, who is at spring training helping some of the hitters work on improving and refining their strokes and approaches, is a step in the right direction towards correcting any hitting deficiencies suffered over the last several campaigns.
In an online article authored by Matt Breen of The Philadelphia Inquirer today, Francoeur states one of his central reasons for joining the Phillies was his wish to learn from Charlie: “Everyday is, ‘Let’s hit, let’s hit.’ He can’t wait to hit.”
He explains that Manuel brings to mind the days of playing for Bobby Cox in Atlanta, saying they’re both old school guys. In baseball today, old school play is missing among a great number of young players. Hopefully, Francoeur can help to instill such a mindset into the current Phillies youngsters as they attempt to establish themselves.
An interesting piece of trivia about Jeff Francoeur: not only is he the last MLB player to hit into an unassisted triple play, he is also the sole batter to ever end a game in this way. It occurred on August 23rd, 2009 and was turned by Eric Bruntlett in a contest won by the Phils over the Mets, 9-7.
Guaranteeing nothing to the player who was the Braves 1st round pick in the 2002 Amateur Draft, Amaro instead still seems to think that Domonic Brown maintains the potential to become a major league star. While Brown’s career fielding statistics somewhat mimic those of Franceour’s, his offensive skills remain highly suspect.
Suggestion of starting Francoeur in right and Brown in AAA might not be so far-fetched.
(Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)
2013 was a tale of 2 halves for Domonic. From April through June he hit .278, belting 21 HR’s while driving in 57. Maybe receiving his first NL All-Star selection went to his head. Though he hit a respectable .269 from July through season’s end, Brown’s power numbers declined significantly. He banged out only 6 dingers while only bringing 26 runs across the plate post-break.
Last year, Brown’s numbers were well below those expected of a player with his supposed potential. It’s now possible that is potential that only Amaro believes still exists.
Starting the season in Lehigh Valley would offer Brown the opportunity to play everyday, and as a player with extended major league experience, become a mentor to younger players, possibly boosting his confidence.
With an option remaining, Brown would then remain a welcome addition to the big league club should an outfielder go down with an injury. The experienced and more proven producer in Francoeur could then get a full-time shot as the Phillies starting right fielder. If he then shows a resurgence to his days of old, he could become an attractive trade piece come July.
Jeff Francoeur was an interesting signing by the Phillies this off-season. If he is fully healthy, and his competitiveness is intact, this is a player who could turn out to be a huge surprise for the club in the 2015 season. With the team investing very little in him financially, he’s certainly a worthwhile gamble.