Francoeur Emerges as a Key Phillie

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After capping off a three-game sweep of the Marlins with a walk-off home run, Jeff Francoeur will continue to receive more opportunities to showcase his talents for potential trade suitors before the July 31 trade deadline.

He’ll get another opportunity in tonight’s inter-league game against the Tampa Bay Rays, according to interim manager Pete Mackanin.

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“I think I’m going to play him tomorrow,” Mackanin said in a post-game interview. “He’s earned the right to play tomorrow. And he’s been bugging me about playing.

Francoeur’s recent play justifies fans pleas to give the popular “Frenchy” more playing time. In the weekend series against the Marlins, the 31-year-old made the most of his opportunities, going 3-3 with two home runs and five RBIs. Francoeur followed up his pinch-hit three-run home run on Friday night with a walk-off two-run shot yesterday afternoon.

Francoeur’s four home runs since June 28 lead the club, while his 10 RBIs are second behind Ryan Howard (12). That’s in 20 fewer at-bats than The Big Piece.

The former first-round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves has flourished in a limited role this season. In only 187 at-bats (10th on the team), Francoeur is batting .257 with eight home runs and 31 RBIs. His slugging percentage (.449) is second on the team behind Maikel Franco (.480).

Pinch-hitting has been Francoeur’s sweet spot this season. In 16 pinch-hit at-bats, he is hitting .500 with three extra-base hits and nine RBIs. His .500 average is the highest among pinch-hitters with 16 or more at-bats while his nine RBIs are tied for first.

His lone pinch-hit homer came Friday night against the Marlins—a three-run blast which gave the Phillies a 6-2 lead in the eighth inning.

Getting hits late in games is something Francoeur has excelled at this season. He is batting .318  with three home runs and 11 RBIs in 41 at-bats late in “close” games (7th inning or later w/ team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run on deck). In instances like yesterday, where his team is down by one run, Francoeur is batting .268 with five home runs and 20 RBIs.

Francoeur has been an excellent utility player this season, and it seems to be the role he’s most comfortable with. As a starter, Frenchy has been mediocre, posting a slash line of .234/.270/.390. As a substitute, however, he has posted a slash line of .364/.371/.727.

His numbers off the bench are what interested teams will be looking at. If traded, Francoeur will not be expected to be an everyday starter. His skills are better suited for a limited role, as displayed by his off-the-bench-numbers.

He is a hard worker who will make the most out of his opportunities. His work ethic points back to last season where as a 30-year-old veteran, Francoeur went back to the minors and played 115 games for the Padres’ Triple-A team, the El Paso Chihuahuas.

“One of the best things that happened to me was going back to Triple-A last year and playing every day and working my butt off,” Francoeur said in an interview after yesterday’s game. “You have to play well and work hard to be up here. You don’t just deserve it and you don’t just earn it. To work like I did and come to Spring Training, it feels good to have earned to be back here.”

His play this season has earned him a spot on a Major League roster, and his play over the weekend has earned him more playing time. With the July 31 trade deadline only 11 days away, he could now earn himself a chance to play for a playoff team if he continues to play well.