Batter’s Box: Don’t Eat That, It Maikel You

We’re gonna talk about Maikel Franco. Yea. It’s time. And to answer your next question, no he didn’t have a good game on Monday night, he went 0-5 on a night that...

We’re gonna talk about Maikel Franco. Yea. It’s time. And to answer your next question, no he didn’t have a good game on Monday night, he went 0-5 on a night that the Phillies scored 11 runs. Now, based on the fact that Franco is hitting .218 on the year and that the Phillies have publicly toyed with the idea of sending him down to the minors, many fantasy owners are panicking. They all (including myself) saw his year last year and thought even brighter days were ahead, but so far, they haven’t been. I’m here to preach patience. Take a breath, calm down, stop hyperventilating, and whatever you do, don’t drop Maikel Franco, he’s going to get better. There’s a few reasons I’m optimistic about Franco. First and foremost is the obvious .222 BABIP. Franco has never been a high BABIP guy (power guys often aren’t) but a .222 BABIP isn’t happening all year, that will improve, and as that improves, the average will improve. If you look at everything else, it all looks fairly good: the walk rate has crept up a tiny bit, the strikeout rate is down (something he vowed to do this year), his hard hit rate is up, his HR/FB rate is right in line with his career, he’s on pace for around as many home runs as he hit last year, and he’s cut down on infield fly balls. His biggest problem has been breaking pitches, his stats against sliders and changeups have been rough, but he’s making an adjustment. After being benched for a short while and lowered in the order, he did some work with Phillies batting coach Matt Stairs, who recommended a mechanical adjustment of re-positioning his hands as they were too close to his face. Stairs also told him to stop trying to do too much, to stop constantly trying to hit a home run, just hit. Franco’s also been trying to hard to be an opposite field hitter, Stairs told him just to aim for the gaps. Since he did that work with Stairs, things have been better. Over the past week he’s hitting .286 with a home run, and I’m optimistic that he can turn things around. He’s talented, too talented to just bomb this hard and waste away into the minors. If someone dropped him, pick him up, and if/when you own him, bench him until you can see he’s figured this out, which I think might be sooner than later.

Let’s take a look at some of the other performances from Monday:

Tommy Pham (OF, STL) – 1-3, 1 R, 1 RBI. Pham has been a hot pickup thanks to a .296 month with four home runs, but he’s slowed down big time lately, hitting just .158 over the past week. I’ve been preaching Pham as a ride the streak guy, because regression has been on its way and it looks like it’s just about here. His .368 BABIP and 26.3% HR/FB rate weren’t going to keep up, though the 40.3% hard hit rate looks nice. Pham is still useful in some leagues, but it seems like the hot streak may be coming to a close.

Odubel Herrera (OF, PHI) – 3-5, 1 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI. If you dropped Odubel Herrera (like I did), I don’t blame you. He’s not been what you wanted this year, we all saw the .286, 15 HR, 25 steal year last year and thought “I’ll take that for sure.” So far this year, he’s been bad, and I don’t see it getting all that much better. He’s striking out more, his walk rate is a pitiful 5%, the ground balls are up, the line drives are down, and the HR/FB rate is down. And if you were holding out hope that this was BABIP related, it isn’t, as his BABIP is sitting at .300. I don’t think Herrera’s going to be getting an average in the .280s again, but I do think he’ll get somewhat better. He’s not a .240 hitter, probably closer to a .260s hitter with probably 6-8 more home runs and 10+ more steals. That’s usable, but not what you wanted.

Aaron Altherr (OF, PHI) – 3-4, 1 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI. I wrote in length about Altherr right when he was the hot pickup, and I think some of what he’s done/is doing is legit, just be prepared for an average regression (we’ve seen some valleys already with him this year). Still though, the power is legit, he could end the year with 20 home runs and 10 steals but I think he’s batting in the .250s the rest of the way as his BABIP cools down.

Tommy Joseph (1B, PHI) – 3-5, 1 HR, 1 R, 3 RBI. I think everything Joseph is doing is legit. He could be the least-owned 30 home run, .250 hitter out there, or at least one of them. The power is real and it’s going to keep up, go get him if you need help.

Eric Thames (OF/1B, MIL) -0-4. The regression has been a long time coming for Thames, we were all preaching this from the beginning of his absurdly hot start. The power is real, the average wasn’t. Now he’s calmed down, but unfortunately that took a .208 month to get there. This presents an interesting opportunity: perhaps you can snag him from an owner who thinks the Thames train is over. I think this is who Thames really is, a .250-.260 hitter who could end the year with 35+ home runs, and if you can snag that for cheap from the current Thames owner, do it.

Kris Bryant (3B/OF, CHC) – 1-4, 1 HR, 1 R, 2 RBI. The Cubs offense in general hasn’t been what we all wanted it to be, and Bryant has been mired in a rough month, batting .205 over the last 30 days. It’s just a slump though, his .267 average on the year is respectable and roughly what I expect from him (maybe closer to the .270s). The power has been there and will continue to be there, he’ll be fine. Just be patient.

Yuli Gurriel (3B/1B, HOU) – 1-3, 1 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI. It’s been kind of a bleh year for Gurriel who hasn’t been bad, but hasn’t really produced enough to warrant having in your lineup every day. But things have heated up recently, as he’s batting .275 with three home runs and 11 RBIs over the past two weeks. I think he’s a solid hitter who could end the year with 20+ home runs batting in the .270s, which is a useful piece to have on your team.

Whit Merrifield (2B, KC) – 0-5. I almost lead with Merrifield just because people have been freaking out about him so much. I don’t believe him, personally. If you look at his batted ball stats, his hard hit rate is roughly the same, line drives are down, ground balls are down (that’s good) and fly balls are up. Looking further into the fly balls, the good average is coming from the home runs, as his HR/FB rate has shot up to 14% (twice his career average) despite a hard hit rate that’s in line with his career average. He’s also getting a ton of infield hits, but that’s not overly surprising given his speed. Once that HR/FB rate comes back down to earth, the average is going to come with it, and given how meh the Royals offense is, you might be able to get a good amount of runs out of him (thanks to his speed), but the RBIs are going to be rough. I’m not buying it.

Jorge Bonifacio (OF, KC) – 2-5, 1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI. Bonifacio has quietly been having an excellent month, batting .301 with six home runs and 13 RBIs over the past 30 days. I’m not buying into him in shallow leagues, but in deeper leagues, I’m very intrigued. He strikes out too much for his .286 average to be entirely legit, and his 27.6% HR/FB rate will come down, but the guy is one of the top prospects in the Royals system and he’s playing like it.

Ben Palmer

Managing editor at Pitcher List. Lifelong Orioles fan (which can be....painful at times) and a Ravens/Wizards/Terps fan. I also listen to way too much music and watch way too many movies.

  • Avatar seanw2014 says:

    No Justin Smoak? Dude hit his 15th homer of the year last night. And his breakout is legit….mark my words

  • Avatar billyesq says:

    Assuming the Franco hold only applies to 12+ team leagues? You wouldn’t advocate holding him in a 10 team h2h would you? I wanna believe in Maikel…

    • Ben Palmer Ben Palmer says:

      It depends on who you’d be picking up, but in a 10-team league, there’s probably better stuff out there on the waiver wire for now, and a low risk of him getting picked up.

  • Avatar Turkey Baloney says:

    It seems like Franco is getting this pretty consistent analysis. It will be interesting to see how it actually pans out. This should either serve as a big win for sabermetrics or point out a major hole in the analysis depending on how the situation develops. Ten years ago, he would be in the minors with no questions asked – it will be interesting to see whether or not this works out!

  • Avatar eugene purdy says:

    To what degree do you think the absence of Ryan Braun is effecting Eric Thames? Does his regression coincide with Braun’s injuries?

    • Ben Palmer Ben Palmer says:

      I don’t really think Braun’s injury has had much to do with it, I think it was just regression to the mean. I mean, the guy had a .360 BABIP and a 45.8% HR/FB rate in March/April. That all regressed in May, everything else looks the same (batted ball stats, plate discipline, everything). It was just a matter of a hot start cooling down, and I think we know what Thames is now, which is a league-average hitter from a batting average perspective (.250-.260) with 35+ home runs.

  • Avatar bobbo says:

    More belief in Altherr, Hicks, or Haniger going forward? Also, what’s going on with Ian Desmond? He’s been killing me lately!

    • Ben Palmer Ben Palmer says:

      I believe in Haniger assuming health, I believe in Altherr’s power, but the average will go down, and I slightly believe in Hicks, though again, his average will regress.

      As for Desmond, he’s had a pretty bad go of it in June so far with a .167 BABIP, but I am somewhat concerned about the fact that his ground balls have shot way up and the hard hit rate has dropped about ten points in June. It’s still a small sample size, so I’m not panicking yet, but keep an eye on it. I wonder just how healthy he is. With any luck, he’ll turn it around quickly, he’s got the talent to do that.

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