At the age of 17 in 2012, the San Diego Padres signed an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic by the name of Franchy Cordero. He was thin in stature and very young, but he had an approach at the plate that tantalized the Padres very much.
Like many of the players signed this 2016 season from the international market by A.J. Preller and company, he was originally thought of as a shortstop, but has had to change positions a couple of times in his brief minor league career.
More often than not, young players signed from this market are toolsy and inexperienced. Just because they were deemed as shortstops when these players signed their contract, doesn’t necessarily mean they will be at that position their whole career. I would suspect several of the young shortstops drafted this year will have to be moved upon further evaluation of their skill against opponents of equal talent. Fernando Tatis Jr. and Hudson Sanchez are prime examples of this. Both are capable of playing short, but their future is yet to be determined.
The way Cordero is able to barrel up a baseball is why the Padres were interested. From an early age there were questions about his glove, but his left-handed swing was a thing of beauty. At 17, Padres scouts could see that he had a bright future with the bat. If he could play shortstop defensively, then that would only be a bonus and expedite his arrival to the major leagues.
The lanky Dominican was unable to shake defensive issues though, as he committed 44 errors in 56 games at the age of 17 in the Dominican Summer League. That amount of errors is a very difficult task to accomplish in its own right, and the first indication that he was out of his element at shortstop. Still, the Padres gave him another chance as he played 30 games at the position in Rookie Ball (2013), committing a less tragic 11 errors. Still not what you want from an infielder, but the improvement gave the Padres some hope that he could get better at the position. Perhaps he could progress enough to be serviceable. His left-handed swing was just too enticing as a potential shortstop for the team not to give him every opportunity.
In 2014, at Fort Wayne, he was given the inside track at the shortstop starting gig. At the age of 19, he would be one of the younger players in the league and the Padres showed a ton of confidence in giving him the opportunity to play everyday. In 36 games at short, he was brutal, once again committing 33 errors. During the 2015 season, the Padres once again gave him a shot at the position. They allowed him to play 23 games at short and he made 20 errors. Simply put, the project of Cordero at shortstop was over at that point. He just did not possess the skill to man the position.
However, the man can swing the bat, and with that, the Padres are experimenting with him in the outfield moving forward. He played 68 games there in 2015, and in 2016, he played solely in the outfield for the Padres minor league affiliates and did not log one inning in the infield. In fact, the speedy young man was able to log 128 games in center field, which is quite the accomplishment for a kid who had never played outfield at the professional level until the 2015 season. In center, he has the speed and arm to play the position, but is still learning the nuances of being a professional center fielder. Defensively, he should be able to progress enough to play at the highest level of professional baseball. It might take some time though.
His bat is starting to really develop, as Cordero had a slash line of .290/.344/.450 in 555 at bats between three of the Padres’ affiliates. He started in Lake Elsinore (High-A) and made it all the way to El Paso, getting 13 at bats for the Chihuahuas at the end of the year. In those 137 games during the 2016 season, Cordero slugged 11 homers, smacked 24 doubles, and legged out 16 triples while driving in 54 runs. He also stole 23 bases between the three stops, showcasing his above average foot speed. The main issue with his season is that he stuck out 154 times. That free-swinging approach at the plate needs to be fixed if he expects to progress in 2017.
Though he did strike out at a semi-alarming rate, there are some positives to Franchy Cordero. In 128 at bats last year against left-handed pitchers, he recorded a slash line of .344/.391/.484 with two home runs and 11 RBI. He struck out 38 times during the year, but he was extremely successful when he put the ball in play. For a left-handed batter to have a batting line like that in well over 100 at bats against southpaw pitchers is impressive. Obviously he has the approach at the plate to be an everyday player. There will be no need to rest him against southpaws, as he owned them in 2016.
Making contact consistently seems to be his biggest Achilles heel presently, and that can be fixed if he works on it. Cordero stands extremely close to the plate. Like Anthony Rizzo-type close. Almost as though he is daring the pitchers to throw inside. In the few at bats I have seen from him, he gets inside pitches, but is often out in front of them, and hits a considerable amount of foul balls. Hitting a ton of foul balls puts you behind in the count and at risk of a strike out. That is his current issue. With some quality coaching and a few tweaks to his approach, he should be able to be a quality major league hitter. He has a smooth swing, and his strength and size is only now starting to develop. Keep an eye on Franchy Cordero as he starts the 2017 season in Double-A (most likely), but could be pushing for playing time at Petco Park fairly soon. The man has a decent ceiling and the fact the Padres recently put him on their 40-man roster indicates they think so too.