Is this the year that Franchy Cordero can make himself an MLB regular for the Padres?
The San Diego Padres have a fascinating young player on their roster.
A player with ridiculous speed, big-time raw power, and a plus arm. He’s hoping to stay healthy and complete his first full big-league season in 2020.
No, we’re not discussing Fernando Tatis Jr. here, although he would certainly fit that description. We’re talking about Franchy Cordero, a player who could become a significant contributor in 2020, or spend another season watching from the sidelines.
Cordero is a difficult player to evaluate, having played in only 79 MLB games over parts of the last three seasons.
Perhaps the best way to describe him is a non-baseball analogy. Cordero is the girl who broke your heart after you dated for two months during college. You knew it wouldn’t last, and it didn’t. Every spring, you still receive a text that reads: “Hey,” but you’ve learned your lesson, and you don’t respond. But you really want to. The elite speed and substantial raw power are an extremely rare combination.
How could one not want an absolute burner who can casually launch a baseball 489 feet?
Signed out of the Dominican Republic as a 17-year-old shortstop in 2011, Cordero hit well right out of the gate but struggled defensively. After three seasons in the low minors, he was moved to the outfield in 2015 and began climbing the proverbial ladder to the big-league club. Ranked just outside of the Padres’ top 10 prospects, he first cracked the major league roster in 2017. Shuttled back-and-forth between San Diego and Triple-A El Paso, Cordero hit 17 homers in 93 games in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, while flashing some of his tools at the MLB level in 30 MLB games.
Aiming for a regular role in the majors in 2018, things quickly went sideways when he was placed on the injured list twice during the first three months of the season and appeared in only 40 games with the Padres. Even in a limited sample, Cordero’s tools were on full display; he hit seven homers, stole five bases, had an average exit velocity of 92.6 mph per Baseball Savant, and ranked 13th in the majors in hard-hit percentage (percentage of batted balls with an exit velocity of 95 mph or greater).
Cordero also recorded three of the top-50 hardest-hit balls in 2018, doing so in only 40 games, while his average sprint speed of 29.2 ft/s was in the top six percent of all major leaguers. Unfortunately, his flaws were also on display – Cordero finished 2018 with a 35.7% strikeout rate, and, despite his excellent speed, his defense left much to be desired and arguably cost Tyson Ross a no-hitter.
In 2019, Cordero started the season well but played in only nine games before the injury bug took another bite out of him. A forearm injury from 2018 was still nagging him to begin the season. While rehabbing in Triple-A, he suffered yet another injury, this time a quadriceps injury that would prevent him from returning to the majors in 2019. Once again, injuries prevented Cordero from getting an opportunity to show the Padres what he can do.
After a fantastic performance in the Dominican Winter League this past offseason, Cordero is back in camp and doing what he does best: destroying baseballs, flying around the bases, and making us a bit nervous every time a fly ball is hit in his direction. His homer against Arizona on March 7 was clocked at 115 mph and had an estimated distance of 418 feet. Padres fans (and front office officials) still don’t know what a full season of Franchy Cordero looks like, and even if he’s healthy in 2020, that may still be the case. As of right now, the Padres’ depth chart isn’t stacked in his favor. Tommy Pham is locked into left field, Trent Grisham appears to have a firm grasp on center field, and Wil Myers (a heartbreaker in his own right) has been hitting the cover off the ball through the early portion of spring training. Myers is also making $22.5 million in 2020 and will be given every chance to prove he can be the starting right fielder, assuming he is still in San Diego, which seems likely at this point.
As of right now, it appears that Cordero’s only real competition for the fourth outfield spot is Josh Naylor, who is an exciting player in his own right. It’s not clear how Jayce Tingler intends to use the extra spot on the now-26-man roster. In the event that Tingler decides to carry five outfielders, there’s a good chance both players could be on the opening day roster.
Cordero is only 25 years old, and he’s already shown that he can provide serious power and speed on the bases. Still, he has to do it throughout a full season, which will be difficult yet again, this time because he’s on the outside looking in at a starting spot in the Padres outfield.
All stats used in this article are courtesy of Baseball Savant unless otherwise noted.