A glance at the Padres’ list of top prospects reveals a couple of observations.
Two: our future infield may not be. Wil Myers, while likely not the superstar many of us still dream he will be, is essentially entrenched at first thanks to a long-term extension he signed in August. Luis Urias has made waves by hitting .309 as a 20-year-old with San Antonio (Double-A), although defensive limitations will likely restrict him to second base long-term.
The left side of the infield appears to be less concrete though. Yangervis Solarte, as beloved as he is by Padres fans (myself included), should not be relied upon as a starter on a playoff team. The farm system carries a few prospects, between Fernando Tatis, Jr., Hudson Potts, and a formerly highly-regarded part of the Red Sox’ Craig Kimbrel package, Javier Guerra. However, each of those three players are still in Single-A, meaning they are each a handful of seasons away from making potential contributions to a big league pennant race.
For the Padres to set themselves up well to contend when the time comes, they need to take advantage of any opportunities they have to add young, controllable talent at the right price, with the logic being that a player’s adjustment to the big leagues and a player’s adjustment to a big league pennant race should happen sequentially, not simultaneously.
Such an opportunity presented itself this morning, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported that Phillies third baseman, Maikel Franco, is “more than available” in trade talks.
— MLB Trade Rumors (@mlbtraderumors) June 25, 2017
Franco, 24, first came onto the scene as a rookie in 2015, racking up 14 homers and 50 RBI in just half a season’s worth of games in the majors before adding another 25 long balls in his first full season last year. The one-time top prospect has fallen on harder times this year, however, with a .221/.280/.365 slash line and just nine home runs in 69 games. Those struggles have evidently tested the patience of the Philadelphia brass enough that they seem to be open for business on the young Dominican.
Despite what his ugly 2017 stat line might suggest, Franco presents one of the more valuable all-around skill sets in the league. Last year, the third baseman was one of just 23 players in Major League Baseball who posted an above-average strikeout rate, an above-average ISO mark, and a positive runs total on defense. Of those, only four were Franco’s age or younger: Mookie Betts, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Corey Seager. That’s pretty good company.
This year, Franco’s contact skills have taken another step forward, as his strikeout rate has fallen to a decidedly impressive 13.8 percent. This has coincided with a five-point drop in his chase rate (to 29.3 percent) and a 2-point drop in his swinging strike rate (to 9.7 percent). Unfortunately, it has also been accompanied by a career-low .226 BABIP and a large drop in both ISO rate and exit velocity. The end result is fairly simple to see: a young player likely worrying too much about bat control and thereby limiting his ability to hit balls hard.
There are signs of encouragement too, though. The plate discipline numbers are rare, especially out of a young hitter with power potential such as Franco. This is true of his increasing willingness to go the other way as well, evidenced by his splits and the fact that his best offensive numbers come on balls hit to the opposite field. Such an advanced approach also comes in a 6’1”, 215-pound frame that still carries plenty of power potential if encouraged to let loose a little more. Those offensive tools are packaged with impressive skills with the glove as well (does this play remind you of any former Friars?), making Franco an intriguing buy-low candidate for the Padres, given his availability.
Of course, that also involves having the resources necessary to meet the asking price, something that would weigh heavily into San Diego’s ability to go shopping in the City of Brotherly Love. Given the fact that the Phillies have so publicly soured on him, however, there seems to be assets in the Padres’ organization who would provide a good value in a potential deal.
The likely scenario, given their lack of prospects on the pitching side of things, is that Philadelphia, as far into the cellar as our own hometown team, would prefer long-term pieces on the mound. Luckily, that would appear to be one of San Diego’s strengths, and names such as Colin Rea, Andrew Lockett, Enyel De Los Santos, and Logan Allen all come to mind.
Another name that could be worked in is that of Ryan Schimpf, who has similarly struggled this season and likely won’t be a part of the Padres’ future. Schimpf provides a unique batted-ball profile, prior success in the big leagues, and positional versatility in a hard-to-qualify package, something that could result in him netting more value than he should in a deal.
Ultimately, Maikel Franco still demonstrates plenty of the skills that made him the Phillies’ No. 1 prospect at age 20, and after today’s announcement, he should be available at a discount that the Padres are more than capable of affording. He’s controllable through the 2021 season and, if he can be had as cheaply as it seems might be possible, he has the upside to end up as a steal for the Friars.
Worth looking into? I’d certainly say so.
Noah is a current undergraduate at the University of San Diego. In addition to his classes as a Business Economics student, Noah serves as the scouting director for the nationally-ranked USD baseball team and as an NFL correspondent with The Mighty 1090. You can follow him on Twitter @thebackseatlamp