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Let’s Get A Little Excited About Franchy Cordero

Photo: Marcus Pond

The Padres are 16 games into the Franchy Cordero Era, and so far, it has been a pretty fun ride. Sure, the conditions could’ve been better – no Friar fan would want Manuel Margot (who has been sidelined sine May 24th) to go on the disabled list – but despite the less than ideal circumstances, he has outperformed most, if not all, expectations.  The most recent example of this comes on a three-hit, two-homer game in last night’s 6-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds.

If and when Manuel Margot comes off the disabled list, it’d be difficult to keep giving Cordero regular playing time in center, but before assessing where he might fit in the Padres future, let’s dig a bit deeper and look at his performance in the minors, as well as his small sample size in the majors.

BACKGROUND

Cordero was originally signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012 as a 17-year-old for $175,000.  Originally a shortstop (aren’t they all?), he struggled initially when he came stateside, making 52 errors in the field in 2014 (57 games), and wasn’t much better in 2015, where he made 20 errors in 23 games at short before being moved to the outfield.  In 2016, however, beginning the year at High-A Lake Elsinore, he began to take off, slashing a decent .286/.339/.444 in the first half of the year, and earning a promotion to Double-A San Antonio, where he was even better, to the tune of a .306/.356/.478 hitting line.

Beginning the 2017 season, it looked as if the Padres were content with keeping him in Triple-A El Paso, where he was surrounded by journeymen outfielders like Jabari Blash, Nick Buss, and Collin Cowgill – players who seemed to be tailor-made for spot starts during DL-stints like Margot’s.  However, after slashing .289/.349/.520 in 42 games, the Padres decided they’d seen enough of Blash and seemed uninterested in the other options, and brought up the 22-year-old Dominican.

Since arriving here, he hasn’t slowed down, posting a 1.010 OPS (yes, albeit a small sample size) to go along with a .327/.375/.635 slash line.  Is it sustainable?  Definitely not.  However, it seems like he’s a lot more than the “fringy prospect” that many placed on him at the beginning of the year.

SPEED

At first glance, it seems very hard to imagine that Cordero was ever a shortstop.  He’s a lean 6’3” and seems very well suited for patrolling centerfield at Petco Park.  When he doesn’t get a great read on a ball, he’s able to use that speed to make up for it, and like the saying goes, speed doesn’t slump – he’ll have that going for him for a while.

But more exciting that watching his speed work on the grass is how he uses it to his advantage on the basepaths.  While he’s just one for two in stolen base attempts, he is an aggressive baserunner who can go first to third with the best of them.  The prime example of this, perhaps, was his sweep-sealing effort on May 31st against the Chicago Cubs.  Tied at one in the bottom of the eighth, he hit a one-out triple on a ball that Jason Heyward played pretty well off the wall in right-center, and though he got down to avoid a possible tag, he probably could’ve made it standing up.  Then, with the infield in, he ran on first contact and was able to make it under the tag (on an admittedly high, but not necessarily bad throw) for the decisive run.  With Jankowski on the disabled list, Cordero is more than likely San Diego’s best baserunner.

 

DEFENSE

Yes, as mentioned before, speed is an asset for all fielders, especially if they’re playing in center, as Cordero does.  However, there’s a lot more to fielding than speed, and Cordero has shined there in Petco, despite only starting to play the position last year.

A look at Statcast info on Baseball Savant shows that he has been almost perfect in his brief stint with the Friars.  Here’s a look at how he’s done, using their 1-5 star rating system.

Info courtesy of Baseball Savant

You can click on the link to see the breakdown of the probability of each type of catch, but generally speaking, the higher the number of stars, the more difficult it is to make that particular catch.  A four-star catch is categorized as a catch that is only made 26% to 50% of the time, based on where the outfielder was positioned, and how far he had to move to get to where the ball landed.  Despite the blemish on his two-star catches, making a pair of four-star catches is very impressive, and it’s been great to see the Star hanging from the press box when those plays are made.  Despite being a late bloomer, all signs point to Cordero being able to hang pretty well defensively.

HITTING

It’s easy to point to a slash line and say how well or how poorly a player is performing, but let’s dig just a bit deeper, given that this is such a small sample size.

Hitting three homers is nice, but it doesn’t mean that he’d be on pace to hit 30 homers at the major league level over a whole season.  He hit a career high last year with 11 dingers across three levels (after Lake Elsinore and San Antonio, he had a short stint in El Paso, but didn’t have any PCL-aided dingers there), so saying he’d almost triple that at the highest level is a stretch.  We also need to take in mind that those homers, while beautiful, came against the Cincinnati Reds pitching staff, which is decidedly not great.

Still, they were at Petco Park, and they weren’t wall-scrapers.  Both of his dingers last night were classified by Statcast as “barrels“, or hits that, when taking into account the exit velocity and launch angle, generally leads to a .500 batting average and a 1.500 slugging percentage).  Cordero’s homers last night traveled 420 and 428 feet, respectively, with the former having an exit velocity of 102.1 MPH and the latter an exit velocity of 112.7 MPH.  In the words of Ted Leitner, they were CAAAA-rushed, definitely not cheapies.

While he was a triples machine in the minors, using his speed and gap-finding ability to move around the bases, if he taps into his power potential, he could be a serious threat.  This is still speculation at this point, however, as there’s still not enough evidence that he will become a perennial slugger.

One area of concern are his strikeout and walk rates.  At Triple-A this year, he struck out a high, though not ridiculously so, 31.1% of the time, while walking at a 7.9% clip.  In San Diego so far, he’s walked at an almost identical rate (7.1%), while his strikeout rate has ballooned to 37.5%.

SO WHAT’S THE DEAL, CAN WE GET EXCITED OR NOT?

In short, yes, we can get excited.  If not just because he’s been a bright spot on an otherwise dull team (despite that glorious sweep of the Cubs), because of what he’s turned himself into.

Far from a big money international signing, he’s progressed through the system, and it looks like there’s reason to believe that the Padres were able to mold that raw talent into a major leaguer.  With A.J. Preller at the helm, there will be more raw talent flowing through the system, and hopefully some will be able to follow Cordero’s path.

Aside from that, he’s got potential to be a big part of the Padres, at least for this year.  With Travis Jankowski and Alex Dickerson appearing like they may never return from injury, a spot in left field has likely opened up.  Moving Ryan Schimpf down to Triple-A has opened up a spot for Cory Spangenberg in the infield, and even Allen Córdoba has started getting starts at short.  With those falling into place, there’s reason to believe that Franchy’s stay in the majors could last even when Margot returns.  And if he can keep up with his play in this short sample, even allowing for regression, he can be a fun player to watch going forward.

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