Things have been going pretty badly for the Philadelphia Phillies over the last three weeks. And it now appears that one former starting position player, third baseman Maikel Franco, may be in the proccess of being given up on by the manager.
Phillies skipper Gabe Kapler had two lineup cards to fill out on Wednesday as his club was set to play a day-night doubleheader against the Washington Nationals. In the first, Kapler named Scott Kingery as the starting third baseman. In the lineup announced for the nightcap, newcomer Brad Miller is scheduled to man the hot corner.
Franco certainly hasn’t helped his case with the bat this season. the 26-year-old hasn’t produced a multi-hit game since May 13, and has just two home runs since April 26. However, Franco is also the third-best defensive third baseman in the National League, eighth-best in baseball, so far this season according to Fangraphs.
Is keeping Franco out of the lineup the best move to give the Phillies a chance to win baseball games these days?
In Kingery, the Phillies have a player who won a minor league Gold Glove Award for his play at second base just two years ago. Over the last 14 games covering his own last 67 plate appearances entering today, second baseman Cesar Hernandez was slashing at just the .115/.179/.213 mark.
Would the Phillies be better off with Kingery at second and Franco at third on an everyday basis, rather than Hernandez at second and Kingery and others juggling the hot corner? Would the defense become more consistent? Better overall? Would that help win some ball games?
Franco has always been a streaky hitter. From Opening Day through April 27 covering the entire first month of this season, Franco was slashing .271/.360/.542 with seven homers among a dozen extra-base hits with 22 RBIs. Everyone was bestowing “the best #8 hitter in baseball” title on him. If he were playing every day, Franco would likely have another streak similar to that one at some point.
The question as to what to do with center field is a legitimate one. Roman Quinn is back from his latest stay on the Injured List. He is clearly the best defensive center fielder available to the team right now. But how long would Quinn remain healthy if playing every day, given his consistent injury history?
For me, defense matters. And also, you play your best team available at the time. You worry about injuries when (if) they occur. I play Kingery at second base, Franco at third base, and Quinn in center field every day. Meanwhile, I do my best to find a more veteran center field option.
I fully understand that Hernandez has his “fan club” among a certain segment of the fan base. That is fine. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. This is mine.
The only opinions that matter belong to Kapler and Matt Klentak. We’re seeing their choices, and they simply aren’t working. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
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