2015 Phillies Report Card: Jeff Francoeur
In a strict sense, Jeff Francoeur‘s -1.1 WAR season in 2015 with the Phillies was helpful, not hurtful. The Phillies put together one of the worst rosters in franchise history in an effort to finish with the worst record in baseball. Mission accomplished. According to Baseball Reference, only Ryan Howard was worse than Francoeur in WAR for the club. The Phillies couldn’t have done it without him.
Frenchy’s career appeared to be fizzling out after 2014. He spent ’13 with the Royals and Giants, hitting a composite .204/.238/.298. At the very least, one could always count on Francoeur for power, but he even lost that. Things got so bad that he served as a pitcher in 2014, appearing in eight games with Triple-A El Paso.
Nevertheless, the Phillies signed Francoeur to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. In 44 at-bats in Clearwater, he didn’t exactly impress, posting a .523 OPS with no home runs. However, the Phillies liked Francoeur’s experience and positive attitude.
Five years ago, I would have snarked at the idea. (Though five years ago, the Phillies were competitive and Frenchy was a role player getting a starter’s quantity of at-bats.) But the Phillies hit the nail on the head with this one. As clubhouse strife became public, ultimately resulting in Ryne Sandberg‘s surprise resignation in June, Francoeur was a stabilizing force to a roster that rapidly got younger.
Frenchy had a career resurgence, finishing with a .308 weighted on-base average, his best mark since 2011. Almost all of his on-field value was tied up in his ability to hit for power, as he rarely drew walks, ran the bases poorly, and was a detriment defensively in the outfield. However, if he wanted to, Francoeur will likely land a guaranteed contract heading into the 2016 season — he’s only 31 years old still.
The Phillies want Francoeur back, and for good reason. They are now in the development stage of their rebuild after having completed the talent acquisition stage. The same intangible value Francoeur provided in 2015 he could theoretically provide again in 2016. The only thing the Phillies have to worry about is allocating too many at-bats to him at the expense of younger players like Aaron Altherr and Nick Williams. Other than that, it will be nice to see Francoeur back in Phillies red.