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.

Grade: B+

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  1. Major Malfunction

    October 18, 2015 09:04 AM

    I concur that he appears to be a positive force in the clubhouse, etc. But 2 questions I thought that maybe you could have addressed:

    Speculative and we won’t know until it happens, but will the new GM see it that way too? You only get 25 roster slots and while they can be super important to a contending team, they are still important to a young team since there are a lot of games and innings to grind out during the course of the year. Yes you can call troops up from AAA with injuries and such, but going the yo-yo route all year through like they did this year is not exactly a team building exercise and negates what you have Francoeur for.

    Which leads me to my 2nd question. If you sign Francoeur, what position(s) did you leave shallow and/or who could he be blocking from getting onto the MLB roster?

    Again, I agree with the article. Just curious if you have any thoughts about my 2 questions.

    • Steve

      October 18, 2015 02:52 PM

      I think the Francoeur discussion has to two scenarios.
      Scenario 1: Francoeur is resigned, and the only OF “addition” of the offseason. Your Opening Day OF is probably Herrera, Altherr, and a Sweeney/ Francoeur platoon. The hope here is that Williams progresses, reaches Philly by midseason, and takes over for the Sweeney/Fancoeur platoon, moving them to a bench role. I don’t think they will allow Fancouer to block Williams, provided he is successful in LHV, and then Philly. I think Sweeney will also get enough at bats if he is utilitzed as a reserve 2b also. Asche will probably lose AB’s but how much more do we need to see there?
      Scenario 2: the Phillies sign a FA starting outfielder, lets call him Player X. In this case the 2016 opening day outfield probably consists of Herrera, Altherr, and Player X with Sweeney, Francoeur, and Asche as possible bench players. You could count Sweeney at 2b, or Asche at 3b technically. Im going to assume Hernandez is your starting 2b with Sweeney as a backup, Franco as your starting 3b with Blanco as a backup. Either way theres probably room for everyone on Opening Day with Asche as the low man on the totem pole. This would give no reason to rush Williams, but if he simpy plays his way into a promotion, then we have a slght log-jam. If this happens Williams could take Altherr’s spot which leaves Altherr Sweeney Francoeur and Asche on the bench, probably resulting in an Asche demotion. If Altherr is hitting, and Hernandez is not, maybe we see Herrera slotted in at 2b with an OF of Altherr, Williams, and Player X. Then i think you see Hernandez and Blanco as back-up Inf, Francour as a back-up OF along with either Asche or Sweeney, depending on who is performing.
      Realistically, i dont think the Phillies will allow Francoeur to take AB from anyone they consider to have a future starting role with the team, and i dont think they will allow him to block anyone significant from being promoted.

    • Eddie

      October 19, 2015 10:12 AM

      He’s not going to be blocking anyone. The young guys with potential are going to be getting regular ABs, if not in Philly then in Lehigh Valley. For that matter, if it comes to it, Frenchy seems like the kind of guy who would go down to AAA and do his positive clubhouse thing there.

  2. JustBob

    October 18, 2015 07:06 PM

    I’d bet strongly that Francoeur won’t get a guaranteed MLB deal this offseason if the Phils don’t resign him.

    Just a guy who a team should sign on a minor league deal at this point.

  3. Bob

    October 19, 2015 12:09 AM

    There’s no reason to think that there aren’t FAs with equally valuable leadership skills who can put up positive value in the field and at bat.

  4. Mcarthy

    October 19, 2015 10:49 PM

    What does “snarked” mean you ingrate?

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