May 29, 2017
The Situation: Manuel Margot hit the shelf with a strained calf, and the Padres will continue making good use of their catastrophic start to work another rookie into big-league experience by unleashing Franchy on the expansive Petco center field landscape. After starting to put it together with a strong performance across two levels last year, Cordero has continued to hit well at Triple-A El Paso, posting a .289/.349/.520 line across 42 games to start the season. That sound you hear in the distance is a giddy Jason Parks (#RIP) merrily frolicking along a hillside under a cool, come-hither sky.
The Background: The Padres inked Cordero to a $175,000 deal in November of the 2011 international signing period when he was 17, and he tantalized with explosive quick-twitch athleticism and projectability in the DSL the following summer before heading stateside in 2013, where he showcased more of the same. Parks said he had Role 6 potential in Spring Training of 2014, though he noted at the time that Franchy’s home would probably need to migrate from the six spot he’d occupied up until that point. He remained there through a successful short-season debut, but moved to the outfield grass in time for full-season ball in 2015. The gap between his raw present and intriguing potential future skill was on display in the Midwest League in 2015, but despite struggling with the bat he impressed the brass enough to warrant promotion to the Cal League in 2016, where he started to pick things up production-wise. He hasn’t really stopped hitting over the past calendar year, traversing three levels in the process to arrive at the doorstep of the majors.
Scouting Report: I, for one, have been more than a little surprised at the meteoric nature of his rise during that timeline. It has, after all, been almost exactly a year to the day since I put a 30 on his hit tool. Cordero’s borderline-elite athleticism jumps off the field pretty quickly at first look, as he brings the kind of low-effort grace and controlled quickness to his movements that make you take notice. He’s a plus runner with an efficient start-up and smooth stride, and by early account this season he’s made some legitimate improvements in both refining his base-stealing technique and reigning in his inherent aggressiveness to where the speed has started to play better on the bases. It plays pretty well in the outfield too, and there are signs of the kind of natural instincts for reading and chasing contact that you look for in a centerfielder. To the degree that we’re willing to trust FRAA numbers for minor leaguers, he hasn’t been the most productive defender to date, but there’s raw material to work with there, certainly from a physical standpoint.
The bat has been and remains the big question with Franchy, in spite of consistent recent production. He’s a short-strider who hits simultaneously tall and leveraged, meaning there’s a lot of uphill to his swing plane and a good bit of backside collapse when he attempts to adjust mid-swing when out ahead of anything off-speed. There was a big ol’ hole in the swing up in and above the northern quadrants of the zone during his time in the California League, and both his ongoing fly ball and strikeout tendencies at Triple-A this spring strongly suggest that’s still the case. He’s not the most consistent mechanically at triggering his barrel into the zone, and the bat’s not on plane very long when he does. A two-handed finish allows Cordero to be short to the ball, but also means he cuts off his extension. A lot of swing-and-miss is likely here.
The good news is that the Padres don’t seem to care one lick about that. Padres hitters have collectively struck out more than 27 other teams, and this is the organization that has found a way to coax 11-plus VORP and counting out of Ryan Schimpf and his .167 batting average. When Franchy’s on time and accurate with his swing he produces more than his share of loud contact, and he has both the strength and above-average bat speed to damage the baseball when he catches one. Coupled with the speed to turn singles into doubles, and doubles into triples, there’s an intriguing if non-traditional baseline here for offensive success.
Immediate Big League Future: With Matt Szczur really the only other guy on the 25-man that has any recent experience logging innings in center field, the window’s open for Franchy to get a decent look with every-day at-bats for the next several weeks while Margot heals up. And with just Szczur and the equally raw Allen Cordoba already pressed into active left in left, a strong start to his big-league career could easily be enough for him to stick with the big club for the foreseeable future. —Wilson Karaman
Fantasy Impact: The 22-year-old former shortstop possesses enough raw talent to make some waves in the wake of Manny Margot’s injury. Despite slashing a robust .289/.349/.520 with 19 extra-base hits (seven home runs), Cordero has struck out in 31 percent of his 190 plate appearances at Triple-A El Paso this season. Extreme contact issues are often a harbinger of an extended adjustment period at the major-league level. The batting average risk real. However, the dearth of stolen bases across the fantasy landscape, juxtaposed by Cordero’s legitimate speed (eight stolen bases in 42 games) means he could rapidly evolve into a viable option in deeper mixed leagues this season. Even if he struggles to make contact, Padres manager Andy Green told the media Cordero would “play, and play (center field) consistently,” with Margot sidelined indefinitely. At a minimum, the guaranteed playing time is enough to make Cordero worthy of a roster spot in NL-only formats, but only if you can absorb the potential batting average downside. —George Bissell
Wilson Karaman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @vocaljavelins