It's a battle for the future of your CI spot today, as we're pitting Maikel Franco and D.J. Peterson against each other in this Tale of the Tape. Will Franco ever stop swinging at garbage? Will Peterson ever play third base? Will rhetorical questions as literary devices ever work? The Answers May Surprise You:
Franco hit just .257 in Triple-A last season, which isn't terribly impressive, but as the BP Prospect Team wrote in their Phillies Top 10 list, Franco projects as having a 5+ hit tool. In that piece, some of Franco's strengths are described as: "Excellent fastball hitter; explosive hands; lightning-quick swing; feel for barreling the ball up with backspin; thunder in the stick; knows how to create lift; can adjust swing in zone."
Whether Franco's approach will let his natural tools play up is the ultimate question here. He's got the bat-to-ball ability and bat speed to hit .270-plus, but Vlad Guerrero thinks he swings at too much junk.
Peterson, meanwhile, hit .326 in the Cal League and then .261 in Double-A as a 22-year-old in his first full professional season. The latter average is more indicative of what we can expect from him at the MLB level in a neutral setting, as Peterson also bring plus bat speed to the table but doesn't have the same exceptional bat-to-ball ability.
In my recent Get to Know: Third Base Prospects piece, I wrote this: "Peterson is another guy with a penchant for punishing baseballs, perhaps giving up a bit of natural bat-to-ball ability to Franco but making up that ground with a more sound approach."
That really just about sums it up. Franco walked in just 5.4 percent of his Triple-A PA and 1.7 percent of his MLB PA last year. Peterson was at 7.7 percent in High-A and 8.9 percent in Double-A. The Mariners prospect is going to walk way more than Franco, and I don't think the gap in average will be so substantial that Franco can still reach base more often.
This is where contextual factors start to wreak havoc with our projections. Peterson hit 31 homers between High-A and Double-A last year, and while 18 of those bombs came in the Cal League, it's still hard not to be impressed by that total. Franco only hit 13, but he was younger in Triple-A than Peterson was in Double-A and he has 6+ potential power.
I think Peterson has more usable pop right now, but he's going to call Safeco home, and that's just brutal for a right-handed hitter. Franco, meanwhile, gets to play in Citizens Ball Park, and that could add some extra juice to his homer totals. In a vacuum this is a tougher call, but right now, park factors are enough to give Franco a slight bump.
Advantage: Franco, ever so slightly
If we're going to let contextual factors sway us toward Franco in terms of power, it's only fair to acknowledge that Peterson is likely to enter a much better lineup in Seattle than Franco is in Philadelphia. Sure, Franco is going to reach the majors first, but he's going to bat in a lineup that offers little else other than Chase Utley.
When Peterson reaches the majors, though, he should be part of a team trotting out Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, and Nelson Cruz every day, giving him plenty of chances to drive in some runs. Given that I expect Franco and Peterson to hit for similar power totals, that means the slight nod goes to D.J., at least early in his career.
Nope. Neither of these guys is likely to steal more than a few bases per season, which is what you'd expect from 3B/1B types. I'd guess that Peterson nabs a few more than Franco over his career, but we're probably talking fewer than 50 steals combined over the lifetime of both of these careers. Look elsewhere.
Advantage: No one who like stolen bases
Nope. Neither of these guys has any significant injury in his background, nor any red flags indicating an injury is likely down the line. Pray for no wrist/hand/hamate injuries. Hooray, they're not pitchers!
Advantage: Push, yay for health
Prospects will break your heart, sure, but both of these guys are fairly safe as prospects go. Franco's already hit decently well at Triple-A and reached the majors as a 21-year-old. There's some risk his approach limits the utility of his natural tools, yes, and there's also a change he moves to first base. He's a near lock to at least hit for power, though, and while he's not the type of player who figures to take the world by storm right out of the gate, his tools are too loud to let him fizzle out quickly.
Peterson is also a pretty safe prospect with less experience but a more refined game than what Franco brings to the table at present. Like Franco, he may have to move to first base, but Franco only has Cody Asche blocking him at the hot corner, while Peterson has Seager. That makes Peterson more likely to move in the short term, which makes him slightly "riskier" for our purposes.
The upside here is similar: think .280 with 20-plus bombs from third base on a fairly routine basis. The downside is something in the .250 range with double-digit bombs at first base.
Advantage: Franco, sort of
Estimated Time to Impact
Franco, obviously. He's already reached the majors and seems a good bet to nab at least 300 PA in 2015. Peterson isn't far behind, but it's tough to argue he'll make an impact sooner without just wildly speculating.
Franco takes the categories 4-2-2, but Peterson's victories in OBP and RBI were more substantial than any of the nods to Franco. Still, the slight overall edge has to go to Franco here, and while these are two very similar fantasy prospects, it's hard not to like Franco's time to the majors, power potential, contextual factors and shot at sticking at third base for a while. If Peterson had a clearer path to playing time at the hot corner this would be a tougher call, but with Seager in his way, odds are he's playing first base for the M's by 2016. Franco is more likely to at least get enough time at third to retain eligibility, and so he is the victor.
And the winner is… Maikel Franco
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