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“Hamilton Sound” Maikel Franco, Buy Low

Hello again.  We’ve reviewed two pitchers in the last two weeks, Kenta Maeda as a buy low and Stephen Strasburg a sell high.  Strasburg pitched well into the 6th in his last start, but gave up two in the sixth.  He escaped with the quality start, but he only struck out three batters.  I stand by what I said last week.  He is not the same guy and this new version isn’t what we paid for.  The window for selling before the inevitable health issues is closing …

We’re moving to the offensive side this week.

Coming into this season many nerds, such as myself, saw Maikel Franco as a nice later round / cheap buy at the stacked third-base position.  Our own Jonathan Merkel said this:

Maikel Franco projects to be a nice high-floor power buy in 2017, as the 24 year old should flirt with 30 homers and 90+ RBI once again. While his 2016 slash line (.255/.306/.427) didn’t live up to his incredible 2015 (.280/.343/.497) he still put up great numbers as a green 23 year old. He’s a strong buy right now, but his path to improvement is clear. As a result, there are many calling for Franco to truly breakout as a fantasy stud in 2017.

If he is able to make the leap, something like a 85 R, 32 HR, 100 RBI, .270 AVG season might be possible for him. No matter what, he is a solid buy at his current ADP, and will offer owners a reliable bat in fantasy lineups.

I have to say, at the time, I completely agreed with Jonathan.  Man, oh man though, Franco has struggled to the tune of a .216/.282/.381 line with 6 homers, 14 runs, and 28 RBIs.  Thing is, I think Franco is bound to turn it around and produce at a pace more akin to ’16, .255 to.270 average with high-20 homer pop.  Why do I think this?  Glad you asked.

Almost every one of Franco’s underlying numbers suggest that he should be improving on his performance from last year.  Yes, improving.  He’s walking more: 8.3% walk rate this year versus 6.3% last year.  Strikeout rate: 14.1% versus 16.8%.  Plate discipline is better.  Batted-ball profile?  Same, in that he’s improving.  He’s making less soft contact this year – 16.7% – than last year – 21.5% – and making more hard contact, 34.2% versus 30.7%.  His fly-ball percentage is within .5% of last year, ground ball percentage is within .3% points, and he’s hitting .8% more line-drives.  He has a better batted-ball profile, hitting the ball harder, and at the same rates as last year.

Huh, what about swing numbers?  O-Swing% is down almost 6 percentage points.  Contact rate up a percentage point and he’s swinging at fewer pitches.  His zone contact is down some, but his other numbers all show improvement.  He should be better than last year not significantly, significantly worse.  This is getting weird.  Again, back to Jonathan:

This season all eyes will be watching Franco closely to see if he can improve his patience at the plate, and maintain his prime spot in an improving Phillies’ batting-order. (So far his limited spring results have been promising.) If he can accomplish both of these feats, he should easily best his 2016 output while improving his R, RBI and AVG totals.

I agreed here when this was written.  What the heck is going on …  Sometimes it is a combination of things with different players, but in Franco’s case I think the vast majority of it is luck. Franco’s BABIP right now is sitting at a lowly .211 after coming in at .271 in ’16 and .297 in ’15.  His ISO is sitting at .165 versus .172 last year and his HR/FB is basically identical.  Jonathan’s analysis was right in line with a lot of other prognosticators.  Fangraphs:

For his career, Franco’s produced nearly a 6% pop-up rate, which has suppressed his batting average on balls in play. It’s likely Franco will continue to contend with that weakness. Otherwise, he’s promising in almost every way.

Razzball was glowing too:

If you swing at everything and make contact, you’re not going to make the best contact.  His Hard Contact Rate was only 30.7%, about the same as Bogaerts and Ian Desmond.  His lack of good contact really shows itself in his infield fly ball rate of 17.1%.  Infield fly balls are about the worst kind of contact.  It’s not the end of story though, Bautista and Bogaerts had worse infield fly ball rates.  There’s nothing that says Franco shouldn’t be as good as he was last year, so there’s little downside.  Then, you throw in he’s only 24 years old, starting his 2nd full major league season.  Natural progression alone tells me he’s going to be as good or better.

Okay, Jonathan saw issues with plate discipline, and those numbers improved.  Carson Cistulli and Grey saw issues with pop-ups in infield-fly-balls … and those numbers have improved.  In ’16 Franco had a infield-fly-ball percentage of 17.1%, this year 7.1%, though he still has the same percentage of flyballs as last year, right around 35%.  I was curious and took a look at Franco as a potential buy-low and now I am not sure that I have ever seen anything quite as contrarian as this.  I could be missing something, but I am not sure what it would be.   When I finish writing this, I am heading over to evaluate the teams that have Franco and seeing if we can make something worse.  I am in.

Sorry, no Wire or Sunny GIFs this time around.  Maybe next.

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Our guest this week is Lenny Melnick. Lenny is fantasy baseball pioneer, current FSWA Hall of Famer, and the host of his daily podcasts on lennymelnickfantasysports.com Mon-Fri at 9am EST. He also co-hosts a show every Sunday morning from 7-10am EST with Craig Mish on the fantasy sports station on Sirius.

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Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday May 21st, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #88 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will be previewing the coming week’s key matchups and discussing key fantasy information.

Our guest this week is Kevin Bzdek. Kevin is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com. His articles focus on bullpens and publish every Friday.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

 

I have been playing fantasy baseball for about a decade over just about every format. Long time player, but first time writer. Hope to provide you helpful, informative, and entertaining insight throughout the season.

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