Franco to Play Mostly First Base in 2014 (Or Possibly Split Time, nobody really knows)

Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly is reporting that Franco told him that the Phillies plan to have him primarily play first base in 2014.  He will still get work at third base as well.

https://twitter.com/CoreySeidman/status/423929102308220928

Most people assumed the move to 1B was an eventuality, but it appears the move is being accelerated by big league club needs.  Cody Asche projects somewhere around major league regular at third base and is a better defender than Franco.  Meanwhile at first base Ryan Howard continues to decline and has missed significant time the past two seasons.  This does hurt Franco’s value some, but for the most part his value is tied up in his bat, which should play at first base.

UPDATE:

Seidman had more comments from Jordan and Amaro stating it will be more of a split

About Matt Winkelman

Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has previously appeared on Phuture Phillies and The Good Phight. You can read his work at Phillies Minor Thoughts

34 thoughts on “Franco to Play Mostly First Base in 2014 (Or Possibly Split Time, nobody really knows)

  1. It tells you something about what they think of Asche, and it tells you something about what they think of Darin Ruf. Given Ryan Howard’s injury history, and the fact that he’s played 80 and 71 during the past two seasons respectively, there’s a better than good chance that they are going to need someone to play about half the season at first in 2014. So that might be Franco’s most immediate ticket to the big leagues. I guess it hurts his WAR if he’s a 1B, but there’s positional value and then there’s the teams positional need.

    1. I would like to think that they haven’t finally made up their mind one way or another about Ruf. He’s going to have to hit like a demon and get more playing time. And that’s fine if they give him some opportunities. The best thing about the Red Sox last year was that they kept throwing guys in an out of the line-up who could hit. That’s the type of depth that good teams have. Howard goes down? No problem – Darin Ruf steps in and starts hitting.

  2. This does hurt Franco’s value a bit. It only really makes sense if they’re high on Asche, low on Howard, and high on Franco. Which I guess is a reasonable set of beliefs.

    1. I don’t think they are low on Howard, just realistic. It is probable that he will have down-time this year, so why not having Ruf with Franco in the wings. They are training for flexibility also. It is nice to have some depth, which is what you can do if your minor league teams are producing players. This is a positive sign.

      1. Considering their answer to Howard’s injuries the last 2 years has been Ty Wigginton, Hector Luna, and Kevin Frandsen, I think shifting their #1 hitting prospect to first base is a sign that they’re downgrading their expectations for Howard.

        Incidentally, I agree with them. I’ve been advocating platooning Howard with Mayberry or Ruf since he returned from his injury.

  3. I’m glad to see Amaro “pump the brakes” a bit. I think he should primarily play 3B until he shows he’s not good at it. Let him play some 1B to get used to it in case he has to step in there.

  4. I think Ruben is gearing up for all emergencies. I guess they learned their lesson from the Ruf ‘OF Experiment” and now they are prepping for all other unforeseen events. Personally, I also have him start shagging balls in LF in his spare time, though his foot speed plays better at first.

  5. I think he should play mostly 3rd base with some 1st base sprinkled in at AAA. Why do the reverse? Franco could use the work at 3rd if we ever are going to have him there. If he’s not a 3rd baseman then they could never trade Asche even if they wanted to.

    1. I think that’s right. Amaro made a point yesterday of saying that they are not going to be primarily playing Franco at first – they just want him to have experience playing the position. If so, that makes a lot of sense.

      1. The headline above says Franco will play “mostly” first base. If what you’re saying is correct, then I retract my statement above that this decreases Franco’s value.

        Getting Franco some reps at first base makes complete sense. Having him “mostly” play first base hurts his value.

  6. I agree with the guys above who are hoping he still plays mostly 3B. It’s fine if they want to get him some reps at 1B, but there’s no reason to close the door on 3B yet. I’m glad Amaro clarified that.

  7. This tells us mostly that the Phils brass doesn’t think Franco can handle 3B in the future, which isn’t great going forward. Some perceived fallacies:

    -Moving Franco to 1B doesn’t increase his value as it’s assumed any 3B can move to 1B very easily.
    -It doesn’t mean they like Asche better than Howard. The organization values veterans more than young players. This is pretty clear during RAJ’s rule. If they liked Asche that much and wanted to fit both him and Franco in the lineup at the same time, they’d probably move Asche to LF (not that I’m advocating this).
    -I don’t believe this is the death blow to the Ruf-as-on-OF experiment. I still believe they see Ruf as a starting OF if Byrd, Revere, or Brown is injured.

  8. So…my “scorned” predictions have come to pass:
    1-Asche as our 3rd baseman beginning in late ’13 and thereafter, as I predicted over a year and a half ago;
    2-A full year ago I said that they need to move Franco to 1st base; presto!

    This seems the only way they can make use of both of their two highly regarded hitting prospects as MLB players and to get younger and prepare for Howard’s absences or worse. IMO, Ruf may bring a miracle with him to ST…but more likely his lightning strikes of the last part of ’12 are gone with the wind.

    Next, I’d like to see Cesar make the club where he can fill in for Utley in latter innings of “gone games,” for relief, and being ready to fill in in CF as well. Add in pinch hitting and pinch-running the bases.

    I stand by my prior opinion that Asche will become one of the best 3rd basemen –both ways–within 3-4 years: about 25-30 HRs w a bettering OBA and BA. The guy’s got talent and disposition (way important) to be one that gets there.

    1. Outside of your own opinion and a few others on the site, where was Cody Asche ever highly regarded? Wishing him to be more than a league average 3B at best wont’ make it more likely to come true.

    2. It is easy to root for a guy that everyone says is such a hard worker. Even though many did not have him high in Prospect rankings, he looks like a player. Utley has him as the break out guy for the year, so I am with Utley. I hope you are exactly right Art D.

        1. Utley wasn’t ranked as a superstar, but he was taken as the #15 player in a draft, and in 2002 ranked as the #2 prospect in the system (behind Gavin Floyd), he was the #81 prospect in baseball. More than anything else evaluators missed on him being an elite defender at second base. At the time people thought he was going to either be a no glove 2B or a below average defender at 3B.

          1. Which is why I’m not underselling Cody Asche. He has the same type of drive and desire that Utley has and Asche is not all that bad of an athlete, so I think he really can improve quite a bit. I’m holding out hope that, at some point in the future (definitely not this year), Asche might be able to give it another crack at second.

    3. An easier (and smarter) way of getting Ashe in the lineup would be to super utility him as a 3B/2B/LF. Utley is only going to be able to play 130 games at the most. I hate this premature move of Franco away from 3B. He’s blocked by Howard for the next two years at the minimum. His bat is good, but not 1B good. This diminishes his value and is just another example of how the Phillies have no plan.
      I’m aware Ashe did not take well to his one season in short season ball at 2B but it’s not like Phillies have shied away from playing guys in unfamiliar positions. Like Franco every effort should be made until it’s proved it won’t work. I don’t think one poor year as he’s adjusting to a completely new situation and his first year as a pro qualifies as a hopeless cause.
      Don’t trust the org. This is the same team who would let Chase Utley languish in the minors because they couldn’t imagine Polanco would be a good third baseman. All for David Bell…

  9. I don’t see how this hurts Franco’s value. Howard is clearly not the future over the next 3 years at first and Asche played well enough to earn the chance to win the job full time next year.

    If first base gets Franco to the show faster I am all for it.

    Our outfield is pretty much set, with the exception of the Byrd debacle, with Revere, Hernandez, Brown, and Ruf for next season with three guys fighting for two spots. Franco or Asche in teh outfield would just muddle the picture further.

    1. If one assumes that Franco will never play a decent third base, then yes, you can make a case that moving him to first base will not hurt his value. But, compared to what we hoped to get from Franco – a very good hitting third baseman who could field the position decently – then OF COURSE it hurts his value, by a lot, essentially eliminating any chance of him becoming a star. That’s a pretty basic concept, not some controversial “advanced metric” concept but basic player evaluation.

      That said, I think the proper frame for this issue is that his value is hurt by his (apparent) inability to play adequate defense at third, not the move to first.

      If he really could play a solid third base, the move to first is a huge mistake. As critical as I have been of the organization, I don’t think they would make that mistake. Hence the move to first is a pretty good indication that the organization does not believe that his glove will play at third base.

      And Ruf is not an outfielder; he proved that last year.

      1. But I don’t think that’s (permanent move to first) is what is happening. I think they are just trying to add some positional flexibility. If it doesn’t take away his development at third too much, I don’t have a problem with this.

      2. For some reason Twitter is not letting me connect here.

        I agree with the assessment that if Franco was a better fielding third baseman this would be a mistake but Asche is the better fielder and a marginally worse bat. How Asche plays out at third remains to be seen but his work ethic is very good and I am hopeful that he develops into something.

        I don’t think moving Franco to first is a big mistake. Having the positional flexibility is a positive.

        As for Ruf and Hernandez I am hopeful but this year will determine a lot about their futures. We have survived with worse in the OF and if Ruf can improve his hitting he might be a serviceable 3rd/4th OF, backup 1B.

        Hernandez played much better at the end of the season so I am interested in seeing how he comes into Spring Training and how he develops. Do they try and make him transition full time to an OF position? I have no idea but let’s not kid ourselves, this will be a horrible team and I would rather see what we have then spend the year wasting away the development of what few prospects we have.

        Hernandez played a total of 24 games last season in the outfield and was rushed into service at the major league level. Can he learn the position with a year of seasoning? Who knows but Utley’s contract blocks him from second base.

        Hernandez had good hitting numbers in September and played his way onto the big league roster without a position. Maybe a year playing OF in Lehigh Valley does him some good.

        1. Hernandez had a strange year last year. He played his way onto the roster at 2B, got hurt, went back down to AAA, spent 22 games learning CF, and got called up to play OF for a month in September where he hit .300.

          Not exactly the most stable development or a significant sample size to give him a thumbs up or down.

    2. And the outfield is not even close to set. I’m not a Byrd fan, but he’s a stop gap signed because there were only two decent options there – Brown and Revere – and neither of those guys is going to be a star. I commented on Ruf. Hernandez MIGHT become a regular second baseman at some point. The chances of him being a regular center fielder are zero, and the chances of him being a regular corner outfielder are less than that. He was getting playing time in center to increase his value as a bench guy.

      Which isn’t to say that either Asche or Franco should be moved there – of course they should not. Asche’s value would be diminished; Franco is too slow.

  10. IF, in fact, Franco has put on Top Weight , that might increase his power (assuming his leg strength keeps up)but it might also lessen his maneuverability in the field…at 3rd base.

    For ’14 he should get over his mediocre winter stats…and it is not certain that he will start ’14 at AAA or AA. A lot of eyes will be on him in ST.

    1. Here’s a couple interesting tweets from Jim Callis that pretty much refute the opinion that Franco loses substantial value if moved to 1B:

      @jimcallisMLB: No. 1 for me. @FelskeFiles: If Maikel Franco were to become a fulltime 1B, where would he rank among prospects at that position? @Phillies

      And

      @jimcallisMLB: Yes, Franco at 1B > Singleton. @peters_dylan: over Singleton? @Phillies @Astros

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