As I write this, I have the heat pumping near my desk, a hot cup of tea to my left, and long johns on. It’s friggin’ cold. We need something to warm us up during the doldrums of winter and the idea of having Ben Francisco get a full season of at-bats is something everyone could get used to.
Let’s face it – the average fan is searching to find something wrong with this team. One of the remaining issues is the hole in right field. Depth chart followers realize that Ben Francisco, Dom Brown, and Ross Gload are the current right fielders on the roster. It’s unlikely the Phillies will make a move to add anymore payroll to a bloated budget. If anything, Joe Blanton and his $17 million over the next two seasons will be unloaded to free up some space.
The three men who must now make up for the loss of Jayson Werth all have their own issues, their own faults and strengths.
Ross Gload would appear to be the least likely to take over as the starter – he’s just too valuable off the bench, although an increase in at-bats is not out of the question. Domonic Brown was to be handed the reigns – or so everyone thought. He’s been assured nothing heading into Spring Training. Brown will have to earn his keep.
That leaves Ben Francisco. Ben Fran has started in the league for an extended period (one and a half years in Cleveland) and still presents some upside at just 29 years old. Remember, Werth was a late bloomer himself, reaching stardom at the same age. To be fair, Francisco doesn’t have the same pedigree as Werth and comes with less fanfare and hype. Still, with the right coaching and an opportunity, he can be a valuable asset in right field.
His glovework pales in comparison to the departed Bearded One and his arm isn’t nearly as strong. Offensively, however, their are some signs he can be a constant contributor as a starter.
His 162-game average comes out to .263/18/63, with an OPS of .775; hardly All-Star numbers. But an All-Star isn’t exactly what the Phillies need. On the bases, Francisco stole eight bases in 2010 in just under 200 plate appearances. At 500 at bats, he has 20 steal potential. If he can provide a stat line similar to that while playing adequate defense, Ben Francisco can be a commodity.
There are some numbers that also present Ben Fran as just another guy. His career 3.6 WAR says he’s a bit above a replacement level player. The advanced fielding metric UZR is also a negative number for Francisco: -6.6 over his four years in the major leagues.
So where does Ben Francisco sit? Is he a talent that can blossom with the proper opportunity in a lineup filled with potency? Or is he simply a nice player best suited for bench duty? You have three months to warm to the idea of Ben Francisco as the starting right fielder. It just might happen.