Maikel Franco: Going the Other Way

I noticed that this year Maikel Franco had walked in his first 4 games and only one since, and that he had hit 8 of his 10 doubles in his first 10 games (he has played 25).  So I set out to find out why Franco appeared to be low on power and expected to find some problems similar to those he has experienced in the past two seasons, but I encountered a much different phenomenon.

Lets first recap where we have been as I have written and said a good deal about Maikel Franco over the past two seasons (heat maps from MLBfarm).

Here is 2013:

Maikel Franco_HeatMap (12)

 

And 2014:

Maikel Franco_HeatMap (11)

We see some very obvious pull tendencies, but beyond just hitting to the left side we see this batted ball distribution.

GBFBLDIFFB
201349.729.113.97.4
201449.022.517.311.2

Now there is some potential discrepancies between FB and LD based on how home runs are classified as well as how balls that are caught in the OF can be classified, so I only want to dwell on the GB rate vs the others.  As I have mentioned in pieces, the main reason for this is that his swing length coupled with his great bat speed and hand eye coordination leads to poor contact.

Already in 2015 the ground ball rate has plummeted and line drives and fly balls are up.  It has shown in the high doubles rate, and here is the full year heat map.

Maikel Franco_HeatMap (14)

We can already see more to the opposite way, but lets break this down even more and look at just after those first 10 games, to where he now has only 3 XBHs in the 15 games.

Maikel Franco_HeatMap (13)

Even less pull contact and more up the middle and the other way, but lets not just look at the hot sheet, lets look at some numbers.  I divided the field into two quandrants, pull (LF, SS, 3B) and middle/opposite (1B, 2B, CF, RF), and then excluded balls to the pitcher and catcher, and here is are breakdown of outfield and infield.

Pull InfieldPull OutfieldMid/Opp InfieldMid/Opp Outfield
201335.72310.626.2
201434.920.313.825.2
2015 (Full)25.319.819.831.9
2015 (last 15)20102640

Now there is a connection between power and pull side, Franco has 49 home runs over the past 3 seasons and only 4 of them have been to the right of center field.  So this is not to say that Franco should move to an opposite feel approach for all balls in play.  But showing the ability to hit the ball the other way is an important part of Franco’s growth.  On a simple level it will make it hard for teams to shift him in the majors.  However, more than that it shows a level of approach and hitting that allows for him to manipulate his contact to go with pitches.  These are all things that are going to be important for Franco at the major league level.  The next step in the process will be showing the ability to combine the different aspects of his game into a single approach to adjust off of.

This is a good example of why looking at minor league stats to show what a player is doing is a dangerous thing to do, because their goals may not always be the same as we want them to be.

Photo by Cheryl Pursell

Author: Matt Winkelman

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 appeared on Phuture Phillies, The Good Phight, and TheDynastyGuru.

6 comments

  1. Keith

    Is this similar to what happened to Dugan last year? Seemed like he lost some power, but the spray charts showed he was going the other way more often.

    • Matt Winkelman

      Yes, very similar affect on stats. Franco has seen a drop in walks and spike in strikeouts which is opposite of what happened to Dugan. However, both are ways of developing a long term skill at the expense of short term numbers.

  2. Thanks for this, Matt. I feel victim to that results oriented watching over the last couple weeks. Glad to have my delusions diluted.

  3. Romus

    Don’t get it…DR power hitters, on a whole in the past ,have had historically poor BB rates in their minor league careers. Their early youthful habits of ‘free- swinging’ have been noted in BP researched articles on a number of occasions.
    And of course, there a number of them that end up having limited major league careers because of that factor.
    Franco could project out to be a .265/.345, 25 HR player.

    • Philly SF

      Was it you that said nobody walks off the island? it’s swing and swing hard , or stay home and work in tourism if you are lucky

      • Romus

        Yes…I was quoting Juan Marichal I believe. But look at these stats from some of the other DR ‘power’ guys.
        MilB BB Rates for DR Power Hitters:
        Vladimir Guerrero –8%…… Robinson Cano – 7%……….. Manny Ramirez – 13%
        David Ortiz – 10%………… Sammy Sosa – 6%……………. Adrian Beltre – 12%
        Julio Franco –9%…………. Pedro Guerrero – 10%……….. Aramis Ramirez –12%
        Hanley Ramirez –7%……. Ruben Sierra –9%……………… Jose Bautista – 11%
        Now some of the above rates went higher when they went back for rehab and late-career minor league stents.
        But sadly, Franco is approx. 6% and some poster informed me that it actually is lower from his AA and AAA levels.
        Does not bode well for future returns. But when you include perhaps a better k rate then maybe it isn’t as gloomy as you would think.