Jeff Francoeur is destined to be the Kansas City Royals' rightfielder....every day. Bob Dutton, who has way better sources than any of us when it comes to the Royals, has reiterated as much to anyone who will listen on Twitter or in print. It is a curious, at best, 'sure thing'.
Listen, I have little doubt that Frenchy is a great guy in the clubhouse (at least as long as he is playing everyday). A leader, a chemistry guy and certainly a bit of a 'don't be a punk' enforcer. Every clubhouse needs a couple of those veteran types and most have them, but the Royals seem to put such a premium on those qualities as to overlook what the player actually does, you know, on the field.
As Connor wrote last week, it would be nice if the Royals were actively in the market for another outfielder. After Alex Gordon, the team really is relying on an essentially unproven Lorenzo Cain to stay healthy and for Francoeur to bounce back. They are not, or certainly not in the market for the likes of Michael Bourn, and instead seem almost insanely sure that Francoeur will be a productive player in 2013.
Production is a long way from the .235/.287/.378 and -1.2 fWAR of Jeff's 2012. Those very basic numbers were just the tip of the iceberg as both the fielding and baserunning metrics also reflected a dramatic decline. Of course, you didn't need those stats to tell you that Frenchy was slower on the bases and getting to much less in the field. All you needed was your eyes.
Worse, Francoeur could not even hit lefties in 2012, managing just a .225/.307/.388 line against southpaws. Pair that with his usual struggles against righthanders (.239/.278/.374 in 2012 and .257/.297/.405 for his career) and you have just a big steaming pile of ugh.
How many great throws from the outfield (and don't get me wrong, Frenchy can throw it like no one else) do you have to have to make up for poor range, poor baserunning and a .285 wOBA (6th worse in baseball)? I don't know, about a hundred, maybe?
So, there is a bunch of paragraphs telling you what you already knew. That Jeff Francoeur was pretty awful in 2012 and the Royals are pretty foolish to be so dead set in making him the unchallenged incumbent in right field for 2013. Particularly given that said player, in seven full major league seasons has a career line of .266/.310/426, has managed to exceed 1.1 fWAR only twice and actually went negative two other times.
That the current fallback options are Xavier Nady, Endy Chavez and Wily Taveres seems even more laughable - although to be fair, I don't mind taking a flyer on Nady. Okay, those guys are the second line of defense after Jarrod Dyson (career wOBA of .288) and David Lough (65 career PA's). If only there was some hot prospect at the position in the high minors.....
All of this came to mind this weekend when Chris Dickerson was designated for assignment by the Yankees. There was nothing noteworthy about this move and Dickerson, who was once something of a prospect, is hardly coveted. The outfielder has played for three different teams in the past five years and never amassed more than 299 plate appearances in any of those five seasons. He will turn thirty-one shortly after Opening Day and is more likely to spend another year in AAA in 2013 than on anyone's major league roster.
Of course, if Dickerson were to spend the 2013 season in the majors, the Royals' might be a logical place. To begin with, Dickerson sports a decent .266/.352/.407 career triple slash, has played all three outfield spots and hits left-handed. Those major league numbers are almost identical to his .267/.369/.422 line in the minors over 3,245 plate appearances. Almost all of Dickerson's power comes when facing righthanded pitchers (.424 slugging versus .316 slugging against lefties). All told, Dickerson has hit .269/.354/.424 with a .344 wOBA when facing southpaws.
Those are certainly not set-the-world-on-fire numbers, but they look a lot more palatable to me than Francoeur's .257/.297/.405 career line against righthanders. If the Royals were to step back from their love for Frenchy's intangibles and their obsession with the size of the check they write to him, they might realize that even a journeyman AAAA player like Dickerson might actually provide value to the team platooning in rightfield.
Sadly, the Royals put themselves into a financial corner that does not allow them to pursue an established major league outfielder. They have traded away Wil Myers, who might have manned the position for years to come. They have handed the position, for the third year in a row, to a guy whose performance can be matched by Chris Dickerson, who has never been able to find and/or hold a major league job.
What's worse, Dayton Moore likely will not even consider adding Dickerson to the mix as a platoon partner for Francoeur who, even in a good year like 2011, hit just .279/.318/.445 against righthanders. After all, Frenchy is a prime candidate to bounce back in 2013, right?
He might even hit like Chris Dickerson.