Welcome to the annual Over The Monster One Big Question season preview series. Over the next 40(ish) days, we will be running through every player on the 40-man roster and identifying a key question for them pertaining to the coming season. This should run us up to the start of the season, at least as it is scheduled now. We will go through the roster in alphabetical order. For the most part, these will run Monday through Friday every week running up to the week before Opening Day, though expect some weekend posts mixed in as well as the 40-man is expected to continue to be altered before the start of the season. You can catch up with every post by following this link. Today we take a look at Franchy Cordero.
The Question: Can Franchy Cordero be an everyday player?
This was a bit of good timing in terms of the Andrew Benintendi trade, as the Red Sox acquired, along with prospect Josh Winckowski and a trio of players to be named later, outfielder Franchy Cordero just a few days before his spot in the alphabet comes up in our season preview series. I’m sure that was on the forefront of Chaim Bloom’s mind when making this deal.
There is going to be a natural comparison between Benintendi and Cordero this season with the latter likely coming in to replace the former, at least in some sense. It’s not a perfectly fair comparison because Boston got five players back for Benintendi. If it wasn’t a one-to-one swap, we shouldn’t make a one-to-one comparison. But life’s not fair, and that comparison is going to happen. There are some natural similarities here too, mostly with regard to position and age, but despite that they are at different points of their career. While Benintendi has been trending in the wrong direction, he has at least shown that he can be an everyday player in this league. With Cordero, we are still stuck talking about potential and skillset. That stuff is not nothing, but eventually we’ve got to see it in action.
So with the newest Red Sox outfielder entering his age-26 season, the natural question to wonder about is whether or not Cordero can really be an everyday player. The talent is there for that to be possible. He has the kind of enticing talent that can be dreamt on by every new team that acquires him. In terms of position player skillset, there is none more tantalizing than a guy who can produce big power to go with elite speed, and Cordero has that potential. But he’s also been traded for the second time in less than a year. The optimist will point to that meaning it means two teams have wanted him enough to give up other players to get him. The pessimist will point to two teams who knew him as a player being willing to give him up.
There’s a few things that have been standing in the way of him playing everyday, but we have to start with the injuries. It’s hard to play everyday when you’re on the injured list, ya know? For Cordero, injuries have been a major factor throughout his career. Despite making his major-league debut back in 2017, he has just 95 games and 315 plate appearances under his belt in his entire career, including only 25 and 62, respectively, over the last two seasons. In 2017, he missed time with a calf strain. In 2018, he started the year on the DL with a groin injury, then later went back on the shelf with a forearm injury before suffering an elbow injury during his rehab assignment. In 2019, he suffered another elbow injury before hurting his quad while rehabbing. And then finally, in 2020, he was limited with a wrist injury.
That’s a long list of ailments that have kept him off the field. I’m always hesitant to put an “injury-prone” label on a player, especially in a case like this where some of these have just been freak-ish type injuries. But there have also been a litany of muscle injuries, and while individually they haven’t been terribly serious they start to add up quickly. I don’t have any insight into whether or not he’ll be able to stay healthy, and I’d be lying if I tried to provide anything in the way of prediction, but clearly this is the first and most important hurdle to clear if he’s going to be an everyday player. You can’t play everyday if your body doesn’t cooperate.
But that’s not the only issue that could prevent Cordero from playing everyday. Even if he stays completely healthy, there are questions about his overall skillset. For one thing, he really struggles to make contact. That’s the way of the game now, but even in an era of high strikeout rates Cordero stands out. Over his career he has a 35 percent strikeout rate. To be fair he’s also been an essentially league-average hitter (97 wRC+) despite that, largely thanks to his big power. The hope is that consistent playing time will allow him to take that strikeout rate down at least a few points, but that’s still a concern until he shows otherwise. If he continues to strike out that much, it’s hard to see his performance being good enough to pencil him into the lineup every day even with the power.
And then there are platoon issues. Cordero hits from the left side so platoon issues are less of a concern since his preferable matchup is against the type of pitcher he’ll see the most often. That said, a platoon player is still not an everyday player. And Cordero has struggled mightily against lefties. Over his career, he has a 54 wRC+ against lefties versus a mark of 110 against righties. There are sample size concerns here — he has only 66 career plate appearances against lefties — but this has been something of an issue in the minors as well, though not always as consistently.
The good news on that front for this specific Red Sox team is that they have a natural platoon partner in Hunter Renfroe, although the latter may be forced into more of an everyday role himself due to a general lack of outfield depth. That’s probably not a good thing for the team in terms of 2021 performance, but for Cordero it should provide him at least some opportunity to prove himself against lefties.
Cordero is one of those players who can be pretty much whoever you want him to be because we simply haven’t seen enough to say anything with any kind of certainty. He has the tools to be a fantastic player, but he also is 26 and has hardly played in the majors. Now he’s replacing Benintendi in left field, and as of right now is the headliner in the package that came back to Boston. There’s a lot of variance in the player profile here, but we’ll start simple. For 2021, a year in which the Red Sox are more looking forward to 2022 and beyond than focusing on short-term gains, Cordero needs to prove he can be an everyday player. And that does mean staying healthy, but it also means being a consistent enough producer to be counted on day in and day out.