KC Royals: Could Maikel Franco be a long term option?

KC Royals, Maikel Franco (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
KC Royals, Maikel Franco (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

The KC Royals didn’t make a lot of noise in the offseason, but they did turn some heads when they signed third baseman Maikel Franco.

When the KC Royals ended the 2019 season, there were a lot of questions surrounding the future of the team and the organization as a whole. There was going to be new ownership, new management, and likely some new players coming into the club.

If going off of the weaknesses displayed throughout 2019, fans could have assumed the Royals would go after some pitchers, both starters and relievers, during free agency. While the team did grab a few relief options on minor league contracts, the team as a whole was fairly quiet.

One major league contract they did sign, though, turned some heads. It wasn’t because it was a big name or high-value acquisition though, but more likely that it was a bit strange and almost seen as unnecessary. After a season in which third baseman Hunter Dozier had his break out year, though still struggling a bit defensively, the Royals decided to sign another third baseman, who for the moment appears to not be any sort of upgrade.

While a bit of a strange acquisition, it’s typical for the Royals to make some questionable signings, hoping for the best and leaving everyone wondering what in the world they may be thinking. Now that Maikel Franco seems to be the front runner to start at third base for the Royals in 2020, the question has to be asked, could he become long term option?

If that is where the question is going to stop, then the short answer is no, but what if Franco is able to bounce-back in 2020? Defensively over 6 seasons, he has not impressed and has not shown to be an upgrade over Dozier, who’s third base defense is also often called into question.

With Dozier, though, while his athletic ability allows him to make some good plays at third, his offense comes to his rescue and keeps his head above water. In 2019, Dozier was worth 2.1 wins above replacement, even with a negative dWAR. Franco was worth -0.8. So far, not looking good for the Royals new third baseman.

The Royals also have internal options that could be given a chance. Kelvin Gutierrez saw minimal time in 2019. He carries a similar concern with his defense, but over the small sample size of 20 games, it’s difficult to assess what his long term abilities may be at the major league level.

Say Franco turns around his offense though. In 2019, he slashed .234/.297/.409 and added 56 RBI’s and 17 home runs. Years prior though, he faired much better. He managed over 20 home runs in 2016-2018, and while his batting average still faltered in some years, he managed to add around 70 or more RBI’s in each of those seasons.

Still, it’s hard to understand the move when Dozier provided more offensively in every category and Gutierrez is a young option looking to prove himself in a year the team is unlikely to contend.

If Franco can bounce back and show that he can progress in both his defense and produce offensively, he may be an option for the Royals long term as he is only 27. Considering his past performance, though, it may be in the team’s best interest to try and flip him at the trade deadline to continue building up their farm system.

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It will be interesting to see how Franco performs and if he can prove that the Royals chance on him was worth it. It would be great for him to turn into a future option for the team, but at the moment, too many unknowns surround him to make that call. Keep an eye on his progress as spring training is right around the corner.