Players of Interest: Good Faces | The Process Report

Players of Interest: Good Faces

Joe Maddon once described Shawn Riggans, his former backup catcher, as having the good face. What that really means is left up to interpretation a lot of the time—the old scouting term can mean a strong jawline or some combination of other physical and mental characteristics—but seems to be a lot like “it.” Some players have it while others do not.

It is not a stretch of the imagination to think Maddon would describe Michael Young and Jeff Francoeur as having good faces. Both players have reputations of being good clubhouse guys, which is met with snickers and snark. But, personality traits aside, Young and Francoeur might have tangible value to Maddon’s club.

Young has been hailed as the ultimate teammate for his willingness to move around the diamond for the team’s betterment. He’s also made some coin for his perceived spirit of giving back to the organization. No longer a serious candidate for the middle infield, that accommodating nature is now a necessity as his best chance of landing with a team is likely as a rover with an emphasis on corner positions.

With age, Young has seen a steady decline in power. His extra-base out put has dropped from 58 in 2011 down to 39 last season. Young’s doubles and triples have turned into singles for a variety of reasons, but his bat-to-ball skills and understanding of the strike zone remain keen. His contact rate remains above average while his chases on pitches out of the zone are lower than the norm. He does not really carry much of a platoon split; however, a team with enough left-handed bats should allow him to play mostly with the natural advantage.

Young played out the final season of a five-year, $80 million deal in 2013. Having passed stage four of his career, he may be put winning ahead of dollars as he searches for a new team. On a team that can manage when and where he plays in the field and leverage his contact skills by matchups, he could hold value inside and out of the locker room.

Francoeur is one of the internet’s favorite punchlines. But when you have nearly 5,000 major league plate appearances and career earnings above $20 million, who is the joke really on? The 29-year-old outfielder was released by Royals in July, but quickly found work in San Francisco.

No matter the city, Francoeur was an awful player in 2013; so much so that all of his slash line statistics began with the number two. He even struggled versus left-handed pitchers which had been his forte. From 2010-2012, he hit .273/.342/.466 in 482 plate appearances versus lefties which meshes with his career .800 OPS against the split. Defensively, he has a reputation as a strong-armed corner outfielder, but receives negative marks for quickness and range.

Despite their past wages and production, each player has some usefulness; especially if they are used in a way that highlights their best attributes. Francoeur is a passable platoon outfielder with limited upside, but also a limited salary ceiling. Young is a bit more flexible, and did not completely bottom out in 2013, but is not a $16 million man anymore, and better suited for the shortside of a platoon or as a bench bat. The Rays – with several left-handed platoon pieces in place – may be an attractive option to both as the club is staffed with coaches and decision makers that should properly evaluate what they can and cannot do.

Regardless of terms, the team(s) that sign Francoeur and Young will be mocked. It is a good thing that this had no impact whatsoever in terms of actual baseball—after all, if you were in the player’s cleats wouldn’t you rather be overpaid than underrated?

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