A reader asks for some fantasy advice regarding Philadelphia Phillies rookie third baseman Maikel Franco:
The Phillies promoted Maikel Franco to the majors yesterday and the guy who owns him in my fantasy league has him up for trade. I actually owned Franco in this league but after he had problems last year I dropped him for roster space. The other owner picked him up and is now offering him back to me for Nomar Mazara. What should I do here? I could use a corner infielder and my outfield is young and good and I think it is OK to trade Mazara but should I ask for more than just Franco?---K.B., Asheville, North Carolina.
Hmm. Well, as always with questions like this a lot depends on the specific context of your league and the status of the rest of your team, but it sounds like you are in a situation where you can hold prospects long-term. Mazara is certainly an excellent prospect in my view and is holding his own in Double-A at age 20, hitting .321/.392/.412 for Double-A Frisco in the Rangers system. However, if you are satisfied with the long-term status of your outfield and are in greater need of a third baseman, this trade makes sense.
As you likely know since you owned him already, Franco is a somewhat controversial prospect. Some observers don't like his swing mechanics and he is an aggressive hitter who doesn't draw many walks. He was very cold for the first half of 2014 in Triple-A and that hurt his reputation to some extent, but he heated up in July and finished strongly. He played 16 games for the Phillies last fall and hit just .179/.190/.214 but that wasn't unexpected given his erratic Triple-A season.
2015 has been much better: he was tearing up Triple-A (.355/.394/.539) in 33 games before being promoted to the majors this past weekend. In his last 79 contests in Triple-A between this year and last year he hit .329/.349/.545, so he doesn't have much left to prove down there and the Phillies have every reason to let him play.
As mentioned, Franco is an aggressive hitter but he has kept his strikeout rates very reasonable; he's never whiffed more than 81 times in a minor league season and often makes hard contact on pitches that most hitters don't/won't/shouldn't swing at. We'll have to see if that holds true in the majors but if it all works out this is a guy who should hit for both power and average at maturity. The same can be said of Mazara.
Defense could be a tiebreaker for you. Although Franco doesn't always look pretty, his glove at third base is solid enough to stick there, at least for a while. His range is reasonable, his arm is strong, and his reliability has steadily improved. He can play some first base too and while that may be his long-term position down the line, it sounds like he would fit your roster pretty well.
One advantage for Mazara is age: he's just 20 while Franco is 22, granted 22 is still quite young, plus Franco is ready for his full trial now. Franco would be the bird in hand.
There is no harm in asking for another throw-in player, but if you can't get that, would Franco for Mazara be a fair trade? Yes, I think so. I had Mazara rated as a Grade B+ and ranked 17th on my Top 50 Hitting Prospects list in the 2015 Baseball Prospect Book. Franco was also a B+ and ranked 18th, so their projected values were extremely close pre-season. If Franco fits your roster better, go for it.