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Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez: Icons of a forgettable era

Farewell to a couple of guys who played a lot of innings for some bad teams

MLB: Miami Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies
There were some good times for both Franco and Hernandez along the way
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Next year at this time, when we’re assuredly celebrating the first of many consecutive playoff seasons for the Philadelphia Phillies, we may take a look back at the sad years between 2012 and 2019 to remind ourselves how good we have it. When scanning those rosters, we may come across the names Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez and remember that those were the types of players that routinely saw a lot of playing time for the team during that barren time period.

Both players joined the big league team in the mid-teens as products of the Phillies’ international scouting team. The fact that they’re considered successes of that group says a lot about the organization’s current status. While division rivals are acquiring superstars like Juan Soto and Ronald Acuna, Jr, the Phillies’ international team can only find flawed and ultimately replaceable players like Hernandez and Franco.

That’s not to say Hernandez was a bad player. According to bWAR, he was worth 10.1 wins throughout his seven year career. I give him credit for replacing a franchise icon at second base, and developing into a solid regular. A good-fielding second baseman with an OPS over .700 can have a place on a winning team. Unfortunately, his hitting numbers declined in 2019, and will probably not be worth his arbitration-dictated salary over the next few years. While there’s hope that he might turn things around, there’s also plenty of reason to be wary.

Franco entered the major leagues with far more hype than Hernandez. He was the team’s top hitting prospect entering 2015, and got off to a good start that year before an injury prematurely ended his season. Since then, his career has been marred by inconsistency at the plate and in the field. Brief bursts of success (Remember when he was the best eight-hole hitter in baseball?) were always supplanted by long stretches when he seemed to do nothing but hit ground balls to the left side.

Having been granted free agency, both Hernandez and Franco will surely catch on with another team, and a change of scenery might serve them well. Perhaps another coaching staff will fare better than Gabe Kapler’s did in unlocking Franco’s potential. And maybe moving to a different team will help Hernandez rediscover his walk rate, and finally cut down on the mental errors.

As for the Phillies, it isn’t clear who will be replacing them. Scott Kingery will likely get first chance at either second or third base, but based on his first two seasons, it isn’t inconceivable that I’ll be writing something similar about him in a few years. My only hope is that when we’re looking back at past Phillies rosters in a few years, we don’t come across the names Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco and think, “Why’d we ever let those guys go?”