On Monday, Phillies.com writer Todd Zolecki reported that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and manager Charlie Manuel have spoken with Ben Francisco since the end of last season and “have expressed their confidence he can assert himself in the lineup, possibly hitting fifth behind Ryan Howard.”
Francisco, 29, is seen as the leading candidate to fill Jayson Werth’s void in right. “It is a small sample size, but Francisco finished 2010 strongly,” Zolecki writes. “He had an .889 OPS following the All-Star break, which ranked second on the team behind only Werth (.966). His recent production against left-handed pitching is why Amaro has hinted at a platoon. But Francisco is confident he can hit right-handed pitching if given the opportunity. In his career, he has hit .267 with a .347 on-base percentage and a .460 slugging percentage against left-handers, and .262 with a .323 on-base percentage and a .440 slugging percentage against right-handers. Put those numbers together and Francisco has a career .775 OPS, which would have ranked 36th out of 69 qualifying outfielders in baseball last season.“
Zolecki also noted that Shane Victorino and Werth needed to prove themselves as everyday players in 2006 and 2008, respectively, before the Phillies handed over the reins for good. Werth, like Francisco, was 29 when had his breakout season in 2008. Francisco has accepted a reduced role since arriving in Philadelphia. He logged 499 plate appearances and hit .266/.332/.438 with 15 home runs for Cleveland a season earlier - workman-like numbers for a big league outfielder.
The Phillies will also consider Domonic Brown and Ross Gload for a platoon with Francisco, but for that to happen, they would need to have big springs. Brown faded to the end of the bench late last season and has time to go back to the minors and continue his development, while Gload proved to be a poor defensive option in right in limited opportunities. John Mayberry Jr. is also in the mix, as is Rule 5 super utility man Michael Martinez. Mayberry hasn’t blossomed offensively like the Phillies have hoped, but his path to the majors could be as a back-up to Victorino in center field. Ideally, Mayberry’s arm and speed are suited for right, but he could be shoehorned into center, just as the Phils used to do with Werth. As it sets up today, Mayberry's glove is working in his favor for a shot to break camp and head north.