Red Sox outfielder Franchy Cordero is a 2021 breakout candidate
MLB.com recently revealed their list of ten hitters who will break out this season. The Boston Red Sox don’t have many position players who meet the criteria the article is looking for but one who did make the cut is one of the club’s new additions, outfielder Franchy Cordero.
The Red Sox acquired Cordero in a three-team trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Kansas City Royals. The package that Boston receives also includes a low-level minor league pitcher in Josh Winckowski plus three players to be named later. That’s a lot of unknown quantities in exchange for a player who was viewed as an emerging star a few years ago. Regardless of those undetermined assets, the trade could pay immediate dividends if Cordero comes through with a breakout year in Boston.
Cordero owns a .236 bating average with a .737 OPS in 95 career games spread over four seasons. It’s an underwhelming resume but it’s also a small sample size and the underlying data suggests there is untapped potential in his bat.
The hype surrounding Cordero stems primarily from his impressive raw power. He’s only tallied 12 home runs in his brief career but nine of them have traveled at least 420 feet, per Baseball Savant. That includes a 489-foot blast in 2018 that is tied for the 12th-longest homer in Statcast history (since 2015).
The ability to connect for mammoth moonshots is jaw-dropping to watch but the key to Cordero’s emergence as a power threat is his strong barrel rate.
"“The 26-year-old has recorded 22 barrels (batted balls with the optimal combination of exit velocity and launch angle) as a big leaguer, with a 12.4% barrel rate. To put that in perspective, only 30 qualified hitters had a barrel rate of 12.4% or better in 2020,” writes MLB.com’s Thomas Harrigan."
There’s no questioning Cordero’s ability to hammer the ball with authority but that talent is only useful when he makes contact, something he’s struggled with in the early stages of his career. Cordero’s 34.9 K% over his four major league seasons would have ranked fifth-worst in the majors in 2020.
Cordero only appeared in 16 games during the shortened season but showed tremendous progress in his plate discipline during his brief stay in Kansas City. He cut his strikeout rate to 9.5%, which would have been among the league’s best if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. Did the Royals coaching staff help him discover something about his swing that led to this drastic improvement or was it a small sample-sized fluke?
The truth probably falls somewhere in between. We can’t expect Cordero to record a single-digit strikeout rate over the course of a full season but he can continue to make strides that distance him from the league’s worst in that category.
The greatest challenge Cordero may face in living up to this prediction as a breakout hitter is staying on the field. He’s never played more than 40 games in a season while battling various injuries, including a right wrist sprain, right elbow sprain, tight forearm strain, and left abductor strain. They say that the best ability is availability and you can’t be a breakout player if you aren’t able to play.
The injury red flags are a concern but none of those previous ailments are related, which makes it less likely to be an issue going forward compared to if he suffered a recurrence of the same injuries. The Red Sox are confident that Cordero will stay relatively healthy – more confident than they are in Benintendi’s chances to bounce-back from his own injuries at least.
The sky is the limit for Cordero. He needs to stay on the field long enough to put it all together but he has all the tools to be an exciting young player capable of being among the top breakouts of the year.