The New York Yankees signed Ben Francisco to be a right-handed option in an outfield stacked with left-handed bats. However, so far this season, Francisco has been a bit of a disappointment despite not coming in with high expectations to begin with. However, there has to be better options and one is already in the Yankees farm system in the form of Thomas Neal.
So far this season Francisco, 31, has hit a paltry .091 in nine games and 22 at-bats. He has seven strikeouts, two hits which were both singles, and two walks. For his career Francisco is a .256 hitter but hasn’t hit above .248 since 2010 and since 2010 has only hit .247 against left-handers while hitting .252 against right-handers. He does, however, have 11 home runs against lefties while he has only five against right-handers in the last three seasons. Francisco is not a power threat by any stretch. He did have 15 home runs in a season but that was in 2009 and hasn’t had more than six since that year.
The Yankees do have Thomas Neal in the minors. Neal had a very good spring with the Yankees and is off to a hot start with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. So far Neal has posted a .351/.397/.439 slash line with 14 RBI in 16 games across 57 at-bats. The one negative is he does have 12 strikeouts but the Yankees are already getting the high strikeouts from Francisco without the upside that Neal offers.
Neal, 25, made his Major League debut last season with the Cleveland Indians last season and appeared in nine games hitting .217/.250/.261 in 23 at-bats with six strikeouts. He had had a very good season in Double-A Akron as he hit .314/.400/.467 with 12 homers and 51 RBI and 11 steals.
Is Neal going to come up to New York and suddenly become a star? No. However, he is young and is proving he can hit the ball. Surely he would be an upgrade over Francisco whose best baseball looks to be behind him. Perhaps the Yankees should look to the upside that Neal has and move on from Francisco.
Neal isn’t the only option the Yankees have. Switch-hitter Zoilo Almonte is hitting .273/.414/.418 and has struck out only nine times with the RailRiders and Melky Mesa is hitting .270/.324/.460 with three home runs but does have 26 strikeouts. The bottom line is the Yankees could find someone with more upside than Francisco in their very own farm system. It is time for Brian Cashman, who has done a very good job of finding older veterans who look done and getting something out of them, to realize there are options in the minor leagues who could provide equal or greater production at times.