The success of new Philadelphia Phillies hitting coach Matt Stairs will largely rest on whether he gets the best out of both Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco, two of the most talented offensive players in the Phillies organization.
In a longform interview with the new hitting coach, Stairs told Jim Salisbury of Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia that he's been working with both Herrera and prospect Roman Quinn recently prior to Spring Training opening for pitchers and catchers next Monday.
Stairs also paid a hell of a compliment to Franco, who he seems to think extremely highly of:
“He reminds me of Miguel Tejada,” Stairs said of the former American League MVP. “When Tejada first came up, he swung at everything. He was a free-swinger like Franco. Then he calmed down. He figured it out and became a true professional hitter. He’d spit on the stuff low and away and wait for the pitcher to make a mistake. Franco has good hands and a good swing. He’ll be an MVP candidate once he figures it out.
While there may have been more to Tejada's transformation into a star than him just improving his swing, Stairs' point is well-taken. Stairs spent a good amount of time during the 2016 season, when he served as a play-by-play announcer for Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia, suggesting that Franco became way too pull-happy.
One of Franco's most impressive home runs of his 2016 season was his first home run against the Cincinnati Reds on April 6, when he hit a 393-foot home run to right-center field. He has the ability to hit the ball to all fields, but he needs to be pushed in that direction.
If he does learn how to consistently hit the ball to all fields, rather than staying pull-happy, then he could very well put up MVP-type numbers as Stairs suggests. One could argue that Stairs' most important job as hitting coach is making sure that Franco becomes someone that hits .280, 35 home runs and drives in 100 runs per year, rather than the player who hit .255 with 25 home runs and 67 RBIs in 2016.
Stairs is hardly the first person to tout the potential of Franco. Last season, former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel suggested that Franco could hit 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. While Franco didn't prove Manuel correct, it's telling that the winningest manager in franchise history thinks that highly of the 24-year-old slugger.