On March 28th, the Milwaukee Brewers made a slightly-shocking move by designating fan-favorite Scooter Gennett for assignment. He was promptly claimed by the Reds and made his way to Cincinnati.
Most assumed the Brewers were done making moves. However, Wednesday morning the team claimed utility player Nick Franklin off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays, presumably to take the role Gennett formerly filled.
Franklin, who just recently turned 26, is out of minor league options. In other words he will be on the major league roster. It remains to be seen who he will be replacing.
Many were puzzled by the move from Gennett to Franklin. Why would the Brewers make the effort to essentially swap to similar players while getting rid of a fan-favorite?
First of all, Nick Franklin has more potential to be an impact contributor. Although it doesn’t seem like much, Franklin is ten months younger than Gennett. The biggest difference between the two is the amount of opportunity each has been given.
Franklin, former Mariners top prospect, has only played over 100 games in a season once, way back in 2013 when he played in 103 games. Gennett has played over 100 games in three different seasons. The elder Scooter has been given real opportunities while Franklin has barely been given a chance for a full-time job, instead having to deal with sparing play-time and pinch-hit opportunities.
They both had very similar breakout seasons in 2013. Gennett was worth 1.8 WARP over 230 plate appearances. Franklin debuted with 2.5 WARP over 412 plate appearances. Continuing with the two’s similarities, both have left much to be desired since their 2013 seasons. Scooter has had the more recent overall success with his 2016 season, posting 2.0 WARP over 542 plate appearances, but the ex-Ray was actually the better hitter, posting a .275 TAv compared to Gennett’s .262.
Both Franklin and Gennett were at or below replacement-level over the 2014-2015 seasons. The Mariners questionably held Franklin down in AAA in 2014 for 75 games while he tore it up in Tacoma, posting a .310 TAv, before being traded to the Rays mid-season. One can only wonder how Franklin’s season would have turned out if he wasn’t jerked around. In contrast, Gennett stayed with the major league club through his tough 2014 and 2015 seasons. He had the opportunity to play through his difficulties. Neither of them came out smelling like roses.
Franklin is much more versatile than Gennett. He has played every position on the diamond besides catcher (Yes, he even pitched an inning for the Rays in 2015). Third base is the only spot where he hasn’t seen extended time. The Brewers now have two super-utility players in him and Hernan Perez. Gennett has only spent time at second base, besides emergency fill-ins in the 2014 season in the outfield. The Brewers are hoping to get 150+ games out of Jonathan Villar at second base. A light-hitting, average fielding second base-only player off the bench has much less value than a player that can competently fill six positions on the field.
The Brewers may be holding out hope for that former top prospect glow that Franklin has. He was once heralded as the next Ben Zobrist. Gennett, a solid contributor in his own right, has never been considered a top prospect.
It really is just apples and oranges. Gennett comes with more stability and recent success. Franklin might be looked as the sexier pick, more risk/reward. The Brewers are at the stage in their rebuild where betting on Franklin is the practical choice. Gennett likely wouldn’t have been an impact player on the next Brewers playoff team. His replacement has the potential to contribute all over the field if he can gain back some of that former top prospect helium.