When the Orioles signed Franchy Cordero back in December, he seemed like just another meek attempt at filling the Orioles’ need for a left-handed power hitter. It was hard to get much more excited about Cordero than you did about Lewin Díaz, Ryan O’Hearn or Nomar Mazara. They all seemed like front-office lip service to the idea of making meaningful free-agent signings. None seemed exceedingly likely to make the final roster.
Then spring training started and, so far, Cordero has put the Orioles’ decision makers on notice when it comes to what he can bring to this O’s roster. After going 1-2 with a home run yesterday against the Tigers, Corder is now hitting .478 with a 1.391 OPS. With five extra-base hits and seven RBIs through nine games, Cordero trails only Ryan Mountcastle for the spring team lead in those categories.
Perhaps this all shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. After all, the main selling point for Cordero when he was signed was his seemingly unlimited raw power that was just waiting to be unlocked. You don’t find players that put up exit velocities similar to Aaron Judge, Shohei Ohtani and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. by accident.
Franchy Cordero tried to hit this one into oblivion. 489 feet later, he pretty much did. pic.twitter.com/WGthlTgBgU— MLB (@MLB) April 21, 2018
For Cordero, failing to fully unlock that potential has always been about his inability to make consistent contact. Discipline problems have plagued Cordero, with his chase rate sitting above 30% in ‘21 and ‘22—with his strikeout rates even higher at 37.5% and 33.6% respectively.
When you lay out all those stats, it’s not hard to draw comparisons to Chris Davis. Usually, that would be reason enough to eject a player from the roster immediately. After all, the last five seasons of Davis’ career in Baltimore cemented his legacy as perhaps the most infamous Oriole of the Dan Duquette era. He became the O’s version of perhaps the worst archetype in sports: the player that cashes in on a big contract and then immediately checks out. Comparing a player to that guy is not usually a good thing.
However, where I see the similarities between Cordero and Davis is not in the performance of post-extension Crush. Rather, there are distinct similarities between the player Davis was when he arrived in Baltimore and the player Cordero is now. In the trade that brought him to Baltimore, Davis was more of a throw-in player to go along with Tommy Hunter. The power was evident, but with no real home defensively and players like Adrian Beltre, Mike Napoli and Mitch Moreland blocking his path to playing time, Texas had no real use for Davis.
Cordero arrived in Baltimore under similar circumstances, with the Padres, Royals and Red Sox all seemingly saying they had no use for the lefty with light-tower power. However, just like with Davis, it’s clear the Orioles believe that they can provide Cordero with the right situation to turn his physical talents into on-field production.
After all, Camden Yards has consistently rated as one of the best HR-hitting parks for lefties over the last three seasons. Cordero also brings more than elite power to the table, with his 28.6 ft/sec sprint speed coming in as just faster than Cedric Mullins. This means that—if Orioles coaches can help Cordero consistently find the deep power alleys at Camden Yards—he has the speed to turn singles into doubles and doubles into triples.
Cordero also comes to Baltimore perhaps with a better base than what Davis had when he arrived from the Rangers. After getting the most ABs of his career last season, Cordero showed marked improvement against breaking balls—raising his batting average by 152 points. Being able to put breaking balls in play was always a huge Achilles heel for Davis, and the biggest improvement he made during his 2013 breakout season was his .276 average against breaking balls.
The Orioles’ new slugger doesn’t have glaring splits when it comes to hitting the heater, the breaking ball or the offspeed offerings. Instead, as we hinted at already, Cordero’s biggest obstacle to improvement is his plate discipline. Which makes the Orioles the perfect team to help him turn things around.
On the list of big developments that propelled the O’s to a surprise winning season in 2022, the steps taken by Anthony Santander and Jorge Mateo ranked highly. The work of hitting coaches Matt Borgschulte and Ryan Fuller to help make Santander and Mateo more patient and selective hitters was largely credited as the key to their big jumps. There’s no reason to believe they can’t get Cordero on that same program, and perhaps we are already seeing the fruits of that in his spring training performance.
There will of course be the question of where exactly Cordero fits in the overall makeup of this roster. With 13 position players seemingly locked in for a roster spot, making space for Cordero wouldn’t be easy. Would his ability to play both in the outfield and first base possibly give him the edge over Ryan McKenna for the fifth outfielder spot? Will the injuries in the Orioles bullpen and extra days off in April see the O’s start the season with only 12 pitchers?
Either way, if Cordero can carry on with this level of performance throughout the spring, Mike Elias & Co. would be foolish not to find him a roster spot. With Colton Cowser and Heston Kjerstad still not quite ready to be on the big league roster, the role of left-handed power hitter is still glaringly unfilled. With it being the 10-year anniversary of Davis’ surprising breakout season, perhaps Cordero will be the next Oriole to have a Davis-like breakout.