Much like the Jean Segura trade in 2016 which also landed Seattle the lesser known Mitch Haniger, lightening seems to have struck twice with the emergence of hitting guru, Ty France.
When the Mariners traded away Austin Nola last season, the main piece in return was top outfield prospect Taylor Trammel. Many are coming to realize that hidden amongst the other sprinkled in prospects was the future DH / corner infielder we all wished Vogelbach would be.
While the round mound of pound town was damn good at hitting dingers, thats…about all he proved to be able to do. Much like the catcher position was in the Zunino days, DH has been nothing but a black hole for the Mariners since Nelson Cruz.
Cue Ty France.
Despite his seemingly sudden stroke of hitting genius, France has always had the keen ability to put the bat on the ball. After a few seasons of feasting on minor league pitching unworthy of his standards, France took his talents to AAA and once again proved his hitting was indeed major league worthy.
In 2019, France bombed his way through his 76 games in the minor leagues. Before his promotion to the big club, France’s stat line read like that of your created player on MLB: The Show…27 doubles, 27 home runs, 83 runs, 89 RBI, .399 batting average and an insane OBP of .477…France was reaching base in nearly half of his ABs in more than just a small sample size.
After his lackluster promotion to the big leagues that year, France started off slow in the odd 2020 season but quickly heated up. In the second half of the season at the big league level (29 games), France hit .320 with eight doubles, one triple, two home runs, 11 runs and 18 RBI with an excellent OBP of .381.
Now is where it gets fun.
While some may attribute France’s success at the big league level to the smallish sample size, digging a little deeper into the advanced stats shows that he may in fact be the real deal.
While a high BABIP is usually a sign of a lucky hitter, France has a proven minor league track record of consistently high BABIP numbers meaning it may not be luck at this point. His .391 BABIP in his 43 games of 2020 were just shy of the .410 BABIP he put up in his 2019 minor league season. Subsequently he went on to hit .305 last season and carried a wRC+ of 132 which means he created 32% more runs than the average hitter. And lets be honest…creating 32% more runs for the mariners would be a godsend. He also sported a .362 OBP (.326 career) which put him right on pace with Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis (.364) and makes him an ideal top of the order bat in the lineup.
The biggest stat Ty France has going for him though, his batting average with runners in scoring position. Last season, France was second in all of baseball with a .442 RISP average. The strong hitting has already showed signs of carrying over to the 2021 season as well after his dominant spring training. Through 19 spring games, France hit .327 with four doubles, five home runs, 11 RBI and had an OPS of 1.135 while only striking out 7 times.
ZiPS has France projected to end the 2021 season batting .268 with 18 homeruns, 69 (nice.) runs scored, 74 RBI and an OBP of .335. While that may seem nice I actually see France trending a bit higher than those numbers. Expect France to routinely be batting around Kyle Seager, Kyle Lewis, Taylor Trammel and Mitch Haniger. France seems slated to bat in the #2 spot behind Trammel and ahead of Lewis which should put France in line for around the 80 RBI mark but much much closer to the 100 run territory.
I’d safely project France to end the season around the .280 mark with 24 home runs, 90 runs, 85 RBI and an OBP of .350.
While France may not project as the long term answer at DH (he plays pretty solid defense among multiple infield positions and seems like the heir apparent to third base), getting France’s bat in the lineup on a nightly basis is going to be a major key to the Mariners success going forward.
While it is still the Mariners, so there will still be plenty of let downs this year, France is all but guaranteed to make it a damn fun lineup to watch night in and night out.