Philadelphia Phillies' third baseman Kevin Frandsen is expected to be out of action for at least a few days because of a stress fracture to his left fibula. Hopefully, this is just a minor setback for the 30-year-old veteran who has been a late-season revelation.
Iron Pigs push
After the San Diego Padres released Frandsen in March 2011, I didn't notice that the Phillies signed him to a minor league contract. I also didn't pay much attention when he filed for free agency at the end of last season and then re-signed another minor league deal shortly after Thanksgiving. Team 'fillers' aren't expected to be much more than the people who help to form a squad that the real 'prospects' play with in the minors.
Each minor league team has a handful of players who are expected to make consistent progress. Someone like Frandsen was seen as not having the right intangibles to stay in 'the show'. So, he bounced between the major and minor leagues while playing for the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim from 2004 through 2010.
In the case of this nine-year veteran, the .309 batting average and .791 OPS (on base plus slugging percentage) that he produced for the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs in 2011, was tempered by the fact that he only hit five home runs in 298 at bats. Plus, he wasn't seen as carrying anything better than an average glove with him to the field.
Through 99 Triple-A games this season, Frandsen's average was .302, his OPS had dipped to .733, and he had only lifted one baseball over the outfield fence. That hardly led me to believe that he would distinguish himself when he was promoted to the Phillies on July 27.
Next year's chances
Frandsen made the most of the opportunity that existed due to Placido Polanco's absence and the ineffectiveness of a variety of substitute third basemen.
Even though the sample size of 128 at bats in 34 major league games isn't conclusive, most fans believe that this Philadelphia-style player has already earned a shot at being on next season's roster. Despite a lack of power, his .336 batting average, .782 OPS, and gritty play in the field lead us to believe that he can at least serve in a utility role next season. While third base has been his Phillies' priority this season, he also can play at every other infield position and in the outfield.
The Chase Utley experiment at third base, potentially the limited use of Carlos Ruiz at the hot corner, or the offseason acquisition of another third baseman will determine Frandsen's future role at that spot. At this point, it seems reasonable to believe that if the Phillies want him back next year (and why wouldn't they?), that he will take over for Michael Martinez in an all-purpose utility man role.
During this season of disappointment, Frandsen's underdog story has been worth following. Hopefully, he adds a few more pages to the plot this season and then an entire 2013 chapter to his major league book as well.
Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight .
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