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40 in 40: Ty France

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Hitters gonna hit

Houston Astros v Seattle Mariners
when the teacher calls me by my preferred name that i made up on the spot
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

This is Ty France. He is hitting a double here. He does that quite a bit.

MLB: Houston Astros at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

This is Ty France getting a hug from former teammate Fernando Tatis, Jr.

MLB: SEP 19 Padres at Mariners
“Brothers don’t shake hands! Brothers gotta hug!” - Fernando, probably
Photo by Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Did you know Ty France is projected to be the most valuable hitter on your 2021 Seattle Mariners by ZiPS? Yup, a cool 2.6 fWAR says Dan Syzmborski. Pretty cool for France given this stands to be his first full season of MLB action. Pretty concerning for the general state of the 2021 Seattle Mariners, though, for a rookie to be your best projected bat. If only there were some free agents the team could sign to help shore things up a bit.

I’ll digress from my sarcasm because I am honestly very excited to see how France fares in 2021. He is, how do you say, my type when it comes to hitters. Not particularly graceful, nearly a liability in the field, but boy, can he hit! At least, that’s all he’s done in the minors and has definitely continued to flash that potential in his limited MLB appearances so far with San Diego and Seattle.

He arrived in Seattle during the shortened pandemic season of 2020 A.D. through the lauded Austin Nola trade with the Padres. The trade remains a hefty haul for the Mariners, and stands to get even better if France, fire-balling reliever Andres Muñoz, catcher Luis Torrens, and outfielder Taylor Trammell have any decent amount of success in the Majors. France is poised to make the biggest splash this season out of those players and his stats in the minors are a big reason why.

dat 2019 slash line tho
FanGraphs

Alas, here’s the part where I temper your expectations, if they’re not already. Take it away, Managing Editor Kate!

His minor-league numbers are very shiny, but it’s important to remember that San Diego plays in two of the offense-friendliest places in baseball in their Triple-A stadium in El Paso and High-A Lake Elsinore. The Triple-A stadium is particularly egregious, and that plus the juiced ball in 2019 combined to give France an otherworldly line of .399/.477/.770, but again, and I cannot state this firmly enough, do not allow your eyes to bug out while going awoogha-woogha like a cartoon character looking at that line.

(/calmly pushes eyeballs back into sockets)

Fair point, Kate! Also, read the rest of her initial analysis of France after the trade here. It’s important to note those minor league numbers are also likely a strong influence on the aforementioned lofty ZiPS projection. But, by all accounts, the hit tool on France is mighty strong and his walks and plate discipline have stayed in good shape so far in the Majors.

Texas Rangers v Seattle Mariners
look back at it
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Given how many times I’ve been burned by players like this who “are finally getting their shot” and “let’s just see what they can do with a full season of at-bats” and “well, you know, if it all goes right...,” I’m a bit disappointed in myself for falling for this again. But, as the wise Toomgis once said, “The heart wants what the heart wants.” I can’t help but feel optimistic and hopeful for a player who can fully occupy the DH spot in 2021 and mayyyyybe possibly evolve into a better second baseman with Infield Coach Perry Hill’s help and (squints impossibly hard) mayyyybe take over third base in the post-Kyle Seager days to come? The Mariners have no prospects ready to take over the hot corner for at least two to three seasons, so if France can become that stopgap for a season or two AND keep a hot bat, his value will be tremendous going forward.

But, until we really see how the bat fares in a full season, I’ll just be over here dreaming about some Alfredo.