Jeff Francoeur barely won a Spring Training battle with Brian Bogusevic this year to stick with the Phillies. The biggest edge that he had in the competition was that he was a right-handed bat, which the Phillies needed off the bench. Andres Blanco was in much the same situation, with one added plus being that he was great with young players - Latin players in particular - and he could play a couple of infield spots. Truth is, nobody thought a lot about Francoeur or Blanco back then and it really didn't seem to matter whether they made the team or not.
Now, coming into the final month of the season, both are playing important roles with the club. Francoeur is playing right field against most left-handed pitchers and has been a God-send off the bench this season. Blanco is seeing more at-bats with Maikel Franco out of the lineup with a fractured wrist.
Francoeur has hit 12 home runs in 261 at-bats, the most he's hit since 2012 when he hit 16 for Kansas City and that was in 561 at-bats. Francoeur has averaged one home run every 23 plate appearances this season, the best number since his rookie season when he hit 14 home runs in just 257 plate appearances with Atlanta as a rookie.
Francoeur is also one of those guys that every team needs in the clubhouse. He's accepting of his role - which isn't to say he wouldn't like to play more often - and keeps the clubhouse light. He's also got a good work ethic to show off to younger players, which is never a bad thing.
As for Blanco, he's only 13 at-bats shy of reaching his career mark of 166, which he set back in 2010 with Texas. He'll likely finish with the highest average of his career, since his rookie year of 2004 when he hit .317 in just 19 games with Kansas City. He's already set career-highs in hits (47), doubles (16), home runs (5), RBI (16) and walks (15).
The best role that Blanco plays for the Phillies is how he helps young players. A couple Spring Trainings ago, it was Blanco who pulled Franco aside one day when the budding superstar was late for practice. Blanco explained to him in not too subtle terms, that you don't disrespect the game, the coaches and your teammates that way and stressed that he needed to not just be there on time, but be early. Franco took the lesson to heart and credits Blanco - whose locker was right next to Franco's at Lehigh Valley - with helping him to be a better ballplayer and teammate.
Francoeur has been mentioned as a potential Comeback Player of the Year candidate. Blanco's reversal isn't that drastic, but he certainly deserves praise for how he's helped the Phillies this season.
Blanco - even though he made his major league debut in 2004 - is arbitration eligible, so the Phillies can control him through the 2017 season, because he had just four full years of service coming into the season. Francoeur is eligible for free agency and it's possible that another team would come through with a decent payday for him and possibly, more playing time. The money, or even years for that matter, likely won't be an issue for the Phillies to match, but the playing time could be an issue. Francoeur has said that he's enjoying playing for the Phillies, so maybe he would consider staying even if the Phillies aren't able to match the other parts of a deal with another team.
Bottom line though is that the Phillies need to bring both Francoeur and Blanco back for the 2016 season as they continue to rebuild. Both are valuable assets on the field and in the clubhouse, which can't be overlooked when you've got a boatload of prospects on your roster.