Toward the end of spring training, I was without internet because of a move to the boonies and most satellite internet costs too damn much for too shitty service. Ultimately, we decided on Verizon who offers internet via their cell towers. It’s pretty good and cheaper than Hughes.
To keep up with the Braves, I’d take my wife’s laptop to wifi locations or use my phone. Using my cheapass phone, I accessed the AJC’s section on the Braves and saw that the Braves, amidst a flurry of last-minute activity, acquired Juan Francisco from the Reds in exchange for J.J. Hoover. I saw Hoover a lot when he was in the Carolina League and thought he didn’t have too much potential for a starter. Others agreed and he was shifted to the pen last year and has pitched for the Reds this year in that role and has had some success despite an insane GB rate of 25.6%.
My first thoughts on the deal were overwhelming positive. It was the kind of deal I would have made, to be honest. Juan Francisco has serious, Major League-quality power. From 2008-2011, his lowest ISO in the minors was .219. If he could, if he could, if he could just learn a little patience and strikezone discipline, he could be a solid corner-infield bat.
I’m sure Reds fans thought that when Francisco first showed up in 2009 and had a super positive 25 PA that included nine hits and a nearly .500 wOBA. He has the power, but could he put the rest of his game together. A few days ago, I spoke of Andrelton Simmons ability to improve as time went by. Francisco…not so much.
Sure, the ISO got even better, but his highest walk rate was a smidge below 5%. Let’s put that into perspective, shall we? In his first full season in 2006, Jeff Francoeur’s walk rate was 3.4%. He played every game that season and stepped up to the plate 686 times to walk only 23 (and six were intentional). Francisco compounded the situation with a strikeout rate that settled in the 20% to 24% range. Even Francoeur did a better job at putting the ball in plate. Now, Francisco kept hitting the ball and even hit .307 last year. But as Crash Davis would have you know, they don’t throw ungodly breaking stuff in the minors like they do in the majors. Doubt he saw too many exploding sliders playing in Norfolk or Scranton.
Francisco doesn’t have the patience to stick around, nor does he seem either able or willing to change his approach to allow for that. He has 99 PA with the Braves this season and has K’d in 31 of them. Add the three amazing walks and you get a guy who just doesn’t look capable. He’s going to hit homers and he could easily reach 20 as an everyday player. But he’s not going to on-base .300, nor is he even going to provide something resembling a competent defense. He has the arm, but not the instincts. His UZR is below average and that’s even an improvement over the butchering of third he did last year with the Reds. To make matters worse, Francisco seems to not give a shit that he’s overweight. I am, too, but I can’t hit a ball 450 feet, either. At least, not without some cheat codes.
The idea was that Francisco had the opportunity to settle into a role with the Braves and, if things went well, he might be able to compete for the starting job. Frank Wren reasoned that his kind of power was hard to find, especially at third base. He’s right. But that’s all Francisco is. A glorified batting practice king.
Cut the cord? Absolutely. I know it’s only been two months and it must be tough to settle into a bench role as a young player when you’ve always been a starter. Also, he’s out of options and something tells me there is some team out there willing to give Francisco an extended look. However, the book is out on Francisco. Throw him fastballs out of the zone, but focus more on throwing him a majority of the soft shit. He might get one that’s hanging, but he’ll typically be an out, either without making contact or with a weak grounder.