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« Samardzija's Marginal Fastball | Main | Mike Aviles Wins the Shortstop Battle »
Monday
Apr022012

Braves Add Free-Swinging Juan Francisco

With Chipper Jones beginning his final MLB season on the DL while recovering from a torn meniscus in his left knee, the Braves added a short-term solution with some long-term upside on Sunday. Atlanta acquired out-of-options third baseman Juan Francisco from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for right-hander J.J. Hoover.

Francisco, 24, has mammoth power from the left side of the dish. The 6-foot-2, 240 pounder has a career .502 slugging percentage in the minors, including a .559 mark in parts of three seasons at Triple-A Louisville. That thump has also been on display during brief stints in the majors from 2009-11, as Francisco has popped five home runs and slugged .450 in 181 plate appearances. But as exciting as Francisco's power potential is, his lack of plate patience could be his undoing.

In a little over 2,500 PAs in the minors, Francisco has struck out nearly six times as often (23.1%) as he has walked (3.9%).  That hacking has carried over to the majors, as Francisco has gone after 37% of pitches thrown outside of the strike zone. The big league average over the past three years is about 28%. As his swing rate by pitch location shows, Francisco has been especially jumpy on pitches thrown up and in.

Juan Francisco's swing rate by pitch location, 2009-11

The trade to Atlanta and Jones' retirement following the 2012 season could give Francisco a chance to prove that he's starting material. It's likely that the soon-to-be-40-year-old Jones will get his share of off-days, and the Braves may opt to keep Martin Prado in left field instead of rotating him between there and third. Between Francisco's defensive limitations and free-swinging ways, however, penciling him into the 2013 lineup is premature.

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