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Entries in Juan Francisco (2)

Friday
Nov292013

Improvements Against Non-Fastballs Key to Francisco's Career

The Milwaukee Brewers have several decisions to make this winter, and chief among those decisions includes who they plan to start at first base come opening day next season. This decision is crucial for general manager Doug Melvin, who witnessed seven different players combine for a .206/.259/.370 slash line at the position in 2013, two years after Prince Fielder started every game at first base for Milwaukee and posted a .299/.415/.566 line.

One player the organization believes could become its long-term solution is 26-year-old Juan Francisco, who after being dealt to Milwaukee from Atlanta in June batted .221.300/.433 with 13 home runs in 89 games. Those aren't numbers that will (or should) excite anyone, but the Brewers believe the former top 10 Cincinnati Reds prospect's power could develop into a legitimate weapon if the rest of his game improves.

The problem is, Francisco's power was only evident against fastball variations with the team in 2013.

Francisco's Slugging Percentage vs. "Hard" Stuff with Milwaukee, 2013

Against fastballs (i.e. four-seams, sinkers, cutters, splitters) last season, Francisco posted a .266 average and .594 slugging percentage, the latter being well above the league-average mark of .466. His HR/FB rate finished at a whopping 25.0%, which would have been only second to the Pirates' Pedro Alvarez (24.7%) among National League batters had he been eligible at the end of the season. His well-hit average stood at .271 against these offerings, as well, a mark that actually beat Fielder (.270) andGiancarlo Stanton (.265), among others.

His plate discipline against these offerings last season raises some concern, however. He struck out at a 27.2% clip (compared to the 14% league rate) against 'hard' stuff, put only 33.1% of them in play (fourth-worst among batters who played at least 100 games) and swung-and-missed 24.8% of the time, which beat out the 16.5% league mark with ease.

Francisco's Slugging Percentage vs. "Soft" Stuff with Milwaukee, 2013

Yet his plate discipline issues against fastballs seem inconsequential compared to his tendencies against all other offerings. Against 'soft' stuff (i.e. curves, sliders, changeups, knuckleballs) last season with Milwaukee, Francisco yielded a strikeout rate of 48.6% (more than 20% higher than against 'hard' stuff), placed a mere 21.5% of them in play (highest among lefties who played in at least 80 games) and whiffed at a 45.3% clip (second-highest of all lefty bats to Alvarez's 47.0%).

In consequence, Francisco finished with a .155 average and .196 slugging percentage against non-fastballs last season,  the latter being nearly .200 points below the .386 league-average mark. His HR/FB rate descended to 0.0% in 105 plate apperances against non-fastballs, and his well-hit average fell to .133, which was well below the .152 league mark.

Once a heralded talent in the Reds' farm system, Francisco window for success is closing with birthday No. 27 approaching this June. The Brewers like his power and have an opening at first base, yet he wasn't particularly impressive during his stay with the team last season, and his obvious struggles against non-fastballs had a big say. To be a serious candidate for the team's long-term plans at first base, he'll have to develop into more than fastball hitter.

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.