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Atlanta Braves third baseman Juan Francisco in a spring training fight with Chris Johnson for the starting job. Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Braves Third Base Duel Update

A few days ago I posted my take on the third base duel between Chris Johnson and Juan Francisco about to begin in Spring Training. I suggested that the loser of the duel might well find himself a permanent bench player. Today I saw a post by Jim Bowden on ESPN (Insider Required) about 10 players for whom this spring may be a make or break year.  Number eight on the list was Francisco. According to Bowden:

Francisco has tremendous power from the left side, but two big questions remain: Will he make enough contact to make the power usable, and can he develop enough defensively to be the Braves long-term answer at third base? He’s competing with newly acquired Chris Johnson, a competition that in all likelihood will lead to a platoon. If Francisco falters, general manager Frank Wren will not hesitate to inquire about the Padres’  Chase Headley or talk to any other team that has a possible long-term solution for the Braves.

Chris Johnson is in a far worse position than Francisco if he doesn’t grab the job this spring. He’s older and after having the 3B job given to him at two clubs he hasn’t been able to hold it. Francisco is still young and has never had that kind of chance so I expect him to get a prolonged look. He also has the kind of power that makes a GM’s eyes grow wide with anticipation and plays a better third base than many.  The other factor is the current state of the Braves minor league system.

While GM Frank Wren may inquire about Headley he has little to offer that would entice the Padres to part with him. The minors are bare of prospect level everyday player talent and the much touted Braves pitching depth is today a fallacy.  The Braves are more likely to  go forward with Francisco or Johnson this season and rely on the rest of the bats to carry the offense. As I noted in my prior post, Francisco’s defense improved last year after working with Pendleton and Jones and with his hitting performance in winter ball I expect him to get the everyday nod. While Fredi Gonzalez might do it simply because everyone expects it,  Johnson’s lefty split isn’t good enough to make a platoon that costs Francisco at bats that might help him gain experience  hitting lefties.

That’s A Wrap

I tried to post a comment on the ESPN blog but apparently paying for a subscription only entitles you to post a comment if you want it to appear on Facebook as well.  While I am on FB I rarely if ever sign in there so doing that to post a comment on the ESPN irked me. As a result they don’t get the benefit of my insight but you dear readers do. See how special you are!

 

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