If you have been keeping up with the Braves this spring, you’re probably just as mesmerized as we are by the intense battle going on for the starting third base position. Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson have been nothing short of impressive during spring training and it’s left a lot of fans confused about who’s going to take the starting role.
No matter what angle you look at it, Johnson and Francisco have almost the exact same stats and careers. Both players have spent four seasons in the MLB and 6 seasons in AAA baseball or lower. Their averages boast only a .018 difference. Chris Johnson has a .276 career batting average while Juan Francisco is at .258. Their on base percentages are only different by .001. Johnson leads that stat as well with a .318 and Francisco with a .317. The major difference between the two is their total hits and homeruns. Johnson leads those categories as well; however, he’s played a lot more games in the MLB than Francisco has played.
When you look at their stats so far this spring, it gets even closer. Francisco is working with a .353 batting average, 5 homeruns, 11 runs batted in and 18 hits off of 51 at bats. Johnson is almost exactly the same with a .352 batting average, 3 homeruns, 11 runs batted in and 19 hits off of 54 at bats. They look similar in the field as well. Francisco has 1 error, 6 double plays, 8 putouts and 34 assists. Johnson has 2 errors, 2 double plays, 6 putouts and 16 assists. Johnson is trailing a little in assists and double plays due to Francisco playing 29.0 more innings defensively than him.
This battle will go down to the wire and probably on into regular season. I think it will result in what everyone is expecting. Both players will rotate in and out of the position until someone starts to slump either offensively or defensively. When that slump comes, the better player will take the role. Some fans have even said they’d like to see Fredi González switch between the two when one is on a streak and the other is slumping. However, that causes the problem of getting a player out of a slump if he’s not even playing. No matter what happens, it will be an interesting show to watch.