We covered one side of the third base platoon with Chris Johnson’s projections early this week, now we go over his counterpart Juan Francisco. This is a guy who has serious power potential and will probably help the 2013 Atlanta Braves reach the World Series.
Francisco signed with the Cincinnati Red as an amateur free agent in 2004 when he was 17 years old. Then, two years later joined the Reds rookie ball team when 19 to begin his road to the MLB. From 2007-2009, while jumping different leagues four times, he hit 25, 23 and 27 home runs consecutively.
Juan was called up to the majors in the final month of the 2009 season. Without given quality playing time, Francisco only received 21 at-bats but had nine hits with a line of .429/.520/.619. When 2010 rolled in he was on the opening day roster but failed to contribute what the Reds needed to start the season and was sent down April 10th. It seemed a trip back down to Triple-A was what he needed as he hit 18 home runs and a line of .286/.325/.565. He was later brought back up to the big leagues in August and stayed through the end of the year but didn’t have the best season with 20 strikeouts in 55 at bats. A positive was that he recorded 15 hits, so he had an average of .636 of either striking out or getting a hit.
The tape recorder continued spinning as he was on the opening day roster in 2011 again but was sent back down to Triple-A before the end of April. After another solid year in Triple-A and another 15 home runs, the Reds brought him back up in September. (Sound familiar?) It became evident the Reds did not know what to do with Francisco as they had Scott Rolen at third and a youngster Todd Frazier in path to take over.
Before the start of the 2012 season, the Reds traded Francisco to the Atlanta Braves for pitcher J.J. Hoover on April 1st. Backing up a two-decade franchise player in Chipper Jones, Francisco knew unless an injury occurred that he wouldn’t get many starts at third. He did indeed get 42 starts at third base last season and appeared in 93 games from the Braves. The 25 year old tired to take advantage of every at-bat but it’s hard to get in a rhythm spot starting or coming off the bench to pinch-hit.
After the 2012 season, Francisco believed to be entering the 2013 spring training with the opportunity to win the starting third base position but on the day when the Braves were involved in the highly rumored trade for Justin Upton, another piece was involved in the trade. The Braves received another third base man in Chris Johnson. The two battled throughout the preseason games with both exceeding expectations statistically. Francisco had a batting average of .343 with six home runs and 14 RBI’s. Last week, coach Fredi Gonzalez announced the two with platoon the third base spot. It’s not known yet the amount of games each will have at the position but I believe Francisco will have more playing time when the season ends.
Francisco struggled early in his career while in the field. Through the years of 2006-2009 he had 94 errors at the third base position. After the 2009 season, he has done substantially better in the field and hopefully that isn’t something to worry about for the future. Last year with the Braves he only had six errors through the games he managed to see the field.
I’m projecting big things from Francisco this season. Not only because I believe he will have more playing time then Chris Johnson but because of the Braves lineup. It’s going to be difficult for Juan to be at the plate with no runners on. With more runners on, the potential for all around success increases.