Mar 21, 2013; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves third baseman Juan Francisco (25) and first baseman Chris Johnson (23) celebrate after scoring in the second inning against the Washington Nationals at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Braves Platoon Situation


 

The Atlanta Braves are now 51 games into the 162 game season and lots of scenarios have changed since the 2013 opening day.  One thing that hasn’t seemed to change has been the platoon situation the Braves have at third base.  This leads to the question of “Why Not”??

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

As you remember, the trade that brought Justin Upton to the Braves in January was the same one that included 28-year-old Chris Johnson to Atlanta.  Before that trade with the Arizona Diamondback was official, Braves fans knew that their future Hall of Fame third baseman Chipper Jones retired.  We also were told (by experts) that if everything stayed the same on the roster, Martin Prado would split time at third base with 25-year-old Juan Francisco.  But then the trade happened and the Braves traded away Prado and received Johnson.

So the 2013 Spring Training came and went and both Johnson and Francisco played terrific baseball.  This led to Gonzalez stating that the Braves will head into the season platooning the third base position.  Ok, well that’s great…another example of Fredi not being able to make a tough decision but now we are two months into the season and one of these guys is noticeably out performing the other!!

Chris Johnson has been on a tear since his opening day two hit start.  Through May 28th, Johnson is hitting with a line of .346/.380/.492 compared to a line of .248/.295/.410 for Francisco.  Johnson is hitting .300 against RHP and .429 vs LHP.  Francisco is batting .264 against RHP and .133 vs LHP.  Chris has 130 at bats, with 45 hits, 10 doubles, three home runs, 17 runs and 14 RBI’s.  Juan on the other hand has 105 at bats, with 26 hits, two doubles, five home runs, 10 runs and 16 RBI’s.  Also in those 105 at bats, Francisco has struck out 42 times!!

Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, Juan has tagged five home runs but Chris’ batting average and on base percentage would be a clear cut of me if I was filling out a major league starting lineup.  Also, out of the 38 games that Johnson has appeared in, the Braves have only lost 10 that he’s started at third base.

Now if your thinking I’ve jumped on the Chris Johnson band wagon and not a fan of Francisco, I would hesitate to say so.  In my mind Juan is a solid MLB third baseman and has played well early this season to play on some teams but what Johnson has done on the field, I can’t help but to say he needs to be a regular on the Atlanta Braves!

How do you readers feel about this situation?  And could a trade be brewing in the head of Frank Wren to send one of these guys else where for a relief pitcher??

 

 

 

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  • http://twitter.com/carpengui carpengui

    I am personally torn a bit on this one. Johnson’s hitting – and especially so when comparing him to Juan – is making up for his defensive issues. A couple of weeks ago, the two were about even in fielding numbers, but CJ has regressed a little since then. If you pushed me on it, I’d probably want Juan out there for Huddy (more grounders) and split the time otherwise except when facing LHP. Any way you slice it, though, neither of these guys are going to conjure up memories of Brooks Robinson over there.

    The Braves do not really have another option available as the Lefty Bat Off the Bench (no, Pena doesn’t count). Given that, it’s hard to suggest flipping Juan for a reliever… or whether it would even be possible… but I have an idea or two, as there are definitely teams with needs at third.

    Pittsburgh. I would ask for Justin Wilson. He’s a lefty, and is pre-arb. Such a combination would likely require a little more than just Juan alone, but this would seem to be a trade that could benefit both clubs. The Pirates could platoon Francisco with Inge. Mark Melancon would also be an option… again requiring more than just Juan.

    Miami. Being arb-eligible in 2014, Mike Dunn is exactly the kind of player the Marlins would want to dump. They also could use some actual hitting power in their lineup, and Placido Polanco isn’t that. Juan Francisco, plus $1m (so that they could release Polanco outright) would be enough.

    Other teams with third base problems:

    > Red Sox. It’s still early for Middlebrooks. Waiting for him to get healthy.
    > Royals. They are pretty much married to Moustakas (this is a team that still runs Francoeur out there every day).
    > White Sox. Keppinger’s 3 yr deal was a mistake, but they are being bailed out by Conor Gillaspie right now.

  • Caleb

    Chris Johnson is going to come down from his ridiculous numbers shortly. His BABIP is outrageous at .442 on the season, so he has been getting pretty lucky thus far. If we get rid of Francisco, we will regret. If we could get a lot from Chris Johnson (I doubt it), it would be worth it, but Francisco will prove to be the better option by season’s end.

    • Jeff Schafer

      True, he may come back down to earth sooner or later but why not have him in the roster more often then not. I’m ok with the platoon situation unless the one is hitting at a ridiculous numbers when the other isn’t. Play CJ now when he’s hot and go back to the platoon when they are putting up more platoon numbers

      • cheadrick

        Jeff I agree, and I also agree with Caleb.. Chris’ BABIP is outrageous, and suggests a short shelf life for him. That said, you don’t platoon when you have great players… you platoon when you have mediocre ones, and then you have them in the lineup based on how they’re playing at the time. And, in my opinion, you should do that regardless of who is pitching against you. In short, I agree. Johnson has had ups and downs, and defensively he can be shaky, but so has Juan. You have to go with your hot guy if you’re going to be platooning at all.

  • fireboss

    There are reasons two teams decided CJ wasn’t an everyday player. First and foremost his fielding can be really well below avg at times and when that happens his bad hibernates. Juan is the better fielder with the better arm. When he gets regular at bats (15-20 games in a row) he’s a better hitter and his lots of line drives. In a pinch I take Juan (as I write that Juan makes a sparkling play). Having said that If I could get Headly, Gyorko or Lawrie I’d have no trouble doing that. The way the Brewers are collapsing Aramis Ramirez might well be available.