This will be the end of the Juan jokes. Okay, maybe just Juan more: what do his bathroom scales say when Juan steps on them? ‘Only Juan at a time!’
The Atlanta Braves have announced a trade this morning with the Milwaukee Brewers. Juan Francisco is heading to the Brewers (presumably onto their major league roster) and the Braves will be receiving left-handed reliever Thomas Keeling in return. More on him in a moment.
The Braves picked up Juan at the end of Spring Training in 2012 as an insurance policy against the likelihood of extended absences by Chipper Jones, during his stellar walk-off (hobble-off?) year… and because Frank Wren had always liked him. In that role, he served well enough: hitting .234 with 5 homers and 16 RBI in 115 plate appearances with the occasional jaw-dropper moon shot. Juan may eventually end up being one of those players in which people say “I wonder how well he really would have done if he ever had a shot as an everyday player.” Indeed, in the minors, he was very impressive: hitting for average along with the prodigious power. But that chance never materialized with Atlanta, and his inability to hit even right-handers better than hit competition (Chris Johnson) made him a liability on a roster that was looking for extra slots.
Juan was obtained for J.J. Hoover, who is now with the Reds and is now pitching very effectively for them – even picking up 3 saves in place of Aroldis Chapman on occasion. Hoover will be 26 later this year, and given his development, you’d have to say now that the Reds will have the better part of that deal… but not hugely so. I will not fault the Braves for doing this trade, as Francisco filled a need, and Hoover represented an attractive piece to help them do that.
Thomas Keeling (6’3″, 187 from Rogersville, TN) turned 25 at the end of Spring Training and has been in the Brewers AA program – dang, I just realized that’s only 10 miles away from me here in Huntsville! He will undoubtedly be assigned to the Pearl, MS Braves AA team.
I suppose you could argue that the Braves got ‘Hoover-light’ from the Brewers in this deal, though that’s being quite generous. Hoover is very hard-throwing strikeout guy who had some control issues (still does) at the time of that trade. Keeling also has control issues, but his issues would seem to go a bit deeper. He has a plus-slider with some velocity, but that could be about it. Now I found a Milwaukee blog that called him a ‘surprise’ who had ‘touched 95 mph’. But that was two years ago, and though he has steadily progressed (one level per year) in the Brewers’ system, he hasn’t exactly dented their prospect charts. Here in Huntsville, he’s had 17 appearances/17 innings with 19 K’s, 8 walks, and a much improved 3.18 ERA this year. John Sickels does not list Keeling among his Top 20 Brewers prospects for 2013… or even among the honorable mentions.