On Sunday the Braves acquired another option to fill in for Chipper Jones when he’s out of the lineup, which unfortunately looks to be often during the 2012 season, when they traded minor league reliever J.J. Hoover to the Cincinnati Reds for Juan Francisco. This givesPrado the stability of playing mostly just one position and, more importantly, allows Eric Hinske and Matt Diaz to remain on the bench. Francisco has 80-grade power (on the 20-to-80 scale). The question is can he make enough contact and draw enough walks in order to be a valuable offensive player. His OBP in the minors is .317 and he’s struck out 591 times to only 99 walks in 2,554 plate appearances and 603 games.
In the majors, he’s posted a .284/.331/.450 AVG/OBP/SLG line in 181 plate appearances and 81 games. But he’s drawn only 11 walks and struck out 51 times.
Francisco should get his share of hits of the non-homer variety, in addition to the occasional 500-foot bomb, because he has so much raw power. He’ll hit with enough authority to get the ball through, around and over defenses, even major league defenses. So he’ll probably post a higher-than-average batting average on balls in play (BABIP) justbecause he hits the ball with so much authority.
The question then becomes his approach. Will he lay off of tough pitches that he can’t hit with authority to enough of a degree that he can draw some walks and avoid enough outs to be valuable?
While I don’t think Francisco will ever be a great hitter or Stanton-like, I see reasons to be somewhat optimistic. Certainly he could be better than replacement level as soon as this season. Thething about power hitters is that pitchers are going to want to be cautious. If Francisco can learn that it’s acceptable to lay off pitches he feels are hittable and even strikes in certain situations, he could end up with some Mark Reynolds type seasons. Sure, that’s nothing special but it’s serviceable and can help keep the Braves above water at thirdbase, firstbase and corner-outfield. And such a performance is probably worth the dime-a-dozen reliever, J.J. Hoover, whom the Braves gave up to get Francisco.
If nothing else, we’ll enjoy the batting practice power displays and the occasional in-game moonshots.