All I keep hearing about Juan Francisco is that he’s NOT ready. I realize he’s only 22 and his BB/K numbers have been ugly everywhere he’s been. There’s no denying that. But if you take a look at what he’s done consistently and continues to do – hit for average and power – you can’t help but wonder if the Reds are going to be holding him back if Scott Rolen has a stranglehold on third base for a while and they don’t move Francisco to the outfield.
In the Dominican Winter League (where Francisco has played some outfield), Francisco’s hit .302 with 11 home runs and 42 RBIs in 182 at-bats. In September for the Reds, he hit .429 with a homer and 7 RBIs in 21 at-bats. In Louisville (before the Reds promoted him), he hit .359 with 5 homers and 19 RBIs in 92 at-bats. In Carolina (where he spent most of 2009 season), he hit .281 with 22 homers and 74 RBIs.
Consider Edwin Encarnacion. A lot like Francisco in many ways. Hails from the Dominican, third baseman, glove a question mark but impressive hitting numbers resulted in a fairly meteoric rise through the minors – as a teen and into his early 20s – for the Reds. Encarnacion got 211 at-bats at third base for us in 2005 at age 22 after he hit .314 with 15 homers and 54 RBIs in 290 at-bats for Louisville, and he never looked back as the starting third baseman (though he got demoted a couple of times and eventually traded but what we’re examining for the sake of comparison and analysis is what he did before he reached the bigs).
Encarnacion’s BB/K numbers weren’t as ugly as Francisco’s in the minors. But his power numbers weren’t nearly as impressive. Edwin’s 15 homers in 290 at-bats were by far his best power numbers in the minors. He hit for decent power but nothing like Francisco. Francisco has hit (or was projected to hit before getting promoted) 20- or 30-some home runs a year everywhere he’s played. And his batting average in the minors has been higher than Edwin’s too.
There are a ton of young players who strike out too much and don’t walk enough. Is that the only reason he’s “not ready?” Jay Bruce was our starting outfielder in 2008 at age 21. And Edwin was 22 and starting at third. I guess the question is whether he should learn plate discipline in Louisville or in the bigs. Louisville, right? OK. But for how long?
Ironically, Francisco must have been a pretty big reason why Edwin was trade bait. Rather have him wait behind a guy who’s 34 and injury-prone than a guy who’s 26 (and struggling).
But what if Rolen finds a way to play at a fairly high level until he’s 40? All I’m saying is Francisco has hit for average and power everywhere he’s been and shown consistency at a young age and I don’t think he’s that far away at all. Which is pretty exciting. And I think the Reds fully realize that; I just want to see them give him an opportunity to play everyday in the not-too-distant future.