2010 Reds

The Return of Wily Mo Pena

Remember Wily Mo Pena? Check out this comment about Wily Mo from a past edition of Baseball Prospectus

Pena has a ton of power, but there’s not much else to recommend him. He won’t take walks, he struck out 442 times in 447 minor-league games, he can’t hit lefties, and, outside of a strong arm, he’s not particularly adept in the field, in part because of struggles with his weight. Still, that power is awfully alluring….

Wait…what? Oh yeah, sorry about that. The above comment is actually the note from this year’s Baseball Prospectus 2010 about this year’s non-Chapman spring training darling, Juan Francisco.

Can someone tell me what the fascination with Francisco is all about? Well, I know what it’s about; he hits the ball a long way. That’s great, I love that. Heck, my favorite Red of recent vintage was Adam Dunn. I dig the longball.

On the other hand, Francisco has walked 72 times in his entire minor league career. Yep, that covers 447 games, over which time, as noted above, Francisco has struck out 442 times. He swings at everything, and I have zero confidence that he will learn plate discipline at the major league level. No one does.

Plus, the guy is beyond brutal in the field. Maybe he can learn left field; I don’t know. I know he can’t play 3B at the minor league level, so in the bigs, he’d make Edwin Encarnacion look like a gold glover.

The power, however, is legit, and he has looked good over the last three weeks, which is why people are touting him as a platoon partner for Jonny Gomes in left field. He actually has more power than Wily Mo…but he gets on base less. Ugh. It’s not a perfect comparison, but from the Reds’ perspective, it works. And that’s today’s topic of discussion:

Juan Francisco = Wily Mo Pena. Discuss amongst yourselves.

23 thoughts on “The Return of Wily Mo Pena

  1. My what power you have Mr. Francisco. All the better to trade you with. I think I’ve said it before, but I’ll take a duplication of a Willy-Mo for Arroyo trade anytime, anyplace. Could be a great sell high time if another team gets greedy for power.

    That said, this current Reds team surely needs some power… and I won’t cry if they give him a whirl, as long as the leash is reasonably short… as in, much shorter than Willy T and Corey P. Except Fancisco hasn’t even been given a shot yet. So we have some good options here while things look good: Trade him or keep him and let him rip the cover off the ball. Bad option: Riding him till he gets exposed and we get nothing.

  2. I say let him rip the cover off the ball in L’ville and trade him at the deadline to get a piece that will help the big club down the stretch. I loved Wily Mo, but all he contributed was hitting against LHP. I love the big time power, but heck that is 25 to 30 swings over the course of the whole season. He can’t walk, can’t play defense, and hasn’t shown that he can(try) improve in his weaknesses.

  3. Chad writes:

    he’d make Edwin Encarnacion look like a gold glover.

    If you’re going to steal my lines, at least give me credit.

    I agree that I like him much more as trade bait than an everyday player on the Reds.

  4. I know it’s a small sample size, but Juan is hitting over .300 for his ML career. It may not be who he is, but it at least shows he can do it. If you on play him vs RHP, he has value. That’s a hell of a bat coming off your bench in key PH situations. That said, I have no problem selling high here, his def is brutal and he Ks way too much. And saying his def is brutal is way too kind.

  5. Yesterday he swung at the first pitch in all three AB. I’ve seen him swing at pitches at-or-above his eye level. Once pitchers start caring about scouting reports, he’s never going to get a pitch to hit. The walks are a huge difference from Adam Dunn.

    Wow, the Pena for Arroyo deal turned out pretty well for the Reds.

  6. Wily Mo’s biggest problem was his contract. He did not have time to develop before he was on the roster. Juan is progressing very well through the system and if he isn’t rushed to the bigs, like Wily Mo, he will be a very good big leaguer.

    To look at the minor league offensive numbers Pena had one good year offensively at Dayton. Juan has put three together while always moving up.

    If we can survive Dunn’s (who quite frankly was also rushed and didn’t have the time to fine tune his game) defense then there is a place for Juan but hopefully he gets another season in the minors and works hard on the srike zone and his defense.

    With his power, speed, strong arm and versatility he might be more valuable in the long run than Yonder.

  7. Sounds like what I’ve been saying these past couple days (other than the comparison to Willy Mo).

    Hey! Day ahead, but still a dollar short.

  8. If he can defend in left and be restricted to facing righties, he can succeed right now. He and Gomes platooning in left would be an offensive upgrade to any other situation possible. It would be a big risk, but it could work. Francisco’s splits against righties is very, very impressive. but, it will not happen.

  9. It seems as though people are holding his power against him because of a certain somebody but that fact is he’s 22 has shown the ability to hit for avg. w/ what little time he has played and has amazing power . His defense is ugly but could look better in LF needs to drop 15 lbs and gain some plate discipline . At his age I believe we should still give him that chance at least but if someone was to make a offer thats to good to be true…i’ll take it! But for some reason I seem to be fond of Mr. Francisco

  10. Here’s the difference…

    Francisco has demonstrated the ability to hit for average throughout his carerr… I know, I know… “Batting average is a stat from the dark ages.”

    Say whatever you want, but I still put SOME stock in batting average.

    Fransisco also demonstrates some ridiculous power. His minor league SLG is about 50 points higher than Willy Mo’s minor league SLG.

    Yes, both guys swing and miss a ton. But when Fransisco makes contact, he does so with more power and generates more hits than Willy Mo did.

  11. @Kerry Moss: I put some stock into Batting Average also, but with his walk rate his OBP isn’t much higher than his BA. I like him offensively (although he still has limitations) but his value is completely diminished by his horrible defense.

  12. @BJ Ruble:

    He is also only 22.

    We know that he struggles at 3rd, but how much do we really know about his abilities in left field? He has a great arm, so if he can be even average in terms of tracking balls, he could be a plus defender in left.

  13. He should go to louisville and play left every day. left field is where you put people who can’t play defense, because bad defense there doesn’t kill your team.

    i love guys who get on base, love ’em. but for guys like me, i think it can be easy to forget that ops actually matters more for your team than obp, statistically speaking.

    francisco, playing young, has a career ops of .793. if he could recreate that in the majors he would have had the third highest ops on the reds last year.

    i guess all i’m saying is that if francisco walked 100 times a year in addition to what he does at the plate now, he’d be an mvp candidate. that he’s not an mvp candidate doesn’t mean that he’s bad, in fact he’d probably help the reds right now.

  14. @Kerry Moss: Yes, he is still young and can improve on his weaknesses. The pitch selection thing was a problem two years running and shows no signs on improving. 3 AB’s yesterday, 3 pitches. He is 22 yrs old, let him dominate AAA first, then bring him up if needed.

    There is no need to rush him into a role on the big league team, have him struggle, then have to send him down and hurt his confidence.

    As far as his defense…he won a gold glove in the Dominican Winter League, for whatever that is worth, at 3b. I watched him in the Caribbean WS botch 2 plays at third and drop an easy fly ball in LF that any major leaguer should catch. The next game he was the DH.

    Maybe he CAN improve, but for that to happen he has to show that he is TRYING to improve. Seeing a total of 3 pitches in 3 AB’s isn’t trying. I’m sold on his power, but it won’t take long for major league pitchers to figure out not to throw him any strikes.

  15. It sounds great to make him a platoon player for NOW, but if you do that and don’t let him progress in AAA (or AA) then he will always be that platoon player, having never been given an opportunity to improve on his weaknesses. I’d rather let him try to be a non-platoon player by giving him full time in AAA and see a more polished product.

    By having him platoon right now you’re basically relegating him to that for his whole career, which I think is a mistake.

  16. I think the real problem with Francisco is that he bats left handed. Put him in the lineup with Bruce, Votto, Alonzo, Dickerson et al and this team is way to heavy on the left side. Maybe they should start drafting right handed hitters.

    As for his fielding, how brutal could he be? You’d think you could train a circus elephant to play a tolerable left field.

  17. To put things plainly, THEY DON’T NEED HIM AT ALL! Not when they’ve got Frasier as the 3B of the future and Heisey for LF. They also don’t need Alonso. But I’m afraid Jocketty is going to fall into the exact same trap Jim the Idiot Bowden and Dan O’Brien did—-getting too enamored of a power prospect they just don’t have room for at the expense of a player who has a better game. Austin Kearns had a great rookie year and was a million times better in the field. But O’Brien would not commit to a plan and gave Pena playing time at Kearns’s expense. I believe this stunted Kearns’ development. I already worry about the repeated moving of Frasier (short to third to left to second to first)and what this will do to his game. So are they going to stunt him for the sake of Francisco (forget Encarnacion—-is Francisco the next Willie Greene?)? And is Jocketty going to sacrifice Votto for the sake of Alonso?

  18. Agree with most of the above posts. Put him in LF in Louisville and see what he does the first couple of months. If he tears up the league, walks some, and cuts down on Ks WHILE playing a decent LF then he is available if needed in the bigs – either with the REDS or as trade bait. Bring him up too early and if he fails miserable nobody will want him.

  19. Why is the rush? Francisco is not yet a complete player. He’s got unreal power and a very stout arm. But, in the majors he lack of plate disciple is going to get him shreaded. It’s just not enough. He’s still not ready.

    The following is JMO: But I think he’s a two tool player (as stated power and arm). He used to be fast. Again as we’ve said over and over the weight is a problem. I’m betting he has enough natural speed to plunder twenty bags. That’s a third tool (it’s a stretch, but possible). He’s close to being decent hitter for average. If he works on plate discipline he’s picked up a forth tool. A 3rd baseman should have a good enough glove for left. If he learns how to get good jumps his range could be decent… whoa… a fifth tool.

    I think he is close on the three tools he’s missing. But he’s still not a complete player.

  20. I’ll say the same thing before on Francisco, maybe we can rook the Red Sox into giving up a big league starter for him.

    If they are not taking walks in the minors, he won’t learn to take them in the show. There might be rare exceptions, but usually not. The best power hitters rack up walks, even if they are a swinging K machine.

    I’d think he would be better suited for an AL club where they could use him some as a DH. I’d give the Angels a call, as they need some power and maybe we could get a SS prospect or a reliever.

  21. @earl: Actually, I think that’s a good idea if Francisco can’t get it worked out by late May or June. This may be crazy, but why not leave him in Arizona for Instructional league and get him a personal trainer to help him shed the pounds and work plate disciple and left field before sending him to Louisville. He’s close. Really, he only lacks a few small head things to be a real monster.

  22. Francisco needs to be playing every day, and he’s not ready for ML 3rd base or LF. The problem with Pena was his lack of a minor league learning phase. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen to Francisco.

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