I saw this comment that Bill made earlier, linking this piece from Fayman’s blog. Let me know what you think:

The long-term plan at third remains Juan Francisco.

“He’s 23, lots of pop,” Baker said, “MVP in the Dominican the last two winters. He was the guy we had slated to pick up the 35, 40 games Scottie wasn’t going to play and phase him slowly like that.”

Juan Francisco

There are a number of opinions about Juan Francisco. Your opinion may differ from mine, and reasonable minds can disagree. That said, I’m completely baffled by the Cincinnati organization’s perspective on Mr. Francisco.

Does anyone outside the Reds organization think Juan Francisco has a chance to be a major league regular? I never have, so maybe I’m not looking at this fairly…but what I see is a player that refuses to take walks, that strikes out a ton, and is miserable defensively. Oh, but that power! Whatever.

The guy looks to be a left-handed Wily Mo Pena, and that ain’t a compliment. Do the Reds really think he’s the long-term solution at third base? Certainly, the Reds know more than I do, and have more information at their disposal. What are they seeing that I can’t see?

Blame Chad for creating this mess.

Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, “The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds” is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad’s musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine.

Join the conversation! 60 Comments

  1. I was surprised when I read that comment. I always looked more toward Frazier as a future answer at third. Dusty seems sold on Francisco though, and once he gets an idea in his head…

    Dusty does make a valid point that he’s only 23, but plate discipline is kind of hard to teach. He’s got the power, but it’s feast or famine with that guy.

    His defense was bad, but when I watched him play ball earlier this year I thought he looked much better in the field. Hopefully he’s been working with Rolen.

    All that said, I’m pulling for the guy to put it all together and be a great third baseman. He’d be very useful for the team.

  2. I’ve said it a million times, I wish Francisco a hot half of a year and then trade as high as one can hope, package deal or otherwise.

  3. Dusty is just giving lip service. I think he totally believes that Francisco is the best option, mainly because Dusty is a terrible scout, but he’s also going to talk him up a ton no matter what.

  4. It’s just a freaking joke. Thom Brennaman thinks he’ll be a Hall of Famer. Other than that? Dusty and Francisco’s mom.

  5. I am not sure I would agree that plate discipline is hard to teach. Teams have realistic hopes that a player will develop better plate discipline as they gain experience (Votto is doing it, the Reds expect Jay Bruce to do it). The problem is that it is hard for someone like Fransisco to develop plate discipline from the bench.

    • The only thing I see holding Frazier back is his sudden lack of batting average. The guy was a .290+ hitter at every level until last season.

      I think injuries have hurt him quite a bit. Last season in AAA his LD% dropped and his K% went up. Everything else stayed around his career norms.

      If he raises his average up around .270 I think I’d give him a shot at MLB instantly.

    • I am not sure I would agree that plate discipline is hard to teach. Teams have realistic hopes that a player will develop better plate discipline as they gain experience (Votto is doing it, the Reds expect Jay Bruce to do it). The problem is that it is hard for someone like Fransisco to develop plate discipline from the bench.

      It IS hard to teach. And you don’t know what you’re talking about WRT Joey Votto or Jay Bruce.

      Here are Votto’s (unintentional) walk rates as he developed. This is Unintentional Walks / Plate Appearances:
      Age 18: .099
      Age 19: .163
      Age 20: .155
      Age 21: .095 (his one awful season)
      Age 22: .124 (AA)
      Age 23: .112 (AAA)

      His big league cup of coffee in ’07, when he was swinging at (and hitting) everything: .045.

      Big League Numbers:
      Age 24: .085
      Age 25: .110
      Age 26: .128 (MVP)
      2011 so far: .175

      While Votto’s walk rate has improved as he’s been IN the majors (mostly as pitchers learn to stay away from him), it is still below what it was in the minors.

      Here’s Jay:
      Age 18: .101
      Age 19: .080
      Age 20: .076 (while destroying pitching at three levels)
      Age 21: .040 49 games at AAA – SLG .630
      Age 21: .071 Big league debut
      Age 22: .093
      Age 23: .092
      2011: .060

      Again, you have a guy whose big league walk rate roughly mirrors what he did as a brand new prospect.

      Now, Juan Francisco, and Wily Mo Pena
      Age 17: – .065
      Age 18: – .054
      Age 19: .022 .057
      Age 20: .030 .078
      Age 21: .026 (Sarasota) .055 (MLB)
      Age 22: .034 (hit for decent power – .518 SLG) .058 (MLB)
      Age 23: .046 (AAA) .060 (MLB)

      In 104 PA over three seasons, his major league BB rate is .077.

      Francisco is a guy who walks 1/2 to 1/8th as much as Votto or Bruce. He doesn’t even walk as much as Wily Mo Pena did.

      Francisco is Randall Simon (career BB Rate = .036) with better power and more athleticism — or at least youth. Simon had a nice year for Dusty in ’03, so he probably sees an upside.

      I don’t.

  6. I’m a little bit higher on Francisco than most.

    Look, the guy is never going to be a superstar, and he’ll likely never be a very good starting third baseman.

    But there is a reason the Reds (and others) are high on him, and it is more than just power.

    Surely batting average can be misleading. But Juan has shown the ability to hit for a solid average DESPITE striking out so much.

    What does this mean? It means that Francisco makes very good contact on a regular basis. He punishes mistake pitches.

    Quite frankly, that is exactly what this offense needs. Right now, there are plenty of guys on this team who are willing to work the count and take walks (Votto, Janish, Bruce, Hanigan, etc…) What the Reds need is a guy to drive those runners in.

    Again, I’m not saying Francisco is a long-term solution at third. But he is only 23, and he’s shown the ability to be a difference maker at the plate.

  7. I don’t see Francisco as a legit prospect, either, but I also don’t really see Frazier that way. While Francisco does one thing really, really well (hit for power) and a bunch of things not very well to terrible, I see Frazier as a guy who does everything well enough, but not really great or terrible at any skill set. Those guys are a dime a dozen.

  8. @CaptainTonyKW: I agree. Francisco was 17 when the Reds signed him out of the Dominican Republic. He’s amassed only 1455 plate appearances at either AA or AAA. In order to learn pitch recognition, it’s going to take some significant experience for a player who probably had never been exposed to quality off-speed pitches until he was 19 or 20. Francisco needs to be playing every day, which means he needs to be playing down in Louisville.

  9. @Redtardation: .238 BABIP this season.

    • @Redtardation: .238 BABIP this season.

      Very much a sign of good things to come considering his LD% is still around 20, and hes walking more than normal, with a higher isoP.

      of all the guys the reds have hes the most likely to ever put up a .270/.350/.490 line in the majors.

  10. I guess we will find out if Juan is the man or not.

  11. Not impressed with him either. Pitchers know that he’ll chase their junk. Even if he figures that out, we’re spoiled at 3B with Rolen’s defense. Imagine how mad we’ll be when Pujols grounds out to third and Francisco throws it over Votto’s head in a critical late game situation. I wish Leather Pants was still a GM, because Francisco is his type of player.

  12. @Redtardation:

    Todd Frazier has hit 290+ at every level before last season…

    Francisco has done the same.

    Frazier gives you a better OBP and more patience at the plate. Francisco gives you more power.

    Frazier has not shown the ability to hit at the AAA level. In over 600 plate appearances at AAA, his OPS is under .800. That’s not getting the job done.

    Francisco on the other hand has posted an OPS of .900 at the AAA level in over 400 plate appearances.

    Francisco has also shown the ability to hit MLB-ready pitchers in the Dominican Winter league. Last year he was in the top 5 in HR, RBI, Runs, and average. In just 3 years he has 30 HR, which puts him only 2 behind the Gigantes club leader Nelson Cruz, who took seven years to get to that number. He is only the third player in LIDOM history to have two 10 HR seasons, and is half way to the career record.

    So, Francisco has accomplished more against close-to-MLB-ready talent than Frazier, and he is a year younger.

    Whether people like it or not, Francisco is a better prospect than Todd Frazier.

    • Francisco has also shown the ability to hit MLB-ready pitchers in the Dominican Winter league.

      To be fair, here are the top ten pitchers in that league. Basically, AAA journeymen:

      Yunesky Maya
      Radhames Liz
      Aneury Rodriguez
      Fabio Castro
      Raul Valdes
      Ryan Ketchner
      Nerio Rodriguez
      Ramon Ortiz
      John Halama
      Lorenzo Barcelo
      Esteban Yan

  13. “The guy looks to be a left-handed Wily Mo Pena, and that ain’t a compliment.”

    But I’ll take a Bronson Arroyo for him if I can get it. I’m with Matt. Give me a hot partial season and package him for something. Maybe get something on the left side of the infield or a pitcher.

  14. It would be nice if numbers translated on a 1:1 ratio to the majors, but it has been shown that guys with out of whack K/BB ratios tend to bust pretty majorly in the big leagues.

    Guys that can show they know they strike zone often improve in the majors because they show they wont swing and get themselves out. It’s similar to the reason Drew Stubbs has shown better power numbers in the majors than in the minors. Pitchers realize he knows the strike zone so they have to pitch to him if the expect him to get out.

    I would expect Frazier to shows similar improvements based on his MILB track record.

  15. @Chris Garber: With all the work you put into that comment, it needs to be posted on the front page.

  16. @Redtardation:

    I’m only saying that Francisco has been much more effective against higher level pitching than Frazier.

    Sure, there are reasons to think Frazier is better than that, and there are reasons to believe that Francisco has too many holes in his swing.

    I’m only saying that Frazier is not MLB ready. You can not promote a guy who has an OPS under .800 in 600+ AAA at bats.

    While you may not like Francisco long-term, he is clearly the better option, right now at least.

  17. @Chris Garber:

    That is all well and good…

    But the fact of the matter is that a lot of really good hitters have played in that league, and very few (if any) have put up the kind of numbers that Francisco has.

    Again, I think it is important to set realistic expectations for Francisco. With his lack of discipline and questionable defense, he is not an ideal starting 3B.

    But he does offer a strong bat and he hits the ball hard.

    You could do worse, especially if you stick him in the bottom 3rd of the lineup.

    Francisco’s value is the ability to give you instant offense. He’s kind of like a 3-point shooting specialist in basketball. He offers very little on defense, and his offense is limited to one skill.

    But he could make some key contributions, especially if this team plays as many close games as we expect them to.

  18. Francisco’s comp is a mixture of Wily Mo and Brandon Larson. He is a AAAA type player, he could be a servicable DH but his plate discipline kills that.

    With that said, Frazier is not the answer either. He would be an excellent utility player but after 1 plus seasons in L’ville, I don’t see him as an everyday starter either.

    Personally, I would like to see Francisco and someone else for a quality 3B prospect. Maybe there is a GM dumb enough to do it…I’m looking your way Dayton Moore.

  19. From May 1st last season Todd Fraziers batting average was .265

    From June is was .285

    From July it was .296

    From August it was .306

    He clearly had a terrible start to AAA mainly because injury to his knee.

  20. What if Chris heisey can play 3rd on a so – so level? Would it be better to put him there, worry about his D and see what happens?

  21. @dn4192:

    That would be nice, but that is a risky situation. For one, there is no guarantee that he wouldn’t be a train-wreck at third. As Dusty said, the MLB level is no place to learn a new position.

    Secondly, a move like that could really affect his bat. With such a big transition, it’s possible that the responsibility of learning a new position could negatively impact his psyche and/or approach at the plate.

    To be honest, I’m surprised the Reds didn’t address this situation last year and in spring training. They had to know that Rolen’s health was an issue. Someone like Heisey or Sappelt should’ve been getting time at 3B to prepare for this.

  22. @dn4192: I think this is worth a shot, given the circumstances… you tell him no worries, this is just an experiment, your here because we want your bat. Anything at 3rd is gravy. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.

  23. @Chad Dotson: Don’t give me Chris’ stupid stats. Enough with those.

  24. i don’t know what to think about francisco anymore. i used to be really high on him, and thought that it was weird he got so little love on this board.

    but now, while he’s still young, he just looks so lost at the plate. he’s not even an automatic strikeout, it’s like he’s an automatic three-pitch strikeout.

    then again, he doesn’t look any more lost than jay bruce really, so maybe it’s a coaching problem, i don’t know.

    mostly i agree with the natural that he needs to be playing. i’m fine with him gettingPT with the reds, he’s no worse than our other options.

  25. @Kerry Moss: Now *that’s* the point. I find it hard to believe that the brass has their pants down as much as they do on this one. It’s not like it’s a stunner that Rolen’s hurt.

  26. @Dave Lowenthal: am i missing some inside joke? what’s stupid about those numbers, and since when is chad posting something about “giving” it to you?

  27. I’m thinking there was an assumption made that Renteria was going to log time at third this year. But yeah, the end of April does seem a little late to ‘try guys out’ at alternate positions, especially because of a need you had to see coming.

    On another note, I see Lewis has moved to AAA for his rehab. Looks like we will have a lot of decisions to make soon.

  28. BTW, who is this “Frank Pfister” 3b listed on the L’ville roster? Looks like a new addition from Dayton(?) who I don’t remember there.

  29. This wouldn’t be an issue if we had just traded for Alex Gordon in the off-season like I had wanted…

  30. @preach:

    Mister Pfister?, only the greatest name in baseball.

  31. @preach:

    Even if they were hoping Renteria could play 3rd, that doesn’t change anything. They can move Janish to third and play Renteria at short, same thing as Renteria playing 3rd (in terms of who is in the lineup).

  32. @preach: we can talk about whether we agree with the reds thinking on whether juan francisco, i don’t think it’s totally fair to talk about the reds being caught with their pants down on this.

    most teams would be in pretty bad shape if both the starter and the backup got injured at the same time. this should be JF’s time, and maybe it still will be if he gets back sooner than later.

    sut anytime you have to go to the third string it gets funky. I actually think the reds are in pretty good shape considering the simultaneous injuries. starting janish at third and renteria at short isn’t really that big of a step down. rolen was sucking afterall.

  33. @al: Oh, no doubt that I take our bench over pretty much anybodys. It has always felt to me though that Renteria’s role was never clearly defined and that has to be on management. I guess I could be wrong on that since I don’t have the inside scoop on the agreement. And there are a lot of infields worse than Janish/Renteria/Phillips/Votto.

  34. It doesnt matter a whole lot who plays third if they cant score runs … and they wont score many runs until Votto has some protection. If the catchers were batting well, you could put Hernandez cleanup but they arent … so Im going to suggest the following. Leave the top and the bottom of the batting order alone and put Heisey in left to bat cleanup. He cant be much worse than Gomes has been. If you want to give Cairo a rest, move Janish to 3rd base.

  35. Francisco is here to continue the Reds great tradition of over-extended prospects who will never make it no matter how many chances they are handed. First there was Willie Greene, then Wily Pena, then Edwin Encarnacion, now Juan Francisco. All of them (except Francisco) had moments of glory that we had to wait several years for and by the time they finally got it together either they were traded for something the Reds should have been trying to get all along (power hitting 4th outfielder, durable starting pitcher, all-star 3B with a good track record) or something better had finally broken thru (Aaron Boone). I see no reason why this tardition should continue (looks like Yonder Alonso is next in line), nor do I see any logical reason why Francisco should suddenly be anointed the golden child at the expense of Frasier or any of the other prospects. The Reds have finally broken away from the mentality of the power game (homers win more games than pitching and defense and manufacturing runs). Giving Francisco such a high spot in the future plans is taking a very wide step backwards

  36. @eastcoast redsfan:

    Has Votto been excessivly walked this season? I mean that is the only true sign I would look to that says the Reds need “protection” behind Votto.

  37. @dn4192:
    In almost every situation where he could impact the outcome of a game he has been either walked outright or pitched very carefully to. The best fastballs he sees in a close game with runners on is 4-5 inches outside.

  38. I’ve only seen JF live a few times and haven’t been particularly impressed either at the plate, where he has seemed exceedingly impatient, and in the field, where he seems out of control.

    I’d be inclined to see if Chris Heisey could be passable at 3B. His bat would help in the lineup. Did I read somewhere that when he was signed by the Reds he was an infielder? Maybe I’m imagining that. Given where we are now, with the alternative being Cairo every night, I’d be even more inclined to try it. Face it, that’s the only way we’re going to see his bat in the lineup barring an injury to one of the OF.

    All these developments put a spotlight on the organization’s failure to plan adequately for the 40-50 games that we needed a replacement for Rolen at 3B. A need which was plainly foreseen. Baker is over-confident in Francisco. Jocketty’s plans at using Renteria there were thwarted by some combination of Baker or Renteria’s reluctance/defiance about playing him there. Hopefully none of them thought Cairo for 50 games was a viable option.

    The off-season steps taken by the Reds this year have really turned out to be horrendous. They decided not to make any significant signings and boy, they sure accomplished that.

  39. Despite Dusty Baker’s now-routine proclamations about the importance he places on defense, players who have explosive home run power are catnip to him, even if they are horrible in the field.

  40. @jrob45601:

    His numbers as of last night were pretty similar to what he had done last season to this point, so I don’t see where there has been an issue.

  41. @jrob45601: the term “pitched carefully to” is a bit loaded since with a slugger of his caliber, every pitch is carefully thrown.

  42. @Steve: not to belabor the point, but you’re wrapping up two distinct issues here. the reds felt that they didn’t need to make a significant move at 3rd base because they had francisco to back up rolen. francisco got hurt, it happens, nothing you can do about it.

    you can disagree with the reds opinion on francisco, but i don’t see how you can say that they didn’t plan for the 40-50 games that they would need to rest rolen. they did, their plan got hurt, now they’re making due for a few weeks.

    • @al: not to belabor the point, but you’re wrapping up two distinct issues here.the reds felt that they didn’t need to make a significant move at 3rd base because they had francisco to back up rolen.francisco got hurt, it happens, nothing you can do about it.

      you can disagree with the reds opinion on francisco, but i don’t see how you can say that they didn’t plan for the 40-50 games that they would need to rest rolen. they did, their plan got hurt, now they’re making due for a few weeks.

      I understand what you’re saying. My point was that the judgment made by Baker that Juan Francisco/Miguel Cairo should start 40 games for the Reds this year was flawed. Not because JF got hurt, but because he isn’t good enough. I think it’s a little misleading to refer to that player as a “back-up” since everyone knew this player was going to start 40 games. Jocketty also erroneously thought Renteria would be in that mix.

      In any of these case, that doesn’t strike me as adequate planning, which was my point.

  43. New lineup out. Bruce is #2, Phillips is #4.

  44. @Steve: I’m speechless. I was almost certain that Dusty was going to plug Cairo in the #2 hole.

    • TheNatural: I’m speechless.I was almost certain that Dusty was going to plug Cairo in the #2 hole.

      Maybe Jay will see some more fastballs now. But he’s still going to have to see the breaking stuff better to lay off of it to make this work. If the pitchers don’t think they need to throw him a fastball to get him out, they won’t.

  45. If you ask me, we have a hole and we need a bat there. It seems like you get Yonder Alonso some time there (as well as LF) so that he can get on the club. If I am not mistaken, he’s our best hitting prospect that is Major League ready. But I have absolutely NO clue if he has any chance to play 3B ever.

  46. @Steve:

    I think we need to see what Juan can or can’t do. He has shown he can produce in AAA, it’s now time for him to show us what he got for the Show. As for Walt not knowing Edgar’s ‘view’ of playing location and such either says Walt is not doing his job or Walt never entended for Edgar to look at playing third.

    • As for Walt not knowing Edgar’s ‘view’ of playing location and such either says Walt is not doing his job or Walt never entended for Edgar to look at playing third.

      I don’t think that Walt didn’t do his job and I think he did intend on Renteria playing some games at 3B. Walt is meticulous to a fault.

      My guess (and that’s all it is) is that Baker and Walt disagreed on Paul Janish. Baker insisted that Walt sign a veteran SS to play the position, but they agreed that Janish would get first crack. Baker knew -or thought he knew- that ER would quickly win the job from Janish.

      So in the spring, Baker wanted ER to focus on playing SS, not “taking balls at 3B and 1B” as Walt had said publicly. Baker just didn’t want to play ER at 3B, he wanted to play him at SS and the easiest way to frustrate the 3B agenda was simply to never play him there. Then he came up with the story about reflexes…yada, yada, yada.

      To me, that’s consistent with the early mixed messages from Renteria about his role on the team, initially saying he was coming in to start. I think that was based on conversations he’d had with Baker.

      And here we are.

  47. @Steve: i do agree that thinking renteria would play 3rd seems like a pretty huge gaffe. maybe that would come up in contract talks? i wonder if renteria really thought that he was being signed to start.

    i like the lineup. phillips is hitting as well as anyone right now and maybe the move up with help jay’s focus.

    the thing that still gets me is the reds’ insistance that gomes can hit righties dispite all the evidence to the contrary. is right/left avg and ops are:

    avg- .179/.400
    ops- .780/1.600

    why not just admit that he’s a really great player vs lefties and leave it at that? one seventy nine!!

  48. @TheNatural: I’m speechless because Dusty put two lefties back to back! Doesn’t the world end now?

    Oh no, I remember, the other manager brings in a LOOGy in the first to mow them down!

  49. I thought that from the start Edgar said he wanted no part of 3rd base as the balls get there to quick and he isn’t a 3rd basemen. To me this is real simple, either he agrees to play there or he is released..I mean really who is in charge…players or mag’t?

  50. I was of the impression that Renteria’s D is so bad that he can only play a position that requires good D.

  51. My joke might not be understood, but the Reds have hidden bad defenders at premium defensive spots for years. Why would they stop now?

  52. Not to tear open an old wound here, but Chad, weren’t you the one that oozed undying love for Edwin Encarnacion? Francisco’s defense is comparable, and the year of, or before, their jump to the majors they even had comparable runs batted in (albeit that is only one piece of the puzzle). I think he could be a valuable part of this club’s future but heck, sell high while you can if the opportunity arises.

Comments are closed.

About Chad Dotson

Blame Chad for creating this mess. Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, "The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds" is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad's musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine.

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2011 Reds, Reds - General

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