Grading the Brewers: Juan Francisco
I wonder how many strikeouts are due to him looking the wrong way for the baseball? Photo: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
How did I land so many duds? This whole project has been rigged. Our Editor Ben Orr knows that I have a Hulk soul and he thinks it is comical to watch me turn green with rage. Guess what Ben? Jokes on you because I don’t think that the Juan Francisco experiment was all bad!
Sure things got really bad towards the end of the season, but we were more than happy to ride his initial hot streak when we picked him up off of waivers from the Braves. The first month of his Brewers tenure, I was ready to name him the 1st baseman of the future. The guy hit 13 HR’s after joining the Crew, but did not hit one in the month of September…and struck out 16 times the final month of the season. In fact, Juan only hit .121 in September. That unfortunate month really ruined what had bee a pretty nice honeymoon with the kid.
On August 14th, Francisco hit two home runs and drove in all 4 of the Brewers runs in a game against the Rangers. We of course lost, by the final of 5-4. At that point in the season, Cisco was hitting .251 with 17 HR’s and 45 RBI’s. That had us all feeling pretty good about the prospect of him being our 1st baseman of the future. Putting up pretty solid offensive numbers for a guy who we had little to no expectations for, right?
So despite my history of failing players and making them eat crow for poor performances, I don’t think that number 21’s season was that terrible. In fact, it was borderline ok.
Three categories: Performance, Attitude, and “Eye Test”. I get it…you hate the eye test, stop telling me on Twitter. Point taken. I got the memo. No need to re-fax it. Stop beating this dead horse. I can hear you now. Hello, McFly. I get it.
Performance – C+
All he did from June until mid-August is hit 13 Hr’s and drive in 28 runs. That is a nice offensive run for any player. Like I said above, it was enough to get me on the future 1st base bandwagon. He seemed to be taking pitches, working counts, and the results were immediate. The biggest knock on him from the Braves was that he was too impatient at the plate. Unfortunately, we got to see that Juan Francisco too. The final 6 weeks of the season made “Hostel” look like a Pixar movie. There is not a word to truly describe how pathetic it was. Flumbt. That is the word for it. Juan’s September was a big fat flumbt. The guy only had 9 hits over those 6 weeks, then paired it with 34 strikeouts, and 5 walks. No home runs and 3 RBI’s. Flumbt. And yet, without his offensive presence during those summer months (lost Braun and Ramirez for most of that time) we would have been in much worse shape in the Loss department. I believe, in my heart of hearts, that the player we got for the first 10 weeks can be rediscovered. Having Corey Hart back might help take some pressure off of Juan and help him learn to be patient at the plate. Interested in what happens with this guy, I kind of like him.
Attitude – B
I am going to point to one specific situation for this grade because it had a very large impact on me.
When Francisco was put on waivers by the Braves, they said it was because he would not take coaching on his swing. It seemed to be something that was backed up by scouting reports as well. Then Francisco got here and worked with Johnny Narron and in press conferences talked about how much he enjoyed all of the extra help on his swing. Multiple times, Narron and Roenicke talked about how much time Juan was spending in the cage working on his pitch recognition and technique. The results were immediate. And even though it seemed to get lackadaisical by the end of the season, it showed that he did want to be coached and grow into a major league player. That had an impact on me. Maybe it was a show, intended to impress his new team…but somehow I know that isn’t the case. Occasionally you would see some fire rise up on the bench or on the field after a strikeout, but nothing that I am too concerned about.
“Eye Test” – C-
When he makes contact it is a beautiful thing. The ball just explodes off of his bat, which is something you can’t necessarily teach. Having seen him hit 2 home runs in person this season, I can confirm that he has an awful lot of power in that swing. On the other side of that coin, he has poor pitch recognition and tends to be a free swinger too often. Some of those strikeouts are painful to watch. Often times he will be swinging at balls nowhere near the strike zone. His defense also leaves a lot to be desired. There is no way he can ever be a 3rd baseman. I saw, with my own two eyes, Francisco make three errors in the same game playing the hot corner. If I remember correctly, one was a fielding error and the other two were throwing errors. As a 1st baseman he is serviceable. It is certainly were he seems the most comfortable and with how frequently we are transforming players into 1st baseman, one Spring Training should whip him into shape.
Overall Grade – C+
I like Juan Francisco and have now seen his best and his worst. If we could find a happy medium then we may have found ourselves one heck of a waiver wire steal. His power is undeniable, but now he needs to work on the thinking part of the game. Spending time with Lucroy and Segura will improve his patience at the plate. Watching Carlos Gomez will teach him how to be a smart free-swinger. Even though we are all left with the thoughts of him striking out in every single at-bat, there is hope and promise. We all saw it. Now we just need Juan Francisco to realize that it isn’t just about hitting the ball as hard as he can. Then we might have an All-Star on our hands. I genuinely believe that.