Jul 14, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Milwaukee Brewers infielder Juan Francisco (21) in the on deck circle during the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. The Brewers defeated the Diamondbacks 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
The Brewers decided to tender Francisco on Monday, a decision that is expected to cost them only about $1.2 million. If things play out the way I think they will, Francisco could become baseball’s biggest steal. Know why? It’s because Francisco is better than you think.
In the chart below, I listed the 2013 statistics of Francisco and an unknown player – we’ll call him Player A. Player A was an All-Star in 2012 and followed it up with another noteworthy season. Let’s see how these two players compare.
Stats courtesy of FanGraphs.com
As you can tell, the discrepancy between the two players is small. Player A saw almost 300 more plate appearances than Francisco, so we must take that into consideration but for the most part, I would say they are two very similar hitters.
By the way, Player A is Los Angeles Angels 1B/OF Mark Trumbo. I’m a big fan of Trumbo which is probably why I’ve taken a liking to Francisco.
Like Trumbo, Francisco has insane power…when he makes contact. With both of these players, you gotta take the good with the bad. They’ll strike out more than a nerd at a high school prom but that’s okay – they aren’t being paid to hit for a high average. You think the Angels care that Trumbo’s a career .250 hitter? Absolutely not. They’re focused on his 95 home runs in just three seasons. He’s a home run and RBI machine. And that’s what Francisco can become.
If given enough at-bats at a consistent rate, Francisco can become a 30 home run a year guy, and if that comes along with 200 strikeouts then so be it. I’m okay with that. Look at the season Chris Davis put together. He was in the discussion for MVP despite striking out 199 times.
The issue with Francisco is finding playing time. The Brewers need to decide if he should be a first baseman or if they should stick him at third. If Hart re-signs with the club, it is likely that Francisco will back up both positions. However, if Hart doesn’t return, Francisco must be the opening day first baseman despite his defensive deficiencies.
Francisco is a horrific fielder. As a first baseman in 2013, he posted an abysmal -8.7 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), which is considered poor by FanGraphs.com. Still, it was his first time playing first base in the majors so his struggles weren’t anything out of the ordinary. With enough work this offseason, you can expect his defensive play to improve a bit but unfortunately, his limited range will remain just that.
Inserting Hart back into the lineup will undoubtedly give the offense a boost and make the Brewers an all-around better team. On the other hand, he will cost the Crew money during a time when they have no chance to compete for a division title. It may be smarter to let Hart, who’s dealt with injuries the last few seasons, walk and bank some cash while focusing on the future.
And hopefully, Francisco will be a part of it.