There has been a lot of talk around the Atlanta Braves off-season about Juan Francisco. There are signs he is really breaking out offensively while in winter ball this off-season. That is true but what does that mean, if anything significant, for his future this season at the MLB level? There is reason to believe that he will have a huge upside this year because of it. Will it be enough to secure the third base spot in the order every day?
Francisco has what it takes on both offense and defense to make it. That is why the Braves have been so high on him. Still he has had a few things to work out over the years. This year he has lost some weight and improved his plate presence. The strides he has taken in winter ball are significant enough for the Braves to give him a long look for the everyday third base slot. There of course are difference between winter ball and MLB regular season ball, however.
From that standpoint he might not be fully ready to fill the third base spot every day. Chances are that he will hit the gate running and have a great April until pitchers adjust. Francisco isn’t immune to the MLB level measuring stick. He must not only take his play to the higher level but find a way to keep it there after opposing pitchers find a way to get him out. If he can do that then the everyday spot is his.
The easy news is that he doesn’t have to be all or nothing. He could be put into a platoon where he faces only right handed pitchers and Martin Prado moves in from left to third against the southpaws. In that line-up the backup outfielder Reed Johnson would step into left to replace Prado. There is no way to know how Francisco’s winter ball success will translate to the MLB level. Braves hope he never misses a step and fulfills all of his potential this year.
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