Juan Francisco: Blue Jays Year in Review


Perhaps no player on the Blue Jays roster in 2014 had such a ying and yang season the way Juan Francisco did. It is worth noting that when the Blue Jays signed him as a minor league free agent on April 1st, they probably had no visions of him starting in as many games as he had. It was the injury to Maicer Izturis that forced enabled  the Blue Jays to bring in the left handed infielder. The word was that he’d provide some pop from the left side and could play some 3rd base. The year previous, he had hit a total of 18 HR and 48 RBI between the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers. He would end up bringing that reputation to Toronto with him…for better or for worse.

The Good:

J-Frank provided plenty of thump from the DH/3B position. When he was on at the beginning of the season, he was a major contributor. His 16 HR, 16 doubles and 131 total bases were certainly a welcome sight.

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His slugging mark (.456) was virtually identical to that of

Melky Cabrera

. In 244 at bats against right handed pitchers, he walked 24 times (~10%) showing much more patience against RHP than he did against lefties (more on that in a bit). He managed to accumulate a WAR of 1.1 on offense with a wRC+ of 106. These are fairly decent numbers for a guy who is meant to be at AAA or (at most) on a major league bench. His defense was not as bad as many had feared. Granted, he did make 11 errors in 271 chances. That’s not actually too bad. I guess.

The Bad:

He brought zero speed to the game as evidenced by not stealing even one base. Yet, John Gibbons still felt it necessary to put J-Frank in to run in the last game of the season just to give him some action. Despite not looking out of place with the glove, J-Frank still did not look like Brett Lawrie over at the hot corner. His UZR of -4.1 was not pretty. All of these things were not the real problem with Francisco. Nope, it was his bat.

He reminds some of us of Pedro Cerrano from Major League:

Yes, Juan can hit the “straight ball” very much. But, despite occasionally ‘getting a hold of one’, the strike outs and the off speed pitches are what banished him to the bench.  Juan struck out 116 times in 106 games. His 36.3% strike out rate is the highest of his 6 year career. But, so are his 106 games.

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  • Maybe he is the victim of pitchers seeing him so much that a “book” starts to be developed. Perhaps that “book” includes the fact that he swung at 35% of pitches outside the strike zone and that he misses 44.5% of the pitches thrown out there. Big Juan only saw 37% of  pitches in the strike zone. As well, pitchers know to get him early as he faced almost 64% first pitch strikes. To make matters worse, he hit just an abysmal .116 against left handed pitching. As well, his .174 avg with runners in scoring position was brutal.  All in all, these are numbers that come from using a AAA/ marginal bench bat for an extended period of time.

    The Future:

    Juan Francisco signed a one year deal and will be eligible for arbitration as a Super Two player. His $1.35M contract is certainly an intriguing one, if it stays that way in arbitration. It is not entirely clear if the Blue Jays have long term plans for J-Frank. There is no secret that they are looking for infielders this winter. They have enough guys who can DH, so he’ll probably be left out in the cold. If anything, they’d be interested in having his bat waiting in AAA since Dan Johnson has departed too. Barring that, Juan would be an interesting choice for a team looking for a lefty bat with some pop. They will certainly learn from the Blue Jays’ experiment and want to limit his at bats.