Cincinnati Reds: What to Make of Third Baseman Juan Francisco?

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Cincinnati Reds: What to Make of Third Baseman Juan Francisco?
Jeff Curry/Getty Images

Juan Francisco will turn 25 years old in 2012 and one has to believe that he's next in line for the starting job at third base when Scott Rolen's contract runs out. With that said, what can we expect from the young third baseman?

One thing you can certainly expect is a lot of power. Francisco is 6'2" 240-pounds so he can really lay into the ball. Last season Francisco smacked 19 home runs between AAA Louisville and Cincinnati in just 426 at-bats.

His power though is best represented by his 2007-2009 seasons where Francisco had a total of 75 home runs and 275 RBI. Francisco is a guy with 20-30 home run pop when he can get the bat on the ball.

In those same three years Francisco moved from A to AAA and has been on the major league radar ever since.

Francisco also hits for a decent average. One thing he will need to work on though is getting on base more. In his six minor league seasons, Juan posted a slash line of .286/.317/.502. As you can see, the only part of that slash line that's really holding him back is that middle of the road on-base percentage.

Francisco simply doesn't draw enough walks. Last season, between Cincinnati and Louisville, Francisco struck out in 22% of his plate appearances. That number is about 5% higher than the league average and is something Francisco will need to work on if he's going to be successful in Cincinnati.

Juan Francisco at Reds 2010 Spring Training

The offense for Francisco is really of minor concern, the biggest concern regarding his game is his defense. As with most young players, Francisco can be lazy in the field. However, I'm here to make the argument that if he continues to work at his defense, he can be a decent enough third baseman to fill in after Rolen leaves.

Francisco has improved at third base over the course of his minor league career. When compared to Scott Rolen's minor league fielding numbers, Rolen's fielding percentage is just four percentage points higher than Francisco's (.921 to .917). Furthermore, their range factors don't differ much either Rolen's was 2.86 and Francisco's was 2.41.

I'm not saying that Francisco is by any means Rolen's equal in the field but simply making a case for Francisco's development defensively. He has a good arm, he just needs to make plays on a consistent basis.

This year, Francisco will serve as Rolen's back-up as well as a pinch hitting option. Off the bench he's a legitimate deep ball threat and he should serve the team quite well.

So what can we expect when he takes the reins at third for good? Realistically, a slash line of .270-280/.300-.320/.500-.550, 18-25 home runs and decent production in the field. Remember though, Francisco's only going to be 25 this year so he's still got plenty of room to improve as a Cincinnati Red.

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