Jeff Francoeur Looks to Impress Atlanta Braves in 2009

Kevin MarkumCorrespondent IFebruary 18, 2009

Yes, there are things to talk about other than Ken Griffey Jr. for the Braves.

While fans of the Braves and Mariners battle it out on MLB blogs across the web, on the potential home for Ken Griffey Jr.'s bum leg in 2009, there are other points of interest for the Braves this season.

The Braves have gone out this off-season and compiled a potential rotation that is full of experience, leadership, and potential for success.  While pitching was certainly a huge downfall for the Braves in 2008, it won't be the only concern going into 2009.

Ultimately, the Braves' success in 2009 can be summed up with two unanswered questions: How will Jeff Francoeur bounce back from 2008?  And, who will be the lead-off man for the Braves on the offensive side?

I want to address the first of the two questions posed above. As a rookie, Jeff's performance out of the minors did him well, as Sports Illustrated deemed him "The Natural."  Jeff's performance in 2008 raised a few questions for the young slugger's almost certain fame in Major League Baseball.

In 2005, Francoeur came up and batted .300, with 14 HRs and 45 RBI in only 70 games.  In his first full season as a starter in 2006, Jeff went off for 30 HRs, 103 RBI, and maintaining a modest .263 BA.  In 2007, Jeff still had solid numbers, raising his average to .293, driving in 105 RBI, while hitting only 19 HRs.

In 2008, Francoeur had a reality check.  In the off-season, Jeff tried to increase his power totals by beefing up and putting on some extra muscle.  Unfortunately, that caused his bat speed to decrease and all his stats decreased as well.

Now, Bobby Cox claims to not be depending on Francoeur, but still hopes he could be a "pleasant surprise" to help the team produce runs they desperately missed last season.

I think much of the Braves' success hinges on whether Jeff bounces back in 2009.  If he can step up and be the player he was projected to be, he could potentially fill that clean-up spot that the Braves are struggling to figure out.

Looking over his career stats, one thing sticks out and indicates there is hope for this season.  Obviously, considering 2006 and 2007, 2008 was an exception to what Jeff can normally do.  I also like the fact that he has decreased his strikeout totals every season since 2006.

Reasonably speaking, I think Jeff will have a good season in 2009.  I see him batting around .270, with 25 HRs, and about 95 RBI.  I base this off the notion that 2008 was simply an exception to the rule, and that 2006 and 2007 are better displays his potential.

Don't discount Frenchy just yet, he's going to be big for us down the road...and hopefully that road will lead to October.