The Atlanta Braves just optioned OF Jeff Francoeur to the Minor Leagues, where he will look to regain his lost stroke at AA Mississippi. Almost three years after Francoeur came up to the Braves and graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, he is going back to a place many thought he would never return.
After his amazing rookie year, in which he hit .300/.336/.549 in 70 games, Francoeur regressed in his sophomore season. Although he still managed to drive in 100 runs, he hit only .260/.293/.449. In his third season, Francoeur seemed to find his stroke again, as he posted .293/.338/.444 numbers, but he had seemingly lost some of his power. His homer total went from 29 down to 19.
This season he added 15 pounds of muscle in the offseason in order to find his power, but the results have been less than promising. In 2008, he has batted only .234/.287.374, meaning that his power numbers have suffered as well as his batting average. After a promising April, in which he hit a respectable .277, "Frenchy" hit .236 in May, .206 in June, and was hitting .125 in July before being demoted.
The knock on Francoeur has always been his free swinging, and he has continued that this year, as he is striking out over three times more than he walks. Scouts have said that his swing looks mechanically flawed, and extra batting with hitting coach Terry Pendleton failed to help.
Atlanta said that they plan to bring him back up to the Majors after the All-Star break.
Replacing Francoeur on the roster will be Jason Perry, a 27-year-old OF who attended Georgia Tech. He has mashed in the minors, hitting .309 with 18 homers while splitting time between AA Mississippi and AAA Richmond.
Hopefully for the Braves, Francoeur will be able to regain his stroke and put a charge into a lineup that badly needs one. Perry could turn out to be a surprise, however, as he has been having his best full season in the minors and, at 27, should be nearing his prime.
While it remains to be seen how Francoeur will adjust, it is likely that he will begin produing at a higher level than he had been this year. Although he likely won't ever produce the way that he did his first year in the Majors, Francoeur is still a prime talent that should only get better with age and experience.