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There are plenty of reasons for major league teams to cross Jeff Francis off their lists. The former Rockies starting pitcher, who will turn 30 in just a couple of weeks, has a career 4.77 ERA. His career strikeout rate is just above six, and his control has been nothing to write home about either. He missed all of 2009, and part of 2010 with an arm injury, and in what was supposed to be a prime season last year, Francis went 4-6 with a 5.00 ERA in 19 starts.
Francis was a highly regarded prospect, and considered one of the more promising young pitchers in baseball half a decade ago. He's never quite put things together, and despite a solid season in 2007, his career has clearly gone nowhere. But if I am a major league team looking to fill a hole in the back of my rotation, I would take a long look at Jeff Francis.
In Francis' last fully healthy season, 2007, the left-hander went 17-9 with a solid 4.22 ERA and a career best 4.19 FIP. He was 26, just entering his prime, and seemed poised to become a solid No. 2/No. 3 starter. But injuries disrupted his 2008 and eliminated his 2009.
Given Francis' age, it's difficult for some people to imagine he has much more to offer than he has already shown, but he took a huge step forward at 26 years old in his last full season. Though his 2010 results weren't pretty, he pitched to a career best 3.88 FIP. His BB/9 hit a career low at 1.98, and his groundball percentage a career high at 47 percent.
Jeff Francis is far from a sure thing, and his pure stuff will always limit his ceiling. But he took a huge step forward at 2007, and since coming back from injuries has displayed a very impressive skill set. I wouldn't be shocked if Jeff Francis, who can likely be had for a small major league deal, was better over the next two to three years than Carl Pavano.