Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Top Prospect List: #7 Juan Francisco, 3b
Juan Francisco and Johnny Cueto illustrate the importance of having a strong Latin America scouting program. Each is a product of the revived Latin America scouting effort. Each was a product of the Reds baseball academy. In this day and age, it's vital for smaller market teams to have strong farm systems. In order to have a strong farm system, it's vital to supplement the prospects selected in the draft with international prospects signed as free agents. Two of the Reds' top ten prospects were signed as international free agents, which is a very good sign for the future.
Francisco was signed out of the Dominican Republic. He's 6'2", 180 lbs, switch hits, and throws right. He'll be 20 to start the 2008 season, but already possesses some of the best power in the system.
Francisco made his professional debut in 2006 with the Gulf Coast League Reds. He played 45 games and hit .280/.305/.407/.712 in 182 At Bats. He hit 3 home runs and stole 2 bases, but posted an ugly 35/6 K/BB ratio. He was then promoted to Billings of the Pioneer league, where he hit .333/.333/.417/.750 in 36 At Bats and a 8/0 K/BB ratio.
In 2007, the Reds sent Francisco to low-A Dayton, where he posted a line of .266/.299/.461/.760. He hit 25 homeruns and stole 12 bases in 18 attempts. Francisco again posted an ugly 161/23 K/BB ratio. He had a 4.9 BB% and a 28.4 K%.
It's very impressive to see a young prospect hit with so much power, especially considering that power is often the last tool to develop. In addition, Francisco showed better than expected speed, but needs to improve his success rate on the bases. Clearly, Francisco needs to improve his walk rate and cut down on his strikeouts, but given his age and performance to date there's reason to believe he can do both.
Francisco hit .275/.297/.463/.759 against left-handed pitchers and .263/.301/.463/.764 against right-handed pitchers. He posts very similar numbers from both sides of the plate.
In addition, Francisco had the best day of his professional career, cranking 3 homers in a single game against the Lansing Lugnuts.
Francisco has the raw power to match anyone in the system. In addition, he has an advanced approach at the plate for such a young player and also has good pitch recognition skills. Francisco has strong hand action and has shown the ability to drive the ball to the opposite field.
He's a switch hitter who doesn't appear to have a weaker side, as his performance from both sides of the plate is impressive. Given that he is only 20 years old, his performance is most impressive and his upside is considerable. His impressive raw athletic ability and his offensive skillset project him to be an impact offensive player in the future.
Obviously, his strikeout rate and walk rate are red flags, but Francisco has time to improve in these areas. His ability to improve in these areas may ultimately determine his career path, but his age and upside are strongly in his favor.
Francisco has one of the strongest infield arms in the system. Not only is his arm strong, but it's also accurate. Francisco is very athletic and could develop into an above average defensive third baseman. However, Francisco is still raw in the field and some predict that he'll end up in the outfield, where his athleticism and arm still profile well.
In 2007, Francisco had a .923 fielding percentage, which he'll need to improve. In addition, Francisco had 23 Errors against 19 Double Plays, which is a quick and dirty technique suggested by Bill James to analyze a third baseman's defensive performance. Ideally, you want to see more Double Plays than Errors out of your third baseman.
Francisco will need to reduce his errors and polish his defensive game, but he's young and the Reds will be in no hurry to shift him off the hot corner. He's got all the skills needed to be a quality third baseman.
Francisco has tremendous athletic ability. He lacks polish, but he has all the raw skills needed to take it to another level. His power is already tremendous and is only going to improve as he fills out. His age, athleticism, and frame allow for a great deal of projection. If he can improve his walk rate and cut down on his strikeouts, then the sky is truly the limit Francisco. His athleticism is tremendous and development time is definitely on his side, so it'll be very interesting to see what he can do in 2008. A big step forward isn't out of the question.
For now, the switch hitting Juan Francisco lands at #7 on the list.