Tagged: Juan Francisco

Brewers Announcement Clarifies First Base Situation

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On the heels of yesterday’s revelation that Juan Francisco’s locker at Maryvale Baseball Park was empty, the Brewers announced this morning that Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay have been informed that they have made the 25-man roster.

Both men were signed to minor-league deals (with invitations to Major League camp) in the off-season and given the opportunity to compete for what was basically an open position in first base.

Francisco put in a lot of time at first for Milwaukee in 2013, a season which saw a historically poor combined statistical performance. He was learning first base on the fly last year which showed in his lackluster defense. He also struck out at an alarming rate, which caused the Brewers to suggest a change to his batting mechanics, something that was showing improvement over winter ball and so far this spring.

For his part, Francisco hit well this spring — .346/.500/.731 with 8 BB, 9 K in 26 AB, displaying his known power and increased patience albeit while still striking out. There wasn’t much else that he could have done make the roster. It was his track record over parts of five seasons in the big leagues that truly worked against him in the end.

Overbay, 37, hit very poorly this spring — .114/.279/.114 with 8 BB, 15 K in 35 AB — but his bat wasn’t why he was signed in the first place. Long regarded as an above average defender at first base, Overbay gives the Brewers a level of certainty that they at  no time had in 2013. Even more than Reynolds who is a natural third baseman but who has played his fair share of first over the last few seasons, Overbay is a true first baseman who can still pick it. His 6’2″ frame adds to his ability to stretch for balls and he’s maintained much of his defensive value.

For the record, Overbay did hit okay against just right-handed pitching in 2013. But he absolutely shouldn’t ever start against a left-handed pitcher. Manager Ron Roenicke should be monitoring the opposing probable starters when determining appropriate days to move Reynolds off of first either to spell Aramis Ramirez at third or just to give Reynolds himself a day off.

As for Francisco’s future? Nothing was announced officially by the team but he won’t be with the team. Whether the specific language is DFA so they have the chance to trade him or simple release waivers, there is the three day window in which other teams have a chance to claim the high-potential, low-results slugger.

Reynolds will be the primary starting first baseman, with Overbay providing relief. Reynolds doesn’t own much of a career platoon split at all. I’ll get more into that tomorrow though as it’ll be Reynolds’ turn in “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” then.

For now, congratulations to Reynolds and Overbay. Let’s hope it’s the right combination for success on the field.

Let’s also hope that losing Francisco doesn’t come back to haunt Milwaukee.

UPDATE: Click for the original JSOnline article for the following quotes from Ron Roenicke regarding the decision. The JSOnline blog post was written by Todd Rosiak.

“We’re going with two guys that their track record is what we’re looking at,” said manager Ron Roenicke. “We feel we have better defense that way. I’ve been frustrated a little bit with the way we’re playing our defense, as has Doug (Melvin).

“We really feel like we’re going to pitch well this season. And because of that, we feel like we need to play good defense. When they talk about your defense being strong up the middle, we think we should be.

“I know how important it is at first base, to make plays there and pick up your pitching staff. That’s kind of what we’ve done. Reynolds is the versatile guy that Francisco was with first and third, and they’re kind of the same guy as power numbers and strikeouts.”

“Spring training is to get in shape. Spring training is not to see who you think should be on the team. If you did that, there would be some weird stuff happening every year,” he said. “Any of these guys, the veterans, could walk in and hit .200. Does that mean you don’t keep them on the team?

“Spring training is not on numbers. It isn’t. That’s the misleading thing that people don’t understand. The people that I look up to in this game always say, ‘Do not be misled by spring training,’ and it’s the truth.

“There is that occasion when you have two guys coming in and you’re not familiar with them and then you may make a decision on spring training.”

“Juan, he has improved. We all saw it,” Roenicke said. “Is some of it because he was coming out of winter ball? I don’t want to downplay what Juan did here because Juan did everything he could to help himself make this team. But the skill set, we feel, of the other two really fits better with what we’re trying to accomplish.”

2014 Milwaukee Brewers 25-Man Roster Projection

Milwaukee Brewers

We’re on the precipice of Opening Day, but there are still some decisions awaiting the front office staff of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Most pressing, if not most important, is how they will construct the 25-man roster to begin the 2014 regular season. In this, they’ve got some options.

Let’s assume a couple of things off the top here. First, a standard 13 hitter, 12 pitcher roster split. Second, that we’re all aware that things will change throughout the season and plenty of the players who don’t make the Opening Day roster will don a Brewers uniform at some point in 2014.

I’ll lay out the different roster groupings and then explain what went into my decisions thereafter. Cool?

With that, to the list!

Starting Pitchers (5)

  • Yovani Gallardo
  • Kyle Lohse
  • Marco Estrada
  • Matt Garza
  • Wily Peralta

I did my best educated guess at the order here too. It was announced that Gallardo has Opening Day honors and that Lohse will follow in Game 2. It was also hinted that Garza could pitch the opener in Boston, but that isn’t for sure yet…at least not publicly. Couple that with how well Estrada has pitched and he’s the superior choice against Atlanta in Game 3 than is Peralta.

The wrinkle here is that the Brewers have the opportunity to start the season with four starters because of the off-days scheduled. They don’t need a fifth starting pitcher until mid-April. If they do that, Peralta would start with Nashville to stay on rotation.

Relief Pitchers (7)

(with one more starting on DL)

  • Jim Henderson
  • Francisco Rodriguez
  • Will Smith*
  • Brandon Kintzler
  • Wei-Chung Wang*
  • Rob Wooten
  • Alfredo Figaro (Alternative: Tyler Thornburg)
  • Tom Gorzelanny* (DL)

Henderson is the incumbent closer. Rodriguez was brought in on a MLB deal and has the longest track record out of any of the options. Smith has been great this spring after being acquired in trade. Kintzler was very good last year and has a spot locked up. Wang makes it in part because of how well he’s thrown but also because of the Rule V circumstances. Wooten pitched well enough in his time last year that he gets one of my “open” jobs. He’s certainly in a fungible position, though, as he’s got minor league options remaining.

For the final active spot, I’m going with Alfredo Figaro. I know that Tyler Thornburg is under consideration for that job, but I think that they’ll realize that he’s more valuable staying stretched out at Nashville in order to cover the inevitable first injury to the starting rotation than he is in pitching at best every other day in Milwaukee as the long man. Figaro filled the long relief role admirably last year as his stuff played up out of the bullpen.

Wooten, Figaro, and Thornburg all have at least one minor league option remaining so there’s no real consideration of roster depth when making any decisions concering the three. And I think we’ll be seeing all of them pitch at Miller Park in 2014 at one point or another.

As for non-roster invitee Zach Duke, I think that the Brewers have liked what they’ve seen but with Wang making good (so far), there really isn’t room for Duke to begin the season. The veteran lefty is on a minor-league deal, so most likely he’ll simply be assigned to Nashville to start.

Catchers (2)

  • Jonathan Lucroy
  • Martin Maldonado

They’re the only two on the 40-man and that’s because they’re the two best in the organization. Nothing more needs to be said here.

Infielders (7)

  • Mark Reynolds
  • Rickie Weeks
  • Jean Segura
  • Aramis Ramirez
  • Juan Francisco** (Alternative: Lyle Overbay)
  • Scooter Gennett**
  • Jeff Bianchi (Alternative: Elian Herrera)

Reynolds was signed to a minor-league deal for roster considerations at the time. He’s got a job. Weeks is the longest-tenured player in the organization right now and isn’t moveable (yet). Segura and Ramirez are obvious inclusions. Gennett comes along if they go with two second basemen, which has been the hottest talk of late.

Despite all the talk to the contrary lately, I still think that if they must choose between them, Francisco’s potential, relative youth, power, and increased patience this spring outweight Overbay’s veteran savvy, locker room presence, and far superior defense. That said, I can absolutely see a scenario in which they trade Francisco for an asset and keep Overbay. Maybe I’m projecting Francisco simply out of hope.

The other hotly contested job has been the utility infielder role. Jeff Bianchi filled the role last year with middling success. The biggest challenger to Bianchi’s incumbency has been the 40-man rostered Elian Herrera, who was claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers over the winter. They’ve both hit, they both have defensive versatility. The differences that matter: Bianchi is a better defender at shortstop. Herrera is a much more natural outfielder (which is big when you’ve only got four rostered). Herrera is a switch hitter. Bianchi is out of options; Herrera has one remaining. It is that last point that I think will be the deciding factor. Herrera will start at Nashville and would absolutley be the first man called upon should an injury befall any infielder on the big league roster.

For the record: Should they decide that they can forego two second basemen to start the year to even the roster out a bit a more, I think Herrera would make the club over a fifth true outfielder.

Outfielders (4)

  • Khris Davis
  • Carlos Gomez
  • Ryan Braun
  • Logan Schafer**

Another easy prediction. Schafer could see some time starting in left field, but as the only man on the projected roster that can backup centerfield, he’ll likely be providing coverage from the bench more often than not.

* - Throws left-handed
** - Bats left-handed
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So there you have it.

I welcome feedback and want to hear your opinions. Do you agree? Disagree? Think I’m overlooking an important detail or better player? Look down there…a “Comments” section.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’14 – #21 Juan Francisco

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SUCCESS!

Explanation: I’m apologetic that this article is getting posted so late. I had some major connectivity issues at my home where my wireless router was failing at life. I’m finally reconnected and now that it’s the weekend finally have time to catch back up.

Without further ado, let’s take a gander at…

Juan Francisco.

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Standing 6’2″ tall and listed at 240 pounds, Juan Ramon Francisco isn’t hard to find on the baseball diamond. The 26-year-old Dominican made his debut on a Major League Baseball diamond back in 2009 when he was just 22. Back then he was a member of the Cincinnati Reds, the same organization who signed him as a 17-year-old amateur free agent in 2004.

Francisco came to the Brewers during the 2013 season, in a trade with the Atlanta Braves for minor league pitcher Thomas Keeling. At the time, the Brewers were desperate for another bat and were willing to take a chance that the out-of-favor Francisco could learn first base on the job. It was an experiment that didn’t go very well.

Despite providing a big target, though not as big as say Corey Hart, Francisco struggled with several aspects of his defense. Reaching/stretching for throws, catching the ball, and even fielding grounders — something he should have been fine at being a “natural” third baseman — gave him troubles.

At the plate wasn’t a whole lot better. In 270 plate appearances as a Brewer, Francisco slashed .221/.300/.433 with 24 extra-base hits (13 home runs), 25 walks and an eye-popping 95 strikeouts. He was particurlarly wretched against southpaws, slashing .156/.206/.219 over the entirety of 2013.

All things considered, Francisco didn’t have the season that the Brewers had hoped. The Brewers made a mechanical adjustment to Francisco’s swing late in the year in an effort to increase his effectiveness. It took some adjusting to as Francisco would hit only .121 (4-for-33) in September. However, Francisco took the adjustment with him to the winter leagues where he would hit a combined .260/.351/.393 in 150 at-bats over 40 games in the Dominican Winter League. (Ironically, Francisco hammered left-handed pitching this winter and struggled against righties. .303 AVG & .197 AVG respectively.)

As for 2014, Francisco came to camp in the same position as veteran free agents Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay, which is to say that he has the chance to earn at least part of a job playing first base.

He’s unlikely to earn the full-time job, but could make the team as the primary backup corner infielder or perhaps that Mark Reynolds would man the hot corner while Francisco spells Aramis Ramirez in the lineup.

So far this spring, Francisco has slashed .333/.391/.667 with two home runs (which came in his first two at-bats). However the strikeouts are still most certainly a part of his game as he’s got as many whiffs this spring as hits — seven — in his 21 at-bats.

Given his MLB history at the plate, Francisco’s best role on the 2014 Brewers could end up being starts against some right-handed pitching and the big power pinch-hitter off the bench late in games.

That could be enough if everything else falls into place around him.

You can follow Juan Francisco on Twitter: @j_francisco25

Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers profiles to this point:

Hot Stove Report: Brewers Add to First Baseman Stable

Effectively on the heels of the Mark Reynolds signing, the Milwaukee Brewers announced Monday that they have signed another option for a growing competition for the job of “First Baseman” in 2014.

Much like the nWo in the defunct World Championship Wrestling, the Brewers’ faction of first basemen continues to rapidly expand. Joining the men already in the employ of Mark Attanasio et al (Juan Francisco, Sean Halton, Taylor Green, Hunter Morris, Jason Rogers, Mark Reynolds) will be another new face but also a familiar one.

The Brewers have signed their all-time franchise single-season doubles leader, and the man traded away to make room for some guy name Prince following the 2005 seasons: Lyle Overbay.

LyleOverbayOverbay played in 142 games in 2013 for the New York Yankees where he posted a slash line of .240/.295/.393 primarily at first base. While those numbers no longer excite on their own, Overbay is a left-handed bat which helps balance and could offer a more consistent if less spectacular platoon partner with a righty (a la Reynolds) than would Francisco. Overbay also is still plus defender even at the advanced age of 37 (which he’ll turn on the 28th of this month).

Doug Melvin has said that they’re expecting an open competition at first base when the team reports to Maryvale Baseball Park next month. Overbay, whom the Brewers missed out on signing last year after expressing interest following the loss of Hart and again with Gamel, took the Brewers up on their offer of a reunion this year.

We’ll see what he’s got back in the Cactus League.

Arbitration Avoided, Brewers Settle Early With Both

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Arbitration season in Major League Baseball officially began this week with the eligible players filing for the same back on Tuesday. In all, 146 players filed for arbitration. With 30 MLB clubs, that works out to an average of nearly five players per team. Following a trade and some other transactions, the Brewers came in beneath the average with just two players: pitcher Marco Estrada and corner infielder Juan Francisco.

Following Tuesday’s filing deadline was a deadline of Friday at noon CT before official figures would need to be exchanged between Estrada, Francisco and the Brewers.

It was reported earlier this week that the Brewers were optimistic about avoiding the exchange of salary amounts. To do that meant agreeing on at least a one-year contract with both Estrada and Francisco before noon Friday.

That work got done and it was formally announced just after noon that both deals were signed.

Joel Sherman tweeted the following contract figures for both players.

Marco Estrada: $3.325 million base salary with $100 thousand in available bonuses based on innings pitched.

Juan Francisco: $1.35 million base.

Tom Haudricourt then added information about Francisco saying that he too had available incentives, but didn’t specify for what nor how lucrative they are.

 

Brewer Nation Podcast – Off-Season Primer

Recorded on location last night, here is the latest Brewer Nation podcast.

Check the tags for some of the players mentioned during this hour-long clip.