Jeff Francoeur

Opened his career last night with a bang, a three-run homer. Francoeur (lit. “French name that is impossible to spell”) was the Braves’ top pick in the 2002 draft. He was certainly a high first-round talent out of an Atlanta high school, but dropped because of a commitment to play football at Clemson. The Braves got him to sign, and he got off to an impressive start in rookie ball. He was adequate at Rome in 2003, .281/.325/.445, not bad considering that most of the league was older than him. The most impressive portion of his resume is what he did in Myrtle Beach last year. Despite missing time with a broken cheekbone, he hit .293/.346/.508 in 87 games, playing his home games in a tough park that had frustrated many more polished players. A brief callup to AA, 18 games, resulted in a .197/.197/.342 line, and his trip to the Arizona Fall League also saw a complete lack of plate discipline, so he started out back in AA this year, albeit in a new city.

He was hitting .275/.322/.487 and made the all-star team and the Futures Game roster. A callup to AAA seemed to be in order, but the one to the majors was a bit of a surprise. However, the simple fact is that with Billy McCarthy falling on his face, Johnson in Atlanta, the Mayor in Tampa, and the Braves’ idea of a AAA veteran outfielder being Esix Snead and Kerry Robinson, Francoeur was the best option available to replace Jordan. He’s not a remotely polished player, and even if he plays well on his callup I find it hard to believe his OBP will be much above .300 yet. A line like .265/.310/.480 would be a pretty reasonable expectation.

Francoeur has been compared to Dale Murphy pretty much since he signed. This is largely because of physical similarities; both are tall, broadshouldered, righthanded hitters. Francoeur has played center in the minors, though of course that position is filled in Atlanta. (And, of course, Murph was a catcher when he came up; he wouldn’t be a centerfielder until he was 24.) The similarity isn’t that great as a player, because Francoeur doesn’t walk nearly as much as Dale, and while he hits for power it’s unlikely he’ll ever be the premier power hitter in the league. (Remember the context; Murph won back-to-back home run titles with 36 and 37 homers.) Someone in comments suggested Kirby Puckett, but leaving aside the physical inconguities, I don’t think Francoeur will win any batting titles either. I think a good comparison might be the young Sammy Sosa. Remember, Sosa as a young player could run and played a lot of centerfield, and hit for power, but was plagued by low walk totals and high strikeouts. Of course, Sosa was supposed to be one of the best players on the team; Francoeur will hit seventh or eighth. When he plays; it’s not clear yet how often that will be.

Jeff Francoeur Career Statistics

15 thoughts on “Jeff Francoeur”

  1. Sigh… Not judging whether Sosa was on steroids or not, what really happened to him was that he figured out the strike zone. He went from walking 40 times a year to walking 70, then 100. His batting average went up as well. While his strikeouts went down only slightly, he stopped being an easy mark for any slider out of the strike zone. The home run barrage was dramatic, but I really feel it was secondary to him becoming a better all-around hitter. Basically, he went from being a very good power hitter to an excellent power hitter, but from a poor hitter for average and on-base to a good one.

  2. I’m usually good at the compare to another player game, but can’t really find a good fit with Francoeur. Sosa career has been too wierd to use for comparison. How about an all natural Gabe Kapler? Too many walks for Gabe. A not clinically insane Jose Guillen? Maybe, hopefully he figures it out quicker than Jose. A more athletic Jermaine Dye?

    He’s a tough match.

  3. Apparently TP helped Jeff out last night on what to watch for from Rusch. He definitely looked better in that at-bat, and finally got a fastball to hit, which he didn’t miss.

    His earlier at-bats, he was flailing at 83 mph breaking stuff (probably changes from how they were behaving). I’m hoping his success last night will help him relax and just react to the ball better, but just from the limited sample, I think I can agree he won’t have a high OBP.

    And yes, Sosa finally figured out the strike zone, that is what triggered his transformation. He had gotten big before that year of the 70+ walks (no judgement on how he accomplished that).

  4. Oh, and by the bye, I *hate* trying to compare players to other players. It never works out being fair to the younger player, usually too many expectations get placed on them. :)

  5. Mac, you miss the point. To deconstruct his progress and write a paragraph like yours above takes effort. It’s much easier to throw out a one-liner about juicing.

    For instance, the steroids clearly helped him see the strike zone better. He must have been juicing sedatives to make him more patient at the plate.

    See, I’m much cooler than you. Booooo Sammy.

  6. 1) 18 home runs and 28 doubles in 407 at bats is pretty good for a 20-year old splitting time between Myrtle Beach and AA (especially considering the injury). Adam Dunn hit 16 HRs as a 20-year old repeating A-ball in the Midwest League. Albert Pujols hit 19 HRs in A ball when he was 20. Jim Thome hit 8 HRs when he was 20.

    There are notable exceptions, such as Beltre and Andruw, but many top power hitters don’t really start hitting homers in droves until after they are 20. Beltre hit 26 HRs when he was 18 and 20 HRs when he was 19, and Andruw was ridiculous with 25 homers as an 18-year old and 39 homers as a 19-year old (spread across A, AA, AAA, and the majors). Andruw had 79 extra-base hits when he was 19, which is just insane.

    It’s unlikely that any particular prospect will turn into the league’s premier power hitter in the league, but it’s a little early to dismiss Francoeur’s chances.

    2) Murphy didn’t really start walking a lot until he was 26. His first 3 years in the majors he had 731 plate appearances with only 49 walks.

  7. Well, at least he’s here and not Preston Wilson, who is headed to the Nationals per the AP…

  8. I’m not saying that Francoeur won’t become the premier power hitter in the league. (And, after all, Sosa did.) It’s possible. It seems that of the Braves’ young hitters Marte is the best candidate for that.

    49 walks over a season’s worth of PA isn’t too many, I’ll grant. But that’s really two phases: two cups of coffee in which he walked only seven times in over 140 PA, and a more-or-less full season in which he walked 42 times in about 575 PA, a decent rate. The next season, he was walking about once every ten PA. And his walk rate was okay in the minors — not great, but better than Francoeur’s.

  9. I hope Francoeur’s comp isn’t actually Corey Patterson, who hasn’t shown any ability to learn the strike zone, and after yesterday’s wonderful showing was optioned to the minors along with Jason Dubois. I have to admit I’m a little scared by his very low walk rate.

  10. If Sosa had the strike zone figured out, he doesn’t any more. He had his first RBI last night in about 20 games and has not been making any contact whatsoever. He’s pretty much an automatic out. His bat is too slow and even if he crushes a ball it barely makes the warning track. Right now it looks like he couldn’t hit Warren Sapp if the guy were standing right in front of him. Sad what juice withdrawal and a loss of confidence can do to a guy. He’s been on the decline for a few years, but the loss of power this year is scary. His slugging percentage is now .395 and he has an OPS of .700. That’s .050 lower than Sidney Ponson and .133 lower than Bruce Chen (okay, very small sample, but yuck)! And .327 lower than the team leader, Roberts, with 1.027. I never liked him and still don’t, but I feel bad for him.

    I’m a little scared by Francoeur as well. I’ll say that yesterday was his first ML game, he was nervous and overanxious and admitted as much in his post-game interview (right before Marcus gave him a professional welcome to the big leagues), and he did show patience in his last AB by working the count full on a few close pitches that Andruw probably would have swung at, but his first three ABs were pretty bad. I’m optimistic, though. He at least recognizes the problem.

    I heard the Nats also want Soriano. Where are they planning on putting him (doesn’t Jose Vidro play 2B) and what are they going to use as bait for him and Wilson?

  11. 1) Most of Sosa’s batting average improvement in 1998 came from converting fly balls into home runs. Converting 30 outs into hits will help anyone’s batting average a lot. In 1999, he managed to hit only .288 despite hitting 63 home runs.

    2) When Sosa hit 66 home runs in 1998 he had only 59 UIBBs in 722 plate appearances. Compared with his age 26 season (1995), his unintentional walk rate improved by less than 10% whereas his home run rate improved by more than 60%.

    3) Sosa’s K/UIBB ratio in 1998 was less than 3% better than his career average.

    4) The first time Sosa had more than 100 walks was 2001, when he walked 116 times. Of course, 37 of the walks were intentional (and many of the others were only nominally “unintentional”).

    5) Sosa’s best season for walking unintentionally was 2002, when he had 89 unintentional walks. 2002 was also Sammy’s worst power hitting season in 5 years.

    6) The year-to-year variations in Sosa’s unintentional walk rates does not correlate all that well with the year-to-year variations in Sosa’s power hitting numbers.

    I understand why people want to believe that the secret to Sosa’s explosion was improved selectivity at the plate. But I think that the evidence supporting this belief is a lot weaker than generally recognized.

  12. The player Francouer reminds me the most of at this point is Alfonso Soriano. He’ll hit .300, steal some bases, and hit for power, but he’ll strike out a lot, won’t walk much, and can be pitched to in critical situations.

  13. For those of us living in beautiful (recent quadruple murders notwithstanding) Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Francoeur isn’t such a hard name at all. Of course, Lake Pend Oreille (say it “Pond Or-Aaaaay,” like Fonzie would) is just a bit to the north …

  14. I’m usually good at the compare to another player game, but can’t really find a good fit with Francoeur.

    Brian Jordan without the damage of playing in the NFL.

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