We all know the story with Juan Francisco. He hits for an insane amount of power, strikes out a ton, and generally does not play great enough defense to warrant regular play. The latter is actually my biggest concern with Francisco. As Brett Lawrie nears full health, the Blue Jays will be looking to find creative ways to get Francisco in the lineup, whether that means Lawrie becoming the regular second baseman or the Blue Jays pulling a Dodger Outfield move on the 1B/DH spot with Adam Lind, Edwin Encarnacion, and Francisco is yet to be seen.
I was actually thinking Francisco would be an attractive target in preseason before the Brewers cut him in favor of Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds. Francisco hit 13 home runs with a .300 on base in 270 plate appearances for the Brewers last year so the offense, and specifically the power, were not a big reason for him losing his job in Milwaukee.
Francisco worked heavily on his offense this winter to try and cut down his strikeouts and command the zone at a better level than he previously had. This has translated into a better walk-to-strikeout ratio but the strikeouts are still extremely high. The 12% walk rate combined with the astronomical power make him a very valuable play in on base leagues on a daily basis. The only reason I suggest daily only is because of the crowded situation he is in for playing time. For now, at least, he will probably start 4-5 times a week so putting him in on an ad hock
The Blue Jays have had success in improving guys like Francisco before. Of all the teams that Francisco could have landed with, I think the Blue Jays are just about the optimal setting for him. With a great home ballpark and guys like Encarnacion and Jose Bautista who have transitioned from young players with tremendous power and limited results into annual 30 home run members, Francisco is in a great place to produce and continue to improve.
Even looking at the straight projections, Francisco is expected to hit 14 home runs in 287 plate appearances along with a .246 average and .298 on base percentage for the rest of the year according to ZiPS. The average and on base are light due to his past history of inconsistencies, but it is certainly a positive that he is in such a talented lineup and in a division filled with hitter’s ballparks. We should all expect his average to sit more in the .230-.250 range, but I think his walk rate should remain elevated as pitchers remain careful with him and as he continues to focus on honing this skill.