Time to buy Juan Francisco?

Is Juan Francisco the next scrap heap star?(USATSI)
Is Juan Francisco the next scrap heap star? (USATSI)

The Blue Jays may have found their next scrap heap star in Juan Francisco. At least, that's the thinking among optimistic Fantasy owners. Francisco hasn't been a big Fantasy asset over his career. He's always been able to hit for power, but poor averages, and lack of playing time, have killed his value. 

That changed slightly when Francisco joined the Blue Jays. The team has been able to turn around both Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista in recent seasons, leading some to believe Francisco could be next. 

Things appear somewhat promising after his first 140 plate appearances. Francisco has posted a .268/.350/.593 slash line, with 10 home runs. There has been some improvement in his peripherals too. Francisco is walking in a solid 10 percent of his plate appearances, and he's managed to lower his strikeout rate. At the same time, he's still striking out 32.1 percent of the time. Strikeouts have been a significant problem for Francisco, and have contributed to his low averages over his career. He's made progress, yes, but it's still tough to see him hitting over .245 if he continues to strike out at his current rate.

A .348 BABIP is the likely reason Francisco is currently hitting a solid .268. Francisco has a high .335 career-BABIP, but has settled in around .315 the past three years. He's had a much larger sample of plate appearances recently, so a BABIP around .315 seems more like his true talent level.

A look at his plate discipline data reveals a few interesting trends. Francisco has been far more selective at the plate this season. He's swinging at a career-low 43.3 percent. That's perhaps a sign he'll continue to walk at a decent clip. He's making slightly less contact than normal, but that's not a cause for concern just yet.

He's also been able to put the ball in the air more often this year. That's part of the reason he's hit home runs on 28.1 percent of his fly balls. That's typically an unsustainable level, but Francisco has hit home runs on over 20 percent of his fly ball the past two years. It's higher than normal, but he's shown some skills in this area before. 

What does it mean?

Francisco may wind up being more useful this year, but he's still showing the same skills. The strikeouts will drag down his average, but the power is mostly real. If he can continue to be selective at the plate, there's a chance his value will be significantly higher in OBP leagues. He's also not getting at-bats against left-handers, and shouldn't considering how badly he's performed in the past. In a perfect world, he can be a slightly watered down version of Brandon Moss from 2013. There's value in his power, but his average, and part-time use, can wind up being a significant problem.

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