In 2011, Juan Francisco, on his way to compiling a .289 OBP in 93 AB’s, hit a 502-foot home run out of Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.

That nicely summarizes Francisco’s offensive strength and weakness: intriguing power, but low demonstrated on-base ability. In four Major League seasons, Francisco has managed only 361 ABs, with 14 HRs, and a .258/.303/.440 line. In his one season in Atlanta, he had 192 ABs, with 9 HRs and a .234/.278/.432.

Defensively, at 6’2″, 245 pounds, Francisco covers a lot of ground just standing there; after he starts moving, not so much. Francisco has been allowed to play 3B in 89 Major League games, and in that small sample he has a .940 Fielding % compared to a league average of .953, and a Range Factor per 9 innings of 2.16, compared to a league average of 2.49.

The eyeball test backs up the small sample. On April 9th, Francisco made 3 errors against the Astros, after which Mac dubbed him Juan “Frankfurterfingers” Francisco.

In a perfect world, Francisco would play the artist formerly known as Eric Hinske. In a reasonably okay world, Francisco would be the left-handed part of a 3rd base platoon, as Sam Hutcheson wrote a week ago.

Francisco turns 26 in June, and projects to improve offensively. He has a fairly sizable Minor League record, including 700 at-bats in Triple-A, in which he batted .304/.337/.559, with 38 HRs. Given all that, I could imagine Francisco hitting for a .275 BA/.315 OBP with 18 HR in about 350 ABs as a platoon third baseman. Even though we are looking at small Major League sample sizes, his .190 BA against left handers in 63 Major League AB’s doesn’t indicate a full time role is a great option.

For whatever it’s worth, Chipper’s 2012 range factor/9 innings was 2.23 in 103 games. Francisco’s not a huge drop defensively from what we had last season. Whether that is acceptable or not is another matter. Moreover, Francisco played a grand total of 11 games in the outfield in the Minors. No one at the Major League level has thought that was a good idea. So it’s really third base or bust.

That said, if you haven’t seen Francisco’s bomb at Great American, scroll back up and click the link. It’s worth seeing.