2012 Braves Player Review: The Backup Third Basemen

Scott Cunningham - Getty Images

Examining Juan Francisco and Martin Prado's seasons backing up Chipper Jones

Entering the twilight of his career, Chipper Jones' health continued to be a limiting factor for the Braves at third base. Despite an excellent year, Chipper was only healthy enough to make 100 regular season starts at third this past year. The Braves knew this would be the case though, as Chipper's health has been an issue for some time now. With that in mind, the Braves spun a trade with the Reds on April 1 to acquire backup 3rd baseman Juan Francisco. Francisco, who supposedly had a lousy work ethic, had gone from top-prospect to persona non grata in the Reds organization. So the Braves bought low on Francisco, acquiring him for right-handed relief prospect J.J. Hoover. Hoover was a solid prospect in his own right but probably wasn't going to see Atlanta with the Braves' depth in pitching.

Francisco, or "Fat Juan" as he was affectionately dubbed by Braves fans, began to work on his swing with hitting coach Larry Walker, and the Braves' management liked what they saw. Francisco would go on to start 42 games at third (and appeared in 7 others as a pinch hitter). Though his long loping swing led to strikeouts by the bushel, whenever Juan did connect with the ball, it would go a long ways. In 205 PAs, Francisco put together a line of .234/.278/.432. His 11 doubles and 9 home runs led to an ISO of .198. That .198 ISO was good for second on the Braves (min 200 PAs) behind only Jason Heyward's .211. Francisco did strike out in 34.1% of his plate appearances, so he has plenty to work on, but the power is undeniable. Advanced fielding metrics give mixed reviews of Francisco's defense, grading it anywhere from below average to average. He has a strong arm, but his size limits his range and his glove is nothing special. I'd grade his defense as a tick below average, but a larger sample would help to give a better idea.

Martin Prado was the only other Brave to start a game at third, manning the hot corner for Atlanta in the other 20 games of the year. Prado's versatile season will be reviewed later, but he brought the same offense to third base that he did to left field. His defense continued to be stellar at the hot corner, as he flashed an above average glove with an average arm and average to above average range. It is my opinion that his defense at third is too good to ignore, and that the Braves will realize this and put him at third full time next year. You can also check out gondeee's thoughts on this as well.

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