Where does Francoeur fit now with Braves?

Jeff Francoeur drives in a run for Philadelphia last season. (Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)

Jeff Francoeur drives in a run for Philadelphia last season. (Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. – Jeff Francoeur, the once-upon-a-time “Natural” signed Tuesday to a minor league contract, is a nice spring conversation piece.

His blithe personality certainly will add a little life to the Braves crowded Florida clubhouse.

“I think we have the loudest team in the game now, with (Nick) Swisher, (Jason) Grilli and Francoeur,” Freddie Freeman joked Tuesday morning shortly after his arrival on site. “It’s going to be an exciting 7 o’clock in the morning every day.”

And you know you will be rooting for the former first-round pick out of Parkview – even under such modest conditions – to recapture some of those enchanted moments from his first seasons in Atlanta. The Braves, after all, train in a place that caters to healthy fantasies, and what could be a better one than Francoeur salvaging his career back where it all began?

The Braves and Francoeur are being re-introduced at a time when both parties look a little needy. For as much as Francoeur has wandered – playing with six teams since being traded away by the Braves in 2009 – and his stats have found some dark and murky depths, his numbers last season actually would have fit right in with the 67-win Braves of 2015. His 13 home runs for Philadelphia last year would have ranked him second among the Braves, same with his .433 slugging percentage (among players with at least 300 at-bats).

Practically, though, there seems little room for Francoeur on this roster (or, for that matter, in this spring clubhouse, with players doubling up on stalls here like this was an overbooked youth hostel).

The odds of him sticking seem long, what with Nick Markakis owning rightfield, big-ticket players like Michael Bourn and Swisher needing to be accounted for, and the presence of Ender Inciarte and Hector Olivera. And it might be a little tough to see him start a year in Gwinnett (that’s taking the going-home thing to an uncomfortable extreme). Where does Frenchy fit?

I’ve always wondered if Francoeur’s career arc would have been greatly different if he had broken in much more quietly somewhere else. Would he have had greater breathing room to develop, less pressure to live up to expectations run amok?

But that is unknowable. What the Braves at least can provide for Francoeur now – in partial repayment for some great memories – is a spring stage for him to prove that he still retains value. If not for the home team then maybe for one of the 23 other teams that haven’t yet had the pleasure of knowing him.

Reader Comments 0

7 comments
FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

I thought we were done with players that didn't walk, hit for much power, drive in runs, or have any consistency at the plate period when we traded Heyward. But please, tell me more about how great his arm is...

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Wow. Every time I read a shill article about the Braves under this new regime it just makes my head spin. "The odds of him sticking seem long . . with Nick Markakis owning rightfield". Where have you been since the end of the 2014 season??? They traded Andrelton Simmons, not to mention the Uptons, Kimbrel, Gattis, Miller, Wood, Heyward, etc. etc. What appears to be certain is if some team comes knocking with prospects willing to take on Markakis' contract the Braves will plug in the stiff of the week to play right field in 2016.


Love that Freeman quote. Just image the loudest team in the league in what could be a cavernous echo chamber.


Don't get me wrong, I hope the young pitching matures quickly and the Braves brass stumbles into enough common sense to field a competent team behind them. Just not holding my breath.

TheBystander
TheBystander

Jeff Francoeur hit .367 as a pinch hitter. combine that with a great arm, he should be a solid bench player.

Closer
Closer

Trade Markakis and play Jeff everyday in right field. Seriously. Overall, glove, arm, power, it is a net gain.

ATLSports
ATLSports

On a team dominated with left-handed hitters, Francoeur is a right-handed bat who has hit very well against left-handed pitching in his career.  A right-handed power bat who still has one of the best outfield arms on the game.  I expect Frenchy to make the team.

ChessMaster
ChessMaster

I expect to see the Braves eat some contract money this year. The outfield is crowded, and the salaries of Bourn and Swisher are out of line for being backups. For all the talk of competition, I think only 2nd and 3rd are competitive situations for the starting lineup. Swisher might be a good swing guy (and Freeman appears to need a backup) but there are others competing for backup roles. It will be interesting to see if Swisher earns a backup role or his salary does.

#sd5
#sd5

I could see him as being the 4th OF option, with Swisher being the back up 1B and 5th OF.  Would prefer him over Bourn and his contract money.  I like the way this team sets up.  I think it is a team full of hungry players looking to prove something!