It’s been a minute or two since we checked in on some of our recent waiver wire finds, and that sounds like a fun thing to do (unless you’ve been touting Brandon Maurer all season) so let’s get right to it.
Andrew Bailey – My waiver wire amigo Karl de Vries highlighted Bailey on Monday as a player worth adding, particularly in the short term. Ask and you shall receive. Bailey earned his first save of the year Wednesday, and looked strong doing it, striking out a pair in the process. After the game Red Sox manager John Farrell said Joel Hanrahan will not necessarily get his job back when he returns from his hamstring injury. Bailey remains an excellent addition in all leagues, at least for now, and possibly long-term. He’s still owned less than Steve Cishek and Jim Henderson in CBS leagues, and that should not be the case.
Welington Castillo – I spoke highly of the Cubs’ catcher Wednesday and he responded Thursday by putting together a four-hit game against the Rangers. You’re welcome, guys. No big deal.
John Jaso and Derek Norris – In situation where lineups need to be monitored, it’s interesting that the Athletics have been using both Jaso and Norris lately, with Norris behind the dish and Jaso at DH. If they’re both in the lineup, they’re both useful. Of course, doubling them up is mostly because of injuries, so that’s something to be aware of.
Today, we’ll look at a pair of Braves third basemen.
Juan Francisco | 3B | Atlanta Braves | Yahoo!: 11 percent ownership; ESPN: 6.7 percent; CBS: 17 percent
ZiPS updated projection: .266/.300/.476
Chris Johnson | 3B | Atlanta Braves | Yahoo!: 26 percent ownership; ESPN: 30.1 percent; CBS: 32 percent
ZiPS updated projection: .275/.315/.426
As the saying goes, never trust an hombre with two first nombres. Or something.
I disagree, at least when it comes to this particular Braves third baseman. Francisco was a favorite sleeper of mine back in 2011, when he made the club out of spring training as the apparent backup to what was left of Scott Rolen. He only managed to play 31 games with the Reds, though, posting a .741 OPS. Last year he played in 93 games, but put up another sub-.300 OBP and struck out in 34.1 percent of his at-bats. While neither of those seasons could be considered much of a success, Francisco did flash very good power, ISOing .194 and .198 with the Reds and Braves, respectively.
The Braves’ third base gig was up for grabs this season for the first time in roughly 50 years (thanks Larry!), and Francisco found himself in a competition (or platoon) with Chris Johnson for the honor of replacing Chipper Jones. It’s worked out well so far for Atlanta, as both Francisco and Johnson have been crushing it.
Before the season, as Brad Johnson wrote, it seemed likely Francisco would get the majority of starts against right-handed pitchers, and Johnson would see playing time against lefties. That’s how it has played out, for the most part, but the fact that Francisco started Thursday night against lefty Jeff Locke is interesting and might signal a change on the horizon. It’s interesting, as well, that Francisco has started each of the Braves’ past four games against right-handed pitchers.
My money is on Francisco, anyway, because there are a slew of positive things happening for him right now:
1. His swinging strike rate is down from a crazy 16.9 percent to a much more palatable 10.5 percent so far this season.
2. He’s swinging at way fewer pitches outside the zone right now (28.9 percent, compared to levels over 40 percent the two prior seasons).
3. He has an overly high HR/FB rate of 37.5 percent, but even with an expected drop there, he has more power than Johnson ever did.
4. A huge portion of Johnson’s great numbers derive from his .458 BABIP, which will never last. Francisco’s .385 mark is also high, but the fall won’t be as rough for him.
5. Francisco has played only four games against lefties, but putting that aside for a moment, it seems very likely he will continue to get every start against right-handed pitchers if he’s healthy. That makes him a dependable platoon option, one who is freely available, and he can be an elite power option when in the lineup.
It’s obviously still early in the season, but these are positive trends. If Francisco can keep these things going while seeing more at-bats against southpaws, he’s got big upside.
For Johnson, that’s not really the case. He has less power (.154 ISO vs. Francisco’s .188, over their major league careers), walks slightly less (and Francisco is no walk artist himself) but manages to strike out less (who doesn’t?). He’s also two years older.
Recommendation: There’s no reason Johnson should be owned twice as much as Francisco across the board. In fact, it should probably be the other way around, since Francisco stands to see a majority of the starts and has higher upside. He’s an intriguing add in NL-only leagues, a capable injury fill-in for mixed leaguers, and someone to keep an eye on. If he starts playing more against lefties, and is holding his own against them (or just can avoid looking awful), he has a chance to become someone worth rostering in a mixed league starting lineup. It’s an outside chance, but he’s a guy I like, and a boy can dream, right?