Rene Francisco Interview

One of the Braves' biggest acquisitions of the winter was the signing of Rene Francisco as the Director of International Scouting. It was a major hire, and it brought Rene back home to the Braves. BravesCenter's Bill Shanks sat down with Francisco to talk about International Scouting.

SHANKS: How long were you with Los Angeles?
FRANCISCO: Three years.

SHANKS: How did you get back with the Braves?
FRANCISCO: Well I left (the Braves) in 2002. The Dodgers have always been involved in international side. I thought I was going to a great team which is a great franchise. I went under Dan Evans, when he was there. My first two years were good, but things tightened up with the budget and all that, so I decided to kind of look somewhere and find another place. A few other clubs called me when I resigned, and when Dayton called me and asked me if I wanted to come back and help them and help the Braves, I said, "Sure, why not." I'm not one of those persons that like to work for a lot of different organizations. I decided to come back and stay with the Braves. I'm used to what we do here. I know the people. I know John. Dayton is my boss, but he's not only my boss, but a very close friend of mine. I want to help the Braves and be successful.

SHANKS: So do you feel like this is home?
FRANCISCO: Yes, not only for me, but for my wife and kids. They watch the Braves on TV, more than I because I don't get to watch them that often. But I grew up here, and I just decided to come back here.

SHANKS: How long had you been with the Braves before you left the Dodgers?
FRANCISCO: Ten years. From 1993-2003.

SHANKS: Was that your first scouting job?
FRANCISCO: Yeah the Braves was my first scouting job. I was hired by Chuck Lamar. The person that got me involved in scouting was Carlos Rios, who is the Latin American coordinator for the Yankees. Then he helped me a lot. I met Paul Snyder, and I learned a lot from him and I'm still learning from Paul. That's how I got involved in scouting.

SHANKS: What was your playing career like?
FRANCISCO: Well I went to college - Jacksonville University. I was drafted there by the Cubs in a late round. I signed in 89 and played in 89 and 90, and then I was released. I was an outfielder, someone who could run and throw and field, but I didn't have much of a bat. I started coaching at Palm Beach Community College. From there in 1992, I was an associate with the Braves, and in 93 I was hired.

SHANKS: How important are contacts when it comes to finding talent, particularly in international scouting?
FRANCISCO: Well you have to have contacts, no matter where you are, whether you're in the United States or internationally. But in international scouting, you really have to have contacts and you have to know people and your scouts need to know people. It's very important because you might have a kid that is fifteen or sixteen years old and playing in a league and nobody has seen the kid, but one of his coaches may know one of our part-time scouts or associate scouts and that person may call one of them and that's how we get the information. The more people you know, and the way you treat them, you're going to gain from that.

SHANKS: How important, particularly in the job you have now, is staying up to date on what areas of the world have rising talent? Does it go in cycles?
FRANCISCO: That's important, but there's usually a full hand of people that come from Venezuela or the Dominican that are top dollar guys. The rest are lower level, when it comes to talent or money. But the things that you've got to go with is that you've got to scout the player, evaluate them the right way, and then make the right decisions.

SHANKS: Have a lot of our international scouts been in position for a long time or do we have a lot of young scouts in their positions?
FRANCISCO: Well Phil Dale runs the Pacific Rim, and he's been here close to twenty years, at least fifteen. He's well known in Asia and Australia. We have Rolando Petit, who has been in Venezuela for more than fifteen years as well. In the Dominican Republic, we have Roberto Aquino, who has only been with us for five or six years, but he's getting better and he's very aggressive. In the rest of the world, we have Manual Santiago in Mexico, who has been with us for five years, and he does a tremendous job for us there. Then we have the part-time guys that help supervisors in each country.

SHANKS: What are some of the other philosophies that you believe in with international scouting?
FRANCISCO: I'm a firm believer that they have to have some kind of athleticism. You sign them young, they have to have a good body, the arms have to work, the feet have to work, and they have to be coordinated. Basically, that's what I look for. If they're young, the strength will come, depending on the way they're built. You've just got to scout and out-scout the other guys, because there are a lot of competition out there, not just from other organizations, but by agents as well.

SHANKS: I wrote about makeup and how important it is to find players with good makeup. When you sign those guys at 16 and 17, it's got to more difficult to make a call on a kid that young as to how good his makeup is. That's got to be tricky.
FRANCISCO: Yes, you're right it is harder to know more about the makeup unless you have followed that kid for a year or two, like we do here in the states. We follow them through their high school and college careers. In international scouting, it's a lot different because you might see a kid for one week. You might see him for two days, or you might see him for a month. Then you have to make the call quickly because there is always somebody else waiting to sign the kid.

SHANKS: Tell me the latest on the two Cuban defectors. How close are they to getting here?
FRANCISCO: It all depends on when they can obtain the visa. We've done everything that we can in our power. We've got all the paperwork done and we've signed them to a minor league contract. At the U.S. consulate in the Dominican we have to investigate the entire case to make sure everything is legal and we can get them into the states.

SHANKS: Tell me about Francisley Bueno. I know there have been comparisons to Odalis Perez.
FRANCISCO: Yes he's built like Odalis Perez. He throws anywhere from 88-92. He's touched 93 in the past, but that's just touched 93. He has a breaking ball, a curve ball, and a changeup. His arm works very well. He's had success in the Cuban League in the past. He was one of the top left-handers from Cuba.

SHANKS: Was he our top international signing of the winter?
FRANCISCO: Right now, yes.

SHANKS: And you think he could go to AA?
FRANCISCO: He has the stuff to pitch there. We've got to get him into our system and go from there.

SHANKS: And Barbaro Canizares.
FRANCISCO: He was signed as a catcher in Cuba until they moved him to the outfield. He actually in the workout had good hands, a 45 arm, if you go on the grades. He's a disciplined hitter with a line drive stroke, not a lot of power. But hopefully he can help us as a backup catcher/outfielder and a right-handed bat off the bench.

SHANKS: So he's a fourth outfielder type if he makes it to the big leagues?
FRANCISCO: Yes that's the way we see him. Right-handed bat off bench, maybe play a little first base, left field, and maybe catch. Just a versatile player. He has some of the best makeup I've seen on a player.

SHANKS: And there has been some questions about his age. Are you guys comfortable he's 26?
FRANCISCO: That's what they are saying. You never know with most of these Cuban players. But you just have to take their word.

SHANKS: And that's all you can do, right, take their word?
FRANCISCO: Yes because you cannot really check. You can't go to Cuba and check.

SHANKS: Yoel Campusano. Can you tell me about him?
FRANCISCO: He's a third baseman, but we're probably going to put him at second base. We think he's an offensive type guy, so we‘ve put him at second base. He knows how to play the game. He's a gamer. He plays hard. Nothing's going to stand out, except for the way he plays the game. I think he's going to hit.

SHANKS: How old is he?
FRANCISCO: 18

SHANKS: Where's he from?
FRANCISCO: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

SHANKS: And there were some comparisons to an Adrian Beltre-type player. Is that accurate?
FRANCISCO: Yes.

SHANKS: And he would be a GCL candidate for this year?
FRANCISCO: Yes. That's where he should be playing.

SHANKS: Any other signings this winter?
FRANCISCO: No. We have our eyes on a few kids for July 2nd.

SHANKS: Were those three then the main three that have been signed?
FRANCISCO: So far, yes.

SHANKS: Anybody stand out to you so far in camp?
FRANCISCO: We're hoping Parra can get here, an outfielder from the Dominican Republic. I think the kid is going to hit. He's going to be able to run and throw and do a lot of things. To me, he's one of our top kids in our academy.

SHANKS: Will he be a GCL candidate this year?
FRANCISCO: Yes.


Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional front office philosophies. Email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com.


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