POSITION: Left-handed pitcher
BORN ON: March 5, 1981
AGE: Will be 27 this season
BORN IN: Havana, Cuba
LIVES IN: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
ACQUIRED: Signed by the Braves as a free agent on February 16, 2006
SIGNED BY: Rene Francisco
STATISTICSClick here for Bueno's 2007 stats
SCOUTING REPORTIt's been two years now since the beginning of the Francisley Bueno experiment, and so far the results have been promising. The 2007 season was yet another test for the Cuban lefty, and he continues to show coaches that he's got a chance to make it to the big leagues.
The Braves sent Bueno back to Double-A Mississippi last season to start the season. He had pitched in 17 games there the season before, but he had some durability issues. The Braves wanted him to have one more test the before moving up to the International League.
Bueno really had a nice season in Mississippi. His ERA in 22 games (19 starts) was 3.67. He gave up a few too many hits (132) for his 112.2 innings pitched, but his great control neutralized that a little bit. Bueno walked only 26 batters in AA, while striking out 77.
So the Braves wanted to give him a brief trial in Triple-A, and he was sent to Richmond in late August. Bueno got three starts and was outstanding, posting a 2.79 ERA with 19 hits and 3 walks allowed in 19.1 innings, and 19 strikeouts.
The Braves were happy Bueno stayed healthy and combined for 132 innings on his season. That was one of the big things they wanted to see. Bueno's such an interesting pitcher because of his control and his strikeout ability, which could come in handy if he were to ever be a reliever in the big leagues.
Bueno has a fastball that stays around 90-92 mph. He's got an outstanding change of pace and a decent curveball. Bueno has flexible, free arm action, and he can even drop down and go sidearm from time to time, which can be tough on some lefty hitters.
However, Bueno did not fare too well against lefty hitters last season, who hit .325 off him in 123 at bats in Mississippi and then .391 against him in 23 at bats in Richmond. That will be something the Braves work with Bueno on this season.
The Braves worry about Bueno's drive from time to time. He has really questioned his own ability at times. They want to see him be a bit more competitive, especially if he becomes a reliever. Sometimes Bueno doesn't do some of the little things well, like making the right pitch when he has to. Most scouts love his stuff, but they're just not sure he's going to utilize it effectively at the next level.
2008 OUTLOOKBueno is going to get a look in big league camp this spring, so it'll be interesting to see what reaction Bobby Cox and Roger McDowell will have when they see the lefty for the first time. To start the season the Braves will send him back to Richmond, where he succeeded at the end of last year.
This guy does have big league stuff, and most believe Bueno will pitch in the big leagues. It's unclear how effective he might be and what role he'll take on in the majors. Most believe he'll be sent to the bullpen, and the Braves have to make a decision on whether to move him there this season in the minor leagues. Do they continue to give him innings as a starter, even though he will probably be a reliever at the next level? Or do they go ahead and prepare him for what will be his next role?
Bueno would probably benefit from more innings, working on what he can do to get better. Plus, the routine of a starter takes a bigger commitment, which might push Bueno to have a better work ethic in preparing for the next level.
If the Braves were to need a lefty reliever at some point this season, Bueno would have a good chance if he succeeds in Richmond. He'll get to work with Guy Hansen, Richmond's pitching coach, who is very good at finishing off pitchers. Since Bueno is 27 years old, this will be a big season for him. He could be in position to really take that next step and become a major leaguer.
ADDITIONAL STORY LINKSClick here for Bueno's 2007 Player Profile
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. Bill can also be heard on 680 the Fan in Atlanta and 105.5 the Fan in Macon. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.