Prospect Profile: Juan Francia

Just 12 months ago, the name Juan Francia wouldn't have gotten many excited about his future prospects as a big leaguer - especially after 2 below average seasons at West Michigan. But for Francia, the 3rd time became the charm, as a midseason promotion for Tony Giarratano paved the way for Francia to move back into the starting lineup - and this time prove himself capable.

Juan Francia
Position: Shortstop/Second Base Height: 5-9 Weight: 150
Born: 1/4/1982 Bats: Both Throws: Right

Signed at the age of 16 out of Venezuela, Francia came stateside in 2000, joining the Gulf Coast League Tigers. Making an immediate impact on the base paths, Francia garnered attention early on. His promotion to Oneonta in 2001 resulted in a New York-Penn League batting title (.340), along with continued fireworks on the bases. Francia has seen his stolen base success rate drop as he faces more advanced competition, but he is still mastering the finer points of the game. The organization finally convinced Francia to be a more patient hitter after a jump to full season ball in 2002, but increased patience did not correspond to an increase in overall production. After two middling seasons in the Midwest League, Francia was overtaken by 2003 draftees Tony Giarratano and Eric Rodland, forcing him to a reserve role. With Giarratano's quick promotion to Lakeland, Francia jumped back in the lineup, where he finally found the balance between drawing walks, and being aggressive with the bat, resulting in a .320/.384/.361 line, all combined with an improved success rate on the bases.

Scouting Report
Francia's most significant tool is his top notch speed, which he is still learning to use to his benefit. His speed rates at around a 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and it not only allows him the ability to swipe bases, but it also provides superb range on the infield. Both Juan's bat and glove have yet to catch up to his speed, but the Tigers are hoping the youngster will put his tools together as he continues to move up. Offensively, Francia must hit well to be an effective player, as his walk rates are not enough to make him a top of the order threat on their own. A slap hitting player who relies on his speed to beat out balls on the infield, Francia does not have the size or strength to hit for any significant power, but a slight advance in overall strength would allow Juan to drive the ball to the gaps, further utilizing his speed. Defensively, Francia is very raw and erratic. He can get to just about anything on the infield, but he struggles fielding the ball cleanly, and he also struggles with his throws. There has been little progress since Francia came to the States, and a move to centerfield could be in his future, particularly with the quick development of Tony Giarratano now ahead of him. Even at 22, Francia is still a very raw player whose development must quicken if he is to have any chance at a career.















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Health Record
Juan has not had any significant injuries to this point.

The Future
The upcoming season will likely send Francia to the Florida State League with the majority of his Midwest League winning teammates. With both Giarratano and Anderson Hernandez ahead of him in the organizational ladder, Francia is likely to spend the entire season with the L-Tigers. If Juan can put together another season like 2004, he will certainly begin to gain more attention, but a high batting average, and improved steal rates are essential for Francia to remain in the Top 50 heading into 2006. At this point, Francia's best chance to make the Major Leagues is to improve his infield defense and survive as a key utility player and pinch runner.

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