Prospect Profile: Juan Francia

Two years ago, Juan Francia seemed destined for the scrap heap, having been sent to West Michigan for a third straight season. But then something happened, and Francia started using his speed, and getting on base with regularity. All the way up through Double-A, Francia is turning heads.

Juan Francia
Position: Infielder 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 spending three seasons with West Michigan, Francia finally got a shot with High-A Lakeland in 2005. Francia demonstrated slow, but steady improvement while with the Whitecaps, but exploded on the scene with Lakeland, posting the best numbers of his career, by far. When the need arose for a middle infielder at AA-Erie, Juan was there to take the call, finishing the season as the everyday second baseman for the Seawolves.

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. Juan's offense appears to have finally caught up with his speed, and his defense does not appear too far behind. Francia is a classic slap hitter, who rarely drives the ball to the gaps, but possesses the ability to turn many singles into doubles via the stolen base. After his promotion to AA, Francia saw his walk rate cut in half, a trend that will have to reverse if he is to maintain his offensive success. Defensively, Francia was moved from shortstop in part because of other prospects, and also in part because of his defensive woes. He has begun to learn the nuances of second base, but still struggles with his footwork on throws and around the bag on the pivot. Francia's range is exceptional, and it allows him to get to balls many second baseman could only dream of touching. His glove-work is progressing slowly, and will need further refinement to get a legit shot at the Major League Level.



































Health Record
Aside from some minor, nagging injuries the past two seasons, Francia has remained healthy. The health of Juan's legs will be the key to his future, as one small leg injury could seriously hamper his main asset.

The Future
Francia finally began to solidify himself as a middle infield prospect over the last two seasons, and the Tigers will look for that to continue in 2006. With a likely trip back to Erie to start the season, Francia will need to regain his walk rate and improve his reads on the bases while there. The presence of Ryan Raburn at second base in Toledo will be a significant hurdle for Francia to climb, and he may be best served to sell himself as a versatile player who can man both middle infield positions, as well as the outfield. If Francia can fill this role, he could see his path to the big leagues open up very quickly. If his walk rate increases again, Francia's offensive ceiling is that of a Juan Pierre-type hitter, who could be a catalyst at the top of any order. Don't be surprised if Francia gets a look at some point in 2006.

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