The case for Jeff Francoeur…Wait, what? Reviewed by Momizat on . For some unknown reason, I feel the need to tackle the chief complaint I’m hearing from fellow Royals fans—Jeff Francoeur.  I’m not about to sell you tha For some unknown reason, I feel the need to tackle the chief complaint I’m hearing from fellow Royals fans—Jeff Francoeur.  I’m not about to sell you tha Rating: 0
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The case for Jeff Francoeur…Wait, what?

The case for Jeff Francoeur…Wait, what?

For some unknown reason, I feel the need to tackle the chief complaint I’m hearing from fellow Royals fans—Jeff Francoeur.  I’m not about to sell you that Frenchy was a good baseball player last year, because he wasn’t.  He was awful, and that is putting it lightly.  I have a couple theories as to why he wasn’t very good in 2012.  The first one is that Jeff was/is an elder statesman on the team, and was expected to be a driving force in the middle of what was supposed to be a very young, but explosive lineup.  Unfortunately, that’s simply not who Jeff Francoeur is, and that is not what the Royals lineup was.  He has never been that guy, and never will be.  Francoeur is a guy you plug into your lineup, ideally no higher than 5th or 6th, and let him blend.  In truth, Francoeur would be much more effective in a platoon situation, where he can feast on left-handed pitching, but that is a luxury the Royals seemingly can’t afford.  Counting on Francoeur to be a true run producer was a monumental mistake made by the Royals front office, and was a prime example of trying to force a square peg into a round hole.  Put yourself in that position.  You go into work one day and all of the sudden the boss has not only promoted you, but promoted you to a position you had/have no prior knowledge of.  I can’t imagine that would work out very well in most cases.  Really, it would be no different had they plugged him into batting leadoff.  Francoeur belongs in the leadoff position about as much as he belongs as a main cog in the middle of the order.

In my opinion, 2007 was Jeff Francoeur’s  second best season.  He was a member of the Atlanta Braves at that time, and he posted a .293 Average/.338 OBP/.782 OPS with 19 HR and 105 RBI.  You’re probably reading that, and thinking that’s not a great year—especially for a corner outfielder.  You’re absolutely right! But that was Francoeur’s high-water mark.  That was his peak, or close to it.  That is Jeff Francoeur.  Francoeur didn’t anchor that lineup.  He simply complimented or blended in with an already potent Braves lineup.  He was insulated by guys like Chipper Jones, Mark Teixeira, Edgar Renteria, Yunel Escobar, Brian McCann, Kelly Johnson, Matt Diaz and Andruw Jones (kind of).   Fast forward to 2012, and you’re asking Francoeur to be a major run producer of a youthful lineup, and protecting him in the lineup with Billy Butler and Alex Gordon being the only proven bats, and even that is a stretch.

So, what about Francoeur’s best season?  Well, in my opinion, that came in a Royals uniform in 2011.  No, there was no Chipper.  There was no Mark Teixeira.  There was no Brian McCann or Edgar Renteria either…or so we thought.  As it turns out, Francoeur was heavily insulated in that lineup too.  Melky Cabrera and Alex Gordon had career years.  Billy Butler kept on being Billy Butler.  Eric Hosmer emerged as a young power-hitting first baseman.  With limited exposure, Salvador Perez burst on the scene, and was very productive as well.  Francoeur was thrust into a run producing spot in the lineup that year as well, and while that’s not his niche, it worked out because of all the production around him.  He was just able to blend.

Weren’t all of those guys in the 2012 lineup as well?  Yes and no.  There was no Melky Cabrera, nor was there anyone to make up for the type of numbers he posted in 2011.  Alex Gordon, no longer having Cabrera to protect him, was largely ineffective the first part of 2012.  He kicked it in gear and had a very good second half, but still fell short of his 2011 campaign.  You know the story of  Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas.  Hosmer never hit, and while Moustakas posted a decent first half of the season, his second half was nothing short of a dumpster fire.  Salvador Perez missed  over half the season, despite playing quite well for the half he did play.  The Royals lineup hardly got anything at all from their CF and 2b spots.  It wasn’t all bad.  Billy Butler and Alcides Escobar posted fine hitting seasons.  Butler emerged as a true power hitter, and Escobar made a large leap in reaching the potential that earned his top prospect billing while in the Milwaukee Brewers organization.   Suffice it to say, the Royals lineup provided very little punch, and nearly zero protection for a guy like Francoeur.

Another theory I subscribe to is that I believe Wil Myers, in an indirect way,  exacerbated Francoeur’s problems.  Francoeur was undoubtedly well aware of the monster numbers Myers was posting in Omaha, and when it became evident that Myers wasn’t going to be called up to play LF or CF, Francoeur saw the writing on the wall (or what should have been the writing on the wall).  Myers certainly wasn’t going to get the nod over Alex Gordon, and when his numbers started getting ridiculously good, Lorenzo Cain was getting healthy and the Royals needed to see what they had in him.  Whether that caused Francoeur to press, or give up altogether, I have no idea, but I think he certainly felt the heat coming from Omaha.

So, in my opinion, a combination of being asked to do something he’s not capable of, being surrounded by a punchless lineup, and knowing there was a hotshot prospect nipping at his heels were the key ingredients of the shit-burger recipe that was Jeff Francoeur in 2012.  By no means do I think Francoeur is completely innocent.   Despite all the contributing factors, 2012 was much worse than it should have been—even for a player like Francoeur.

No, Francoeur is not a great MLB player.  He never has been, and probably never will be.  As cliché as it sounds, he is what he is.  He’s a solid RF’er with limited range, and a rocket arm.  He’s a guy who possesses some pop in his bat, but is not a true homerun hitter.  He lacks any semblance of plate discipline.    He is also a good teammate, and a clubhouse leader for these young Royals, and while there is ample evidence that he’s not a guy who can shoulder the offensive load while others are scuffling, there is also evidence suggesting he could be a nice complimentary piece in a strong lineup.

I’m really not a Francoeur apologist, despite how strongly this piece would suggest otherwise.  I remember the hype that surrounded him in Atlanta, and I understand the Royals organization was somewhat hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.  The numbers, however, just aren’t there for the guy we call Frenchy.  He’s not a guy you build your team around—at all.  Here’s the deal though, no lineup is perfect.  Even the best lineups have weak spots or warts.  He presented as precisely that last year.  Oddly enough, if all goes well, he’ll be one of the weaker parts of the 2013 lineup as well.  The expected progression of Hosmer, Moustakas, Perez, and Cain along with continued production from Gordon, Butler and Escobar, should allow Francoeur to just blend.  If those things happen, I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect something close to the 2010 version of Jeff Francoeur.  He won’t be expected to be the linchpin of the lineup.  He won’t be looking over his shoulder for Wil Myers.  He’s playing for money, as this is the final year of his contract.  If he flounders again, he knows his best money-making days are behind him.  He also, hopefully, will be playing for a winner this summer.  Success breeds more success.  If the Royals are winning and clicking, Francoeur should be too.

Go Royals!

About The Author

Thanks to Greg and the rest of the Pinetarpress.com crew for welcoming and allowing me to contribute to their stellar site. I jumped at the opportunity to become a contributor. Baseball, and more specifically, Kansas City Royals baseball is a deep rooted passion for me, and I look forward to being able to write about various Royals topics.When reading my material, keep in mind that I’m just a fan. I’m no insider, and I’m no seam-head. I appreciate advanced statistics, but don’t necessarily buy into all of them. I’m still “old school” in that I think you can still get a good evaluation through watching a player and whatever is offered on the back of his baseball card.I played small time college baseball in Kansas, and coached at the high school level. That is the extent of my baseball experience, but more appropriately those are the eyes through which I watch the game of baseball.I’m a KCK resident—a Dotte, if you will. I’m married and have a son who is itching to begin tee work, soft-toss, and a long-toss program (he’s 10 months old at the time of this writing).I’m active on Twitter. Follow me at @pyork_10.Go Royals!

Number of Entries : 111

Comments (4)

  • jnemitz1652

    It was a stroke of genius when Moore signed Frenchy and he has a career year. It’s complete buffoonery when Moore extends him 2 years.

    Moore HAS to be a fortune teller. He needs to hold the crystal ball with his roster. After watching Frenchy put up a career year he needs to know that he will undoubtedly regress. I buy the law of averages more than I buy a pressing player that tried to shoulder the burden of a young struggling team. If Jeff’s instructions read: Surround with talented players and watch grow then shame on Moore for being an idiot.

  • royalron

    Hopefully Yost will bat him 8th and give plenty of ABs to either Dyson or Lough against RHPs. This way, maybe we can get at least some positive WAR out of this position…

  • Paul York

    The fact that Jeff Francoeur lost between 30-40 lbs. as he joined the Royals suggests that he might have already found one. Which lends to the fact that PED’s don’t necessarily result in improved play.

  • Slappy99

    Jeffy’s only hope is to find an untraceable PED.

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