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Buy Or Sell: Juan Francisco

Credit: Kansas.com

Let’s flip the switch here and say this first: buy Juan Francisco. I count only 12 corner infielders who I deem definitely more valuable than Francisco at this moment, which means that in a 10 team league with 10 Jacob Adlers, he would be a starter. Now stop reading this sentence and acquire this guy already!

I’ll take the time now to credit the Blue Jays organization. I am a homer-centric guy, so I am intrigued by how GM Alex Anthopoulos can stockpile so many power hitters on one squad. Francisco has always flashed this power stroke and received accolades in the minors for his hitting, so he isn’t the next coming of Jose Bautista. However, he does have a short-term track to playing time, and the Jays will find it hard to bench a hitter who is making everybody save Joey Bats look foolish.

As it almost always is at this time of year, the .286 batting average is likely a mirage. Francisco strikes out a ton and has a .375 BABIP, which means he is likely to regress soon to somewhere near his career .248 mark. I do wonder if he could hit like Mark Reynolds, who strikes out, hits homers, and has a high BABIP. They both even have decent plate discipline. By the way, none of the major player comparison tools pair Francisco and Reynolds.

Although he hasn’t always had many plate appearances each season, Francisco’s fly ball rate has increased each year of his career. Since he derives almost all of his value from home runs, he is benefiting from swapping some groundballs for flyballs. Although in a small sample size, he is also hitting more line drives than at any other point in his career.

A 34.8% HR/FB is certainly cause for hesitation, but his career rate is 23%. Simply put, this is a guy who puts a charge into his flyballs and makes them count. Although some regression is due, this guy has “Counting Number Stud” written all over him if you can swallow the low batting average and absent speed.

Victor Martinez

Sell. The Tigers’ DH has 12 homers and 12 strikeouts. Yes, you read that right. I will also point out that he only has 7 unintentional walks, although he hasn’t walked at a high rate in five years. Martinez provides baseball with one of its feel-good stories of the year, as he appears to have returned to vintage form after his 2012 ACL tear.

Without catcher eligibility, Martinez is probably not worth clogging one’s utility spot. The batting average is totally legitimate, but his HR/FB of 20.3% is well above his career 10.4%. Unfortunately, without the home runs, Martinez is probably due to return to his former self, which is not roster-worthy in standard leagues.

Howie Kendrick

Buy. Although he may never hit for power, his skill improvement could land him amongst the top 10 second basemen by year’s end. He is already two-thirds of the way toward his 2013 WAR, and his improvement at age 30 appears to be legitimate.

At first, his 5% increase in walk rate stood out. This was a guy who didn’t have much patience at the plate, but this year, he is walking at a career-high rate. Digging a little deeper, this bump derives from an inconceivable 8% decrease in his chase rate. Given that there doesn’t seem to be another surface explanation for his roto success (I don’t expect him to continue to walk this much, either), he’s a worthy buy-high case.

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