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Why Ben Francisco is the Safest Corner Outfield Pick

Phillies Spring Training 2011

Francisco sliding

Ben Francisco, Philadelphia Phillies

Jayson Werth may wish that he was Ruben Amaro Jr., but he isn’t.  And, the Phillies decided to not sign Werth for 2011 despite his contributions the past several seasons.  Rather, the Phillies used that money to sign Cliff Lee whom they should not have let go to begin with.

Why did the Phillies take this option?  Domonic Brown and a lesser known Ben Francisco who has been the Phillies # 4 outfielder.

There’s no denying Domonic Brown’s pedegree.  Domonic Brown is # 4 ranked of all MLB prospects just behind a guy named Bryce Harper.  In a September call-up last year, however, Brown did not impress.  Brown hit .210 with 2 homers in 62 at bats last year, but rode the bench in post-season.  Watch Brown in Spring Training this year and you’ll notice a slight change in his batting stance.

The Phillies hope Brown wins the job outright in Spring Training and they will certainly give him enough chances to do so.  Look for Brown to be the guy that the Phillies throw into the lineup every day in March in Florida.  Brown will also start on opening day as the Astros throw ex-Phillie Brett Myers against Roy Halladay.

As for left field, 39-year-old Raul Ibanez enters the final year of his contract with Philadelphia.  Ibanez had a bad injury last year and did not perform up to the level that he had hoped.  Ibanez, however, has always kept himself in good shape and appears to have reported to Clearwater in top condition once again.

That leads us to Ben Francisco.  Francisco hit .268/6/28/8 in just 179 at bats last season for the Phillies.  Francisco hit 15 homers for a combined Philadelphia and Cleveland in 2009 and hit 15 for the Tribe in 2008, but that’s with 459 and 499 at bats respectively.  In fact, an article in Bleacher Report makes the case that Francisco’s stats when projected to a full season are similar to Werth’s.

Francisco is not going to get that many at bats this season, but if he were to play the entire year, he is capable of being a 20 HR guy.  He’ll get more at bats than last year as he’ll be used to spell Ibanez in left field as well as get playing in right field against left-handers like another ex-Phillie J.A. Happ who will likely be the opposing starting pitcher in the second game of the season this year.

One thing is for sure.  Ben Francisco is the safest outfield pick.   Some experts think Brown will start the season in the minors and Ibanez, at 39 and coming off of an injury last year, is not a sure thing.  Francisco is the most likely to get at bats in 2011.

Ben Francisco 2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection:  Projecting Ben Francisco’s 2011 fantasy baseball stats is completely dependent on how many at bats that Domonic Brown and Raul Ibanez will not receive.  That being said, the Phillies will likely rest Brown against lefties, thus giving Francisco starts in those games.  Moreover, Francisco will likely spell Ibanez in left and is capable of taking over for the 39-year-old if necessary.  Look for Ben Francisco to pick up 350 at bats this season, hit .270, with 15 homers, 60 RBI, and 15 stolen bases.  Ben Francisco is a solid pickup in deep NL-only leagues and a solid sleeper pick that can be picked up in late rounds or for $7.

Ben Francisco married Cindy Lopez in the off season.

Ben Francisco married Cindy Lopez in the off season.

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