With fantasy stalwart Grady Sizemore landing on the DL, the Indians are going to need someone to step up and fill the offensive void that the star player leaves. Prospect Trevor Crowe is likely to see increased playing time and deserves a pickup in deep leagues and AL-only leagues, but my eye is on another Cleveland OF: Ben Francisco.
Owned in only 5% of Yahoo leagues, Francisco has been doing his best Sizemore impression in the first two months. He’s knocked five home runs and stolen nine bases while hitting for a .275 average in 153 at bats. The power is a carbon copy of last year, when Francisco hit 15 HRs in nearly three times as many ABs. He didn’t do much running in 2008, stealing only four bags, but he’s had a track record of speed in the minor leagues, swiping 25 bases in a full season at Triple-A in 2006 and 22 bags in just over 400 plate appearances in 2007.
Looking through the advanced metrics, the best news of all is that these numbers aren’t a mirage. Francisco’s BABIP is a tiny bit higher than usual, but that just means he should hit in the .260 range from here on out. It’s highly unlikely his average falls off a cliff into the .230-.250 range. His flyball rate is down while his groundball rate is up, but that’s been countered by raising the HR-per-flyball rate from 9% to 10%. If Francisco can bring the flyball rate back to his 2008 level, we could very well see him hit 20-25 HRs this season. Couple that with the 20-25 SBs he’s proven he can rack up (with the potential for more), and Francisco would make a fine fourth OF for fantasy teams at the very least, especially if you platoon him to only play at home, where he does significantly better across the board. With the mediocre average and an enticing power/speed combo, it’s possible Ben Francisco could establish himself as Sizemore-lite.
R.J. White (or daullaz) has been actively involved in fantasy sports for over 14 years, making him an addict at this point. He loves writing, the Atlanta Braves, music, the Buffalo Bills, theatre, the Philadelphia Eagles, his family, and the number 42, though not in that order.
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