Tribe's Top Prospects: No. 11 Ben Francisco

Ben Francisco

This player preview appears in the March issue of Indians Ink Magazine, which profiles the top prospects in the Cleveland Indians organization. This year's issue has expanded coverage, providing profiles of the top 100 prospects, as ranked by Indians Ink staff members. The issue includes an interview with new player development director Ross Atkins.

Ben Francisco has done virtually everything a minor league player can do.

He has experienced success on every level, including last season at Class AAA Buffalo, where he hit .278 with 17 homers, 59 RBI, 80 runs scored and 25 stolen bases. He also showed the ability to play all three outfield positions.

As a result, Francisco, who was the Tribe's fifth-round draft choice in 2002, moves all the way up to No. 12 on this year's Indians Ink list of the Tribe's Top 100 Prospects. He was No. 22 a year ago.

The 25-year-old right-hander now has 1,875 minor league at-bats in 492 games. He has a lifetime minor league batting average of .289 with 53 homers, 240 RBI, 313 runs scored and 99 stolen bases.

Francisco, aside from learning to be more aggressive defensively, has nothing left to prove in the minors. When making a catch, Francisco has a tendency to glide to the ball rather than run hard all the way to the spot where it is coming down.

Offensively, he has an approach similar to that of Hall of Famer Paul Molitor. He has very limited movement in his bat and he doesn't swing at a lot of bad pitches. In 2006, he struck out just 72 times.

His ability to make contact, get on base and steal bases should make Francisco an ideal candidate to bat either first or second in the lineup if necessary, although once he does get his shot at the majors, he will likely hit toward the bottom of the order early in his career.

The only flaw that was in Francisco's offensive approach was his penchant for swinging at fastballs above the strike zone. Buffalo manager Torey Lovullo was able to correct that problem early last season, leading to 25-game hitting streak, the second longest in Buffalo Bisons modern day history.

Francisco has always been an excellent hitter for average. In 2002 he won the New York-Penn League batting title when he hit .349 at short-season Mahoning Valley.

The one thing that is of concern to the Indians if they consider making him an extra outfielder on the major league roster is the fact he struggled in that role early in 2006. When he was being alternated with Franklin Gutierrez, Jason Dubois and Jason Cooper in the Bisons' outfield last April, he hit only .247.

Ben Francisco, OF, age 25
5th round, 2002; UCLA; Santa Ana., CA.
Projected 2007: Buffalo
Ben Francisco		  G   AB   H   R HR RBI SB AVG.
2006 Buffalo 		134  515 143  80 17  59 25 .278 
Minor career 		492 1875 541 313 53 240 99 .289 

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