Juan Francisco will battle to win the Braves third base job in 2013
Several Atlanta Braves minor league players, who are hoping to make an impact at the major league level next season, are off to great starts in winter league baseball.
Left fielder Jose Constanza, is leading the Dominican League in hitting, with a gaudy .385 average. In 39 at bats Constanza has 15 hits, and stolen 2 bases in 2 attempts. Constanza hit .281 the past two seasons with Atlanta, in 205 plate appearances.
First baseman Ernesto Mejia, the 2012 Gwinnett Braves Player of the Year, is hitting .333, with a .356 on-base-percentage, and .571 slugging percentage, in 84 Venezuelan League at bats. Mejia has 5 HRs and 17 RBIs.
The Braves will most likely have to make a decision on Mejia this season. He has had two productive minor league seasons in a row, including 2012 at AAA Gwinnett, and is ready to play at the major league level. With Freddie Freeman a fixture at first base, it appears Mejia may be a nice trade chip.
Catcher/Left fielder Evan Gattis’ just keeps hitting. In the Venezuelan League Gattis has 5 HRs, and 17 RBIs, in 80 at bats. He is hitting .300, with a .348 on-base-percentage, and .563 slugging percentage.
Could Gattis be ready to challenge for the Braves’ open left field job next season? Frank Wren would love to know the answer to that question right now as he ponders potentially dropping big bucks on free agents.
Another guy Frank Wren is keeping an eye on this winter is third baseman, Juan Francisco. Playing in the Dominican League, Francisco is hitting .296, with 2 home runs, in 22 at bats. Francisco needs to develop a better eye at the plate, and the ability to hit lefties better, if he wants to take over Chipper Jones’ third base job next season.
With openings in left field or third base (depending on where Martin Prado plays) and most likely in center field (with Michael Bourn’s anticipated departure) this is an interesting off-season to track the winter leagues as young Braves’ players continue to develop.
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