Jeff Francoeur turns 34 today. He was a mere 21 when he arrived in Mississippi in 2005 as one of the game’s top-rated prospects. At 6 feet 4, 220 pounds, he looked like a ballplayer on the field, and he had the kind of infectious personality that made him a presence in the Mississippi Braves’ clubhouse, too. “Frenchy” debuted in Atlanta later that same year and famously made the cover of Sports Illustrated after an impressive start. But his star turn was short-lived. He was found wanting in Atlanta by 2009 and was traded away. He played for seven other MLB clubs before retiring to the broadcast booth – with the Braves – last year. There are plenty of haters out there who’ll dismiss Francoeur’s career as a big bust. True, he was never an All-Star and didn’t lead Atlanta to a championship. But he hit .261 with 160 home runs over a 12-year period. Those aren’t table-scrap numbers. He hit 29 bombs in one season and twice drove in more than 100 runs. He hit .293 one year and .285 in another. Twice he had 40 or more doubles in a season. He had a 22-steal season. He won a Gold Glove in right field and three times led his league in outfield assists. On this day, his birthday, he deserves some props.
If you’ve been recently to an Atlanta Braves game or a Mississippi Braves game – maybe even a Rome Braves game – you’ve seen them in the crowd. Jeff Francoeur replica jerseys. Francoeur, who starred for the M-Braves 11 years ago, last played a game for Atlanta in 2009. But his jersey had staying power — and now “Frenchy” himself is back in the fold. Signed to a minor league contract, he’ll be in the big club’s spring training camp this week. Though Francoeur’s first tour with the Braves didn’t end well, there is still a soft spot for him in the hearts of many fans, especially so in Pearl. He wasn’t the first M-Braves product to make The Show, but he created the most buzz back in 2005. The question now is, Can Francoeur, who had a good 2015 season in Philadelphia, win a job in Atlanta’s outfield? … As spring training begins to heat up, there are quite a few interesting questions surrounding Mississippians. To wit: How will Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton and Ole Miss product Zack Cozart bounce back from injuries in Cincinnati, and will they become trade bait? How will ex-Meridian Community College star Corey Dickerson, traded from Colorado to Tampa Bay, fare in a new league and new home park? What will UM alum Chris Coghlan’s role be with the Chicago Cubs, who look loaded for bear in the National League? What kind of numbers will Mississippi State product Mitch Moreland, a free agent after this season, put up for Texas, which rewarded his strong 2015 campaign with a $5.7M deal? And, while everyone is saying all the right things, is former State star Jonathan Papelbon really going to fit in with Washington?
Jeff Francoeur is expected to be in a San Diego Padres uniform tonight when they play the Cubs in Chicago. The former Mississippi Braves star reportedly has been called up from Triple-A El Paso, where he was batting .294 with 15 home runs and 60 RBIs. He also posted a 4.26 ERA in seven pitching appearances. Francoeur was the right fielder for the inaugural M-Braves club in 2005 and made a big splash in Atlanta that summer. If you’re counting, San Diego will be the sixth MLB team for which Francoeur has played in a career that took a downturn in 2008. He is a career .263 hitter with 140 homers.
Tyler Moore will start the 2014 season at Triple-A Syracuse, having been sent down Tuesday by the Washington Nationals. Moore, who played at Northwest Rankin High, Meridian Community College and Mississippi State, is a .241 career hitter with 14 home runs and 50 RBIs over parts of two seasons with the Nationals. The right-handed hitting Moore can play first base or the outfield and has power that Washington, the favorite in the National League East, surely will find use for later in this season. … Former Mississippi Braves standout Jeff Francoeur has signed a minor league deal with San Diego. Francoeur had a good spring with Cleveland but was cut last week. If you’re keeping score, Francoeur has now gone from the Braves to the Mets to the Rangers to the Royals to the Giants to the Indians to the Padres. He’s a good guy and a lot of people are hoping he’ll get some more big league time.
Jeff Francoeur may be running low on chances in baseball, but he’ll get at least one more. Cleveland has signed the former Mississippi Braves star to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training. The Indians’ outfield currently includes Michael Bourn, Michael Brantley, David Murphy and Ryan Raburn, which might be a tough group to crack. The right-handed hitting Francoeur, whose star burned out quickly in Atlanta, has played for the New York Mets, Texas, Kansas City and San Francisco over the past five seasons. He batted .204 overall in 2013 and was released twice (by the Royals and Giants). Francoeur, who turns 30 on Wednesday, is still a good outfielder and is a career .263 hitter with 140 home runs. True, he may face long odds of making the cut with the Indians. But, like Starkville native Julio Borbon — an outfielder who’ll go to camp with Baltimore as a Rule 5 draftee — and Pascagoula’s Joey Butler — a waiver claim who’ll get a look from St. Louis as a spare outfielder — Francoeur has a chance to make a big league roster. Sometimes that’s all you can ask. Sometimes that’s all you need.