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Pluto on Francisco


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When Ben Francisco talked about not being considered a top prospect, the Indians outfielder does so in a soft, gentle voice.


He doesn't sound bitter about the season in the minors when the prime young players were invited to the Fall League for more attention, but he was not.


Or 2006 at Class AAA Buffalo when he was supposed to be "only the fourth outfielder" and ended up being named the team's MVP.


Or even when he was sent back to the minors a year ago the end of spring training. It happened despite Francisco hitting .354 in Florida, despite being the defending Class AAA International League batting champ. He was returned to Buffalo for a third year because the Indians had the veteran "platoon" of Jason Michaels and David Dellucci in left field.


That's why being the opening day leftfielder means so much to Francisco.




In the off-season, Francisco feared the Indians would label him "a fourth outfielder," a backup. He wasn't sure what to expect when meeting with Eric Wedge to discuss 2009.


"I challenged Ben to become a better outfielder, a better base-runner and just to pay attention to more of the little things," said the Indians manager.


Francisco was excited.


"I'm proud of him," said Wedge. "He has gotten better in every area, and quietly, he's had as good a camp as anyone."


Francisco is hitting .364 (1.078 OPS) with three homers, 13 RBI in 55 spring at-bats. He also leads the team with five stolen bases.


Francisco is 27 and is about 6-foot, 190 pounds. He is not physically imposing, nor is there one part of his game that would be labeled outstanding. He's a pretty good hitter, a decent outfielder, above average speed, slightly below average power for a corner outfielder.


He is the kind of player who has to claw his way into the lineup and will have to battle to stay there. He's often felt a little behind -- his age working against him. He was a fifth-round pick out of UCLA in 2002, and almost immediately was label a "second tier" prospect.


"Everybody has a different path [to the majors]," said Francisco. "Even now, I know that they have some good young outfielders behind me."


Or as Wedge said, "Ben has gone from the hunter to the hunted," with phenoms Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley both in Class AAA after making extremely positive impressions in big league camp during spring training.




"I really feel like they believe in me," said Francisco. "That means a lot. Now, it's up to me to make the most of the opportunity."



Another guy I've always rooted for and this article kind of re-ignited it. I loved watching him last year before his drop off at the end. It's a shame we'll probably be saying goodbye to a lot good guys like Francisco, Garko and Shoppach in the near future....fun guys to root for but I can't see them holding off some of our top prospects.

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Wedge's challange to become a better base runner did not seem to be met by Ben. I watched him get picked off at 1st base twice this spring.

I thought it was pretty obvious that Wedge still viewed him as very expendable when it was announced that Ryan Garko would be playing a little left field this year.

I hope Ben does well too....But I have a feeling we'll be seeing Laporta soon. It's going to be too difficult to keep that kind of power down.

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