Make Or Break Year: Jeff Francis

Jeff Francis seemed headed for stardom when, at the age of 26, he won 17 games and pitched in the World Series. This offseason, in his first appearance on the free agent market, he signed with the Royals for $2MM plus incentives. It's a modest guarantee for a pitcher who still has promise entering 2011.


Teams aren't going to commit aggressively to pitchers who post 5.00 ERAs, especially if they aren't far removed from serious shoulder issues. Francis' ERA sat precisely at 5.00 after 104 1/3 innings of work last year, in his return to the majors after missing the 2009 campaign with shoulder surgery. The former 9th overall pick wasn't in position to command much as a free agent, even after a successful return to the major leagues.

But things could be different next offseason. Francis, who just turned 30 in January, is still relatively young. And if he puts together a full season, he'll have an easier time convincing teams that his shoulder is no longer a concern.

Though Francis' 2010 ERA and 4-6 record don't look good, his peripheral stats do. He posted a robust 47% ground ball rate last year, striking out nearly three times as many hitters as he walked. What's more, his FIP and xFIP suggest he was more deserving of an ERA under 4.00. And while the American League has the DH, it doesn't have Coors Field, the only home park Francis has known as a big leaguer.

There are no guarantees for Francis or for his new team. If he encounters more shoulder problems or struggles to surpass last year's innings total, the market for him won't be strong after the season. But a healthy year and a little more luck could position Francis for the big free agent contract he didn't sign this past offseason. 

Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.

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11 Comments on "Make Or Break Year: Jeff Francis"

4 years 5 months ago

He’s going to do real good for the Royals.

4 years 5 months ago


4 years 5 months ago

Well what?

4 years 5 months ago

He’s got to deal with three good offenses (Tigers; Twins; White Sox) and a not so good one (Indians) in his division. It would help a lot if he could face the Royals… but he can’t. That means he will probably face these teams 15 of his 30 starts (assuming he doesn’t get injured and/or pitches every 5th day with little to no breaks.) I wouldn’t exactly call the Royal’s defense good, so don’t expect them to save his ERA. So, in my personal opinion, I say that he will struggle this year.

4 years 5 months ago

I would say that the Royals ARE a decent hitting team AND have improved VASTLY on defense this season. THe only thing they really lack in pitching. If Frances can turn in a decent 1/2 season, then the Royals could add to their impressive minor leagues.

4 years 5 months ago

playing in a new stadium should help

4 years 5 months ago

Teams shy away from pitchers with shoulder injuries like the black plague. If he was coming off Tommy John surgery, instead of just having the shoulder injuries, He would easily have gotten a 1 year deal for 4 to 5 mil with incentives.

4 years 5 months ago

I say he will break.

4 years 5 months ago

I wish the Cubs had taken a shot at him with that price. Ah well.

4 years 5 months ago

What spot in the rotation is he expected to have? I concur that he might pitch well, but if he’s KC’s number 2 he’s going to end up with a bad record.

4 years 5 months ago

“if he’s KC’s number 2 he’s going to end up with a bad record”
He’s going to end up with a bad record no matter what spot he takes in the rotation, given the prospects for the Royals chances of success this year. And to a GM next year, a bad record will matter not if he pitches 200 innings with a low 4.00 ERA.