NATS LUCKED OUT WITH FRANCISCO PLASENCIA
[April 23rd] -- When Francisco Plasencia stepped to the plate for the first time in 2005, the Washington Nationals thought they knew what to expect. Plasencia had amassed 350+ at bats in the Brewers farm system, playing at the team's rookie league affiliate in Ogden Utah as well as spending two seasons in the Arizona League. He hit for a combined .266 with a .344 on base percentage and a .375 slugging average. Plasencia hit just three home runs in those 357 at bats. The Nationals looked at his slight 6'2", 150 pound frame and hoped that their new outfielder could continue to work on his stolen base prowess. A speedy leadoff hitter. Could be. Could be.
With his first swing of the season, Plasencia lined a deep ball off the right-center field wall at Lowell's LeLacheur Park and ended up at second base with a stand-up double. He didn't look like a top-of-the-lineup kind of guy. He kinda looked like a power hitter. Could that be possible?
It could. And he was.
Francisco Plasencia was one of the few bright spots on an otherwise moribund Expos team. In just 280 at-bats, he hit .300 with 11 home runs, 16 doubles and 4 triples. He finished the season with a fine .871 OPS. In three short months, Plasencia went from negible afterthought pick-up to a power hitting prospect.
If Plasencia can produce those kind of offensive power numbers with a 150 pound frame, what might he be able to do once his body weight catches up to his 6'2" height? Projected over a 140 game minor league number, his numbers would have looked like this: AVE:300 -- RUNS:86 -- HITS:168 -- 2B:32 -- 3B:8 -- HR:22 -- RBI:108 -- SB:28.
Jim McAllister, a minor league scout familiar with Plasencia, said he was surprised that the Brewers gave up on the young Venezuelan so quickly. "With his frame, what is he, 6'2", 6'3", it has 150 pounds on it at 20. By the time he's 24, he'll be 200 pounds and it'll be all muscle. The Brewers saw his speed and tried to make him a leadoff hitter. They shouldn't have. His bat's going to be a good one."
The "big board" at Nationals Farm Authority project Plasencia to begin the season at low 'A' Savannah, and I think that's accurate. If, however, he continues to hit in 2006 like he did last year, he'll likely be at Potomac by mid-season, and enjoy a cup of coffee with the 'AA' Harrisburg Senators. He'll be only 22 this season and should surface with the big club sometime in 2008.
Sorry, Milwaukee. Francisco Plasencia just might be the "one that got away."
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