I'm going to try out a new series that may only run for the next few weeks or I may continue it indefinitely. I'm honestly not sure, because I first want to know if anyone is even interested in this. What I'd like to do is cover a current or former Royals prospect, but I'm aiming at guys who aren't names you've likely heard of. What I'm aiming more towards is human interest side stories rather than bonafide prospects (like say Manaea/Zimmer/Mondesi etc...).
My first post here was The Ballad of Kenny Deikroeger which I not only enjoyed writing, but received good feedback. That's what I'm going to try to kinda do here. Now, not every case is going to be like Deikroeger (mainly because Kenny was a very well known college player) and some prospects or former prospect coverage will be more brief than the Diekroeger article. If reading about guys you've never heard of before and aren't likely to be an impact player at the major league level doesn't interest you, then these articles may not be for you. Now truthfully, I'm hoping to have enough obscure prospects to write about, but I've got a list of some that should cover me a couple weeks.
The first guy on this list is sadly a former prospect. His name is Nick Francis. He's no longer a major league prospect because he no longer plays for a major league baseball organization. After playing for six years and seven different levels, the Royals release the 25 year old Francis in 2011, coming off his worst season.
Francis originally attended Florida State before transferring after his freshman season to Pensacola Junior College. Francis dominated the easier talent and the reports on him were decent coming going into the 2011 draft. He featured a potentially powerful bat and had a strong arm with average or so speed, but his approach was unrefined and his swing was long.
How did he do in pro ball?
He was an above average hitter at every level until his last, but you may notice something...where's 2007?
Pre-draft, Francis was a potential 2nd round talent, but he slipped to the 15th round due to maturity and attitude issues. These fears proved true as Francis was suspended for the entire 2007 season for violating team rules. While no Royals official confirmed what the suspension was, it was expected to be a drug suspension brought down by the team rather than the league. Then in 2009, Francis was suspended a second time. This time though it officially came from the league as Francis had broken the minor league drug policies and sat out 50 games.
Francis had good results, but thanks to the suspensions and slow development he found himself returning from suspension as a 24 year old in A+. He then repeated that level in 2011 at 25, but at this point he wasn't improving from a scouting perspective.
While the power was there, his swing was still too long, his bat speed too slow, and he had pitch recognition issues stemming from breaking balls. This showed up in the results too.
He was selling out for power at times and other times he wasn't making consistent enough contact.
It could have been different for Francis of course. He certainly had some tools. First there was the power. Also he had a strong arm and was rated as the best outfield arm in the Carolina League in 2011. He also had a track record of hitting well at different levels he faced.
Unfortunately for him though the scouting reports weren't there, and his suspensions didn't help. Ultimately the organization decided to cut him loose and he hasn't played MiLB baseball since or what seems to be any organized baseball.
Here's what initially piqued my interest in Francis:
2015 Steamer600 projections
While it isn't likely to actually happen, Steamer believes that if given 600 plate appearances, the 29 year old Francis (who hasn't played organized baseball in about four years - something Steamer may or may not know) projects to be a better right fielder than the Royals likely right fielder in Alex Rios.