Notes: Francoeur displays discipline
More patient approach helps Braves right fielder raise average
ATLANTA -- As the regular season heads into its final week and the Braves' postseason hopes grow dimmer, Jeff Francoeur knows that at least one goal will likely go unfulfilled. But from a personal standpoint, he's already lived up to his promise to prove his critics wrong.
"A lot of people just thought I'd be a .260 hitter all my life," Francoeur said. "Last year, I was just 22 [years old]. I was kind of like, 'Let me make some adjustments and let me learn the game a little bit.'"
When Francoeur hit .260 with a .293 on-base percentage, 29 home runs and 103 RBIs last season, many simply assumed that he would remain a free swinger who had the power to occasionally hurt opposing pitchers.
Francoeur admits that rush to judgment bothered him and motivated him to make the adjustments that have allowed him to become a more complete offensive threat this year. Entering Saturday, the 23-year-old right fielder was hitting .292 with a .337 on-base percentage, 17 homers and 101 RBIs.
"I didn't think he was able to make some of the adjustments that he's made -- not in one year," veteran right-hander John Smoltz said. "He's only going to get better. He's only going to get stronger. He's got a bright future."
Francoeur's significant improvement can be attributed to his enhanced sense of patience at the plate. Entering this season, he had drawn just 34 walks in 960 career plate appearances. In 665 plate appearances this year, he has drawn 40 walks, and 20 of those have come in the 288 plate appearances that he's totaled since the All-Star break.
"I think the thing I'm most excited about is the fact that I was able to, for the most part, change pitchers' mindsets about what kind of hitter I am," Francoeur said. "They still know I'm an aggressive hitter, but I think they respect the fact that I'm willing to go to right field, take my walks and be a better hitter."
While becoming a more consistent offensive threat, Francoeur has also continued to prove that he has one of the game's best outfield arms. During the eighth inning of Friday night's loss to the Brewers, Francoeur registered his National League-best 19th outfield assist, moving to within one of the Braves record that Andruw Jones set in 1998.
Minor Leaguers honored: Before Saturday afternoon's game against the Brewers, the Braves honored the Players and Pitchers of the Year from each of their Minor League affiliates. While on the field during batting practice, many of the Minor Leaguers gained a better sense of what it would be like if they realize their dreams of being a Major Leaguer.
"It makes me realize that I feel like I should be here," Triple-A Richmond Player of the Year Brent Lillibridge said. "I feel like you get a visual image of where you're supposed to be. Hopefully, next year, I can come in and do whatever it takes to be here."
Lillibridge, whose athleticism allows him to be a candidate as an infielder and outfielder, hit .287 with 10 homers and 28 stolen bases in the 87 games he played after being promoted to Richmond in June. The 24-year-old shortstop, who was acquired from the Pirates in the Adam LaRoche trade in January, battled discomfort in his left wrist during the final few weeks of the regular season.
After Richmond's season concluded on Tuesday, Lillibridge received a cortisone shot that he hopes will provide the relief needed for him to play in this year's Arizona Fall League.
Below is a list of the organization's Players and Pitchers of the Year:
Triple-A Richmond: Manny Acosta (Pitcher) and Lillibridge (Player)
Double-A Mississippi: Joey Devine (Pitcher) and Brandon Jones (Player)
High-A Myrtle Beach: Sung Ki Jung (Pitcher) and Jordan Schafer (Player)
Class A Rome: Tommy Hanson (Pitcher) and Cole Flowers (Player)
Rookie Level Danville: Jeff Locke (Pitcher) and Cody Johnson (Player)
Gulf Coast League: Eric Barrett (Pitcher) and Samuel Sine (Player)
Dominican Summer League: Dimasther Delgado (Pitcher) and Anthony Feliz (Player)
Braves bits: MLB officials will listen to Rafael Soriano's appeal on Tuesday in Philadelphia. Soriano is appealing a four-game suspension he was given after hitting Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla with a pitch on Monday. ... The Braves awarded grants totaling $98,250 to a number of Atlanta-area non-profit organizations before Saturday's game.
Coming up: The Braves will conclude their three-game series against the Brewers on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. ET. They'll send Jo-Jo Reyes (1-2, 6.98 ERA) to the mound to oppose Chris Capuano (5-12, 5.21 ERA).
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.