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Better know your Blue Jays 40-man: Bowden Francis

MLB: SEP 11 Rangers at Blue Jays Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Bowden Francis is a 27-year-old (28 in April), right-handed pitcher. He is in his last option year with the team, so this is a big year for him if he continues to be with the Blue Jays.

Bowden came to us in trade from the Brewers, along with Trevor Richards, for Rowdy Tellez. We were pretty happy about the trade; our poll had 59% Happy, 35% Meh, and 6% Unhappy in early July 2021. That we were happy surprises me in retrospect. Rowdy was well-liked (how can you not like a guy named Rowdy?) (Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you had a different name? I would expect that if my parents had named me Rowdy instead of Tom, it would have been a different life. But then my parents had no imagination) (oh, Rowdy’s parents named him Ryan John, so I scratch all that).

Rowdy played three seasons with the Brewers, hitting .226/.305/.438 with 55 home runs and a 0.5 WAR in 314 games, so I wouldn’t call the trade a win for the Brewers. I’d think the Brewers could have given those at-bats to someone else and done better.

Francis has pitched only 37 innings for the Jays. He has a 1.70 ERA (you’d think a guy with a 1.70 ERA would get more innings). He’s allowed 22 hits, 5 home runs, 8 walks and 35 strikeouts. Batters hit .178/.230/.326 against him.

It is a small sample size, but why not give him more chance and see if those 37 innings were a fluke? The team wanted (and likely still wants) to keep him stretched out so he could fill a starting spot if needed. We aren’t exactly deep in major league-ready starting pitchers.

In Buffalo, Bowden had a 2.67 ERA in 9 games, 8 starts. But in 2022, he had a 6.59 ERA in 37 games and 23 starts, so you can see why the team wasn’t trusting the 2023’s small sample.

Last year, Matt had Francis #3 on his list of “Top Five Blue Jays Older Prospects” as we have taken to thinking players over 25 are no longer being ‘prospects’ and more finished products who haven’t made it to the majors. Matt wrote:

Francis profiled as a starter with a four pitch mix of a low-90s fastball, slider, big curve, and change-up. In watching a lot of outings since he came over, nothing stood out as plus and overall it was pretty underwhelming. He’s always had problems with the long ball, and in 2023 he gave up 23 in 98.1 innings as his ERA ballooned to 6.59, though he still struck out more than a batter than inning.

If one likes Francis, he’s a backend starter who’s on the door of the big leagues. For example, a couple weeks ago Fangraphs rated him 16th in the system as a “high-probability fifth starter”. We don’t don’t see that, rating him more as deep depth.

But this spring he’s been consistently up to 94-95 MPH in short outings, and started out there last weekend against the Yankees before it tailed off to 93 over three innings. He’s been pairing that with just the curveball, with two variants in the low/mid and high-70s. It’s looked quite sharp, and we’re intrigued with Francis is a short reliever with a bump and velo and arsenal pared back to his best stuff.

Bowden averaged 94.3 mph on his fastball in his few innings with the Jays. As Matt mentioned, he paired that with a curve (which made him a far more effective pitcher) and also threw a slider.

What’s his role this year?

Bowden will likely be in the same spot as last year, likely starting in Buffalo, waiting for a shot at the majors. If he pitches like last year, he’d be near the top of the list for a spot in the pen or the rotation when he opens up. This is the life of pitchers who have options.

I’d like to see him get a real shot. Francis wouldn't be a bad choice if we used someone as a multi-inning reliever.

PECOTA figures Francis to get into 36 games with a 4.78 ERA in 59 innings.

ZiPS has him throwing 87.2 innings in 29 games, 16 starts, with a 4.31 ERA (usual note that ZiPS doesn’t really guess playing time).

Steamer has him at 37 games, 2 starts, 44 innings, 4.30 ERA.

Poll

If we set the over/under at 45 innings for Francis I’d take the

  • 68%
    Over
    (196 votes)
  • 31%
    Under
    (92 votes)
288 votes total Vote Now

Poll

If the over/under for Francis’ MLB ERA is 4.50 I’d take the

  • 13%
    Over
    (38 votes)
  • 86%
    Under
    (235 votes)
273 votes total Vote Now

Poll

If we set the career over/under for MLB inning for Francis at 300 I’d take the

  • 63%
    Over
    (155 votes)
  • 36%
    Under
    (89 votes)
244 votes total Vote Now