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Braves get Minor League lefty for Francisco

Southpaw Keeling comes over from Brewers, assigned to Double-A

ATLANTA -- When the Braves acquired Juan Francisco before the start of last season, they optimistically hoped he would live up to his potential and serve as Chipper Jones' successor at third base. But a little more than a year later, Francisco's lasting legacy in Atlanta came in the form of a Minor League pitcher.

The Braves traded Francisco to the Brewers on Monday in exchange for left-handed reliever Tom Keeling. The transaction was made four days after the Braves designated Francisco for assignment.

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"[Keeling] is a good athlete," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "He's a guy you could see pitching up here in a couple years."

Keeling will be assigned to the Braves' Double-A Mississippi roster. The 25-year-old has made 105 Minor League relief appearances since the Brewers selected him in the 18th round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.

Keeling is considered to be a potential candidate for Atlanta's bullpen at some point next season. His fastball reaches 93 mph when he is throwing with a traditional over-the-shoulder arm angle. He occasionally drops down and pitches with a sidearm delivery, from which he has shown the ability to command both his fastball and curveball.

"One thing we're going to zero in on is, do we want him to continue to fluctuate with his [arm] angles," Wren said. "He will go from different angles. He has a breaking ball from up here and a different one from down here. We'll look to see whether that is helping him or hurting him in the developmental process. He has a real good arm and he gives hitters a tough time with those angles."

Keeling has recorded 19 strikeouts and issued 10 walks in 17 innings for Milwaukee's Double-A Huntsville club this season. Left-handed hitters have hit .273 (6-for-22) against him and right-handed hitters have been limited to a .225 (9-for-40) batting average.

Francisco has incredible power potential and quick hands. But the 25-year-old third baseman has struggled to find consistency with a violent swing that has many moving parts.

While there were some flashes of promise, Francisco ended up hitting .237 with 14 home runs and a .701 OPS in the 300 at-bats he compiled for Atlanta.

After hitting .316 with four home runs and 18 strikeouts in his first 57 at-bats this season, Francisco batted .157 with two extra-base hits and 25 strikeouts in what proved to be his final 51 at-bats with the Braves.

The Brewers plan to play Francisco primarily at first base.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for

Atlanta Braves, Juan Francisco