BRAVES NOTEBOOK: Atlanta trades 3B Francisco for reliever; Heyward ready to sweat little brother on draft day

Backup Juan Francisco was a fan-favorite in Atlanta but was also expendable at any point.

Backup Juan Francisco was a fan-favorite in Atlanta but was also expendable at any point.

ATLANTA — The Braves were confident when they designated Juan Francisco for assignment last Thursday they would be able to get something in return for him on the trade market. They acquired minor league left-hander Tom Keeling from the Brewers on Monday, in exchange for Francisco, and assigned Keeling to Double-A Mississippi.

Keeling, 25, an 18th round draft pick in 2010 out of Oklahoma State, spent parts of four season with the Brewers advancing as high as Double-A Huntsville. He was 0-1 with 3.18 ERA in 17 relief appearances for Huntsville this season, with 15 hits allowed, 10 walks and 19 strikeouts in 17 innings.

Francisco was designated for assignment after the Braves promoted left-handed prospect and former Georgia star Alex Wood and returned to full strength with six relievers in the bullpen.

Francisco was the odd man out after hitting .241 with five home runs and 16 RBI in 35 games as a platoon third baseman. He has undeniable raw power but also struck out 43 times in only 108 at-bats.

Now Francisco lands a job with the Brewers, who released former Braves shortstop Alex Gonzalez in their roster shuffling Monday.

The Braves had 10 days to trade Francisco, put him through waivers and outright him to the minors if he cleared, or release him.


ATLANTA — The 2007 baseball draft was a wang dang doodle of a party at Jason Heyward’s house, an unreserved, unambiguous celebration of a dream fulfilled.

Jason was plucked 14th overall by the hometown Braves, a team that continues to employ him in right field. His jump from Henry County High School to the pros seemed just about predestined.

The 2013 draft commences Thursday and snakes through three days and 40 rounds. Another Heyward — Jason's young brother Jacob — is out there for the taking. It figures to be a more subdued ceremony back home this time.

A 6-foot-2, 180-pound outfielder at Class A-Private state champion Eagles Landing Christian Academy in McDonough, Jacob, if he is drafted, certainly will go later — much, much later — than his brother.

Some of the high points the Heywards will hit this week: managing expectation and reminding the younger brother that this draft experience is uniquely his own, unburdened by what Jason accomplished.

Otherwise, what awaits Jacob in this draft is a great mystery — as his father, Eugene, said, "I have absolutely no idea what will happen.

"I know he wants to play (professionally), but he has (other) options," he added.

The elder Heyward said he has preached to his youngest son about what he already has accomplished in baseball, continually reminding him that a scholarship at Miami awaits should he not get drafted high enough for his liking. There are many worse fallback positions than Coral Gables, Fla.

"This is a happy time. He's going to get drafted somewhere. If it's not where he wants it to be, if it's not a fit for him, that's OK. Just go back to work and keep getting better," Eugene said.

Jacob's senior season at ELCA began slowly, much in the fashion of his older brother's current woes with the Braves. But he kicked it in as the Chargers were at the head of the homestretch. Jacob finished with a .333 batting average, a .510 on-base percentage, nine home runs and a team-leading 42 RBIs in 33 games.

He arrived at ELCA a third baseman, but his coach, recognizing an athletic ability suited to roam the outfield, moved Jacob to right field. More than a position, right field is by now almost a family trait.

Being Jason Heyward's little brother, while playing the same position, has come with its own set of challenges. If nothing else, that certainly will toughen him a little for whatever baseball may bring.

"He caught a lot of flack about that from opposing teams, players and fans," said his coach, Doug Campbell. "They loved to compare and make comments. He handled that pretty well, especially this season."

Jason last week had no comment about Jacob, brusquely brushing off a question about his brother's prospects.

Yes, Jason's employer, the Braves, are among the teams that have worked out Jacob, and they have first-hand, highly placed experience with his power potential.

With Braves general manager Frank Wren in the seats to watch his son, Jordan, and Landmark Christian in a playoff game, Jacob went very deep in one ELCA victory.

"Hit that one a mile, an absolute bomb," Campbell said.

The kid's sense of timing checked out as being absolutely draft-worthy.