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Francoeur bounces back with Royals

The Associated Press . Kansas City Royals' Jeff Francoeur, a Parkview grad, hits an RBI single off Chicago White Sox starter Edwin Jackson on Wednesday in Chicago.

The Associated Press . Kansas City Royals' Jeff Francoeur, a Parkview grad, hits an RBI single off Chicago White Sox starter Edwin Jackson on Wednesday in Chicago.

Jeff Francoeur went from playing in the World Series a year ago with Texas to finishing near last place this season with Kansas City.

Individually, though, it was a bounce-back year for the former Parkview superstar, who had seen his baseball profile dim considerably after a bright start with the hometown Braves.

Francoeur hit .285 for the Royals with 47 doubles, four triples, 20 homers, 87 RBIs and 22 stolen bases. His double total was one less than the most in the major leagues and he was second in the AL with 16 outfield assists.

Playing on a young team still struggling for respect, Francoeur's season didn't generate the same kind of attention as his early years with the Braves. But it was on the same level.

As a reward, the Royals gave Francoeur, 27, a two-year contract extension worth $13.5 million in August.

With the Braves, Francoeur was the young phenom. With the Royals, he is the veteran helping to groom some of the top prospects in baseball.

Francoeur, who attributed his turnaround this season to losing more than 25 pounds over the winter, is comfortable in that role and comfortable in low-key Kansas City after bouncing from Atlanta to New York to Texas.

"I enjoy it here and I'm looking forward to being part of this with the Royals," he said.

Both the team and Francoeur, who made $2.5 million this year, finished strong. Kansas City (71-91) was 15-10 in September and the right fielder ended on a nine-game hitting streak, going 14-for-40.

Of course, having your season end in September isn't what any player wants. But Francoeur was just a part-time player with Texas a year ago after being acquired from the Mets and he was 0-for-6 in the World Series as the Rangers lost to the Giants.

Now Francoeur seems to have found a home in Kansas City as a complement to rising stars like Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon and Matt Moustakas.

The key for the Royals is developing young pitching to match their hitting. Former North Gwinnett and Georgia Tech pitcher Blake Wood spent his second season in the Kansas City bullpen and showed promise. He was 5-3 with 3.75 ERA in 55 appearances and had 62 strikeouts in 69 innings.

Francoeur wasn't the only Gwinnett County product to miss the major league playoffs, of course. With the Braves' late collapse, none did.

Jeff Keppinger had hoped that he would get to play in the postseason for the first time when he was traded from the last-place Astros to the defending World Series champion Giants in July. But the final few months of the season weren't kind to the veteran infielder or his new team.

Batting .307 at the time of the deal, the former Parkview and Georgia player hit just .255 with San Francisco to finish at .277 and the Giants couldn't generate enough offense to catch Arizona in the National League West.

Things also didn't work out as hoped for Charlie Blackmon, whose rookie season with Colorado was cut short by an injury in his homecoming as a major leaguer.

Blackmon, who played at North Gwinnett and Georgia Tech, was hitting .255 in 27 games with Colorado after a promotion from the minors when he broke his left foot running the bases in a July game at Turner Field.

The disappointment for Nick Green was not making it back to the big leagues at all this season after playing in the majors six of the past seven years. The veteran infielder, who turned 33 in September, was stuck in Class AAA, splitting time between Norfolk in the International League and Round Rock in the Pacific Coast League.