It’s always tough to judge a prospect by his performance in the Pacific Coast League (Triple A), especially offensive players. It is such a high-powered league that 26 HR’s can almost be considered an afterthought, considering Dallas McPherson led the way with 42 and since that total would have put you on the outside of the leagues Top 10.
Still, Cardinals third base prospect David Freese, who posted a season where he hit .306 with 26 HR and 91 RBI in just 464 AB, should be considered anything but forgettable. Yeah, I know people will point to his struggles in the Venezuelan Winter League, hitting under .250, and say that maybe he doesn’t have the ability to survive in the major leagues. Those people would be dead wrong in my eyes.
The former ninth round pick by the San Diego Padres in 2006 (who was dealt to St. Louis in the Jim Edmonds trade), was just as impressive as a 24-year old in Single A in ’07, hitting .302 with 17 HR and 96 RBI.
I know he’s not perfect, but then again, who is? He struck out nearly 24% of the time last season while walking under 8% of the time. That type of strikeout to walk ratio is not even close to what owners want to see. He needs to be putting the ball in play, because his BABIP of .355 is unlikely to translate to the major leagues. That means a decrease in average, probably to the .270 range is likely.
The less he puts the ball in play, the less likely he is to drive in runs as well. Sometimes all it takes is a sacrifice fly or ground ball to the second baseman to drive in a run, but if your striking out all the time you’re going to lose those opportunities.
Look no further then Troy Glaus, the player currently blocking Freese’s path to the majors, as a reason to not get too tied up on these numbers. Glaus has struck out 25.5% of the time over the course of his career while hitting .256, yet has proven to be a usable player for all fantasy owners thanks to his immense power and ability to drive in runs in droves.
Granted, it is unlikely that Freese is going to match the power that Glaus has, with Glaus hitting 37+ HR four times during the course of his career. Still, Freese has the potential to hit for a higher average and therefore could prove just as valuable.
Don’t look for him to be among the elite in the league, I just don’t see him hitting 30+ HR and he doesn’t have the speed to steal in the double digits. While he’s hit for over a .300 average in the minors, that BABIP worries me and leads me to believe that his average is going to dip, though as I said before, it will still be usable.
Still, if he gets playing time, he should certainly prove a usable player for those in leagues that require a corner infielder. In other formats, he certainly would be a player you can use as a short-term fill-in, especially if he gets off to a hot start.
I know with Glaus in place, it doesn’t seem likely that he gets a chance to play, but then again what are the chances Glaus stays healthy for a full season? Being one minor injury away from getting a chance, to me it seems like a no-brainer that Freese gets his opportunity in ’09. That certainly makes him a player worth watching.
If I had to peg it, I’d guess he gets around 150 AB next season, hitting .273 with 8 HR and 37 RBI.
Yeah, those are not star numbers, but they would be worth using, to say the least.