Freddie Freeman was highly touted as we headed into the 2011 campaign and he failed to disappoint. The rookie was solid en route to the following line:
571 At Bats
.282 Batting Average (161 Hits)
21 Home Runs
4 Stolen Bases
.346 On Base Percentage
.448 Slugging Percentage
.339 Batting Average on Balls in Play
The power could be considered a little bit of a surprise, considering he never hit more than 18 HR in a minor league season (and had 50 HR over 1,580 AB over his minor league career). That said, there is nothing in the 21-year olds numbers (he turned 22-years old in September) that makes you think that he can’t maintain the “outburst”.
Is a 34.6% fly ball rate unbelievable?
Is a 14.0% HR/FB rate something that can’t be maintained?
In fact, as he continues to gain experience and strength, there is reason to believe that he will take a step forward in the power department. Is he going to suddenly develop into a 30 HR hitter? I wouldn’t expect it in 2012, though at the same time I wouldn’t consider it unbelievable either. The potential is clearly there and I would only expect him to get better as time goes on.
The same thing could be said for his batting average, as he clearly struggled to adjust to Major League pitching. Yes, his .282 was solid, but it came courtesy of a 22.4% strikeout rate. In 461 Triple-A at bats in ’10 he posted a 16.2% rate. Over his minor league career he posted a 14.8% mark.
An improvement in the strikeout rate should not come as a surprise. If you couple that with an improvement in the power department and there is reason to believe that he could approach, or surpass, a .300 average moving forward.
Throw in hitting in the middle of the Braves lineup, giving him plenty of opportunities for RBI, and there is a whole lot to like. In fact, Freeman spent 91 AB hitting third in 2011, a spot in the order that could make a lot of sense for him moving forward (depending on the moves the Braves make this offseason). If that turns out to be the case he should score plenty of runs as well. He’s not going to lead the league, but 90+ could be realistic with Brian McCann, Dan Uggla and others hitting behind him.
Last season there were only six first baseman who had more than 85 runs scored and nine who had at least 80 runs scored (one of which was Mark Reynolds). In other words, getting to that type of mark helps to offset the disadvantage he may have in the power department.
You put everything together and we get the following projection for 2012:
.298 (173-580), 25 HR, 90 RBI, 85 R, 5 SB, .338 BABIP, .362 OBP, .490 SLG
In other words, Freeman’s projections place him right there in the Top 10-15 first baseman in the league. He has a ton of upside and has shown that he can produce in the big leagues at a young age. Is there a risk of a sophomore slump? It’s possible, but I wouldn’t let that cause you to shy away. He has the potential to simply get better and better, making him an intriguing fantasy option. Considering where you can likely get him on draft day, he looks that much better.
What are your thoughts of Freeman? Is he someone that you think could take the next step forward? Would you target him on draft day?
Make sure to check out the rest of our early 2012 projections: