Rookie Watch: What Can We Expect From Freddie Freeman?

Freddie Freeman started off his 2011 campaign incredibly shaky.  He had just two hits over his first six games.  In his first 17 games he had just one multi-hit game, picking up just 1 HR and 5 RBI.  Granted, he still has not yet picked up more than 1 RBI in any game, but the promise and productivity is finally starting to come around.

Since April 19 he has hits in four out of six games, including three multi-hit affairs.  Of his seven hits, three have been for extra bases (1 double and 2 home runs).  You have to start to wonder if he has finally gotten over the hump. 

Handed the first base job, Freeman has seen time hitting all over the lineup in the early going, though the majority of his time has been spent hitting sixth (15 AB) and eighth (31 AB).  On Saturday he actually hit third, though Chipper Jones was out of the lineup (in the previous game he was hitting sixth).  With Jones back in the lineup on Sunday, Freeman was hitting fifth (Brian McCann was sitting).  Still, it’s obvious that Freddi Gonzalez and company are noticing that Freeman may have finally adjusted to the Major League game.

So, if that is something we can assume, what can we expect from him moving forward?

Freeman has been making very good contact, with a strikeout rate of 16.4% entering Sunday (he struck out once in five at bats on Sunday).  At Triple-A last season he was at 18.2%, so it may be a little optimistic to think that he can continue at this pace, but he still has proven that he is not going to strikeout a ton.  Considering he’s been doing this while struggling, things look even better.

His BABIP entering Sunday was at .283, so seeing him improve on his current average certainly is a realistic possibility. 

He has never shown much power in the past, hitting just 18 HR in 461 AB at Triple-A last season (and 50 over 1,580 career minor league at bats).  He has, however, shown plenty of doubles potential, with 35 last season.

This year he has already hit four doubles, to go along with his trio of home runs.  At 21-years old, he clearly is still developing and growing into his power.  He’s not going to turn into a 30 HR hitter overnight, but seeing him slug 20ish would not be a surprise.  He certainly has gotten off to the proper start for it. 

Are we certain he can maintain his 15.8% HR/FB rate?  No, we’re not, but you still have to like what we’ve seen thus far.

Freeman is not going to be an elite first baseman in 2011.  That’s not a stretch and not a very wild statement.  However, he is not as bad as his early season struggles indicated.  His ultimate spot in the lineup will help determine if he is going to be a decent source of RBI, but Gonzalez has shown recently that he is comfortable using him in the middle of the lineup.

In shallower formats he may not have much value, but in deeper formats he remains a must own option.  He has the potential to be a solid corner infielder in all formats, so just stay patient.  He’s already showing signs and can only get better from here.

What are your thoughts of Freeman?  How good could he be in 2011?

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