Sweet swinging Freddie Freeman enters the 2011 season carrying the weight of being given the Atlanta Braves first baseman job outright. With free agent Derek Lee gone to the Orioles and Troy Glaus still looking for work, the 21-year-old Freeman hopes to follow in the footsteps of Atlanta’s Rookie of the Year runner-up Jason Heyward from last year.
Freeman, from Fountain Valley, California, certainly has the size at 6’5″ and 225 pounds. Freeman throws right, but hits left; this is something that his father insisted on even way back in Freddie’s t-ball days. At his first t-ball practice, his father instructed his wife to take Freddie off of the field if his t-ball coach had him on the right side of the plate. Wife Rosemary had to pull him off the field. Unfortunately, Freddie’s Mom passed just a few years later when he was just 10-years-old.
Freeman was a second round pick of the Braves in 2007 when he graduated from high school. His good friend Jason Heyward was the first round pick. Last year, Freeman was named the International League Rookie of the Year when he hit .319/18/87/6. Freeman has good gap power as evidenced by his 35 doubles at Gwinett last year.
As a September call-up, Freeman was thrust into the lineup on September 1 against the Mets when Derek Lee needed a night off with an ailing back. Freeman finished up with just 4 hits in 24 at bats and whiffed 8 times. The highlight of his cup of coffee was a homerun over the right-center field wall at Citizen’s Bank Park.
After the Braves regular season ended, Freeman was sent to the Arizona Instructional League, but after a slide into third caused a sprained thumb, Freeman was given the rest of the Arizona Fall League off. He has spent the off-season working on his strength and attempting to improve his speed that has been tabbed as slightly below average.
“Everybody knows I’m not the fastest cat in the world,” said Freeman with a chuckle while on the Braves caravan in January. “I’m just working on my foot speed and trying to get down the line a little bit quicker.”
Free Advice on Freeman
As far as his hitting style, Freeman is more of a line drive hitter with gap power than a pure homerun hitter. He can hit to all fields. For a homerun hitter, his strikeout ratio is good; he’s fanned a respectable 16% of the time in his 1560 minor league at bats. He is a fairly aggressive hitter and has a walk rate of about 8% in his short career.
In looking at Freeman’s career and analyzing his swing, he appears to be a Mark Grace or James Loney type of hitter. He’s very agile around first base and has a good arm (many teams projected him as a pitcher when he signed) so he should be able to keep his job there and be a productive fantasy baseball first baseman for many years to come. He will likely develop more power as he gets older, reads pitchers better, and puts on more muscle.
Bill James projects Freddie Freeman at .282/16/83/6 for the 2011 season. We see that his long swing may be a problem against Major League pitching and have some concern in his short tenure with the Braves last September when he looked outmatched in some at bats. He also is very green having had only 610 at bats above the Single-A level.
Fantasy Baseball Dugout Projection for Freddie Freeman: .268 batting average with 15 homers, 75 RBI, and 5 stolen bases. If you play in a keeper league, Freeman is a guy you’ll want to draft given his value and the fact that his best years are yet to come. In a NL-only league, he’s a good sleeper pick and he’s a solid 15th – 17th round pick in mixed leagues.
Here’s what we know about Freeman from Freddie Freeman’s Twitter account. He likes to eat at Chipotle and he cooks a mean rack of lamb. He plays golf and loves video games like Call of Duty. He likes to listen to Eminem and he goes to church regularly. As for his uniform, he’ll wear # 5 for the Braves this year.
Freeman looks forward to being reunited with his ex-roommate Heyward. If he can match Heyward’s season from last year, it would be considered a great debut. At least he’ll enjoy sharing a cab with his good buddy on the way to the stadium.
Troy Glaus Retiring?
As for Troy Glaus, he has decided to sit out the start of the 2011 season. There just wasn’t much of a market for the 34-year-old Glaus despite his ability to hit for power. ”Troy had opportunities to sign with more than one club this offseason and each time he was presented with a particular opportunity, he weighed it against spending more time with his wife and family,” agent Mike Nicotera said. “After a good deal of thought and discussion in each instance, he decided to pass on playing.” It seems like Glaus should still have some years left. He had a good first half of the year last year and was named to our mid-season all value team. You would think that somebody has a need for a good power batter off of the bench.