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Let’s start off by playing a round of America’s favorite game, the blind resume test.
- This player had a .330 average to go with 17 home runs, 62 runs, 82 RBI, and 0 steals.
- This player had a .288 average to go with 18 home runs, 93 runs, 78 RBI, and 3 steals.
- This player had a .259 average to go with 26 home runs, 73 runs, 92 RBI, and 3 steals.
- This player had a .253 average to go with 30 home runs, 74 runs, 92 RBI, and 3 steals.
Those are the standard fantasy statistics for four different first baseman in 2014, and yes, one of those lines was produced by Atlanta Braves first baseman, Freddie Freeman. Can you guess which one? And who the other three players are?
One more minute…
Now look at those lines again and explain to me why Freddie Freeman is currently the eighth first baseman going in 2015 drafts, costing prospective owners an early fourth round pick for his services. Can you? I sure cannot come up with a good reason.
Look, I think Freeman is a fine player and I definitely prefer him over the likes of LaRoche, Duda and Morneau but those guys are going in the 15th, 16th and 19th rounds. So do I like him 10-15 round ahead of them though? Nope. Not even a little.
From just a pure skills standpoint, Freeman is a fantastic hitter, likely one of the 50 best in all of baseball. From a fantasy standpoint though, he’s going to leave owners with a lot to be desired in 2015 for two big reasons.
Reason Number One: For those of you waiting/expecting a power surge, it’s not coming.
Simply put, Freeman just isn’t a power hitter and nothing in his statistical profile indicates he’s going to all of a sudden turn into one. He’s never hit more than 23 home runs in a full season and I don’t think his ceiling is much higher then that.
There were 11 players who hit at least 30 home runs last season: Nelson Cruz, Giancarlo Stanton, Chris Carter, Jose Abreu, Mike Trout, Jose Bautista, David Ortiz, Edwin Encarnacion, Victor Martinez, Anthony Rizzo and Duda.
Between those 11 players they averaged a 19.65 percent line drive rate and a fly ball rate of 42.7 percent. Freeman had a 31.0 percent line drive rate to go with a 32.5 percent fly ball rate in 2014.
Freeman is a line drive hitter who takes what the pitcher gives him and scatters the ball all over the field, compared to your traditional left-handed power hitter who’s at the plate trying to crush the ball over the right field wall. Of the 11 hitters who hit at least 30 home runs last year, three of them are left-handed: Rizzo, Ortiz and Duda. Those three guys combined to hit 97 home runs and 69 of them they hit to either right field or right-center, that’s 71.1 percent.
Freeman hit just eight of his 18 home runs to right or right center, or just 44.4 percent. He is clearly not up there trying to knock the ball out of the park every time, so why should we ever expect him to emerge as a premier power hitter?
Freeman is a phenomenal hitter, but he is not an elite power bat unless he completely changes his approach at the plate. He probably will not dramatically change his approach because he is really good as is. I do not see any reason to expect any sort of power breakout.
Reason Number Two: Where are runs/RBI going to come from?
Among first baseman last season, Freeman was sixth with a combined total of 171 runs and RBI. That was when Atlanta had an actual major league lineup though, in 2015 they might be trotting out the worst lineup in all of baseball. This is Atlanta’s current projected lineup according to Rotochamp.com:
- Nick Markakis
- Andrelton Simmons
- Chris Johnson
- Jonny Gomes
- Alberto Callaspo
- Zoilo Almonte
- Christian Bethancourt
Freeman had just 78 RBI last season, do you honestly expect him to improve upon that number when he has Andrelton Simmons projected to hit in front of him? For his career, he has a .297 OBP! And how can we reasonably expect him to repeat that run total when the biggest threat behind him is Chris Johnson? I know lineup protection does not mean everything, but it certainly cannot help when you are completely surrounded by ineptitude. Baseball is, after all, a team sport.
Steamer currently has Freeman projected to score 80 runs and knock in 83 RBI. I will take the under on both.
When it’s all said and done, there’s just no way I can justify using a fourth round pick on Freddie Freeman. I will gladly use that pick to snag an ace like Corey Kluber or add an outfielder like Ryan Braun and wait to snag Prince Fielder in the seventh; or Ortiz or Joey Votto in the eighth; or Carter, Chris Davis or Mark Trumbo in the 12th… or Morneau in the 19th.