Freddie Freeman was poised for a breakout season.
The big Braves first baseman had already shown his growth as player in 2012 amongst the more saber friendly statistics, but in 2013, Freeman made a case to be a household name, slashing .319/.396/.501 while tying his career high 23 home runs and collecting 109 RBI’s.
I’m not going to ignore Freeman’s uncanny ability to hit with runners in scoring position (a whopping .443/.541/.695!), but I am also not putting any stock in these superficial numbers. I’m going to project “Eddie Free”‘s 2014 growth by taking a look at where he has already come into his own.
For those unfamiliar with these statistics, or for the “tl;dr” crowd: Freddie Freeman has steadily been walking more, striking out less, and hitting fewer balls into the ground. There isn’t much more I can say about Freeman’s offense, as this is a classic example of a maturing player. If he continues to keep his walks up, strikeouts down, and hitting more line drives than grounders, he will continue to succeed. His BABIP rate is slightly inflated over the rate he posted in 2011 and 12, but not so much that you can call it luck; Freeman has worked hard and it has paid off.
One thing I do not personally project Freeman to do is post better power numbers going forward. Although he has already broken the expectations he came up with, projecting more as a doubles hitter while only tallying 50 homers in 1771 minor league plate appearances, Freeman is a natural line drive hitter.
I don’t see Freeman’s 2013 as any sort of fluke, but more as a logical benchmark for his career expectations. Freeman may never exceed 25 home runs, but as long as his weird combination of being patiently aggressive at the plate stays the course, we can expect more of the same for him in the future.
On the defensive side of the game, Freeman has garnered both praise and criticism from casual and saber guys alike. One of the strongest points of Freeman’s defensive game, which can’t be truly shown via statistics, is his ability to dig balls out of the dirt with relative ease. He uses his 6’5″ frame to the full extent, being able to stretch to catch a throw sooner, or to turn one of Dan Uggla‘s many odd throws into outs. But Freeman’s height also limits his range in the field. Freeman turned in his first positive UZR rating in 2013, logging a 2.6, and that seems like his ceiling. Freeman is not Paul Goldschmidt, but he is also no David Ortiz. He is a more than capable fielder, if unspectacular.
I expect more of the same from Freddie Freeman in 2013. He’s really found his niche in the MLB, and the more he sticks to his plan instead of trying to become a stereotypical first basemen, the better. His slight lack of mobility in the field is easily balanced out by his uncanny ability to turn garbage into outs. More walks, less strikeouts, and more line drives are the best indicators of a pure hitter. I’m going out on a limb and projecting his 2014 slash line:
.308/.387/.497, 22 home runs, 84 RBI.
I look forward to referencing this article many times over the season, and I hope I’m right.