Archive for April, 2011

105: Freddi Freeman’s First Full Season Fun

Gil

Mechanicsville, VA –  For a lot of  folks, Freddi Freeman’s early season struggles had some wondering if this rookie was indeed ready for “Prime Time”.  Could the Braves really be so lucky as to pick another one-two punch out of the first year draft in Heyward and Freeman?  Looks like the answer to that question has been answered with a resounding “YES”.

Freddi Freeman

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise has not been his prowess with the bat as he is still adapting to big league pitching but with his nifty glove work around the bag.  At least a dozen or more throws by various infielders have not been recorded as throwing errors but as outs because of his quick reflexes and long stretches for some pretty close tags.

In the next to the last play of  Sunday’s final against the Giants, he almost completed another amazing hook up with Alex Gonzalez that would have resulted in a final out that would have made the “Web Gems” for sure.  The kid has displayed a deft touch that not only gives the Braves’ pitching staff the confidence to pitch to contact but also allows the other infielders to not worry about having to be too fine with their tosses to first.

The Braves have had a revolving door at first base over the past twenty years.  In fact the only real mainstays have been in the pitching corps, at third base with Chipper and in centerfield for the ten years that Andruw Jones occupied the spot. While the Braves have employed some really great first baseman in the past with the likes of Andres Galarraga and Fred McGriff, it has more often than not been the position of necessity filled with players like Sid Bream and Gerald Perry with a few years of Adam LaRoche and Mark Texiera thrown in.

Rather than having a guy around whom you could build a franchise like a young Derrick Lee or Albert Pujols, the Braves filled the slot with the likes of Scott Thorman and Randell Simon or converted past-their-prime third basemen like Troy Glaus and Ken Caminiti.

Freeman has a long way to go before he reaches his full potential as a hitter.  To get anything above .270 from a rookie in his first full season is always a plus but Freddi has shown flashes of what we might come to expect.  He is a big strong player who “gets it” and does not always try to pull every pitch but has enough power to drive the ball the other way and is willing to take what the pitcher is giving him.  For sure, just squaring up on the ball and hitting it hard somewhere appears to be the MO of this kid rather than being pull happy which results in a lot of weak ground balls to the second baseman.

While those majestic, towering big flys into the bullpen can inspire a lot of oohs and ahhs, it was the line shot to left center that made me really sit up and take notice.  That is the sign of a player who is not trying to hit a five-run homer but one who is trying to make solid contact and has enough power to hit them out to all fields.

It is a welcome sight to an old Braves fan like me to see the Braves bring up a homegrown player who is likely to become an everyday fixture on the line-up card.  There are a lot of All-Star first basemen playing in the majors right now if you only consider their bat but very few are the total package of being MVP type players with both the glove and the stick.  It is my most humble opinion that Freddi Freeman is a player with that same potential.  For sure, he is going to be at the top of most every writer’s ROY list by the time he has made the rounds to different cities.

As for hitting, he is yet another young player who “gets it”.  Let’s be honest folks, anything above .270 for a first-year rookie is really gravy.  He has shown power but he also has shown that he understands that he does not have to try to pull everything to right field.  I don’t expect to see any radical infield shifts as we have on players like Brian McCann or Ron Howard of the Phillies.  He will have his share of O-fers this season because he is a contact hitter who is still learning the game but he is only going to get better with the stick.

~Gil~

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