No. 29: Freddie Freeman
Braves Seasons: 2010-2014
LH Hitting, RH Throwing First Baseman
.285/.366/.466; 104 HR, 424 RBI, 405 RS, 129 OPS+
I simply love this guy. Frederick Charles Freeman came to the Braves from Orange County, California, taken in the second round of the draft in 2007. After hitting well at all levels through the Braves farm system, he was a September callup in 2010, and then, in 2011, the Braves opening day first baseman at 21. He finished second in the ROY to Kimbrel, hitting .282 with 21 HRs and 76 RBI. His best year was 2013: 23 HRs, 109 RBI, and an .897 OPS.
Freddie’s plate coverage is a thing of beauty. He will go down and get a breaking ball on his knees and golf it off the foul pole, as Gio Gonzalez has learned. I fully expect that some of Freddie’s doubles (43 in 2014) will become homers over time. I can easily see him settling in the 25-30 HR range, and I can also see him hitting above .300 a few seasons.
Freddie’s fielding is not too shabby either. Career FP is .994, but anecdotally, I am continually amazed at his ability at picking bad or late throws, often doing a split that a 6-5 guy shouldn’t be able to make. He’s pretty slick, especially for his size.
I’ve put him in at new No. 29, below Rico Carty and above Rick Camp. I wouldn’t worry too much about this ranking – it’s temporary. He’s the first new addition to the 44 who’s still playing for the Braves. With two more regular seasons, he’ll be in the top 20. He’s signed through 2021 and appears to be the successor to Chipper as the Face of the Franchise. Barring some sort of catastrophic injury, I expect that he may wind up in the top 10 in this list.
My kids and I have a ritual. Whenever Freddie comes to the plate, or hits a dinger, or just is shown in the ondeck circle, we yell at the TV: Freddie FREEEEEEEE! Join in. It’s fun.