While he is far from an elite first baseman, Freddie Freeman should be a big target for fantasy players on draft day this season. At just 23-years-old, Freeman already has two seasons of more than 20 home runs and owns a career 115 wRC+.
The biggest reason to be bullish in regards to Freeman is how he improved in almost every area you would want a second year player to improve in. His strikeout rate dropped from 22.4% to 20.8%, his walk rate rose from 8.3% to 10.3%, his ISO rose from .166 to .196, and his line drive rate jumped from 23% to 26% with his fly ball rate jumping from 34.6% to 36.9%. The big drop from a fantasy perspective was his average, which dropped from .282 to .259, a notable decrease that matters for leagues that still use batting average as a category. While his .339 rookie BABIP probably was a bit on the high end of what to expect, his career BABIP of .315 looks more reasonable than the .295 mark he posted last year.
With the notable improvements he made at the plate, his place in the Atlanta Braves lineup is more than ideal. He will bat behind two of the top outfielders in the game in Jason Heyward and Justin Upton, and he will bat before a player that led an American League East team in home runs in B.J. Upton. He scored and batted in more than 90 runs last year moving throughout the Braves lineup, and if he does lock down the cleanup spot for the full season as expected, 100+ runs and RBI are certainly attainable.
One note that also has me more bullish on Freeman than most is the eye issues he suffered from last year. His vision problems, which were caused by dryness and led him to be unable to create tears, hurt him from May 7 to June 12. During that stretch the young first baseman hit just .194/.269/.306 with two home runs in 108 plate appearances. After he came back from the injury, he hit .265/.367/.470. Prior to the eye issues popping up, Freeman hit .298/.320/.544. While not all of his poor performance during that stretch of the season can be blamed on his vision, there is certainly a correlation to be found between a serious lack of power and bat skills during the time his vision was giving him problems.
Freeman is not a tremendously attractive first option as a first baseman, although he does have massive appeal if you decide to wait on the position or if you want to plug him into the utility spot. The ZiPS projection of .274/.355/.476 with 26 home runs, 87 runs scored, and 97 RBI seems very reasonable, even though I believe it may be a bit light on the runs and RBI total. It is worth noting that ZiPS has Freeman with the most home runs and the highest wOBA on the Braves. With how good the team’s offense is expected to be, I will definitely be happy to own what arguably the best projection system expects to be the top hitter on the team.