“Dude’s not even 24 and he’s already hit 20+ homers twice. He’s on a trajectory that’ll take him to the top of the first basemen, with good plate discipline and power.”
“Have you seen him hit? Freddie Freeman‘s power numbers in the minors were not exciting. Disagree.”
There’s good points on both sides of the battle. But Freddie Freeman owners in dynasty leagues are probably wondering if they have a long-term, top-of-the-table asset, or if he’s a better plug-in piece for a contender.
Back when Jason Grey was an analyst for ESPN, he said something like this once: “Freddie Freeman looks awkward at the plate. Freddie Freeman looks awkward with the glove. Freddie Freeman looks awkward in general. Freddie Freeman can hit.”
And there’s no denying that, really. In an era of ballooning strikeout rates (19.8% has been the league average for two seasons now), his 21.3% career strikeout rate is useful once put up against his patience (9.4% career) and power (.177 isolated slugging percentage). Then again, it’s not elite or anything. 30 of the 48 batters that showed a better ISO than him last year also showed a better strikeout rate.
And already we have a clue that Freeman’s power is not elite. 48 players showed a better ISO than him last year, and that was his career-best number in the category. Even if you limit it just to first basemen, 15 players at his position slugged better than him in 2012.
But Freeman is 24! Power peaks later! He’ll be fine.
ISO may not have been the best stat to use — speedy hitters can turn doubles into triples and so on — but if you look closely at the plate power peripherals, they tell a similar story. Hitters tend to hit more fly balls and improve their strikeout rate until they turn 26 or so. Those two things are relevant to Freeman’s power, since he’s been generally following that same trend himself:
So Freeman turns 24 this year. Next year is the last year he can be expected — statistically — to improve his strikeout rate and hit more fly balls. Could a .200 ISO represent his peak power performance?
I don’t see why not. Since he left A-Ball, where he once had a .206 ISO, he’s never had an ISO over .200. His power numbers in the minors were fairly muted for a power prospect, actually. But he was so young, there might have been some dreamcasting.
We’re two and a half years into his career, though, and all we’ve seen is a steady baseline of power production, even if you look at his batted ball distances. If you’re wondering, his current 290.7 foot average on homers and flies puts him 70th in the league among qualified hitters.
The evidence for a higher power ceiling isn’t there for Freddie Freeman, on a global or personal level. But let’s look for some comps. Ten percent above and below his walk and strikeout rates give us a range from 8.5-10.5% for walk rate and 19 and 23.5% for strikeout rate. We should look for players younger than 24 that have shown an ISO between .160 and .200. The list:
You’ll notice I left a few more powerful names in there, just to muddy the waters. Because if I’d held tight to .200 as my upper end for the Freeman comps, you’d never have seen Paul Goldschmidt, Bryce Harper, Nick Swisher or Jason Heyward on the list. But if you use Freeman’s listed season as the genesis for the comp list, a .210 ISO is within 10% of his .196 ISO that year. So it’s possible that he joins the young, powerful comps on the upper end of his possible outcomes.
But all four of those players put up better ISOs than Freeman has to date. All four of those had more powerful seasons in the minor leagues, and even at that young age, all four of them showed better home-run-per-fly-ball rates than Freeman has so far. Well, that’s not 100% accurate. Nick Swisher did have better minor league slugging numbers, and his age 24 season beat Freeman’s in ISO, but not in HR/FB.
So maybe we’re looking at a range of outcomes that could look like Derrek Lee without the speed or Nick Swisher in one of his better strikeout years. Derrek Lee had a heck of a peak and it’s hard to bet on Freeman doing something similar. Swisher had a more conventional career and once hit more than thirty home runs. I’d say that’s the more likely outcome for the young man in Atlanta.
Obviously, that’s an accomplishment and a useful fantasy piece. But is it a cornerstone for your dynasty team?
Print This Post