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Will Freese Thaw?

Due to the magnificence that is MLB Network, I was able to take in an early-season Adam Wainwright start. For me, the draw was how Wainwright would pitch after a season off. For Wainwright, it was pretty ugly, as he allowed eight earned runs and was chased after three innings.

But what caught my attention was my perception of how the announcers were trumpeting David Freese as though he was some sort of Schmidtian force to be reckoned with. Like many viewers, I too had taken in the glory of his World Series heroics, and eventually I chalked it up to how few business days had elapsed since then, but it really had me wondering if this Freese guy was as good as these announcers were saying, or if it was simply hometown announcing at its….finest?

Schedules being what they were, I didn’t actually dig too deeply into Freese, at least not until today. Today, let’s have a look at Freese’s 2012, and how he looks heading into the next baseball campaign.

Let’s lay some groundwork:

David Freese is not a young player

Freese was a 23-year-old senior sign by the Padres in 2006 out of the University of Southern Alabama, it seems. As such, Freese turns 30 early next season. And while 30 is the new 20 in social circles, in baseball circles he’s about halfway through his prime despite only taking some 1200 big league plate appearances. The 2012 season was Freese’s first as a full-time player and, while he’s not Delmon Young when it comes to postseason fire and regular season smoke, his value is likely a bit inflated due to the October heroics. In Zach Sanders’ season rankings, Freese was 13th among those who had third base eligibility, notably behind Marco Scutaro, Chris Davis, and just ahead of Kyle Seager, you guys. I certainly don’t speak for readers, but I’m thinking most fantasy owners would have expected a bigger bang-for-buck factor with Freese than those players. I’d probably advise drafting him as the 13th third-sacker next year — I think he’ll retain his value — but I think he’ll be off the draft board well before then.

Freese probably has more real-life utility than in fantasy baseball

While Freese finished 13th in the season rankings fantasy-wise, he was seventh among his counterparts in WAR. Not particularly an adept fielder, Freese’s value was tied in part to his tremendous walk rate (10.1 percent), which was nearly two percent over his career rate. As I noted last week with Dan Uggla, walk rate doesn’t help in a ton of fantasy leagues, so even though Freese was on base 37-plus percent of the time, that didn’t garner a ton of value. In fact, it was probably easily counteracted by his 122 strikeouts, even though the percentage (21.5 percent) fits right in with his career rate (21.3). I’m thinking most people probably didn’t project out a whiff rate for his full-season potential because a. he hadn’t yet played a full season and b. math is hard.

Nonetheless, his 20 home runs, 70-plus runs and RBI each, and .293 batting average were all nice marks, but he stole just three bases. Granted, he’d only stolen one prior to this season, so no visions of grandeur should have been implemented. Of the surprising players in Freese’s vicinity, Scutaro swiped bag, Davis mashed taters, and Seager was sort of a hybrid of the three. This leaves me feeling like Freese is a fine, safe pick, but not one by which your finish will hinge upon. Three solid categories and two that hurt you will pretty much always leave you wanting more.

Freese is a high BABIP guy

Freese’s career mark is .359, and it’s looking like this might not be an aberration. His batted ball profile suggests a ton of grounders, a robust line drive rate, and almost no fly balls. As such, I think it’s safe to suggest that barring an injury or whacked-out mechanics, he should be able to replicate this sort of season. So if we’re believing that Freese is who he seems to be, take a look at where he finished in the following stats — among qualified 3B in both leagues — and use them up against your league’s stats to gauge where you think you ought to draft him:

BB-percent – fourth
HR – tied for ninth (Seager, and Mike Moustakas)
R – eleventh
RBI – tenth
SB – fifteenth (though probably a fair share of non-qualified guys would topple this)
K-percent – fifth-highest
ISO – ninth
BABIP – second (Chris Johnson)
AVG – sixth
OBP – fourth
SLG – seventh
wOBA – sixth
wRC+ – sixth


Freese is a safe pick.