Mixed Waiver Wire: David Freese, Nick Franklin

The MLB transactions list is usually a good place to start when a fantasy owner is looking for a surprise addition. Suppositions about those transactions can work even better, but I’m too late.

I’m a bit out of the loop on things, but I don’t think I’m off base here. I figured that both of these players were kind of obvious as recommendations when I saw their names, but their needles haven’t moved much since the announcements of their impending returns to 25-man rosters, each in a different circumstance.

If an owner has any reservations, then I’d say to them that I wouldn’t hesitate. I’d be aggressive, if there were any wonder about how one of the two would play in my league – in other words, if it’s because of league depth or something similar.

3B David Freese, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Ownership: CBS 17% | Yahoo! 19% | ESPN 4.9%

Unless he has homered twice or has gone 4-for-5 in his return to the lineup on Tuesday, Freese isn’t someone I’d expect fantasy owners to be swift to add just because he’s returned from the disabled list. I think that’s a mistake, especially considering the state of third base.

His 2013 outcomes aren’t a good place to begin this argument, I’m sure. The slight rise of his ground-ball rate was enough to give pause, considering that his BABIP rested at .320. As readers might be aware, however, Freese has regularly posted hit rates at well above league norms. He’s long been a line-drive hitter, with gap power more so than the long-ball variety. He’s 31, so it seems likely that his peak years are approaching the end, if they haven’t already passed him by.

Still, .202/.266/.286 is worse than anyone projected. No one would expect him to finish with marks that poor, either. But will they be a little better, or a lot better?

It’s hard to say, I think, but that’s part of what makes Freese exciting for the rest of the season. I’ve had this rec in reserve for a few weeks thanks to the timing of his injury. He was making progress at the dish, aligning with news reports that hinted at the work he was putting in and the patience the Halos had with him. I was optimistic then, and I still am.

Skeptics should point at his 6.4% walk rate and 28.7% strikeout rate as clues that Freese may be a worse hitter than he was in St. Louis. They’d be on the compelling track, even if those figures don’t tell much of the story.

I don’t think there’s a ton to say beyond that, though. It’s encouraging that his swinging-strike and contact rates aren’t much different from his career percentages, naturally. In the few Angels contests I’d watched, Freese seemed to be tentative. Just an amateur observation. But I’ve noted since that his swing rate is down a bit from all those in previous seasons. It was rising noticeably, however, in the week or so before he went on the disabled list, and in that period, his results were improved. He was 9-for-25 with a home run, two walks and eight strikeouts, to be precise.

This is speculation, but I would conjecture that the Halos have encouraged him to be more aggressive, as if he were instead too patient in an effort to become more familiar with the league and his new regular opponents prior to the suggestion. Damn the strikeouts, they said. Although I’m not a bold practitioner of the aim, I’m a believer in the philosophy to be the aggressor in cases with great uncertainty in an attempt to dictate more about the situation and to increase the opponent’s anxiety and to decrease one’s own.

I don’t predict All-Star form from here on out. I think it’s difficult to say. He could end up washing out. The transition from one league or even one team to another is a stressful thing for some players more than others. Health has never been Freese’s best “skill.” But he’s observably better than his roto results – and peripheral statistics – indicated. All-Star form, and something in the form of a rebound from 2013’s disappointment, could happen too.

I dealt him in Tout Wars, but I was eager to do so only because the trade I made involved my acquisition of Adrian Beltre and the initial proposal was for me to include Chase Headley in the return haul. I preferred Headley for a variety of reasons, some of them obvious, there. But prior to that deal, I’d been nurturing some optimism for the positive regression of his marks. I think his owners, in the minority now, should do likewise, and they should soon be joined by others.

2B/SS/OF Nick Franklin, Seattle Mariners

Ownership: CBS 14% | Yahoo! 2% | ESPN 0.4%

Franklin is still an above-average prospect as a hitter, even if his defense leaves something to be desired. Clearly, his .376/.481/.633 slash line in 133 plate appearances at Triple-A Tacoma this year, even when put in context of the Pacific Coast League, lend to the idea that Franklin, 23, has a potentially bright future as a big-league batter. He’s controlled the strike zone in his professional career, but he’s also taken a little time to adjust to new levels. The jump to The Show is unquestionably unlike any of the others he’s made, too.

If you have doubts about his ability, just assume that it’s there, for the argument. The M’s could decide to deploy him in a number of places. Only the pending return of Logan Morrison (strained hamstring) can affect that, and LoMo wasn’t exactly pulling his weight before his deactivation.

Speaking of, in case you hadn’t noticed, Brad Miller has pretty much sucked. As an owner of him in one league, I can tell you, this is painful. Blake Murphy went into Miller’s scenario in detail about four weeks ago, and there’s been no improvement since. Whereas at the time it was understandable if Seattle was going to be patient with Miller, it has approached – is past? – the point at which a serious discussion about a different direction takes place.

Clearly, with Hart out for four to six weeks, Franklin has a good chance to make an impression this time. With the chance to make an impression comes the opportunity to prove that he should stick around, perhaps displace an underperformer, beyond a projected demotion. There’s also the possibility that Seattle takes the occasion to parlay this into a showcase for a trade, if they still entertain the idea.

No matter how it turns out, Franklin has too much upside on offense, with moderate power and speed, to allow him to sit in free-agent pools while he’s in the majors. He’s eligible at one premium fantasy position, at minimum, and he could gain ample flexibility in the near future.



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Nicholas Minnix oversaw baseball content for six years at KFFL, where he held the loose title of Managing Editor for seven and a half before he joined FanGraphs. He played in both Tout Wars and LABR from 2010 through 2014. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasMinnix.

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Chris

Would you take Franklin over Chris Carter at this point?