Ask anyone in St. Louis and they will tell you that David Freese is akin to Perseus of Clash of the Titans fame. Why do I say that? Did you see his postseason run in 2011? Try an 18 game stretch that included five homers, 21 RBI, a .397 batting average an a 1.258 OPS. It was, simply put, one of the greatest playoff performances in the history of the game. Does that mean that Freese will be an elite level option at the hot corner in the coming season?
Freese may not have always wanted to play baseball, he’s quit playing in the past and has had some alcohol related issues off the field, but there is no disputing that when he has been on the diamond he has been very good. In 399 minor league games Freese has hit .307 with a .915 OPS. He’s also driven in 306 runners while scoring 273 times in those 1,471 at-bats. Those are some impressive numbers are they not? Moving up to the big league level, Freese has appeared in about half as many games (184), but he’s continued to hit. Over the course of 604 at-bats Freese has been able to bat .298. Even more impressive is the fact that he has hit at least .296 in each of his three seasons (.323, .296 and .297). Given that we’ve seen him be a .300 hitter for the duration of his professional career, there is little doubt that he could reach that level in 2012. One caveat. As a Cardinal he’s posted a wildly high BABIP of .365 and 22.9 line drive percentage for his short career. It’s certainly possible that he will be able to sustain both of those numbers moving forward, but if you’ve read any of my work over the years you know how nervous I get when someone is over .350 and 22.0 percent – even if they seemingly have shown an ability to replicate those numbers.
Never a speedster, Freese has had all kinds of issues with his ankles the past few years rendering him as a non entity in the stolen base column (he’s just two of three in steal attempts in his career). However, most third basemen aren’t known for their speed, so this makes him more average than someone to worry about on draft day.
The main issue with Freese is two-fold. (1) Can his body withstand the rigors of playing 150 games (to this point it hasn’t seemed like his body can). (2) Does he have enough power to be a solid option at the hot corner? Freese hit 26 homers in 2007 at Triple-A Memphis, but the PCL is a notorious hitter’s league, though he did average 23 homers per 500 minor league at-bats. That power hasn’t really shown itself in the bigs though as he hit 10 homers last season in 333 at-bats and 15 in 604 at-bats with the Cards. Will that rate improve? If could, but given that his career ground ball rate is 50.5 percent, and that he owns a 1.90 GB/FB ratio, his profile is way more Chone Figgins than it is Aramis Ramirez. The bottom line is that unless he hit a whole bunch more balls in the air, and I’m talking increasing his pathetic 26.6 percent fly ball ratio to at least the league average (37 percent), he has virtually not shot at blasting 20 long balls.
It’s all about value with Freese in 2012. If someone at the draft table remembers the 2011 playoffs like they were yesterday, the cost for Freese will likely be prohibitive. It would also be advisable not to spend like Freese is a lock for a .300-20-90 season – he isn’t. But, if you can wait at third base, realize the type of hitter that Freese really is, and draft him accordingly, he could end up being a very solid hot corner option if you are able to add power bats at other positions.
By Ray Flowers