How Wrong Can I Be Today: RoY- Freddie Freeman
By Fred Owens
A week away from pitchers and catchers reporting and everywhere you look pundit predictions are in bloom. Who will be rookie of the year? Cy Young? Division/league/ World Series champs? Just open a blog and you will know. Since today is also Groundhog Day, I thought I’d poke my nose out into the cold February air and make some picks of my own. Since there’s more than one I’ll make these predictions over a few days so this doesn’t turn into a novel instead of a blog post.
There will be strong RoY challenges across the league from folks like Aroldis Chapman and Domonic Brown but perhaps a three challengers share the same clubhouse; Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel and Mike Minor.
Mike Minor is the dark horse of the trio. He doesn’t have Kimbrel’s power or Venters‘ slider. He’s not a Smoltz
like figure on the mound with multiple ++ pitches. He doesn’t have Hanson‘s size or him as a number one starter. What Minor does do however is stay cool and get batters out.
He will pile up big strikeout totals now and then (he averaged 10.9 a game in the minors) and did against the Cubs (12 in 6 innings.) He may have days reminiscent of Tom Glavine’s World Series game – give me one that’s all I’ll need. His strength will eventually be learning to slice and dice batters like Glavine and Maddux used to do. Keeping his pitch count down is the key to Minor’s success and any RoY challenge. Low pitch counts would allow him to go deeper, stay stronger and win more often, piling up the wins needed to be considered. That task is however always the hardest thing for a rookie pitcher to do and will I expect, keep him out of the RoY race.
Closer designate Kimbrel has already shown the stuff to become a dominant 9th inning man. If our starters perform as I expect, he will get lots of save chances. Converting those chances into saves – as I expect he will – could put him in the national limelight. Big numbers and the glamour of the job would cause a strong RoY challenge. I do expect Kimbrel to do well, but believe he’ll fall short of the closer dominance needed for him to be RoY.
Freddie Freeman is poised to follow in his friend and roommate’s footsteps and be a key figure in a Braves season and post season run and be a finalist for Rookie of the Year. In a team where Chipper, BMac , Prado, Uggla and Heyward will take the strain, he won’t be expected to be “the guy” so he can relax and play his game; so far his game at every level has been VERY good.
Since moving from 3rd base to 1st,, Freeman’s become a slick fielder. His play when called up showed why he his defense is highly thought of and I expect he will win more than a few gold gloves in his time. He’s a big target at first and like the acquisition of Lee last year, his glove and footwork will make every other infielder better. He’s also shown he can hit.
Throughout his time in the minors Freeman always hit well – .301/.363/.472/.835. I’ve heard some say he has a long swing but that’s not what I saw when he took Roy Halladay deep. True Doc had no real book on him and dropped a fastball on him that the kid ambushed, but it was a Halladay fast ball, not a cookie. Freeman’s swing was quick and the sound off the bat left no doubt it was gone. I don’t think of Freeman as a power bat however. I believe he’ll resemble Mark Grace more than Fred McGriff,
filling the gaps with line drives and doing whatever is needed to help the team win. He will be a steady run producer and clutch hitter for us this year and for many years to come. Like all rookies slumps will happen but having roomed with Heyward last year and seen him weather those things Freeman will be fine. I expect his final numbers to be similar to Jason’s first year; 275/335/445, 17 homers and 70 RBI.
In the end I think Freeman’s all around contribution to a team that will make the post season easily sees him go one better than his roomy by bagging the 2011 NL Rookie of the Year award.