August 3, 2011 at 8:52 pm by Ben Duronio under Atlanta Braves
They play for the same team, so this is just about perception than anything of particular value, but this is something I just had to comment on. There are people out there, and you actually may be one of them, that think Freddie Freeman is better and will have a better career than Jason Heyward. I will not say it’s impossible, but it’s kind of like saying the Pirates have a better chance at winning the World Series than the Braves do this season. It’s something that’s possible, but you are going way against the odds.
Coincidentally, Freddie Freeman’s 134 wRC+ (this is what it was entering today, Fangraphs doesn’t update until the following morning) matches Jason Heyward’s 2010 mark. Offense is down this season, so Freeman’s lesser .367 wOBA is of equal value compared to the league as Heyward’s .376 was last year. Freddie has had a tremendous year so far, and is also one of the front runners for Rookie of the Year, but don’t expect him to bat .296 all season.
Freddie does have a solid hit tool, but even guys with 80 hit tools have trouble maintaining balls in play averages as high as .361 — Matt Holliday has exceeded that mark once in his entire career. Freddie will probably end the season with a BABIP around .340 or maybe even .350 considering it’s this high with just two months to go. This should bring his average down to roughly .280, give or take a few points.
In terms of power, Freeman’s ISO of .181 almost matches Heyward’s .179 from last season, but Freeman has remained almost entirely healthy the whole season while Heyward played a substantial part of 2010 with a hand injury. Even this season, Heyward’s ISO of .175 is not far off of Freeman’s mark. Going forward, Heyward has more power potential than Freeman does.
The whole injury thing might be the best argument for Freeman to have a better career than Heyward. If Heyward is going to be constantly nicked up and forced to miss time, Freeman could feasibly be better due to solely being on the field more frequently. I am not ready to definitively say Heyward’s injuries will be constant though.
Defensively, Heyward is better without question. Heyward has been far above average in terms of defensive runs saved in both of his seasons — 10 last year and 8 so far this year — while Freeman has been below average at -6. It is not just DRS that dislikes Freeman’s defense either, UZR has him at -7.2 and it is easy to see the lack of range during the games. Keith Law has also never been much of a fan of Freeman’s defense, but he was also not entirely sold on him as a hitter either — which he was pretty obviously wrong on.
In terms of tools, Heyward has Freeman beat in all five, with Freeman potentially having a better hit tool, but I have never seen a scout state that. In terms of statistics, it is hard to expect Freeman to ever put up a 5 win season, but I suppose it could happen. Heyward is the better player, and it should not really even be much of a debate. Judging and projecting entire careers based off of a few hot months for one player and a few cold ones for another is not the correct way to do it. Look at the tools, look at the approach, and look at the scouts. All lean in favor of Heyward.