August 13, 2012 at 10:38 am by Ben Duronio under Atlanta Braves
Freddie Freeman impressed in his rookie season as a 21-year-old rookie, with a 118 wRC+ while posting decent power and on base skills.
His walks weren’t that high, his strikeouts weren’t that low, his power wasn’t that great, and his average wasn’t tremendous, but he did enough in all of those categories to put up a solid rookie season. For a first baseman, it was far from tremendous, but for his age it was pretty impressive.
This year, he has taken steps in all of the right directions. His BABIP has declined from a probably excessively high .339 to a more sustainable .318 while his average is an identical .282. The fact that he has continued to hit at that same pace despite the drop in BABIP is very important to his on base skills.
Speaking of which, his walk rate has increased to 9% from 8.3%, a marginal increase but one that is headed in the correct direction. Early in the season he was very impatient at the plate but he has seemingly focused much more on this aspect as of late and really improved. Because of this, his on base percentage has risen about seven overall points from last year based on walks alone. Along with his increased walk rate, he has cut his strikeouts down. This has been an even bigger drop, from a 22.4% mark last year to 19% this year. That drop in combination with the increased walk rate has seen his BB/K ratio improve to 0.48. That is not a tremendously impressive level but it is very solid considering he is not exactly the most patient hitter on the planet.
What has been most impressive about Freeman’s rookie campaign is his improvements in power. The home runs themselves have not really improved, as he has 15 for the year and ZiPS projects that he will hit six more this season, leaving him at an identical 21 home runs as last year. Where he has improved is in his doubles. He already has 27 this year after finishing last year with 32. He will shatter that mark and probably push 40 doubles, which could give him more than 60 extra base hits on the year — a very solid number for a 22-year-old sophomore.
Freeman’s improvements have come exactly how one would expect them to, and the Braves offense has been solid much of the year because of Freeman’s production. Yes, Prado and Heyward are having significantly better years at the plate and Michael Bourn’s production in centerfield easily trumps all the production they got from the position last year, but Freeman’s modest but solid improvements across the board have been a key for the offense this year. He seems to be on a standard plane of production and hopefully this continues throughout the season and on to next year. He probably will never be a superstar player, but he does have the potential to be a very good first baseman for a team that has struggled finding a consistent player at the position for decades.