Freddie Freeman's Outlook for 2011

Last year the Atlanta Braves witnessed 20-year old phenom Jason Heyward break onto the scene. He made the team out of camp and put up an impressive rookie season that helped revitalized their team’s offence. This year, Atlanta is hoping another fellow rookie will boost their offence even more. This time it's 2007 second round pick, 1B Freddie Freeman. He doesn’t have a whole lot left to prove in Triple-A as he posted solid numbers last year with the Gwinnett Braves:
                                                                                 
Year   Lev   G   AB   R   H  2B 3B HR RBI SB  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
2010   AAA 124  461  73 147  35  2 18  87  6  43  84 .319 .378 .521 .898
4 Seasons  424 1580 225 476 102  9 50 270 13 133 261 .301 .363 .472 .835
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/18/2011.

However, unlike most situations with prospects heading into the season, there likely won’t be any service clock issues here as Freeman made his Major League debut at the end of last season, collecting just four hits in his first 24 at-bats. Many people thought the youngster could have played a more prominent role in Atlanta last year, and the Braves sent him to the Arizona Fall League after the season to “polish” his game in a league regarded as an elite finishing school for Minor League talent.

However his AFL stay was cut short after just five games, as he injured his thumb after legging out a triple and would sit out the rest of the schedule. He should be fully recovered well in time for Spring Training and will be given every opportunity to showcase his talents at first base. Freeman possesses the kind of all around hitting ability that makes him an ideal middle of the order player, though he could still benefit from improved plate discipline.

That being said, there isn’t a lot of internal competition at the first base position and Freeman certainly has the inside track to the starter’s job. With a deep Braves’ line up that features newly acquired All-Star second basemen Dan Uggla, there won’t be much pressure on Freeman to produce which should allow him the necessary time to settle into the line up and acclimatize to the Major Leagues.

BOLD PREDICTION: Freeman, like Heyward last year, will win a starting job out of Spring Training. He will likely hit 7th for most of the season, and will be given regular at-bats, although he may occasionally sit against left-handers. His upside for 2011 isn’t much more than the kind of production that the Pittsburgh Pirates will get out of newly signed 1B Lyle Overbay, but it’s Freeman’s long-term potential that owners should be excited about. Besides being a very strong defensive first basemen, he has the ability to hit for a high average and should flirt with .300 throughout his career. He has gap-to-gap power and should rack up plenty of doubles and double digit homeruns, with some of those doubles turning into long balls as he gets a bit older and stronger. He has shown the ability to steal the odd base at the Minor League level, but don’t expect much in that category in the Majors. Just 21 years old, Freeman will have his share of ups and downs this year, with his real coming out party likely in 2012 or 2013.