Freddie Freeman has been drafted as a top 10 1B since 2013, and was drafted at #11 in 2012. Has his production warranted a top 10 draft position, and will it continue to do so in 2016? We’ll examine his performance and his team to determine if you should draft him where he’s being ranked.
We know Freeman can hit, can hit with power, and is great at getting on base:
|*numbers extrapolated to 625 at bats|
People who weren’t convinced his rookie numbers in 2011 were repeatable definitely took notice in 2012, but 2013 seemed to be a coming out year for Freeman. His batting average was 6th in baseball, he was 9th in OBP, 4th in RBI’s, his walk rate was improving and his strikeout rate was falling. Things were looking great for drafting him as a top option, not only at 1B but overall.
His ADP reflected his outstanding performance in 2013:
|Year||Overall ADP||1B ADP|
His performance, however, hasn’t lived up to his draft position. With the exception of runs and walks, every one of his main statistical categories has decreased since 2013. He scored four more runs and had 24 more walks in nearly 80 more plate appearances in 2014, otherwise everything declined.
Look at his end of season rankings (based on the ESPN player rater) with his average draft position:
|Year||Overall ADP||1B ADP||EOS Overall Rank*||EOS 1B Rank*|
He slightly exceeded expectations during his rookie year, showed improvements in 2012, broke out in 2013, underperformed in 2014 and was an even bigger disappointment in 2015.
A quick look at his advanced batted ball numbers show that this disappointment may be attributed to something besides a decline in his abilities.
|2012||26.0 %||37.1 %||36.9 %||14.8 %||11.0 %||50.2 %||38.8 %|
|2013||26.7 %||38.2 %||35.2 %||15.0 %||9.0 %||53.8 %||37.2 %|
|2014||31.0 %||36.6 %||32.5 %||11.9 %||11.4 %||48.8 %||39.8 %|
|2015||27.8 %||36.6 %||35.6 %||15.8 %||10.6 %||50.9 %||38.4 %|
|Total||26.8 %||38.3 %||34.9 %||14.3 %||12.2 %||50.5 %||37.3 %|
Freeman saw some increased in his batted ball profile in 2014 and 2015, specifically in his LD% and hard hit rate. Given the improvements in these two areas over those in his successful 2013 season, one has to question what would cause his overall performance to decline over those two years.
The major cause was his team has been terrible. From a runs scored perspective, the Braves were just above league average in 2012 and 2013. In 2014 and 2015 they were abysmal, finishing second to last, and last respectively in runs scored.
Freeman went from having a lineup that was on par with the rest of the league to one that could be considered one of the worst in baseball, and 2016 isn’t looking much better as of now. They upgraded in center field and potentially (slightly) upgraded offensively at shortstop, but their catcher, left and right fielder are now another year older, and they weren’t young to begin with. Overall, the Braves offense as it is slated to start the season appears to be ready to challenge last year’s team for the bottom of the offensive barrel. There may be a few more additions to the big league club throughout the year, but given the overall ineptitude it seems unlikely we see any kind of breakout season from the Braves.
The final thing that has me concerned with Freeman is that he may have outperformed his expected run and RBI production. According to research by Eno Sarris using a method created by Jeff Zimmerman to project runs and RBI’s based on a player’s own stats, place in the lineup and quality of the team around them:
|PA||R||RBI||xR||xRBI||diff R||diff RBI|
It can be assumed that he produce numbers in line with his 2014 – 2015 seasons, but with slightly lower run and RBI totals. Fangraphs projects Freeman for a reasonable .283 average with 25 HR, 85 RBI, 81 runs and 4 SB – along with 77 walks and 131 strikeouts. The Braves will once again have an anemic offense so I would project fewer runs and RBIs; somewhere in the mid to low 70’s for each seems more reasonable with the lineup around him.
Now for the big question – Where should you draft him? His preseason rankings on FantasyPros have him as the 59th overall player and the number 9 first baseman. While I don’t think the rankings are terribly off, my ranking is more in line with the NFBC average draft positions on Stats.com. There Freeman is being taken 78th overall and is the 10th first baseman off the board.
If I were drafting in a dynasty league I would move him up based on his talent, age, and the players that will be up (or potentially signed) over the next few years. He has plenty of talent, it will just be hard for him to fulfill his potential considering the current lineup.
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