Found December 12, 2012 on Fox Sports South:
Spring training is coming, with pitchers and catches to report on Feb. 11 and there is no shortage of burning questions facing the Braves before they descend upon Disney World. We open up our series of position primers at first base where Atlanta has a budding star on its hands in Freddie Freeman, who will be looking to truly establish himself as one of the games top first basemen after an up and down 2012. So without further ado ... 1. Can Freddie Freeman make the leap at the plate? First the positives as Freemans power numbers increased in his second full season in the majors with 23 home runs and 94 RBIs after 21 and 76, respectively, as a rookie and his OPS rose ever so slightly from .795 to .796. But his average dipped, which was largely due to the eye injury he suffered May 5 at Coors Field. Freeman went from .302 20 points above his rookie average to .257 by the end of the month, and while he made up some ground thanks to a midsummers hot streak, hitting at a .386 clip, by the end of the season he had fallen back to .259. Its the Reds Joey Votto that Freeman is most compared to and it was Vottos third full season in which he joined the games elite at the position, winning the NL MVP. In Vottos first two full seasons he had 49 HRs with 168 RBIs and a 140 OPS, numbers that are fairly in line with Freemans 44 HRs, 170 RBIs and a 114 OPS -- over that same sample size. But where Votto made his biggest stride, and where Freeman needs to make his if hes going to continue a similar career trajectory, is plate discipline. Freeman struck out 129 times in 147 games last year, drawing just 64 walks. And theres no attributing those numbers primarily to the vision problem: He fanned 142 times with 53 walks in 157 games as a rookie. Producing an MVP a season a la Votto isnt the expectation in his third full season, but Chipper Jones departure has created a hole at the No. 3 spot in the order, one that the Braves sorely need Freeman to fill and fill with more consistent production. 2. What do we make of Freemans defensive statistics? The numbers, at least the ones that most baseball heads agree matter when grading a players defensive worth, arent kind to Freeman. While the Braves led the majors with a 53.1 UZR ultimate zone rating last season, that came in spite of Freeman, whose own UZR was a minus-4.0, which was 17th among all first basemen. Then theres his 74.5 percent RZR, which measures the success rate of outs made on balls hit into a fielders zone. That was also 17th at the position. But on the flip side, his DRS (defensive runs saved) was a respectable plus-3 putting him eighth in MLB and its at a plus-one in his career, which is above average for the position. Plus, those UZR and RZR numbers are a step above what he posted as rookie at minus-12.6 and minus-2, respectively. Freeman is not on pace for a Gold Glove, at least not yet, but hes showing progress defensively. As unsavory as some of his numbers are, its all that can be asked given the potential for what he can do for the Braves at the plate. 3. Who will back him up? The Braves let Eric Hinske walk and Lyle Overbay, who was added in the summer as a September bench piece, is a free agent. Ernesto Mejia is the most likely option after being added to the 40-man roster and while hes big (6-foot-5, 245 pounds) and has shown power, hitting 24 homers last year for Triple-A Gwinnett, hes also spent eight years in the minors with zero major-league experience. Then theres Juan Francisco, who with Martin Prado the likely successor to Jones at third base, could be a serviceable backup to Freeman as well. With an unsavoryunrealisticexpensive group of free agents remaining in Lance Berkman, Miquel Cairo, Jason Giambi, Aubrey Huff, Casey Kotchman, Adam LaRoche, Carlos Lee and Carlos Pena, this seems like a role Atlanta will be best served to fill internally.

Braves' Teheran shines in Dominican

Julio Teheran's last three starts before the Dominican winter league all-star break showed why the right-hander remains the Atlanta Braves' top prospect despite a difficult second season in Class AAA last summer. The 21-year-old from Colombia allowed just two hits over 16 2/3 scoreless innings for Licey, and one of the outings came Dec. 9 with general manager Frank Wren...

Where will Michael Bourn land?

Michael Bourn's offseason hasn't gone exactly how the free agent center fielder dreamed of at the beginning of October. Bourn was looking for a nine figure, six year deal from a team to man center field for the majority of the rest of the decade, but hasn't found any takers. In fact, many of the top suitors for Bourn have gone in other directions, including three NL East...

Chipper Jones Dating Playboy Model

The media still loves writing about Chipper Jones Normally a story like this wouldn’t grace Atlanta Bullpen, but it is off-season, so the blog net grows a little wider this time of year. The latest news in the Braves blog world is that Chipper Jones is enjoying his retirement. Jones has tweeted that he is dating Playboy model, Lexi Ray.  Ray’s birth name was Taylor Higgins. ...

Bourn’s Landing Spot

It seems like most winters there is a free agent who finds the market doesn’t shift in their favour the way they hoped it would, leaving them scrambling for suitors as the off season rolls on. It looks pretty clear at this point that, if anyone is left without a chair when the music stops, it is most likely to be Michael Bourn. The centre field market has been developed rapidly...

The Atlanta Braves MVP: Martin Prado

Martin Prado led the Braves in batting average, hits, and doubles last season Kris Medlen had an unbelievable second half, and Chipper Jones was surprisingly solid, and clutch all season. I’ve read blogs that make solid arguments about why Medlen and Jones were the Atlanta Braves’ 2012 MVP. But the Braves 2012 MVP was Martin Prado, and it was never more clear than when the Braves...

Total Run Index Series: Cincinnati Reds

It’s easy to get lost looking at the Reds dominating bullpen over the past few years. It’s also easy to think about the combination of Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Phillips at the plate. However, that would overlook the most consistent aspect of the Reds play over the past three seasons: their fielding. Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips have won multiple Gold Gloves, but...
MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.