For the first time in his three-plus years with the Cardinals, David Freese stayed healthy all year! And perhaps just to show us how strong and resilient he now is, Freese crashed his car into a tree this past November to avoid hitting a deer, and he survived without a scratch! (Though maybe some minor bumps and bruises.)
I’m a huge fan of the potential Freese has, primarily because last year he walked in over 10% of his plate appearances for the first time since 2007 (high-A ball), he has an uncanny ability to make solid contact (career 22.4% line drive rate), and he has the strength to muscle fly balls out of the ballpark (16.7% HR/FB rate in 2011, 20.0% last year).
What holds Freese back is his fly ball rate, which last year sat at just 26.2%. If he could get that rate up to something around 35%, we could be looking at a force in fantasy leagues. If Freese’s fly ball rate last year was 35%, he would have hit 28 homers assuming the same HR/FB rate. Imagine what that would have done for his RBI totals, and it probably would have given him a little boost in runs at the slight expense of batting average.
Until Freese shows an increase in fly ball frequency, though, it’s best to remain optimistic about his potential yet realistic about the numbers he’ll put up. That’s what our 2013 projected stat line does.
At a Glance
Strengths: BA, OBP, OPS
Neutral: R, HR, RBI
Best-case scenario: Aramis Ramirez (MIL),
Likely scenario: Miguel Montero (ARI), Andre Ethier (LAD), Kevin Youkilis (NYY)
Worst-case scenario: injured, otherwise Youkilis
David Freese 2013 Fantasy Projection
I tend to value players like Freese — whose primary strength is BA/OBP/ERA/WHIP — a little more in roto leagues than H2H leagues. Over small sample sizes like those found in one-week H2H matchups, variation of even just a few base hits or a walks can swing categories one way or the other, and just because you have a team stacked with .285+ batting average beasts while you opponent starts Chris Davis, Danny Espinosa, and J.P. Arencibia doesn’t mean you’re going to win the category.
If we were talking about homers, steals, runs, or RBI, you can count on team trends holding strong even over a one-week sample. Categories based on averages and ratios can’t be fortified as easily. Toss in Freese’s spotty injury history, and you have even more reason to really go after him in roto leagues. While I still like him in H2H leagues, he is certainly a riskier pick in these formats.
Last year Freese was a monster in OBP leagues where his .372 mark ranked 22nd of the 143 players to register at least 500 plate appearances. He consistently posts BABIPs over .350, which aren’t fluky in the least given how much great contact he makes and how much he stays away from fly balls, but like I said I would much prefer Freese to get his fly ball rate up. While that would probably result in a lower batting average, a .280 average with 28 homers would be preferable to a .300 average with 20 homers in my opinion.