Freddie Freeman and the upside you didn’t know you were buying

Freddie Freeman was so much more than a safe first round pick.

Often times you, me, and anyone playing fantasy baseball will fall victim to the whole over-categorizing of players, and putting them into these tiny boxes, which may make sense at the time. However, eventually, it also becomes, not quite shortsighted, but at the very least it may limit us come draft season.

For the majority of you who hovered around the back end of the first round in drafts, ahead of this season, if you pondered picking a specific player, this particular tag may have come up once or twice. Go with Freddie Freeman, he is a safe pick, they said.

Anyone who picked Freddie Freeman in whatever format, is pleased, over the moon, and ecstatic right now. The Dodgers first baseman is putting up ridiculous numbers, well above your run-of-the-mill MVP winner. And the only obstacle to him winning the award will be the superhuman efforts of other NL standouts, most notably, former teammate, Ronald Acuña Jr.

Whether it was the deciding factor or not, the safety of going with the former Atlanta Brave was certainly considered and played a role in most managers’ decisions to select him.

This is a player who knows not the meaning of days off, and although injuries have a good chunk of unpredictability, zero history in that department certainly bodes well. Furthermore, Freeman’s hit tool virtually guarantees a positive output in most departments, as he hasn’t hit below .295 in any year since 2016, with a slugging percentage at its lowest, in the low .500s.

Literally, the primary and perhaps only argument against Freeman revolved around the term upside. Well, but he does not have the same ceiling as that of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., whose ADP (11.54) was nearly two picks ahead of Freddie’s (13.21). Hit tool over power meant that Freeman is never going to put up the 48 HR Vladdy did in his amazing run, back in 2021.

Yet, as we sit here today, with nearly a month before the end of the season, Freeman has fully realized even the highest expectations some had for him, and then some. This promptly confirms that he had a healthy bid of upside, we maybe just didn’t quite acknowledge it beforehand.

The crazy thing is that it’s not like we can come here and pinpoint some particular change that helped Freeman put up this superb campaign because there really isn’t. More or less, this may not quite be who he is, but is a fairly acceptable, and somewhat expected range of outcomes for a bat with his capabilities. Yes, his LD% has ticked up again, to 30.4 percent, pretty close to what he had in his MVP campaign (30.9), but it’s nothing he hasn’t done before.

Perhaps the new factor here has nothing to do with his hitting. Although it has played a role in making his season even more impressive and impactful in fantasy, it wouldn’t, like, place him in a whole other tier of value, entirely.

Freeman has already eclipsed his career high in stolen bases, with 16 on the season. Interestingly enough, the previous mark had come last season, when Freddie stole 13 bags.

I say interestingly because the Dodgers aren’t exactly what you would call a running organization, and these days so much of stolen base numbers comes from team-wide philosophies. Look no further than Mookie Betts‘ trajectory, and the fact he hasn’t run like he used to in Boston, despite still having the wheels to do so.

There could be a variety of things behind this new-found element to Freeman’s game, and the most likely truth is that it’s a combination of factors, rather than just one thing. Perhaps, all centered around maybe the new rules, which have certainly aided base runners. All of that being said, there’s no real reason to not expect 10+ steals out of Freeman in a season in the near future.

Furthermore, yes, Freeman may not have the 40+ bombs upside, but he’s capable of giving you 30-ish in any given season, like he will get close to, at the very least, in 2023. And literally, everything else is more secure, and in several cases better, than Vladdy Guerrero Jr.

I use Vladdy as the comp here because they play the same position, and thus makes it easier, but we could be talking about other names, such as Manny Machado, and even Yordan Alvarez, and his higher injury risk, both of which went in the same range as Freddie.

Yes, not being able to reach 40+ bombs even in a career year limits the impact of Freeman’s upside, but he literally delivers you everything else and does so with the utmost consistency.

Since 2016, Freeman’s worst batting average came in 2019, at .295, a year in which he peaked with 38 homers, by the way. His worst power output came last season, when he hit 21, which is not ideal, but not devastating when his 200+ runs-RBI are a lock, as long as he plays on good lineups, which should be the case for the foreseeable future.

There are different kinds of upsides, and when a player has the ability to hit above .330, compete for a batting title, if not for that Luis Arraez fellow. While putting up nearly 30 homers, leading the league in doubles by a wide margin, and on top of that delivering you 15+ SB, that is so much more than just a safe pick.

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