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Freddie Freeman: Ready to take the next step?

Ray wonders if Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman is ready to make the next step in 2014.d

Mike Zarrilli

As a fantasy baseball writer here at Fake Teams, I offer my thoughts on players on a daily basis, and you, our readers, have to make the decision on whether I am off my rocker or not. Several years ago, I predicted that Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp would/should be the top pick in fantasy drafts. Well, I was a year early on that prediction, as he broke out a year later, puttting up the 39 home run, 40 stolen base season a year after my bold prediction. On the other hand, I have been down on Albert Pujols for a few years now, and that has turned out pretty good for me. But, not all predictions work out. Some do, some do not.

Today, I am here to tell you I was wrong on Freddie Freeman.

Prior to the 2012 and 2013 seasons, I was not been a fan of Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, mainly due to the fact that I didn't see him as the typical power hitting fantasy first baseman. Well, baseball has changed and we are now in a low run scoring/low power offensive environment until further notice. As a result, first basemen like Freddie Freeman have plenty of value on draft day.

Last season, Freeman had his best season as a big leaguer, hitting .319-.396-.501 with 23 HRs, 89 runs and 109 RBI in 147 games. His triple slash line was bouyed by a .371 BABIP, so some regression can be expected in 2014. Then again, Freeman hits a ton of line drives, which should provide a floor for his batting average going forward. Over his last three seasons, his line drive percentage has been : 23.0%, 26.0% and 26.7%, so maybe he will be one of those hitters who always exceeds league average BABIP.

To put his 2013 performance in context, his home run total ranked in the top 35 among qualified hitters, which isn't too shabby. His 109 RBI ranked fourth in the game, behind only Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis and Paul Goldschmidt. His 89 runs scored ranked tied for 23rd in the game, and his .319 batting average was good for sixth in the game. So, yeah, the guy can hit and is a pretty valuable first baseman.

So, we looked at how Freeman ranked among all qualified hitters last season. Let's take a look at how he fared against other fantasy first baseman. Here is how he ranked in the four hitting categories last season:

Home runs: 10th

Runs: 5th

RBI: 3rd

Batting average: 1st

Freeman had a higher batting average than Joey Votto, and drove in 36 more runs, while hitting just one less home run than Votto last season. Yet, Votto is drafted several spots ahead of Freeman, according to the current NFBC ADP rankings. Should Freeman be mentioned in the same breath as Votto going forward?

So how will he fare in 2014? Daniel Schwartz from Rotobanter loves Freeman, and he projects him to hit .295 with 26 HRs, 90 runs and 110 RBI this season. ZiPS is equally optimistic, projecting him to hit .286-.365-.477 with 25 HRs, 88 runs and 102 RBI. Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster projects him to hit .294 with 26 HRs, 88 runs and 103 RBI, so three different projection systems, and all three are optimistic on him in 2014.

It appears Freeman is ready to take another step at the young age of 24, and could move up the fantasy first base rankings by midseason.

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