The big knock on Freddie Freeman has always been that he doesn't hit enough home runs. That is a legitimate concern because he is not going to hit 30 or 40 home runs like Paul Goldschmidt, Miguel Cabrera, or Anthony Rizzo unless he develops significantly more power as he matures. And that is the thing that people sometimes forget -- how young he still is. He will be 25 years old this season. How many players have averaged 21 homers per season in their early 20's? Not that many. Freeman has hit 86 homers through his age 24 season. We have good reason to expect his power to grow as he approaches a hitter's prime power seasons of 27-30 years old. Freeman's batted ball distance has increased every year, which is a key sign that more homers are on the way soon (thanks FanGraphs). Freeman will likely hit somewhere between 20-25 homers this year (Steamer projects 24). That will not put him among the league leaders but in this day and age of pitching dominance we can't expect every first baseman to pound 35 homers anymore. There is a good chance he will gradually work his way up into the 30+ homer range in the next few seasons.
Freeman hit .288 last year, which is right in line with his .286 career average. He has hit as high as .319 and as low as .259 in his young career. Freeman's line drive swing portends well for his chances of continuing to hit for a strong batting average close to .300 moving forward. AVG is an under-appreciated commodity in fantasy baseball these days. Batting averages are plummeting around the league, so a player who can provide your team with 600-700 ABs worth of a .290+ batting average can really move the needle in the right direction on your team's overall AVG for the season.
Freeman's 93 runs scored was the 3rd-best mark among all 1st basemen last year. Unfortunately his 78 RBI were only 15th in the league, but that was a bit of an anomaly given that he had 109 in 2013 and 94 in 2012. The Braves traded away several of their best hitters during the offseason, so Freeman may see fewer opportunities to score and knock in runs. In fact Steamer is projecting only 80 Runs and 83 RBI for Freeman in 2015. If that is accurate it will depress his fantasy value unless the Braves manage to make some offensive upgrades soon. I think the Steamer projections are a bit conservative, partly because they estimate he will miss two weeks worth of games.
One reason Freeman scores so many runs is because of his stellar On-base Percentage. His .386 OBP was the highest among all first basemen last year. If you play in a league that uses OBP instead of or in addition to AVG it increases his value a lot. His 1.6 K:BB ratio is much better than league average, so in points leagues that give points for walks and deduct points for strikeouts Freeman becomes even more valuable there too.
Freeman doesn't steal many bases (just 3 last year), but Paul Goldschmidt, who stole 9 bags, is the only true first baseman who stole more than 5. So let's face it, Steals is pretty much a dead category for first basemen.
Freeman's overall rank amongst 1st basemen in 5x5 roto leagues last year was 8th in baseball. In 2013 he was 4th. Where is he likely to rank this year? Well, we can safely assume that 36 year old Victor Martinez is not going to repeat his amazing season that was light years better than he had ever done before. 35 year old Albert Pujols has been declining from his glory days and barely finished above Freeman last year. On the other hand Paul Goldschmidt and Joey Votto are expected to be healthy in 2015, so they are likely to surpass Freeman. So odds are that Freeman will once again rank in the second tier behind the elite first basemen, but he should still be a desirable, high quality producer for your squad. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see Freeman eventually have a couple of mammoth fantasy seasons in his prime, but I don't think it will happen this year. The Braves lineup is too weak to support him and Freeman is still a couple years away from his physical prime years.
I think Freeman makes sense as a mid-3rd round pick in 12 team leagues. He is currently going with the 37th pick in NFBC drafts on average, which would make him the first pick of the 4th round in a 12 teamer. I think he should be taken a little earlier than that, based largely on the importance of creating a solid batting average foundation for your team while still accruing excellent production in the counting stats. In an auction league with $260 to spend his value is around $27. Unlike many other players being taken in the early rounds, Freeman has no questions surrounding his health and there is no reason to expect any nasty surprises due to age or red flags in his peripherals. Freeman is as safe as it gets in fantasy baseball. Draft him with confidence.