Note: This article was originally published on January 19, 2015, but I am reposting it today since it is First Base Week here at Fake Teams.
Round 2 of our rankings rumble series features Atlanta Braves first basemen, Freddie Freeman. In our inaugural post, we wrote about Freeman's former teammate, Evan Gattis and released the article the day he was traded to Houston. I don't expect the same level of fireworks when publishing this article, but the Gattis trade does throw an interesting wrench into the analysis of Freeman as a weak supporting cast just became even weaker.
|Player||Ray's Ranking||Brian's Ranking|
Case For Freddie Freeman (Presented by Brian Creagh):
Even in his worst season of power production, Freddie Freeman finished 8th in fantasy value for all eligible 1B in 5x5 formats. Freeman has been a consistent contributor for the past 4 years, and while he doesn't have the upside of other 1B players you would consider taking in the same spot (Adrian Gonzalez, Joey Votto, Prince Fielder, etc), he also carries far less risk. 2015 will be his age 25 season and Freeman's best seasons are likely ahead of him - a scary thought for a two-time all star and 5th place finalist for the NL MVP award.
I expect to see regression to the mean in Freeman's power numbers next season, ending with 20-25 HRs. 2014's total of 18 HRs was the lowest total of his career and paralleled a career-low 6.6% HR/FB% compared to the 9.2% career average he had heading into last season. Freeman hit a career high 43 doubles last season so the power is still there and I expect some of those doubles to climb the fence and become HRs in 2015.
The most controversial part of Freeman's ranking is his supporting cast. I'll readily admit I don't believe much in weighing team offense too heavily in fantasy rankings. There are plenty examples of great hitters having exceptional seasons despite poor team offensive numbers. And there's a chance they aren't as terrible as we expect. Remember all the doubters in Giancarlo Stanton last year because of the poor Miami offense? They ended up being almost league average and didn't prohibit Stanton from having a monster season. I don't mean to compare Stanton and Freeman from a production standpoint, but I don't think the firesale in Atlanta will have much of a negative impact on Freeman's final numbers. In my opinion, Freeman is one of the safer bets in the second tier of fantasy 1B options once you get past Miggy, Abreu, Rizzo and Encarnacion.
Case Against Freddie Freeman (Presented by Ray Guilfoyle):
I ranked Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman as my 12th ranked first baseman in our consensus first base rankings, mainly due to the fact that he will be hitting in the middle of a decimated Braves lineup. The Braves are in a full rebuild and will have trouble scoring runs in 2015.
The Braves scored 573 runs last year, ranking 29th in MLB, 38 runs scored ahead of the last place Padres. They scored 573 runs with recently traded Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis in their lineup, so it is very possible they fail to reach 500 runs scored in 2015.
Last season, Freeman hit .288-.386-.461 with 18 home runs, 93 runs scored and 78 RBI. Among fantasy first baseman, according to FanGraphs eligibility which does not include some catchers like Buster Posey and DHs like David Ortizand Chris Carter, Freeman ranked sixth in batting average, 15th in home runs, second in runs scored, and 14th in RBI. I see him still putting up a high batting average next season, but see his runs scored and RBI total dropping some. There are several other first base eligible hitters that I would consider ranking ahead of Freeman including Carlos Santanaand Chris Davis mainly due to their power potential.
With Heyward, Upton and Gattis gone from the Braves lineup in 2015, Freeman could be one of the league leaders in walks in 2015, so he has solid value in leagues where OBP is a category. In standard roto leagues, Freeman's value is reduced as he will struggle to score and drive in runs next season.