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Freddie Freeman and Adrian Gonzalez: Two first baseman headed in opposite directions

MLB: Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

I worked late the last two night, so I didn’t get a chance to write a Roto Roundup on Tuesday, but wanted to offer my thoughts on a couple National League first baseman headed in opposite direction in terms of fantasy values.

I was down on Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez in a big way after his slow start to the season and his low power totals. I may have to change my mind after his performance on Monday. I know. It was only one game and it was against the Reds pitching staff. I get it. On Monday afternoon, Gonzalez had a huge day at the plate, going 3-6 with 3 home runs and 8 RBI in the Dodgers 18-9 thrashing of the Reds.

The big day improved his season slash line to .299-.369-.458 with 15 home runs, 57 runs scored and 70 RBI. His power as measured by ISO and SLG are down this season, and one can look directly at his fly ball and hard hit rates to see why. His fly ball rate has dropped from 37% to 26% and his hard hit rate has dropped by 3%. In fact, his .159 ISO and ..458 slugging percentage are the lowest of his career, and one wonders if the 34 year old first baseman may be in the decline phase of his career. He has dealt with back issues over the last two seasons, so that could explain the drop in power this season.

Then again, his power has improved in the second half. After hitting 7 home runs and 17 doubles in 359 plate appearances in the first half, he has hit 8 home runs and 8 doubles in just 137 plate appearances in the second half, so his power has returned, as he is slugging .935 with a .250 ISO since the All Star break. More than likely, I will move AGonz down my first base rankings in 2017, but as a Dodgers fan, it is nice to see the power return to his game.

On the other hand, Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman could move up my first base rankings in the offseason. On Monday night, Freeman did his best to match Gonzalez’s performance earlier in the afternoon, going 3-4 with 2 home runs, a double and 3 RBI in the Braves 9-8 loss to the Diamondbacks.

Freeman is now hitting .291-.386-.557 with a career high 26 home runs, 73 runs scored and 61 RBI. The RBI total is low, but you can’t blame Freeman for the Braves inept lineup. The Braves rank dead last in MLB in runs scored (459), home runs (88), on base percentage (.309), and slugging percentage (.368). So, yeah, bad lineup leads to bad offense.

Yet, Freeman is having his best power season of his career, as his fly ball rate (41%), hard hit rate (43%), his .265 ISO and .557 SLG are all career highs. He is on pace to exceed 30 home runs, and ranks in the top 10 in home runs, runs scored and batting average among all qualified first baseman at this point. The lineup should improve next season with the addition of shortstop Dansby Swanson and second base prospect Ozhaino Albies for a full season.

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