What David Freese Can Provide for the Angels

By David Hill

Feb 26, 2014; Tempe, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Angels infielder David Freese poses for a portrait during photo day at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

David Freese burst on the national stage during the 2011 playoffs. He set a playoff record with 21 RBIs, and won both the NLCS and World Series MVP awards. In fact, Freese broke the hearts of Rangers fans everywhere in Game Six of the 2011 World Series, belting the game tying two run triple with two outs in the ninth and followed up by hitting a walkoff home run in the eleventh.

Freese continued to build on that momentum in 2012. He made the All-Star team, being voted in by the fans on the final ballot. For the year, Freese produced a .293/.372/.467 batting line, with 20 home runs. His batting eye improved, as he improved his walk rate from 6.6% in 2011 to 10.1%. At age 29, Freese appeared to have hit his prime, and was set up to be the Cardinal third baseman for the foreseeable future.

Instead, David Freese regressed in 2013. While his batting eye remained intact, Freese just did not produce at the same level, with a .262/.340/.381 slash line. His power decreased, as Freese hit only nine home runs all year. However, although Freese produced a home run on merely 6.1% of his fly balls, he was hitting the ball hard throughout the year. His line drive rate actually increased over 2012, going from 22% to 24% last year. If anything, Freese, much like the line drive machine known as Billy Butler, may have been hitting the ball too hard, not allowing his hits to get the lift needed to put the ball in the seats.

Acquired along with Fernando Salas for Peter Bourjos and minor leaguer Randal Grichuk, Freese is certainly an interesting player for the Angels. If Freese continues to hit the ball the same way he did last year, he could end up being a doubles machine, providing more gap power as opposed to home run power. However, that should still be more than sufficient.

Right now, David Freese is projected to hit fifth in the Angels batting order, serving as the protection for Josh Hamilton. Given Hamilton’s free swinging tendencies, the Angels will need Freese to provide a legitimate threat in the fifth spot. Otherwise, opposing pitchers will not have a reason to really pitch to Hamilton, and might be able to get him out on pitches outside the zone.

The biggest keys to the Angels lineup may be the performance of their leadoff hitter and whoever hits behind Hamilton. As of this point, that player is expected to be David Freese. In his first season with the Angels, Freese may find himself as a focal point in the lineup.