Expect More of the Same from David Freese in 2015


The Angels acquired the 31-year-old third baseman prior to the start of last season after spending the first five seasons of his career with the St. Louis Cardinals. The deal sent outfielders Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk to the Cards in exchange for reliever Fernando Salas and David Freese. The veteran third baseman did not have a season to remember in his debut campaign with the Angels.

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The Corpus Christi, TX product manned the hot corner for the Halos in 134 games last season, but failed to meet expectations. When Angels’ General Manager Jerry Dipoto pulled the trigger on the deal for Freese, he was hoping to see the guy who made one All-Star appearance and starred in the postseason for the Cards. But, Freese was a shell of his former self, hitting just .260, with 10 home runs and 55 RBI’s. Worst of all, the former NLCS and World Series MVP hit just .125 for the Angels this past October.

Reasons for Optimism:

David Freese has produced brief moments of greatness during his career matched by few players in the league. From October of 2011 through October of 2012, Freese had the look of a future superstar. Freese gained national recognition for his performance in the 2011 National League Championship Series. After batting .545, with 3 home runs and 9 RBI’s across 6 games, Freese took home the NLCS MVP. Freese’s second act was even more magical, as he heroically led the Cardinals back from the edge of defeat to win the Fall Classic in dramatic fashion. Freese hit .348, with 1 home run, 7 RBI’s, and one triple that won’t soon be forgotten in the St. Louis, and was named the World Series MVP. The 2012 season was nearly as impressive, as Freese made the All-Star team in his first full season in the Major Leagues.

Oct 5, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Los Angeles Angels third baseman David Freese (6) throws to first base against the Kansas City Royals in the second inning of game three of the 2014 ALDS baseball playoff game at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals won 8-3 advancing to the ALCS against the Baltimore Orioles. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Defense has never been David Freese’s calling card, but he did take some small steps toward becoming an above average defender in 2014. His .966 fielding percentage was the highest mark since he became an everyday player in 2012, and it smashed the league average of .956. In 2013, Freese posted an awful -1.5 dWAR. That number improved slightly this past season, inching closer to a positive dWAR at -0.7.

Reasons to Panic:

There are plenty of reasons to doubt David Freese will ever return to form. The most glaring issue has to be his steep drop in production in nearly every offensive statistical category. Freese finished his four-year stint with the St. Louis Cardinals with a slash line of .286/.356/.427. In his first season in Anaheim, those numbers dropped to .260/.321/.383. 2014 was undoubtedly the worst season of Freese’s career, as he produced his lowest offensive output across the board. Add this in with his laughable postseason performance, and expectations are understandably low entering 2015.

While it is encouraging Freese is improving defensively, the reality is, he is still a ways off from being average at the position. His fielding percentage beat league averages in 2014, but his range factor of 2.15 per 9 innings was abysmal. To put this number in perspective, Kyle Seager won the Gold Glove with the Seattle Mariners last season; he posted a range factor of 2.66 per 9 innings. The league average in 2014 was 2.56 per 9 innings. Freese is definitely not the worst third baseman in baseball, but he leaves plenty to be desired with the leather.

What to Expect in 2015:

FanGraphs steamer is projecting David Freese will hit .260, with 12 home runs and 57 RBI’s across 130 games in 2015. FanGraphs also believes his career high 24.3% strikeout percent in 2014 will drop slightly to 22.7% this season. FanGraphs thinks his on base percentage will rise to .328, and his slugging percentage will get a 7-point bump to .390 in 2015. Overall, these numbers are nearly identical to what he produced last season. Based on these projections, it is fair to suggest FanGraphs thinks the days of Freese hitting .293 with 20 home runs are behind him.

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I tend to agree with FanGraph’s projections. I no longer see Freese as a difference maker on offense or defense. The Angels apparently feel the same way as they dealt for 24-year-old third base prospect Kyle Kubitza from the Atlanta Braves this offseason. Kubitza figures to serve as insurance this season before taking over as the club’s everyday man in 2015. However, if Freese struggles, Kubitza could get a long look with the big club this season. Freese is entering his final year of arbitration eligibility, and the chances of him returning to the Angels in 2016 are slim. He will likely be looking for work elsewhere following next season.

David Freese’s offensive numbers have leveled off during the past couple seasons, and the results have been mediocre. The talent is obviously still there, and if David Freese can rediscover the stroke that made him one of the rising stars in baseball, he could have a great season in 2015. However, I do not believe Freese will ever match his output from 2011/2012 again. I expect more of the same from Freese in his final season in Anaheim.

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