As the minor league season comes to a close, it’s time to start looking at each organization and determine who is the team’s Fantasy Baseball Minor League Player of the Year.

First, the criteria:

  • The player spent the majority of their time in the minor leagues in 2010 – this has some flexibility, but if someone was just a September call-up, or had a short cup of coffee in the Major Leagues, they are going to be eligible.
  • The player must be primed to make an impact in 2011 – this is fantasy baseball we’re talking about, so someone who is 18-years old and dominating in Single-A just doesn’t hold much value.

Other then that, everything is pretty much fair game.  Let’s kick things off with the Atlanta Braves.  And the award goes to…

First Baseman Freddy Freeman

Maybe this is a little anticlimactic, but he certainly deserves the honor.  He spent the entire year at Triple-A, prior to his September recall (though, with Derrek Lee having been acquired he shouldn’t see much time), and was incredibly impressive:

461 At Bats
.319 Batting Average (147 Hits)
18 Home Runs
87 RBI
73 Runs
6 Stolen Bases
.378 On Base Percentage
.521 Slugging Percentage
.359 Batting Average on Balls in Play

The power is the number that most concerns you, considering the position that he plays.  However, there are some underlying metrics that are encouraging, that the home runs will come for the 20-year old, (he turns 21 in less then two weeks) in time.

First of all is his 35 doubles, which placed him second in the International League (Chris Richard of the Tampa Bay Rays had 39).  Secondly, his line drive rate of 23.4% is extremely impressive (though his 29.7% fly ball rate is not).

If you take the doubles and line drives into account, it is not impossible to see him add strength and power as he gets a little bit older.  With that, some of these line drives and doubles should get more air under them, clearing the fences.

Is it a guarantee?  Of course not, but you certainly have to like the underlying metrics and what could come of them.

Prior to the season Baseball America ranked him as the Braves second best prospect, saying the following:

“He drives the ball with consistency with a sweet, fluid swing, and scouts believe his doubles will become homers as he gains experience and strength. Comparisons to Keith Hernandez and Mark Grace with more power have become commonplace because of his defense, which managers rated the best among first basemen in both the Carolina and Southern leagues last season.”

That just helps to add to the hope that the long ball will develop in time.

The average is a little bit inflated, with the BABIP, but there is reason to believe that he could maintain a .280+ mark in the Major Leagues.

First of all, if we are to expect more power, that will mean less balls put in play and therefore a higher average.  Also, he does not strikeout an excessive amount, with 84 Ks (a strikeout rate of 18.2%).  Granted, that’s not an elite mark, but it certainly is not one that would dissuade us from believing in him.

There was a concern at one point during the year about his ability to hit against left-handed pitching.  He alleviated that, however, by ending the year hitting .268 (33-123) with 4 HR and 17 RBI against southpaws.

He certainly lived up to his preseason hype and with Lee set to be a free agent at year’s end, it is very conceivable that the cost conscious Braves turn to Freeman to start at first base next year (Troy Glaus and Eric Hinske aren’t the answer).  That certainly should put him on fantasy radars, with September serving as his opportunity to get his feet wet.  That way, he can hit the ground running in April.

Others considered:

  • Mike Minor (6 W, 3.44 ERA, 146 K in 120.1 IP) – being installed into the Braves rotation took him out of consideration
  • Julio Teheran (8 W, 2.55 ERA, 154 K in 137.2 IP) – at 19-years old, and the depth the Braves have in the rotation, it’s hard to imagine him making a major impact in 2011

What are your thoughts?  Who deserved the award?  What do you like/dislike about Freeman?

Make sure to check out our Prospect Tracker, for links to the latest updates on all the top prospects in baseball, by clicking here.


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