Early in 2010 David Freese appeared to have become a third base fixture for both the Cardinals and fantasy owners.  Through May he was hitting .318 with 4 HR, 31 RBI, and 22 R in just 176 AB.

However, the wheels were beginning to fall off in June (.234 average) before an ankle injuries ended his season prematurely.  Now, as we begin our preparations for 2011, we are left to wonder exactly what we can expect from him moving forward.

It’s not that the injury should have long lingering effects on his performance.  The question is, is what we saw over the first two months of the season what we should anticipate moving forward or was it a mere aberration.

Before we can get into the numbers, we have to talk about the injuries.  Yes, it is plural, because we have to remember that it actually appeared like he was close to a return in August before suffering a second injury while on a rehab assignment, which is what ended his season.

It was the second consecutive season riddled by injuries, as he suffered from ankle problems in 2009 (as well as had his start of Spring Training delayed due to a car accident).  Last year he had just 258 AB between the majors and minors.

There certainly will be health concerns moving forward, which will help to temper our expectations in general.

Now, onto the actual statistics…

His average in the first two months was buoyed by a .400 BABIP.  We all know that it is impossible to expect him to replicate that type of mark, meaning a .300 hitter he is not.  The luck was going to swing, something we started seeing in June.

Of course, even with decreased luck, more power would mean the ability to hit for a higher average.  That is no guarantee either unfortunately.  In 2010 he had a fly ball rate of just 29.1 percent, certainly a number that is not conducive to hitting for much power.

In the Pacific Coast League in 2009 he had 10 HR and 15 doubles in 200 AB.  Obviously, the league helps to inflate the numbers.  Over his minor league career, his fly ball rate was just 34.7 percent, so there is reason to be skeptical about his power developing into a top option.  He’s already 27-years old, so you would think that if he was going to add power, he would’ve done it already or at least shown more signs of success.

The potential for strikeouts is also there, factoring into concerns over his average.  Last season he posted a 24.6 percent strikeout rate and has a minor league mark of 22.1 percent.  There certainly is a chance that he regresses there, as well, just making matters that much worse.

The bottom line when it comes to Freese is that we shouldn’t get too caught up in a good hot streak in 2010, because that’s the only data we have.  If he had stayed healthy, there’s little doubt in my mind that his numbers would’ve come back closer to what we had expected, as the correction had already appeared to have started.

With that said, let’s take a look at my early projection for him:

.256 (115-450), 14 HR, 65 RBI, 45 R, 3 SB, .313 BABIP, .322 OBP, .398 SLG

Of course, all of this assumes that he is the Cardinals starting third baseman, something that is far from a guarantee.

The projections are buoyed by a 25.1% strikeout rate, a number that is extremely believable given his career performance.  Even at a shallow position, the risk involved with Freese, both in injuries and performance, make him a low-end option, at best, and much better suited as a depth option in deeper formats on draft day 2011.

What are your thoughts of Freese?  Am I being too hard on him?  Do you think he can blossom with regular playing time in 2011?

Make sure to check out our 2011 projections:

Morrow, Brandon


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