Atlanta Braves: Freddie Freeman Poised for Sophomore Success

Evan Walker@@EvanTheJetCorrespondent IApril 23, 2012

Atlanta Braves first baseman, Freddie Freeman, entered 2012 with a boyish grin and veteran swagger that won over the hearts of Braves fans everywhere throughout the course of the previous season, and with perfectly good reason.

In 2011, the NL Rookie of the Year runner-up introduced himself to the world with a batting clip of .282/.346/.448, hitting 21 bombs, and knocking in 76 runs.

That's not bad for a kid that still gets asked for ID every time he orders a drink.

However, there had to be a handful of butterflies floating around in the California native's stomach as the 2012 season approached. After all, his roommate and best friend, Jason Heyward, just finished re-writing the textbook definition for "sophomore slump" and the Braves' epic 2011 collapse was symbolized by Freeman grounding into a double play, throwing his helmet to the ground, and squatting in pure misery.

Luckily for Freeman and his helmet, 2012 marks the turning of a new page, the dawn of a new era, the opening of a thousand doors, and...the end of the world. It's a good thing the Mayans were baseball fans, because their predicted Apocalypse is right after baseball season.

Freeman started off 2012 on the wrong foot, batting a measly .205 with no homers and one RBI through his first nine games. Then, something clicked and Freeman started to swing the bat with vengeance.

Over the past six games, that short, lumberjack swing of Freeman's has produced four multi-hit performances, 14 RBI and three home runs, making a strong case for Freeman as the first NL Player of the Week that hasn't dated Rihanna.

If the young slugger can stay young and keep slugging, it won't be too difficult to fathom a 30-home run, 100 RBI campaign following Freeman's impressive rookie year.

Not to mention, Freeman's defense has been incredible at first base, making him one of only five NL first basemen to maintain a perfect fielding percentage through the first three weeks of the season.

Now, with Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder taking their talents to the American League, the race for the NL's best first baseman is suddenly wide-open. If Freeman continues this torrid pace of crushing the ball, he could give the $225 million man a run for his money.

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