Braves fans everywhere remember Ryan Klesko's 1994 season. Robbed of finishing a solid rookie campaign by the strike-shortened season, Klesko still managed to hit 17 homeruns in just 245 at bats in his first "full" major league season.
16 years later, it would appear the Braves have another powerful left-handed hitter destined to make his presence known at the big league level. Freeman and Klesko had very similar careers up to this point. Both were drafted out of highschool by the Braves, both are left-handed hitting first basemen and both rely on their tall frames to put of power numbers. But apart from their several obvious similarities, are there really any key likenesses between the two?
Could a 21-year-old Freddie Freeman make the same impact that a 23-year-old Ryan Klesko made during the early part of his career?
At first glance, you might assume that Freeman's minor league numbers were inferior to Klesko's. With Klesko's claim to fame being power numbers, it would be easy to assume that he averaged more than 15 home runs a season in the minors, right?
Looking at stats are always helpful. Over Freeman's 2008-2010 seasons in the minors, he has posted and average of 15 homeruns, 32 doubles, 80 runs batted in, and a .308 batting average.
Now let's look at Ryan Klesko's same numbers. Over his 1990-1992 seasons in the minors, he averaged 14 home runs, 20 doubles, 60 runs batted in, and a .272 batting average.
Freeman has put up better offensive numbers in the minor leagues than Klesko did during the same stage in his career.
Freeman's average number of at bats until a home run was 30.4, while Klesko's was almost two at bats higher at 31.9. This could be a sign of things to come. Freeman could be able to make the type of impact Klesko made in '94 this coming season. Though Freeman is two years younger than Klesko was at that time, the maturity and consistency he has shown thus far leads me to believe Freeman will arrive with a bang this season.
Knowing that Klesko finally found his power stroke in his fifth professional season, Freeman could find himself energized accordingly in his fifth professional season. And if that happens, Braves fans will need to warm up their hips: Apache is going to be played a lot at Turner Field in 2011.