Freddie Freeman: How the Atlanta Braves First Baseman is Exceeding Expectations

Will BrownContributor IJuly 10, 2011

ATLANTA - JULY 7: Freddie Freeman #5 of the Atlanta Braves hits against the Colorado Rockies at Turner Field on July 7, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

When I wrote this article back in April, many Atlanta Braves fans wanted the team to send Freddie Freeman back to down to AAA and work on his hitting a little bit more. Oh, how things have changed.

I was proven right, and probably lucky, when I said that he would be just fine. The thing is that Freeman has been very good and one of the most clutch hitters on the team thus far in the season.

After a poor April in which he hit .225, Freeman posted a slash of .312/.371/.430 in May and really got things rolling. Freeman is currently posting a slash of .279/.353/.469 with 13 homers and 43 RBI. He's also mashed 19 doubles.

Freeman is hitting .260 on the season with runners in scoring position, but that number is way up after a terrible April. At this point, I think that Freeman has been the Braves' second most consistent hitter all season. 

Freeman also seems to be finding his power, as he has hit four homers so far this month, and it's just the July 10. Even if Freeman just keeps up with the pace he's put up, he will hit 23 homers, 33 doubles and 76 RBI. 

If you would have told me that Freeman would already have this many homers at the All-Star break, I would have called you crazy. He has found his power stroke, though, and could really make a move in the second half and hit 25-plus homers as a rookie.

I was always a guy that thought that he would become a better power hitter than many expected. I'm seeing some positive sides that this could actually be true.

Freeman did one thing well from the very beginning: play first base. He has a lot of potential defensively and has been showing fans why from the very beginning. He has saved countless numbers of errors for the infield with his scooping ability.

Freeman's UZR doesn't show this, though, because he gets bad marks for his range, but anybody who has seen even half of the Braves games will see how much Freeman means to the team defensively. The fact that he has matched his defensive play with his offense since April is quickly making him a key member of the team's future.

Going forward, Freeman has a serious chance to win the National League Rookie of the Year. At this point the top guy has to be Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, who is on pace to shatter every rookie closing record and has been extremely dominant. The Chicago Cubs' Darwin Barney and Washington Nationals' Danny Espinosa are trying to make a buzz of their own.

If Freeman can continue to play as he has the past two-and-a-half months, I wouldn't be surprised if he were to win the award, though. He's shown how important he is to the team in every facet of the game. The young first baseman has a bright future, but what we have right now is very good as well.