05/07/12 - 11:14am
Freddie Freeman was named NL Player of the Week today for the second time in three weeks, and the Colorado Rockies would surely agree he deserved the award.
He also went 4-for-6 with a two-run homer in the series opener Friday.
And so the Freeman projections continue to expand in some quarters. Although the guys who've seen on a daily basis aren't too surprised by what he's doing.
Midway through spring training when I asked some Braves veterans about the big first baseman, and Eric Hinske and Brian McCann both talked about how his simple, short swing and his ability to make adjustments should help the big kid avoid any so-called "sophomore slump."
It's early, but I think we can all agree it looks like they were right?
Freeman is absolutely raking. After wrecking Colorado pitching, he's lifted his average to .298 with team-highs of eight doubles, six homers and 26 RBIs — tied with Texas' Josh Hamilton for third in the majors in RBIs behind the Dodger duo of Matt Kemp (28) and Andre Ethier. Freeman's .544 slugging percentage ranks second on the team to Chipper Jones' .576, and the kid has 48 more at-bats than Battleaxe.
And here's the thing that makes Freeman's stats stand out even more: He had a terrible first week-and-a-half. Only two major leaguers have driven in more runs than he has, even though he only drove in one in his first nine games.
The big, huggable – he's a hugger, as you surely know by now — first baseman is 28-for-77 (.364) in his past 19 games with 14 extra-base hits (six homers), 25 RBIs, a .372 OBP and .714 slugging percentage. Yes, a 1.086 OPS in his past 19 games.
This after going 6-for-37 (.162) with one extra-base hit (double), one, a .205 OBP and .189 slugging in his first nine games. His, ahem, sophomore slump didn't even last to double-digit games.
Teammates and team officials are careful not to say on the record exactly how good they believe Freeman can become, because they don't want to put undue pressure on him or raise expectations to ridiculous levels. Suffice to say, most believe Freeman has the potential to be better than any hitter the Braves have produced in more than a decade.
Ross was talking about Sunday's incident at Coors Field, where Colorado pitcher Juan Nicasio in the ribs with a pitch in the first inning. Freeman hit a three-run homer his next time up in the third inning, then legged out the first triple of his major league career in his next time up, on a gap drive to right-center to lead off the two-run sixth inning.
What Freeman has done in his brief career against the Rockies is absurd: .435 (20-for-46) with 13 extra-base hits including eight homer – eight homers in 46 at-bats! – and 18 RBIs in 11 games, with a 1.087 slugging percentage. He has six multi-hit games and seven multi-RBI games against them, and at least one extra-base hit in all but one of those 11. Oh, and the Braves are 9-2 in those games.
Freeman is 10th in the NL in slugging (.544) and eighth in hits (34). He's hit exactly .300 in 544 at-bats over his past 142 games, and here's what he's done in the last calendar year since May 7, 2011: .297 (172-for-579) with 34 doubles, 24 homers, 91 RBIs, .347 OBP and .831 OPS. The Braves are 86-66 in those games.
I asked Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez after Sunday's sweep-clinching win at Denver what else he could say about Freeman that hasn't already been said in the past few weeks, and he paused a moment before answering.
"And for Battleaxe to say that, that's a helluva compliment. I don't think you can say anything more than that."
Freeman has been in the 3-hole for 21 of the Braves' 29 games this season, and lately he's been there just about every day. Judging from his performance and from comments Gonzalez made last week, it looks like Freeman has found his spot with the Braves for the forseeable future.