While no one could question his talent, Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman was a guy many shied away from in terms of drafting for 2016 fantasy baseball. What was interesting is that the reasons for avoiding Freeman really had nothing to do with the player himself and more to do with the comical “support” that the Atlanta front office had surrounded him with the two seasons prior to 2016. With the Braves in a complete rebuild as they looked ahead to opening their new ballpark in 2017, the lineup was left almost completely bare outside of Freeman. This would prove to be a very bad thing for Freeman’s fantasy baseball value from 2104-15 for a number of reasons. The first is that opposing pitchers could pitch around Freeman liberally and attack the much weaker hitters in front and behind him in the order. That cut down on the opportunities for Freeman to not only hit home runs but it also put a major hurt on his counting numbers. Secondly, when Freeman did get something to drive, often there was nobody on base for him to collect RBI’s with and when on base, he was left stranded on base to many times to count due to the ineptitude of the other Atlanta batters. As a result, Freeman was a guy that many in the fantasy baseball community (including our publication) told you to draft only as your CI or UTIL option as his numbers would yield the numbers to hold down the always offensively potent first base spot. What happened next had to be considered a major surprise as Freeman did more than his best with what he had in the Atlanta lineup and proceeded to post a career-year that included highs in home runs (32), runs (102), and his best batting average since 2013 (.302). Freeman also managed to collect 91 RBI and for good measure even swiped 6 bases. Put it all together and Freeman performed like a top tier fantasy baseball third despite the challenges he once again faced in terms of support. Looking ahead to 2017, the Braves were expected to address their lineup issues in free agency and they also began to unveil some of their very talented prospects at the end of the prior season such as shortstop Dansby Swanson. Despite the fact it seems like Freeman has been around forever, he turned only 27 this past September and so he is really just starting his prime years. Considering how complete a player he already is, that is quite telling in terms of how good the future looks. Upwards we go.
2017 PROJECTION: .308 30 HR 95 RBI 108 R 5 SB