When fans talk about the young players that have the most potential to be the stars of the future, they probably think of rookies like Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig, Atlanta Braves catcher Evan Gattis and New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey. They may even point to a guy like 22-year-old outfielder Wil Myers, who the Tampa Bay Rays promoted to the big leagues on Sunday.
Each member of that quartet certainly has a bright future, but a guy who at the age of 23 already has three-plus years of experience is the one who really stands out to me: Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman.
Freeman hasn’t garnered the attention that clubhouse mate Gattis has. He hasn’t hit as many home runs, blasting six compared to 14 for his teammate. He hasn’t gotten as much All-Star buzz. He hasn’t received a featured story in Sports Illustrated.
To be honest, Freeman probably doesn’t even care about any of that. No matter how many long balls he uncorks, no matter how much he’s overlooked for the All-Star Game, no matter how many featured stories he has written about him, it doesn’t change the fact that he’s one of the best pure hitters in Major League Baseball.
And he’s just happy to be healthy.
“I was battling a lot of things last year and this year I finally have everything under control,” Freeman told Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Sunday, just a day after his second walk-off hit of the season. “It’s just a nice feeling that I can go out there and have confidence in my ability and not have to worry about something hurting if I do something wrong, like if I move a certain way is it going to shoot pain. It’s just a nice feeling. I haven’t really had that since I’ve been in the big leagues.”
After three more hits – his seventh three-hit game of the season – in Sunday’s 3-0 win over the San Francisco Giants, I’d say the 6-foot-5, 225-pounder is about as close to 100% as an everyday major leaguer can be. His .320 batting average is tied with St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter for fifth in the National League and his .377 on-base percentage, which has to be one of the best marks among cleanup hitters, are super-impressive, while his team-high 46 RBIs despite an early-season stint on the disabled list is nothing short of incredible — especially with the lineup the Braves possess.
I’m not saying he’s the next Miguel Cabrera.
He is the first Freddie Freeman, though, and that will likely be good enough to be a cornerstone of the Braves franchise for many years to come.