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The Hot Corner - 2011 Player Profiles: David Freese

Third base remains an uncertainty for the Cardinals going into 2011, along with the rest of the infield (even Albert has the contract thing going on). Since the post-Rolen era began, third base has been a churning eddy of change for the Cardinals. By far the best option that has come since Scott departed for Canada was Troy MF'ing Glaus, who was actually quite good until his shoulder exploded. Other than that, only David Freese comes to mind, who endured a similar fate but with Achilles ankles as the malediction cast down by the GOB. To compensate for injuries, the Cards have had to roll out the likes of Scott Spiezio, Felipe Lopez, Aaron Miles, Khalil Greene, and Pedro Feliz.

I'd like to take a look at 4 options for third base that would come from the org at very little cost compared to signing or trading for someone. The first two have actually played third base for St. Louis on numerous occasions, David Freese and Tyler Greene. Another option, Allen Craig, is to be developed further at third. And the minor leagues have Matt Carpenter charging up the ladder.

In this first installment, I'm going to concentrate on the most obvious option, the starter in 2010. David Freese (aka mr. freeze, iceman, tasty, reeses peanut butter cup, etc) was born in Corpus Christi, TX in the year of 1983. After presumably being a big baseball fan as a child and his parents moving to St. Louis, David graduated from Lafayette High School. After high school he attended South Alabama and played hardball, where he played in 116 games. At that level he had 180 hits, 18 home runs, and tore the baseball apart in 2006 by posting a .503 OBP and a .661 SLG. The San Diego Padres drafted him that year in the 9th round. 

In 5 seasons in the minors, playing for teams like the Emeralds, the Wizards, and the Storm, Freeser had a pretty damn successful run with 68 home runs, a .385 OBP, and .533 SLG over 395 games (and got hit by the pitch 28 times, the most coming in 2007... he got hit 16 times!). Also, 305 RBIs over 5 seasons is being nicely productive. Even more info can be found at http://www.thebaseballcube.com/players/F/David-Freese.shtml.

Freese entered the Cardinals AAA system before the 2008 season, in a big trade that sent Jim Edmonds to San Diego. The need for a third baseman to be produced within the organization was high, so Freese eventually was expected to be a starter for St. Louis. Eventually it was revealed that he had a slight drinking problem (or major, depending on how you want to intrepret things). The official announcement was that David's wreck prior to the 2009 season was an isolated incident. But many following his career more closely were privy to the knowledge that David had prior run-ins with public intoxication and even an incident in Maryland. The iceman's first arrest was in California near the Pad's A-level squad in September, 2007. There he resisted arrest for public intoxication at a casino, and he was slapped with a misdemeanor for public intox. This charge was eventually dropped, but he still had to face up to the obstruction charge, and was eventually sentenced to 3 years probation. As if this weren't enough, he had a crash while driving on icy roads in Maryland prior to the 2009 season, injuring his feet and ankles. This would be a start of a trend in his career regarding injuries.

Oddly enough, the last time the Cardinals org had a run in with drinking problems was with Scott Spiezio, the 3rd major incident in the aughts Cardinals' teams.

http://www.drinking-problem.com/featured/cardinals-david-freese-arrested-on-dui-charge/

So for a guy who once batted .414 in NCAA circuit college baseball, Freese has been a little disappointing. It's a shame his ankle problem could be related to a drinking and driving incident. After delaying his debut, he once again suffered injuries in 2010 after showing very promising defensive skills and .361 OBP (1.5 WAR in 70 games!). He injured both ankles last season, dropped a weight on his foot, and was nearly hit in the face by a hockey puck most recently. The Freese story does not make me extremely confident that he will get the bulk of the time at the hot corner for the Cardinals in '11, but if he endures and gets to play there more often, he could be a very nice, very inexpensive player to start at third base. He seems to be a well-liked guy despite his drunken incidents, and could help the team a lot. I'm just not going to say anything more about his ankles or his health and welfare, because he sure seems to be a magnet for cartoon-like accidents.

Since he is likely to start at third after spring training (godspeed, you pitchers and catchers, report!), let's have a look at what people are projecting he will do in 2011. First off, one site even questions if he's even an option at all, regardless of the injuries. http://rotoprofessor.com/baseball/?p=7684 The professor cites an alarming strikeout rate (24.6% in 2010, pretty well in line with his minor league mark), and an inflated BABIP. The projections here are not very optimistic in the OBP department, but the 14 home runs seems a little too optimistic. I don't particularly agree with the projections listed at this site, but they are listed at that link. I just don't think he'll strike out over 25% of the time (at least I hope not).

Bill James is projecting Freese to have a much better on base percentage than that, at .353. This is not as good as it was last season, but James predicts a much higher ISO at .157 instead of .108. The wOBA projected is also at .353, which would be quite a coup for the Cardinals and their third base situation. I think the James projection is more in line with what will happen (albeit probably a bit too optimistic), but the other projection remains a big concern, given the K rate and BABIP. James sees the BABIP as sustainable, probably due to Freese being a line drive hitter. At any rate, Freese may not be the .900+ OPS hitter that he was in the minor leagues, but I don't think an .800 OPS hitter is out of the question going forward, and his defense can at times be quite good. Hopefully the Cards will get their 3+ WAR player from the position that is possible given Freese's upside. If not, there are options.

 

minor league record: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=freese001dav

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