Acquired: Draft, 2008 - 32nd Round, #965 Overall
Player Profile & Career Summary:
Freeman first jumped onto the Cardinal radar with a non-roster invite to Spring Training in 2010. The former Jayhawk had dominated hitters at Palm Beach the previous season, sporting a 2.56 FIP while striking out more than 8 batters per nine innings. With so few left-handed bullpen options in the organization at the time Freeman, with his 95+ mph heat and average-plus slider, looked destined to make an impact sooner rather than later.
Then disaster struck: Elbow damage led to elbow surgery, costing him to the entire 2010 season and struggling through his 2011 campaign before seeing his velocity come back in August. Since then, however, Freeman's been the same guy who showed all that promise four seasons ago.
Except that he's not your traditional fastball-slider lefty specialist like Randy Choate, one who just chokes off left handed hitters and turns them into poor hitting pitchers. Freeman's more in the Kevin Siegrist or Jeremy Affeldt mold: Effective against hitters on both sides of the plate but not dominant against either -- a good middle reliever who throws hard, strikes out enough (17.7% of batters faced) but not a lot and probably walks too many (10.5% of batter's faced, MiLB career) to be considered for any sort of role in the back of a big league bullpen.
He's coming off a career year in 2013, one which saw his strikeouts stay stable while shaving a point of his career BB% and posting a career low 3.34 FIP at Memphis. He struggled to maintain his strikeout numbers in 12 big league innings and while he was effective it was mostly in low-leverage mop up situations like this one against the Cubs:
Freeman's future probably depends less on what he does and more on what Tyler Lyons and Lee Stoppelman do, and to a lesser extent what happens with the last spot in the rotation. There's really nothing left for Freeman to prove at AAA but it's hard to see him getting a shot for a regular role in the big league bullpen when guys with better stuff are also bidding for that same spot.
A twenty-six year old non-LOOGY who walks a few too many people in the minors? Not a lot of value in that description. He throws hard though, so someone may take him as a PTBNL in a trade if they're short on good relief candidates.
With Siegrist being a good left handed option and Choate holding down LOOGY duties, Freeman has to be better than guys like Maness and Joe Kelly as a reliever to travel North with the team. I don't think that's going to happen, and if Lyons gets groomed for the pen and Stoppelman keeps up his steady march towards the majors, it's hard to see a spot in the organization for Freeman, other than holding court at Memphis, hoping that he gets traded somewhere else.