Is Wes Freeman Climbing in to the Top 50?

Freeman has six homers in 106 at-bats this year.

One of the big stories in the minors the last few weeks has been the hot streak by outfield prospect Wes Freeman.  In his last 12 games, Freeman has been on fire, with a .362/.400/.745 line in 47 at-bats.  He’s recorded a hit in ten of those 12 games, and has hit five home runs during this stretch.  Perhaps the most impressive stat is that his strikeout rate has dropped to 23.4% in this time period.  Prior to this hot streak, Freeman was hitting for a .169/.197/.237 line, with an atrocious 35.6% strikeout rate.

Freeman was drafted in the 16th round of the 2008 draft out of high school.  He signed for $150 K, which isn’t a huge amount, but which is considered significant for a 16th round pick.  He was touted for his power, which was raw, but had the ability to be plus power.  Overall, Freeman was considered a very raw prospect, in sort of a high risk/high reward type fashion.

We saw how raw Freeman was in his first few years in the minors.  In 2009, Freeman played in short season ball, going to the Gulf Coast League.  He hit four homers in 157 at-bats, but had a bad .210/.275/.344 line, and a horrible 37.6% strikeout rate.  The following season the Pirates challenged him by sending him to West Virginia for full season ball.  Freeman was completely over-matched, with a .155/.223/.238 line in 84 at-bats, and a 52.4% strikeout rate.  He moved back down to the GCL, where his numbers were worse than the previous year.  In 75 at-bats, Freeman hit for a .187/.265/.267 line, with a 46.7% strikeout rate.

It’s obvious why the Pirates have stuck with Freeman for so long.  First of all, there’s the raw power.  We’ve seen a lot of that lately, although throughout his career that power has been limited due to his free swinging ways.  His 6′ 4″, 215 pound frame gives him the look of a future major leaguer.  Even with the size, he’s got the speed needed to play center field, and a very strong arm.  I’ve heard him described by opposing scouts as the only position player prospect on the State College roster.  That was before Alex Dickerson arrived, but also back before Freeman’s current run of success.

The current hot streak is a small sample size, but it also displays a flash of Freeman’s potential.  However, one hot streak isn’t going to be enough to say that Freeman’s career is back on track.  Seeing the power, the hitting, and the lowered strikeout rates are definitely encouraging signs.  However, Freeman has only walked four times this year in 112 plate appearances.  He’s going to need to improve his plate patience in order to have success at a level higher than short season A-ball.

The hot streak does raise one question: should Freeman be considered a top 50 prospect?  The overall numbers have been bad, but the talent is there.  Freeman is only 21, so he’s still young enough to revive his career in baseball.  He also possesses a skill that is rare in the Pirates’ minor league system: power.  His .207 isolated power ranks fourth among prospect eligible players in the Pirates’ system with 100 or more at-bats this season (he’s fifth if you count foreign rookie leagues).  The other three players are Jarek Cunningham, Calvin Anderson, and Matt Curry, ranked in that order.  If his hot streak became more than a hot streak, and carried over through the final month of the 2011 season, I’d have to give serious consideration to adding him to the top 50 prospects next year.  I don’t see him ending up higher than 40th, and probably not higher than 45th.  He has the talent, and if we’re starting to see that talent translate over to success, then we might be seeing the emergence of a sleeper prospect for the Pirates.

  • There’s been a lot of enthusiasim about the system overall, but comments from those who actually see the players and follow them closer than most casual fans dampen that feel good atmosphere. But, FWIW I agree. The minors aren’t stacked. Overall, position-wise, it doesn’t look to be deep at all and lacking in above-average talent. Pitching is below expectations IMO. There is emphasize on certain development items, but Hereida’s IP is worrisome. No need to throw his arm away at 16, but the kid has pitched a lot of innings and against older competition. Tallion has been mildly disappointing and Allie has been a major disappointment.

    Cunningham has been an offensive force at his position but isn’t he defensively challenged? If so, would a move to the OF be beneficial. I think it would have beneficial to have gotten a month’s worth of experience at the next level for Marte and Grossman.

    • The three teams I follow closest are the Pirates, Rays, and Braves.  Generally the Rays and Braves are considered to have top 3 systems.

      I’d be curious to see if you think the Rays and Braves are “stacked” with above-average position players.

  • IF you go on his raw potential and this latest hot streak, he easily slides into the 40-50 range.

  • IF you go on his raw potential and this latest hot streak, he easily slides into the 40-50 range.

  • I think he could move into the top 50 based more on the fact the system isn’t as deep as last year. Last year when posting my top 50 I had 75 names to choose from when I started, this year a quick count barely got me to 50 and some of those were more just to fill out the bottom of the list. Basically means that anyone that surprised,like Freeman if he can keep it up, had a good shot of making the list

    • Interesting I would have guessed that the farm system is much deeper than previous years. The talent level at GCL and below is very impressive.

      I would hazard a guess that the current Pirates farm system will be more productive in the long run than the more highly regarded Rays or Braves systems.

      BTW Freeman looks like a teenage Jose Canseco.

      • The GCL is the team with the most potential at this point but those players are so far away that unless their name is Heredia they won’t get ranked too high. You have to proceed with caution with them. It is possible that at some point Luis Urena is a top 5 prospect in the system if you read the scouting reports but that statement is all about projection and at his pace you might not even consider him for the top 30 for another couple years.

          Basically I see the top 50 this year containing a lot more speculation than last year and the system being less top heavy and more cluttered as you get in the 15-30 range to the point where two people who follow the system very closely could have lists that look totally different

        • ….and you and I are 2 of those people.  I agree with you that it gets muddled from 8-20, but I think there is a tremendous amount of interesting players to rank from 20-50.

          Someone like a Zac Fuesser will probably generate some interesting debate around the Pirate Prospects e-offices this offseason on where he should go.

          As for the post, Freeman doesn’t even sniff my top 50 unless he continues to go nuts the last month of the season.

        • Interesting I wouldn’t rank Urena among the top 10 NDFAs on the GCL team.

          Hitters: Osuna, Hanson, Garcia, Carvajal, Polanco
          Pitchers: Castro, Heredia, Lopes, Herrand, Sanchez

  • That’s good news we Pirate fans could use right about now.