DAVID FREESE, THIRD BASEMAN
|Born: April 28, 1983
Drafted: 9th Round, 273rd Overall, 2006 (Padres)
How Acquired: Free Agent
College: University of South Alabama
Agents: CAA Sports
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|Freese has had a solid career as a third baseman with the Cards and then the Angels. This is in spite of the fact that he was 22 by the time he made his pro debut and a few weeks short of 26 when he made his major league debut. Freese doesn’t have an outstanding tool. He’s generally hit for decent averages and power, although his hitting, including his BB:K ratios, has declined a little in the last couple years. He’s roughly an average defensive player and doesn’t run well. His career OPS against LHPs is .846; against RHPs it’s .734. The Pirates signed Freese to a one-year, $3M deal for 2016 after he became a free agent.
Freese started off in short season ball, but dominated through 18 games there and moved up to low A. He continued to hit well in full season ball.
The Padres sent Freese to the California League, where he continued to hit well. The numbers have to be viewed in light of the fact that he was in the hitting-happy California League, although his home park at Lake Elsinore was one of the league’s better parks for pitchers. Freese was 24, which was old for the level. After the season, the Padres sent Freese to the Cards for Jim Edmonds.
The Cards jumped Freese to AAA and he responded with a big season. Baseball America rated him the team’s ninth best prospect after the season.
Freese made the Cardinals’ roster to open the season, but he was still struggling with an off-season ankle injury and was sent to AAA in mid-April. Starting in mid-May he missed two months due to the ankle. The Cardinals brought him back up partway through September.
Freese opened the season as the Cards’ third baseman, but he went out at the end of June due to trouble with the same ankle. He eventually underwent surgery and didn’t appear, except for an abortive minor league rehab, after the end of June.
Freese served as the Cards’ starting third baseman, but he missed nearly two months of the season with a fractured foot. He hit well in the majors when he was able to play. After the regular season, he became the MVP in both the NLCS and the World Series.
Freese finally put in a full year with the Cards and had his best season.
Freese missed the first week with a back strain. He evidently didn’t fully recover, as his hitting, mainly his power, fell off from previous seasons. After the season, the Cards sent him to the Angels for Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk.
With the Angels, Freese had largely the same season as the year before, at least on the surface; St. Louis has a better hitters’ park than the Angels. It’s possible the back injury was still affecting him. Freese had very rough months in April and May, before hitting well of the last four months. He missed two weeks with a fractured finger.
Freese’s power bounced back a little. He again suffered a fractured finger, this time missing over a month. Although his hitting numbers were improved over the previous year, his line drive rate dropped and he had fewer hard-hit balls. Freese became a free agent after the season and signed with the Pirates in the middle of spring training.
Freese opened the 2016 season as the Pirates’ third baseman. Once Jung-Ho Kang returned, he became the right-handed half of the first base platoon and continued to play third frequently, as the Pirates rested Kang every few days. Freese got off to a good start and had an .793 OPS through August 22. Possibly out of concern for Kang’s legal situation, the Pirates signed Freese to an extension covering 2017 and 2018, with a team option for 2019. Freese promptly went into a slump, batting 244/330/314 through the end of the season. Although he still finished with solid numbers overall, Freese’s hitting contained some alarming signs. His strikeout rate was an astronomical 28.9%, far above his career high. According to Brooks Baseball, Freese had particular trouble hitting fastballs while doing best against offspeed pitches, which suggests he’s lost bat speed. His batting average was supported by an unsustainable .372 BABIP. His groundball rate was an extremely high 60.7%, again easily a career high, and he seldom hit the ball in the air. The solid power came from a HR/FB rate of 21.7%, well above his career norm. The frequent ground balls and Freese’s lack of speed produced a GIDP rate of 16%, well above the MLB average of 11% despite the extremely high K rate. Defensively, Freese played well at third, a little above average according to UZR. At first he was adequate despite his lack of experience.
With Kang unable to get a visa, Freese ended up as the Pirates’ starting third baseman. He got off to a good start; in fact, apart from Adam Frazier, he was about the only player on the team hitting anything at all in the season’s first few weeks. He had a .954 OPS in 18 April games, but he injured a hamstring and was out for three weeks. From the time he returned in mid-May, he didn’t hit much, posting just a 254/360/346 line, with the lack of power being a real problem on a team that got very little power from the outfield corners. Freese had a significant platoon split, posting an OPS of .839 against LHPs and .704 against RHPs. He remained an extreme groundball hitter, with a 57% groundball rate. Freese did a solid job on defense.
The Pirates’ biggest off-season need was to upgrade offensively and the most obvious place to do that was third base. The acquisition of Colin Moran should supplant Freese as the starter, although the risk remains that, as long as Freese is on the roster, Clint Hurdle will want to get him regular playing time. Moran has a history of struggling against left-handed pitchers, so Freese could serve as a platoon player, but for a rebuilding team it would make more sense for Moran to play every day. With Sean Rodriguez also on the team, Freese could end up blocking younger players like Max Moroff from getting time in a utility role. The Pirates’ best course would be to trade Freese, which they should be able to do if they pick up some of his salary.
|2019: $6,000,000 ($1,000,000 performance bonus based on plate appearances)(team option with $500,000 buyout)
2018: $4,250,000 ($1,000,000 performance bonus based on plate appearances)
2017: $6,250,000 ($1,000,000 performance bonus based on plate appearances)
|Signing Bonus: $6,000
MiLB Debut: 2006
MLB Debut: 4/6/2009
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2020
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: April 5, 2009
Options Remaining: 2 (USED: 2009)
MLB Service Time: 8.028
|June 6, 2006: Drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 9th round, 273rd overall pick; signed on June 12.
December 14, 2007: Traded by the San Diego Padres to the St. Louis Cardinals for Jim Edmonds and cash.
April 5, 2009: Contract purchased by the St. Louis Cardinals.
November 22, 2013: Traded by the St. Louis Cardinals with Fernando Salas to the Los Angeles Angels for Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk.
November 2, 2015: Became a free agent.
March 11, 2016: Signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates.