Freddie Freeman was traded from the Atlanta Braves to the Los Angeles Dodgers this past offseason. He will be playing in a new city, with different teammates and managers – but also on a team that has won two of the last four World Series titles.
Freddie Freeman is a first baseman for the Atlanta Braves. He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 18th, 2019. His fantasy baseball value with the Dodgers has not been announced yet.
It’s simple for a fantasy baseball manager to embrace Freddie Freeman’s transfer to the Los Angeles Dodgers, since the Dodgers’ lineup suddenly looks exactly like a fantasy lineup, with the five-time All-Star, three-time Silver Slugger, and 2020 National League MVP.
The Dodgers scored a coup by landing Freeman, who, in this writer’s view, is the game’s most consistent, durable, and highest-floor hitter, into an already stacked lineup. Consider that the 2019 Dodgers (16th, 5.47) and 2020 Dodgers (third, 5.82) are two of the top 16 teams in the majors in terms of average runs per game in the 16 seasons since the widely accepted end of the steroid era (2005), and the 2021 team finished fourth in the majors with a 5.12 runs-per-game average in what was widely regarded as a disappointing offensive season.
There’s no doubt that the 2022 Dodgers will have the highest run total in baseball, and it may be by a considerable margin. The Toronto Blue Jays, who have retooled their lineup to try to repeat their third-place 5.22 runs per game, could challenge them for first place, but what matters is that these are two lineups that will provide optimized opportunities for runs scored, RBI, and times through the lineup (read: plate appearances) — something that is often overlooked by fantasy managers but crucial to success, especially in “only” leagues.
The consequences for Freeman
What is there to say about Freeman? In the last six years, he has had five seasons with a batting average of.300 or above, the most in the majors. In 2021, he had the best hitting average in the league, with a.313 Statcast predicted batting average. He is the only player in baseball with at least a 10% walk rate, a 40% Statcast hard-hit rate, and a sub-20% strikeout percentage in each of the previous five seasons. Freeman’s contact-hitting style has only become better in previous years, and he was already a very strong hitter when he made his more “swing and miss” focused breakout in 2016.
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Freeman is also a good all-around power hitter, hitting 33 of 133 home runs to the opposite field in the previous five seasons, which is tied for sixth most in MLB (and third among lefties). That’s the type of technique that eliminates any large park-factor affects on his hitting stats, but you may be surprised to learn that Dodger Stadium is actually one of the best power venues in the league, having been at least 5% above-average in the category in each of the previous four seasons.
Consider Freeman’s new home as an improvement for his power, and even if being in the Dodgers lineup just results in five more runs and RBI, he’ll acquire — at the very least — incremental fantasy worth in 2022. Oh, and on the 2021 Player Rater, he was already the No. 26 overall and No. 3 first baseman, with the 14th-most total fantasy points (489), so he was already fairly excellent.
Freeman is currently my No. 11 overall points-league player, up from 18th as a free agent, and there’s a strong argument to be made that he’s a top-eight overall choice if you believe in optimism. Freeman, like Bryce Harper (No. 12), is a “high return on investment” decision, and there’s a solid case to be made for taking a guy like him in the first round.
What effect will this have on the remainder of the lineup?
Understand that this is a squad that likes to switch things up nightly depending on the opposing pitcher, particularly when it comes to hitting handedness, so let’s get this out of the way: Freeman has only missed four of the Atlanta Braves’ 545 games since the start of 2018, and he has played all but five innings of their playoff games during that time, so he won’t be sitting any more than a typical big-league regular. Even if he only appears in 155 games instead of 159, his fantasy output will be unaffected. He’ll start at first base and maybe make a few DH appearances, but the NL’s reinstatement of the designated hitter addresses some roster-clutter issues for the Dodgers.
In any case, it’s not truly “clutter.” The Dodgers’ offense is a bit of a “dream squad,” and apart from Freeman, the catchers, and third baseman Justin Turner, the other six on-field regulars are all capable of playing at least two defensive positions, which is exactly what they want. Max Muncy’s progress over the last week has been encouraging, as he played first base in a simulated game on Tuesday, and he’ll likely DH at first before transferring to second base once he’s fully recovered. Chris Taylor has the ability to shuffle all around the field. On Freeman’s off-days (or “mini-rests,” as he DHs), Cody Bellinger could take over first base, and Mookie Betts can play everywhere in the outfield.
The acquisition of Freeman is particularly bad news for Gavin Lux, who couldn’t find a regular role last year and won’t now (assuming no injuries), despite the fact that he might have been part of a Lux-Muncy-Turner infield/DH rotation. Lux will now be relegated to a utility position, which is concerning given that he only seemed to hit once when handed a regular duty in September. If Muncy starts as a DH, he may be the second baseman at first, but in ESPN’s standard leagues, he’s reduced to being below the draft-worthy tier.
Let’s return to Bellinger as well. One issue I’d have about a lineup like this is that the Dodgers’ depth actually harms his fantasy worth a bit, if only because the club no longer has to be patient during a hitter’s slumps since there’s so much talent to select from. When it comes to chilly weather, Bellinger has the most experience on this squad. Because of the deeper lineup, his ceiling rises with Freeman’s addition, but his floor falls. That might also be said for older, more injury-prone players like Turner and AJ Pollock, but the only effect on their rankings should be a modest broadening of their ceilings and floors (which are mostly determined by runs/RBI output and playing time).
Finally, an All-Star lineup means more opportunities for daily league players, which means the Dodgers will be as appealing an offensive in those formats (and for DFS) as there is in baseball.