Braves New Golden Boy

Freeman has emerged as a star

Freeman has emerged as a star

We continue analyzing the Atlanta Braves batting order with thoughts on the number three slot.  Chipper Jones was the Braves number three hitter for many years.  Jones was a prototypical number three, he could hit to all fields with power, had a high-on-base percentage, and above average speed.  He also was good at knocking in a runner from third with less than two outs.

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman has not only inherited Jones’ number three spot in the batting order, he has also received Chipper Jones type money, recently agreeing with the Braves on an eight-year, $135 million deal.  Freeman’s money is more than Jones money, but baseball inflation makes it a similar deal.

While I have differing opinions than Fredi Gonzalez on how the batting order should be structured, you have to be off your rocker to argue with Freddie Freeman hitting third.  Freeman has become the fulcrum of the Braves batting order.

What I like about Freeman hitting third, he’s the only Braves player that you feel good about hitting against any pitcher in the league.  He also consistently came through last season in the clutch, hitting .411 with two outs and runners in scoring position and .402 in the late and close game stats.

The only thing I don’t like about Freeman’s game, he doesn’t have the speed you like having in the number three slot. But surprisingly, he hit into only 10 double plays last season, two less than the speedier Justin Upton and only three more than Jason Heyward, who only played in 104 games  last year.  So while Freeman is not going to burn up the base paths with his speed, he doesn’t take you out of innings, either.

A couple of years ago I thought Heyward would be the odds on favorite to inherit Jones’ number three slot in the batting order.  But Freeman has obviously become the more dynamic and consistent hitter at this stage in their careers.

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Profile photo of Jim Hart About Jim Hart

Jim has covered the Atlanta Braves since 2008 for local and national broadcast news organizations. He also appears regularly talking Braves baseball on WCCP-FM in Clemson, South Carolina, and the ESPN Radio affiliate, 1420 Sports in St. Augustine, Florida.

  • dan harvey

    Last year I was all for FF hitting third. This year is pretty much the same. FG did bat FF fourth quite a bit last year. If Simmons takes the second spot hitting as I believe he will as the season gets going that leaves Chris Johnson as a possible #3 hitter and then FF hitting cleanup. Then 5,6, and 7 would be LF, RF, C. If either Uggla or BJ plays plays I say bat the pitcher 8, or 7 if they are both in the lineup.

    • http://atlantabullpen.com/ Jim Hart

      Looks like you and I agree on Freeman, but not so much the other spots in the order, Dan. And apparently Fredi is going to lead off Heyward and bat JUP second so he disagrees with both of us. What makes it fun to discuss the Braves batting order is that there are few prototypical parts. Lot of square pegs looking for round holes

  • http://atlantabullpen.com/ Jim Hart

    Looks like you and I agree on Freeman, but not so much the other spots in the order, Dan. And apparently Fredi is going to lead off Heyward and bat JUP second so he disagrees with both of us. What makes it fun to discuss the Braves batting order is that there are few prototypical parts. Lot of square pegs looking for round holes.

  • dan harvey

    I am guessing that Schafer will really come into his own this year. If so he will be a prototypical leadoff hitter. Simmons was a batting champ in the minors (I think) and I think that will surface at some point in the majors. If it is this year then you could have 300 caliber hitters 1 thru 4 with CF, SS, 3B, 1B, and the top two guys both have speed, especially Schafer.

    Of course a lot of variables are in that thinking. Heyward hitting leadoff looked really comfortable last year, so that is a great option as well.
    FG has some (tough) good choices to make.

    • http://atlantabullpen.com/ Jim Hart

      I like Simmons hitting low in the order at this point in his career. I think he has some technical issues he needs to work out as he continues to improve. Long term I think he is going to be hitting in a key spot and be a big producer. Be interesting to see if Heyward can keep it going in the leadoff spot. Few things seem to stay the same in baseball from year to year.

  • Everlasting Earle

    I have to say, I’m a pretty big Fredi G hater. I think the 2011 debacle was as bad as it gets aaaaand he destroyed some great bullpen arms in the process. In fact, the only thing that really worries me about the Kimbrel contract is that he’s the only surviving member of the 2011 O’ventbrel project. I’ll never get over him leaving Vizcaino out there, obviously with nothing to work with, while the lead evaporated and him shrugging it off after the game as if the division was in the bag and he was just using the game as an opportunity to teach Vizcaino a valuable lesson. Ooops.

    Aaaanyway, fast forward to… last year. He’s still running Andrelton out in the leadoff spot in late June eventhough he’s seeing less pitches than any player in baseball up to that point in the season. Meanwhile Chris Johnson has the best batting avg in the league and he’s hitting 8th. I refuse to believe that any manager worth a damn would ever go with, much less stick with, these decisions.

    I imagine he was in Wren’s office before the season saying “Come on maaaan! Leading off isn’t a big deal, we don’t need to resign Bourn… we can get BJ Upton for just a little bit more. Do me a solid Frank, get me BJ Upton. He was the number 2 overall pick in the draft!”

    Also, I might be the only person in the world that feels this way but I thought that leaving Uggla off the post season roster was bad. They were up against great pitching, Uggla might strike out 9 of 10 times but he’s got a much better chance of putting a run on the board in a 1-0 game than Elliot Johnson or the 5th catcher who he put on the post season roster. The biggest problem is though, YOUR PAYING HIM 30 MIL OVER THE NEXT 2 YEARS! What do you do when it’s over?!?! Honestly though, I know Uggla was terrible at the plate… Elliot Johnson was far worse last year. Uggla- .179/.309/.671 Elliot- .209/.255/.538 Both were bad but one guys has some power and you’re going to have to live with him for 2 more years.

    I could go on for a while.

    I think the Braves have AMAZING scouts but I bet they wanna punch Fredi and Frank in the face sometimes. I was about to the end of the rope with Wren after the Gavin Floyd pickup (4.5 mil for a guy who probably won’t pitch more than 30 innings next year) but I’m thrilled with the Simmons, Kimbrel, and Teheran deals! As a fan, I’m really happy with the Freddie deal as well. I do think they bought his stock super high and with the amount they’re paying him for his first free agent years I think it’s a bad gamble vs. going through arbitration, waiting it out, and probably paying him what you’re guaranteeing him now or possibly way less.

    Jim, I get to hear you occasionally on WCCP in the upstate of SC and I always enjoy your interviews… except for the Fredi defending of course.

    • http://atlantabullpen.com/ Jim Hart

      Hey Earle, thanks for checking in and great hearing from you! You and I disagree on some things, but I have to admit that you make some great points! I do agree that the Braves’ free agent signings have been shaky, need improvement there. I do disagree on some of Fredi’s personnel moves and batting order slots, but overall I think he is doing a very good job as Braves skipper. Can’t wait for the season!