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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