If Francisco Lindor is Mr. Smile, Tyler Freeman is Mr. Grin or Mr. Fun.
As long as he plays the way he is and the way he does it, he’ll earn his own nickname. A better one than you’ll read here, too.
No unfair comparisons should be made to the Indians all-world, face of the franchise shortstop to anyone. But Freeman parallels Lindor’s infections smile, energy and overall love for the game of baseball and how it positively affects his teammates.
“People are so right when they say that,” Freeman said about his energetic style of play and attitude. “A person feeds off another person. WIth my teammates, if I show up and have a good attitude and show that energetic style that I play, hopefully it rubs off on them and we start winning games and maybe get to the playoffs and win a championship.”
Given his success and demeanor, you won’t be surprised to learn that Freeman comes from an athletic family with the same positive vibes.
“(My) dad played baseball, not professionally but he played,” Freeman said. My mom was a good softball player. My sister is a softball player and my brother plays baseball. I think it runs in my family. If you ever get the chance to meet my brother he’s even more energetic than I am. It’s hard to imagine but it’s true. I feed off him. He’s fed a lot of energy off me growing up, competition wise going against each other with that energetic style.”
Even without the need for a comparison to a great player, Freeman has done nothing to slow down the hype about what he can do between the lines.
Through April 18 in 11 games played in 2019, Freeman has hit .317/.451/.439 with seven walks and just two strikeouts. He’s also added five doubles and four steals in four chances.
He’s only had 51 plate appearances, but he’s increased his walk rate over his first year in pro ball and is swinging and missed even less, if you can believe that. (3.9 K% on a 2.2% swinging strike rate). In 2018 at Short-Season Mahoning Valley, Freeman finished with a 168 wRC+, running a 2.7 BB% and a 7 K% with 14 steals in 17 attempts.
The only real example of having to deal with extended baseball adversity in his pro career was his torn labrum (non-throwing) in the offseason of 2017 after he was drafted and played the summer in the Arizona Rookie League.
“After having the surgery you kind of get in a depressed state, per se,” Freeman said. “You know, ‘is my shoulder ever going to get better?’ Doing so much rehab kind of takes a toll on you mentally. Day after day I was working hard to get back stronger. When I was told I was going to Mahoning (Valley in 2018), that was one thing I was focused on was not letting the shoulder bother me. I put it past me and had the year I had.”
He’s shown no ill-effects of the injury and surgery, putting the ball in play at an elite level, running the bases hard, playing a good shortstop and bringing that same energy to the park.
Safe to say the soon-to-be 20 year old hasn’t struggled very much in pro baseball. As good as Freeman has been and as early into his career as he is, he has no illusions that it’s going to go this well for him all the time.
That’s where Freeman’s high energy and attitude come should be the most helpful as he eventually rides the highs and lows of professional baseball.
“At baseball you do have ups and downs,” Freeman said. “It’s a sport where it takes a toll on you unlike any other sport in my opinion. It’s true, you just have to stay consistent. “I know it will happen. I know on the field I’m going to ride the ups and downs. I’m going to have to stay consistent with my energetic play. That’s the type of player I am and I have to stay like that. If you show you up every single day the way you do. Energetic or just loving what you do, there shouldn’t be a time you’re down at all. Everyone is going to fail in life whether be at a job or a sport or anything. You just have to learn to stay consistent. That’s where you get the best results.”
The Tyler Freeman Profile
DOB: 5/21/1999 (20)
Draft: CBB 2017 (71st overall – $816,500 bonus)
Bats: R; Throws: R
Hometown: Rancho Cucamonga, CA – Etiwanda High School
Career if not in baseball: “That’s a tough one. I’ve never thought about it. I’ve lived and breathed baseball my entire life.”
Favorite Music: Country (Luke Bryan)
Favorite Food: Steak
Favorite TV Show: Impractical Jokers
Favorite MLB Player: Derek Jeter
Most Surprising Music on Playlist: “I have country and everything. Hip hop and latin music.”
Freeman was our #10 prospect this year in our Top 50 countdown and that might look a little low. It’s no surprise that he makes a lot of contact with his quick swing. While he hasn’t shown a ton of power in his career thus far, early in 2019 (51 plate appearances) Freeman’s batted ball profile has been interesting for someone who hasn’t hit for a lot of power – 41 FB%, 33 LD%, 25.6 GB%.
He should stay at shortstop with his high motor, good baseball IQ, quick hands and strong throwing arm. It’s hard to say that Freeman might not hit for a lot of power, but Francisco Lindor wasn’t projected to hit for much power as an 18 year old in Lake County either. Freeman’s power output may not get to that point, but his high contact rate gives his offensive profile combined with speed and strong defensive give him a promising, big league future. And whoever his teammates are at that point, will be grateful and happier for it.