#5 Tyler Freeman – SS
Born: 05/21/1999 – Height: 6’ – Weight: 170 – Bats: Right– Throws: Right
Facts & Info: The Indians drafted Freeman in the second of the 2017 draft as a prep player in California, signing for $816,000 to become a pro instead of going to TCU. He played in the Arizona Rookie League in 2017 then ended up having shoulder surgery, but he recovered well and made it to Mahoning Valley in 2018 .352/.405/.511 in 72 games. In 2019 he played full season for the first time, splitting time between Lake County and Lynchburg, hitting a combined .306/.386/.410 with three homers and 19 steals. His brother, Cody, was drafted by the Rangers in 2019 as well.
Offense: Freeman hits with a balanced stance and a slightly open front leg. He keeps his hands at back shoulder length away from the shoulder. He has a bigger leg kick than you would expect for someone his size and power projection (which isn’t much) but he still makes a lot of contact. It’s a solid, compact swing though his hands do have a tendency to drift back behind his shoulder but he controls the bat very well and makes a lot of contact with a balanced finish. He can make contact with just about anything and while it’s not always hard contact, he doesn’t roll over and make a lot of soft ground outs. He manages to loft the ball and make line drive contact. He hasn’t consistently walked enough throughout his young career to buoy the hit tool, which I think is probably going to come in somewhere in the above average range because of how much good contact he can make, but the lack of plate discipline or propensity to walk as much as you’d like so far combined with the lack of power projection is something to watch for in how valuable the overall bat is going to play. But he should hit for a decent average without more than 10 homers and the on-base percentage will play a big factor in value.
Defense: While Freeman played mostly short in 2019, he projects better at second base long term. He’s got solid range and just an average arm from short and has all the instincts, hands and other consistencies you’d like from an infielder up the middle. But the arm and range probably are going to play best overall at second base. He can play shortstop in short duty probably and give you more than adequate performance but sticking him there for more than a handful of starts or over the course of the career it probably should grade out average to below possibly. However, the one caveat I would put with the doubt about his abilities at shortstop is that Freeman is the kind of player that sees all of his tools play up because of his hustle, baseball IQ and makeup and sometimes those types tend to get the most of their abilities and raise things a little bit.
Speed & Intangibles: At the moment I think you can call Freeman an above average runner and long term he’ll probably have average to above average speed. He’s not a burner but I think speed wise he has 15-20 stolen base potential and the quickness to handle second base along with it. As I mentioned about his defense, Freeman does have that classic, cliche ‘grinder’ makeup, a positive energy, infectious smile, plays hard and is liked by his teammates. He’s an Indians archetype player right now. His makeup, baseball IQ and work ethic can help raise his game from good as the sum of his parts rather than any one tool.
Advanced Stats: Not really an advanced stat, but to show where Freeman’s approach needs consistent improvement long term is his ability to work walks. At Lake County, he had a 6.6 BB%, which is OK for a player that makes as much contact as Freeman does, and it could be better. Once he got to Lynchburg, that slipped back to 2.9%, which doesn’t project well long term for anyone who makes any sort of consistent contact. Freeman is a different player though and knows his approach and can make a lot of contact. He credited teammate and roommate Jose Fermin with improving his approach, being more selective about which pitches he can hit better within the zone. You can chalk up the regression to walking less to being young and being in a new league over a small sample. But if Freeman can be more selective and make pitchers come to him and proving he’ll take a walk, he can drive his offensive value up more, even without a lot more power. And that can possibly help his power in some respects because of his selectiveness.
Focus: He’ll probably continue to man shortstop at Lynchburg in 2020 with some reps at second base. Brayan Rocchio is behind him for now, so both can play shortstop until they reach the same level. Honing his approach, being more selective and working walks are probably the biggest focus points for Freeman in 2020. Like Naylor, eliminating the drifting back of his hands before his swing is something to look for in his cage work. But otherwise Freeman shows a lot of polish for someone of his age and experience level.
Future: The contact ability, instincts and overall floor give Freeman the ability to move fairly quickly. It’ll just be a question of what the ceiling is for him long term. There’s not much more than 10 homers in his future unless he makes some swing changes or the MLB’s whack-a-mole ball is here to stay, in which case maybe he gets to 15 or so. There are some who think long term Freeman is a utility player and I would say that’s the safest outcome for him. I think he can be a decent regular at second base if you prefer a grinder type who does all the little things well, provides good defense and doesn’t strike out. I don’t know that he’ll be above average offensively due to the lack of power and right now, the lack of walks he draws. But again, offering the caveat is that the contact skills, instincts and makeup do make you push up a little on someone like Freeman’s long term future just because it can elevate his value over what you may grade any of his single tools out as. That’s why he’s #5 because of the safe floor but also the potential that something in his profile ends up raising his ceiling that we’ve seen before. You could see him at shortstop as early as 2021 if the Indians trade Lindor or 2022 as a stopgap before moving to second.
#10 (2019) #21 (2018)
– Justin Lada