Image: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
2021 age: 33
Bats: Left; Throws: Right
Contract: Minor League contract
2020 stats: .237/.302.316, 3 2B, 3 RBI, 0.0 fWAR, 68 wRC+
2020 in review: Like Jurassic Park, Mike Freeman finds a way. For the second straight year Freeman served as Cleveland’s utility man. He didn’t have as much success or luck in 2020 as 2019 where he actually posted a league average offensive mark (100 wRC+ where 100 is league average for offensive production). In 2020, Freeman actually started three games in left field as all places. His willingness to be versatile and put up a decent at bat continues to get him opportunities, in Cleveland only, to earn a utility spot again. He’s done it twice.
Offensive impact: Freeman doesn’t really do anything exceptionally well offensively. He worked a 10% walk rate in 2019 and it was down to 7% in 2020, which is still respectable. He also struck out slightly less in 2020 than 2019 (28.6% down to 25.6%). He sprays the ball around the field for the most part, so he can’t be shifted on. He strikes out too much to be called a “high contact” hitter, doesn’t walk so much that he’s considered exceptionally patient, and doesn’t hit for enough pop to be an interesting pinch hitter. He just manages to do enough to qualify as a low-end utility player.
Defensive impact: In his run with Cleveland Freeman has appeared at all four non-catching infield positions, as well as left field, and even pitched (in 2019). He’s not really a plus defender at any of these spots. But he’s been average to slightly below average at them all. Both Fangraphs’ DRS (defensive runs saved) and Baseball Savant’s OAA (Outs Above Average) have him at a -1 or 0 at all those different positions. Good enough to play them all without hurting the team on a limited basis. Jack of a few trades, master of none.
Beyond the stats: So why did Mike Freeman put up a league average offensive season in 2019? Well, that .388 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) was not going to be sustained by an 85.6 mph average batted ball velocity. That only dropped to 84.8 in 2020 and his BABIP dropped to .321. But perhaps where Freeman went wrong with his offensive luck was his fly ball rate going from 25.9% in 2019 to 40.7% in 2020. Freeman doesn’t hit the ball hard enough to be a launch angle guy and try to drive balls out of the park and hit everything in the air. He did have an incredible amount of luck in 2019 with how many groundballs he hit, but perhaps he hit the ball in the air too often in 2020.
2021 role: It looks like he’ll get a shot to be on Cleveland’s bench again in 2021. Who knows how the SS battle will go between Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez, and then there’s still Yu Chang on the 40 man roster, too. Ernie Clement is on the 40 man roster as well. Freeman may have more of an uphill battle to make the roster in 2021 but you could see him serve in the role in Triple-A Columbus or sit on the taxi squad just in case.
Fantasy impact: Unless your league rewards fantasy points for awesome tweets like this one, your roster should be free of this Mike, man.