Not the first time that the Braves have handed first base over to a basically untested rookie. Adam LaRoche was given the first base job in 2004 with no major league experience at all; after a pretty severe adjustment period and an injury, he rebounded with his usual fine second half. Freeman lacks LaRoche’s plate discipline, at this point in his development anyway, but has hit for higher averages and is several years younger than Adam was as a rookie, with more pure power potential.
Freeman was a second-round pick the same year that Jason Heyward was a first-rounder, and the two have become fast friends who mostly tracked each other in their rise through the system. He killed the ball in Rome in 2008 and kept hitting in Myrtle Beach in 2009, but hit a big wall upon a midseason promotion to Mississippi, looking pretty hopeless. He was one of the youngest players in the Southern League, and rather than have him repeat the level the Braves fast-tracked him to AAA, where he was, I think, the second- or third-youngest player in the International League. He was also one of the best players in the league, hitting .319/.378/.521 and winning Rookie of the Year honors, because the International League has a rookie of the year award, go figure. The Braves called him up, and while he hit the ball hard at times he didn’t do much, with just four hits (including a homer and a double) and no walks in 24 plate appearances.
He’s a great big guy (listed at 6-5, 225) with a long swing, and there are a lot of people who think he’s going to have problems adjusting to major league pitching. It’s possible that what you’d get might be a fairly low batting average without a lot of walks — say .250 with a .300 OBP — but that he’ll hit some long home runs. An athletic player and a good glove man at first, an unusual combination for a guy who’s mostly a power threat. It’s possible that his career will kind of track the man whom he’s replacing, Derrek Lee, also a tall first baseman with a big swing (though righthanded); Lee debuted at 21 but didn’t really break through until he was 24.