It is still under deep discussion about who will be the Cleveland Guardians’ shortstop set in stone for the future years. We all know who the three most popular candidates being mentioned in such discussions are; and if you don’t, they are Gabriel Arias, Brayan Rocchio and Tyler Freeman (of course). Much of the Guardians’ fanbase is choosing either Arias or Rocchio to take the spot but, by and large, Freeman is being omitted from any serious considerations. Fairly enough, I haven’t considered him nearly as much as he should be either until just a few days ago. But anyways, the more that I think about it, the more I see a very reliable and consistent player (either in the middle infield or in the outfield) for the Guardians on both sides of the field.
To call a spade a spade and to get this out of the way, Freeman does lack power. That is the biggest reason as to why many are disregarding him so much. But what if I said that a lack of power wouldn’t matter for Freeman if he got to it so often? I say this, because that is what he does. Firstly, Freeman in 2023 averaged a 38.1 HardHit%, which would just sneak into the top 100 in the league if he was a qualified hitter and that rate was maintained. Not only that, but from August 26th (when he hit his first home run) onward, Freeman hit the best marks in his career within the power category.
Before August 26th (84 batted ball events) —> August 26th until end of season (42 batted ball events):
- Barrel%: 0.00% —> 9.5%
- HardHit%: 36.9% —> 40.5%
- Launch Angle: 1.9° —> 14.5°
Take a look at that jump in launch angle. When paired with Freeman’s progress in Barrel and HardHit rates in that time span, a nearly 13° jump in average launch angle usually indicates that a player is making huge adjustments, starting to take advantage of the power that he has and get lift on the ball.
There are also a few more before —> after stats here.
Tyler Freeman before/after his 1st HR (8-26):— Joseph (@JosephGibbs_CGN) January 8, 2024
He showed more power, while keeping the same contact ability. Lifting the ball helped A TON.
During this hot streak for Freeman, he hit to the opposite field 7% less than he had before, while distributing a greater number of batted balls more towards the central parts of the field. If Freeman can find a way to keep getting to his pull side, he’ll easily hit way more fly balls than he even did towards the end of the season. But this statline right here could still serve as a benchmark for consistent production that’s worthy to give the 24 year old an everyday starting spot. The closest comparison I can make to Freeman is 2nd baseman/outfielder Whit Merrifield. Merrifield’s exit velocity, launch angle and batted ball distribution numbers are loosely similar to Freeman’s in September/October.
Another thing I also see with Tyler has to do with his swing. Freeman is evidently a contact hitter, but his swing helps him so much in consistently reaching the power that he has in store. What I see with his swing is that he emphasizes getting extension with his arms, from the point of contact to the end of his swing. Getting extension is essential to swinging through the strike zone and driving the ball on a regular basis. If you watch closely, you’ll see see that Freeman does not let his wrists roll over and his top palm stays facing up, pretty much until the end of his swing. Why is this important? As aforementioned, this is meant to keep Freeman’s barrel in the strike zone longer and to keep Freeman from pulling the bat away from it. Because he keeps his barrel in the zone as long as he can, it connects with the ball directly and is able to drive it with enough force. If he pulls away too early, it would not be easy for him to get his bat on plane with the pitch (essentially meaning, it’ll be nearly impossible for him to square up a pitch).
On the other side of the field, Tyler Freeman flashes just a decent glove. In 115 innings at second base, he didn’t accrue any defensive runs saved. However, he had 1 out above average with a 98.1% fielding percentage. Freeman’s range ranks in at the 28th percentile in the leauge, with a sprint speed ranking at the 82nd percentile. The range could definitely be a bit concerning, but I think that his sprint speed could definitely help with that In the occasion where either Brayan Rocchio, Gabriel Arias or another middle infield prospect for the Guardians takes the open spot over Freeman. I’d guess that his speed and fielding abilities could play pretty well in a corner outfield role.
There is still a bit to be concerned about with Freeman, like some of his plate discipline numbers. But I truly believe that it is ill-advised to totally relegate him from serious consideration in such discussions about the Guardians’ opening spots for the starting 9. Among the big three middle infield options for the Guards, Tyler has the highest floor and could almost be a guarantee to be your reliable everyday staple in the lineup. Tyler proved that he shouldn’t just be an afterthought when he finished off the season emphatically. In fact, he may be the most realistic option that the Guardians have right now besides Rocchio. I get the vacancy of power is definitely a big drawback, but it makes little of a difference as long as Freeman gets to that power consistently and is able to lift it like he did in the waning days of the 2023 season. Don’t count Tyler Freeman out just yet; he could end up being a stud.