Age is everything. When thinking about, or passing judgment on, the performance of baseball players now and into the future, the impact of age cannot be overstated.

When it comes to Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves, I constantly fight with my own internal impulses to declare him “not that good.” I constantly make joking references to Lyle Overbay in reference to the Braves first baseman. Their profiles are not dissimilar, decent power but not traditional “first base” pop, left-handed batters with close to league-average patience. Overbay is a vastly superior defender but they’re first baseman, it isn’t like it matters that much.

Should we expect similar career trajectories for similar players? Is Freeman an Overbay Clone – a decidedly league-average player for the rest of his days? We can’t make that distinction without first considering Freeman’s age.

Freddie Freeman is still just 23-years old. Comparing him to Lyle Overbay through the first X games of their respective careers is folly as Overbay didn’t settle in as an everyday player until he was 26 – an age much closer to the mythical idea of “athletic peak.” Freeman already has more than 1500 plate appearances of above-average production before his 24th birthday.

Freddie Freeman might not put up Prince Fielder-type numbers as a first baseman but his 144 wRC+ in 2013 ranks him fourth in baseball, just ahead of, um, Prince Fielder. For his career, Freeman owns a 120 wRC+ which is still quite good, even for a mash-first position like first base.

So is Freeman this good? Probably not, he’s riding a fair amount of batted ball luck for a player with his profile (read: slow). His 7 home runs put him on pace to hit his obligatory 20 home run benchmark in 2013, after hitting 23 last season and 21 the year before.

Freddie Freeman might not be a superstar but he is a very good hitter at a rather young age. Might he break out like Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt? He just might. Braves fans and bloggers occasionally make noise about offering Freeman a contract extension now before his power settles in and all the extra home runs drive up his arbitration price.

Source: FanGraphsFreddie Freeman, Paul Goldschmidt

Like Goldschmidt, it might have been foolish to lock up “non-elite” first baseman in the past but maybe this is what an elite first baseman looks like now? The list of first basemen with above-average offensive seasons without traditional power is a weird one indeed. Either way, the Braves are set at first base for the next few seasons, at the very least.

And the rest

Walkoff win? More like walk back to the dugout, amirite? Will Venable goes full Edmonds.

So just how good is Matt Carpenter? Really good! [Viva El Birdos]

Always a good time from Sam Miller: can you tell Jose Iglesias‘s hits from his outs? [Baseball Prospectus (free!)]

Pat Corbin pitched a hell of a game last night, setting himself up to join Max Scherzer as the only pitchers in baseball to start the season 10-0. Then Giancarlo Stanton stepped in… []

Stanton’s second home run last night was the 100th of his career. He is 27 games into his age-23 season. He’s good! [Play Index]

A look at the service time darlings making their respective debuts tonight: Wil Myers and Zack Wheeler. [Sports on Earth]

On the Diamondbacks international efforts. Great stuff from Eric Nusbaum. [SoE]

Comments (18)

  1. Stanton’s second home run made China begin evacuating metropiltan areas for at least a few moments

  2. El oso blanco broke a bat over his back…while swinging normally!

  3. Overbay is a vastly superior defender? You either haven’t been watching or don’t know the game. As for your comment about defense not mattering at first, besides the pitcher and catcher, who handles the ball the most during a game? The problem with fantasy guys is that they don’t put a value on what truly makes a player good or bad.

  4. Random question: Does wRC+ compare a player to the average at his position or compare them just to the average major leaguer?

  5. with regards to Overbay and his defense…I am going to go with the person who writes a baseball blog for a living over bitter self loathing commenters lol

    the Yankees put him right field….where you kinda need a strong arm, also where he has never played before ie: maybe Overbay is kinda a good defender

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