TCN 2012 Cards Prospect #34: Sam Freeman

The left-handed reliever, one of the newest members of the St. Louis Cardinals 40-man roster, makes his debut on our annual top 40 countdown. Today's report is FREE!

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2011 and career stats)

2011 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NR LHR 6/24/1987 5-11 175 R L 2008 32nd

School: University of Kansas

Selected 2011 stats

PB 0 0 4.00 7 0 0 9 8 5 0 4 7 0.80 0.258
SPR 2 2 3.03 52 0 3 59.1 53 28 5 28 52 0.88 0.240
Total 2 2 3.16 59 0 3 68.1 61 33 5 32 59 0.86 0.242

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

CariocaCardinal (37): Sam Freeman had the type of inconsistent year that might be expected from a player who was returning from a year off due to surgery. Interestingly enough, his 2011 season was very similar statistically to his pre-surgery 2009 season. I will admit that if Freeman wasn't a left-handed pitcher in a system extremely void of LH relief pitching prospects, he probably would not have ranked nearly as high on my list. I would also guess that had a lot to do with the Cardinal's placing him on their 40 man roster this winter to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.

Freeman's peripheral numbers such as walk rates and strikeout rates are merely good but not great. There has rarely been talk of great velocity, movement, or sink on his pitches and virtually no talk of a knee-buckling curve. What has carried Freeman as a prospect has been talk of extreme athleticism (at times noted as the best athlete in the system). He also is considered one of the fastest runners in the system. What does athleticism do for a pitcher? Supposedly it allows him to more easily develop repeatable mechanics and throw curve balls with less effort.

Freeman should be bringing his athleticism to Memphis in 2012. While blowing no one away, he was effective at Double-A Springfield in 2011 and would seem ready to be further challenged. It also remains to be seen if he was held back in 2011 by lingering effects of his elbow surgery. If so, he could actually be due for a breakout in 2012 and given the right circumstances, could very possibly see time with the major league club this coming year.

Message board community (43): Freeman was only the 43rd ranked prospect for the community. He was not ranked at all last year. He came into the discussion much earlier this year, though, getting some consideration at the #28 spot.

I think there's an Old Testament verse somewhere about lefties with good arms being more precious than rubies. Freeman has a shot at fulfilling that verse, as he is perhaps the top internal lefty relief prospect for the Cards right now. Flash back to 2009, just his second year in the pros. Freeman hurled 56 innings and allowed just 37 hits, albeit with 27 walks, between high-A and Double-A. He missed all of 2010 due to Tommy John surgery, but fanned 52 in 59.1 IP at Springfield in 2011. He still walked too many - 28.

He didn't show particularly strong lefty/right splits last year. Lefties managed an OPS of .634 against him between Palm Beach and Springfield, righties, .709. But…. he's a 24-year-old lefty who made it to Double-A in his second season when he was just 22. He has a big year coming up. - Gagliano

Brian Walton (34): Because of the wider variation of players named at the upper ranks of our individual top prospect lists, a player like Freeman can end up in the group ranking at the same level as his best score. In this case, that number 34 designation came from me.

Pitching for Bravos de Margarita in the Colombian League in winter ball, Freeman stepped up to the advanced level of competition. An improving slider may have helped him yield just one earned run in 11 innings while holding opposing batters to a collective .200 average. As has been his pattern, the strikeout rate was decent (nine), while the walks were high (six).

Along with potential and results, part of assessing a prospect relative to others is the opportunity immediately ahead of him. In Freeman's case as a left-handed reliever, that door remains wide open. If – and it remains a big if – he is fully recovered, Freeman could soon be on the verge of that first call to St. Louis. In fact, had he not lost a year-plus due to injury and recovery, it may have occurred already.

In my eyes, control remains Freeman's largest open question. Being able to dependably retire the first batter faced is especially important for a LOOGY (Lefty One Out GuY). If he is successful, it would be quite a return from a 32nd round draft pick.

Our 2012 top 40 countdown continues: To see the list of top Cardinals prospects announced to date and remaining article schedule, click here. You can also read each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections.

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