In the latest turn of the Braves bullpen carousel, right-hander Matt Wisler has been sent back down to AAA Gwinnett after a disappointing 5 innings out of the Braves bullpen, and Atlanta has purchased the contract of journeyman left-hander Sam Freeman.
Sam Freeman, LHP
2017 Opening Day Assignment: AAA Gwinnett
7 G, 0 GS
(MLB stats only)
Sam Freeman was drafted in the 32nd round of the 2008 draft by St. Louis. After a steady climb up the Cardinals organizational ladder, interrupted only by Tommy John surgery that wiped out his 2010 season, Freeman made his pro debut on June 1, 2012. Freeman would spend 2012 through 2014 yo-yoing from AAA Memphis up to St. Louis and back again. His longest tenure with St. Louis was in 2014, when he appeared in 44 games with the Cards as a LOOGY.
Needing to open up a 40-man roster spot, St. Louis traded Freeman to the Rangers just before the start of the 2015 season. Freeman had a career high 54 appearances with Texas while only pitching 38.1 innings, including 14 appearances where he only faced one batter.
Freeman was waived by the Rangers, one of the last cuts of the 2016 spring camp, and was purchased by the Milwaukee Brewers. In 7 games to start the season with the Brewers he allowed 11 earned runs in 7.1 innings pitched and soon found himself back in AAA. After the season, Freeman signed a minor league free agent contract with the Atlanta Braves with an invitation to big league camp. Freeman was an early cut in camp, but has gotten good results at AAA Gwinnett, going 10.1 innings pitched in 9 appearances, giving up only 5 hits and 1 earned run. He has however walked six batters while striking out eight.
Freeman is the rare lefty reliever that has a steady mid-90s four-seam fastball and can back it up with a low-90s two-seam sinking fastball. The Cardinals and Rangers attempts to use him as a left-handed specialist were probably misguided however, as Freeman’s curveball is pretty much junk. This has contributed to a .820 OPS mark by lefties against Freeman in his major league career, compared to a stingy .580 OPS by right-handers. This vulnerability against left-handers is exacerbated by occasional lapses in control that can pile on the baserunners.
Freeman also gets high marks for his athleticism, and is a strong fielder and could be used as a pinch runner if Julio Teheran isn’t handy.
Like Jason Motte, Freeman represents a possible buy-low, sell-high candidate if he can put together a string of successful outings. If Braves coaches use Freeman to his strengths and don’t overexpose him to left-handed hitters, he could possibly do so.
We’re of course still waiting for that string of good outings from Motte, so Freeman doesn’t have too much to live up to.