St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa obviously has had a lot to say this week, but I don't think his reflections on Mark McGwire will affect the 2010 fantasy baseball season much. Rather, I would like to hear his thoughts on the team's current third-base situation. So far La Russa has been pretty tight-lipped about it. General manager John Mozeliak has shed some light on things recently, touting David Freese as the internal option at third to reporters and on local St. Louis radio.
- "I think he's taking the right steps right now, and I think he's going to be given an opportunity. But now, he has to take ownership. If he continues to work and be responsible, he'll have a good chance."
Mozeliak wasn't speaking merely of Freese's ability, which I don't think is in question. Freese was arrested on a drunk-driving charge last month, so obviously the steps he needs to take aren't only in his season preparation and fine-tuning his swing. In terms of whether the kid can hit or not, let's just say that I think if the Cardinals sign Miguel Tejada, Joe Crede or someone else to play third base, it's a big mistake.
I selected Freese in a deep dynasty league before last season because I tend to pass over the very top prospects people overdraft in fantasy leagues to grab -- a lot later -- players I think will actually win jobs, and will do something with the chance. Freese has hit at every minor league level, before and after the Jim Edmonds trade with the San Diego Padres that brought him to the Cardinals organization, and he profiles as a 25-homer option who also takes a walk, hits for a decent average and can field his position. Frankly, his future reminded me a bit of Troy Glaus, the player he should ultimately replace. I'd take a 25-home run season from this guy in a heartbeat, but sometimes reality bites and teams like the Houston Astros sign players like Pedro Feliz to block Chris Johnson, and it disappoints me. I hope the Cardinals give Freese a chance.
In a 10-team mixed league, I can't say it matters ... yet. Freese shouldn't be drafted in that format, because there are plenty of third basemen to go around, so why go with someone who still hasn't really earned his organization's endorsement. I mean, Freese never really got a legit audition after Glaus was hurt last April, and the team sent myriad underwhelming options to third base before ultimately trading for Mark DeRosa. But I think Freese will do much like DeRosa in 2009 ... if given the chance. That's why I was pleased when DeRosa didn't come back to St. Louis.
The Giants signed DeRosa, and my first thought was this is a shame for Travis Ishikawa. Not that I think Ishikawa can hit enough to even be Casey Kotchman, but still, I didn't think the Giants improved all that much from the unproven option they currently had, the one they weren't going to give a chance to. After the signing, Pablo Sandoval was all ready to move from third base to first base. Then Aubrey Huff was signed this week, which is even worse, frankly. Now I would assume DeRosa plays the outfield, or maybe second base. Either way, Ishikawa clearly needs a change of scenery.
I'm keeping my eye on some other situations these days to see if the major league team decides to fill the potential opening with a free agent, which often is just to appease the fans, or goes with an internal choice. Chris Johnson and Ishikawa lost their chance. I suspect Brett Gardner and Jamie Hoffmann will lose their opportunity when Johnny Damon is brought back to Gotham. The Detroit Tigers are rumored to have made a contract offer to closer Jose Valverde, which is great, except if you have Joel Zumaya or Ryan Perry locked in for a buck in an AL-only league. In future blogs, I'll be writing about others who need a chance, players like Jake Fox in Oakland and Brandon Wood for the Angels. Let them play!
Ultimately, I think Freese is ready to hit in the big leagues, and the fact the Cardinals spent crazy money on Matt Holliday should urge the team to forgo spending money for a third baseman, choosing instead to have Freese fill the job. I wouldn't draft Freese over DeRosa, not yet. But I would take the chance on him, assuming he wins the job, and grab him before such players as Casey Blake, Mark Teahen, Garrett Atkins, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Brandon Inge. There's upside here with Freese, 25-homer upside. If you're in a deep league or an NL-only version, I'd certainly keep Freese on your radar screen.