Lots of drama unfolding already this spring. Like most of you, I fully expected Freese to seize the opening day 3B job with Glaus on the DL for the first month of the season or so, but now that scenario is starting to fade away. First we find that Mather was given a big boy number (Lucky 7, which formally was Adam Kennedy’s) and now it’s been revealed Freese is dealing with soreness in his Achilles tendon due to him totaling his car on his way to a fundraiser. Talk about bad timing. But even if Freese was 100%, is he any better than Joe Mather? Seems like a natural 3B would be a better fit, especially considering the season Freese came off of, where he was arguably the system’s most productive player. Let’s take a closer look.
First, let’s look at each player’s MLE’s from last season:
Freese - .264/.304/.446
Mather – .258/.339/.498
The advantage decidedly goes Mr. Bombs.
Now, let’s look at how each player is predicted to contribute offensively:
CHONE: .335 wOBA
PECOTA, fudged wOBA: (OBP*1.75+SLG/3): .302
CHONE: .343 wOBA
Fudged PECOTA: .333
Oliver is a real believer in Freese, while PECOTA hates him. I prefer CHONE above the others, but basically the difference between each hitter isn’t huge.
How about defense? We know Mather played 3B before moving to the OF. The fact that he had to be moved to a corner outfield spot early in his career obviously is telling. At the most (hopefully), we’re talking about him starting 25% of the games. The worst regular 3B defensively was Edwin Encarnacion, who was -12.6 per 150 games. If Mather is as big of a butcher as Edwin at the hot corner, that would make Mather worth a -3.4 runs.
What does a 3B need to do? He needs to have good hands, instincts and a good, accurate arm. According to the fans, Mather doesn’t. This isn’t a perfect way to go about doing this, but Mather’s comps from the Tango’s scouting report by the fans includes one guy who played regularly at 3B, Carlos Guillen, but he’s no more a 3B than he was a SS and is now being moved to the outfield. Guillen was a -5.3 per 150 games, not great, but no Edwin Encarnacion.
We’ve already talked about the merits of Freese at 3B. The past two seasons, Freese has been +13 and +12 runs per 150 games according to Sean Smith’s Total Zone. So while Mather would at worst cough up 3 or 4 runs, Freese would save 3 or 4…well, if his Achilles heal doesn’t hinder him, which you’d think it would.
Figuring Mather or Freese would get around 160 plate appearances, I have Freese at .6 WAR and Mather at .5 WAR, no big diff. That is also assuming Mather is awful with the leather. So I’d say Mather is all but certain now to get the nod. He’s already on the 40 man roster and plays LF/RF/1B. Oh, and he’s healthy and has been all but named to the team with that bright red 7 on his jersey. I think Freese is sporting 62.
In the long run, I think I may like Freese a little more as a prospect because of where he plays on the diamond, and how well he plays there. He’s not a future all star, but neither is Mather. Freese could be something like a 2-2.5 WAR player whereas Mather is more of a 1.5-1.8 win corner outfielder should he someday get a shot at starting. Right now he looks like quite a nifty bench player.