The Cardinals Next Superstar


Being a Cardinals fan and living in Boston is miserable. My wife and I refuse to pay the ridiculous prices for cable or satellite and the Redbirds are rarely on Fox unless it’s the playoffs. If not for MLB.TV, I wouldn’t be able to watch games and without my TunedIn app I wouldn’t be able to listen to talk radio on KFNS. If I’m driving in an area with shoddy cell phone signal, I’m forced to listen to Boston Sports Talk on WEEI. It has its perks when the Boston teams are losing and everyone is miserable, but it’s awful to listen to when Boston teams are actually winning. A discussion that took place on one WEEI’s shows around the time of the Albert Pujols signing interested me, though. They were discussing who the Cardinals national face is now that Pujols is gone. They couldn’t come up with one, but (after much thought) I’ve determined it to be David Freese. Is he up to the challenge?

He has competition. Yadier Molina has finally gotten national recognition for his defense, but his status with the Cardinals beyond this season is up in the air. Discussion surrounding Matt Holliday has gone from negative press about his contract to positive notes about his numbers. He hasn’t had a breakout moment with the Cardinals though. On a national level, he’s still more known for his error in the 2009 playoffs against the Dodgers. Chris Carpenter proved he belonged in the conversation as one of the league’s best, but is nearing the end of his career. Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran are big names, but are still new to the Cardinals fanbase. That only leaves one man.

David Freese exploded onto the national scene in the playoffs. His heroics in Game 6 were well documented and his NLCS and World Series MVP awards were deserved. The national fans’ acceptance of him as the elite player of the playoffs was obvious as he went on a media frenzy in the weeks following the World Series. I don’t recall David Eckstein going on Late Night talk shows or presenting at award shows (with Erin Andrews, no less!) In all of his interviews, Freese exuded a calmness about his new-found stardom. He came off as humble but charismatic. The only thing keeping him from being a superstar in Major League Baseball is a track record, but he can work on that this year.

If Freese comes out of the gate slowly it won’t garner as much attention as Pujols’s slump last season. Pujols had established himself as the best hitter in the game, so an early season slump in his contract year was huge news. If Freese stumbles, negative press won’t follow because he hasn’t established himself as a dominant player. Oliver has him forecasted as putting up a .766 OPS, while Zips projects a less friendly .729. They both have him hitting around ten home runs. If that is the end result, then the Cardinals will still be looking for a national face. Unfortunately, due to Freese’s injury issues, those numbers are in line with his career averages in the major leagues. Freese was never a power hitter in the minors. He hit 26 home runs at AAA in 2008, but that number looks more like the exception than the rule. Freese’s strength as he ascended through the system was his eye. He routinely posted up a walk rate ranging from 8-11% of his plate appearances which boosted his OBP.

At the major league level, though, Freese has dipped to the 5-7% range and has seen his OBP drop. In most cases, a hitter’s eye is the one thing that stays relatively the same or gets better as he climbs through the system. Freese has had the issue of pressing in his at bats to make up for lost time or to prove himself to the Cardinals fanbase. In his career, he has seen a lot of success batting fifth, which is where I think he slots in this year. If he can settle in and wait for pitches, he could put up high RBI numbers, see a slight uptick in his home run totals, and get on base 40% of the time or more. If he does that as a follow up to a breakout postseason, the Cardinals could have their new franchise face.

Who do you think the next Cardinals star is? Is it even someone currently on the big league roster? Let us know in the comments!

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