When Freddie Freeman was seriously injured May 17, most believed it would effectively end the Braves’ season. Freeman had MVP-like numbers, and his production would be tough to replace.
Instead, the Braves have stayed afloat. Entering Tuesday’s game with San Francisco, the Braves were 16-16 since Freeman’s exit. And there is one reason and one reason only for the respectable record.
Matt Adams has done a great imitation of Freeman for the last month. Since being acquired from St. Louis only a few days after Freeman’s injury, Adams has made fans do a double-take. Is that Adams, or is Freeman still at first base?
In his first 28 games with the Braves, Adams hit .306 with a .361 on-base percentage, 10 home runs and 27 RBI in 111 at-bats. In Freeman’s 37 games before his injury, he hit .341 with 14 home runs and 25 RBI in 135 at-bats.
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Plus, Adams’ defense at first base has been really solid. We all know Freeman’s defense is excellent at first, but there has been little drop off with Adams manning the position.
Adams was known as a big, burly first baseman while with the Cardinals. He had three solid seasons as a starter, with home run totals of 17, 15 and 16 and RBI numbers ranging from 51-68.
The Cardinals replaced Adams at first base with Matt Carpenter, a fan favorite who has bounced all over the diamond. Adams got in better shape last winter to try and play left field, and he was there for six games with the Cardinals earlier this season with mixed results.
When it became obvious Adams was a man without a position in St. Louis, they traded him to Atlanta for Juan Yepez, the Braves’ starting third baseman with Rome in Low-A. Yepez is a nice prospect, but who cares. That’s one of the functions of the farm system — to get a team help at the big-league level when a need arises.
Adams has fit right in, and the Braves’ offense has been just as dangerous as it was with Freeman in the lineup. Since Adams came aboard, the Braves have scored 4.9 runs per game. They were scoring 4.7 runs per game with Freeman batting third.
Everyone wonders now what will happen when Freeman returns, likely sometime in early August. Adams wasn’t very impressive in the outfield. He has never played third, and third base is not a position you just throw someone out there. So, what will the Braves do?
They’ll either keep Adams on the bench or trade him. It’s doubtful they’d replace Matt Kemp in left field. If Nick Markakis is traded, either this summer or this offseason, it’s likely to be due to phenom Ronald Acuna being ready to take over in right field. Plus, Adams has more value than Markakis right now.
What choice do the Braves have? It would probably be best to trade Adams to an AL team where he could play first and be a designated hitter. Take advantage of his value and get something great in return, likely much more than what they gave up to get Adams in the first place.
That’s a worry for later. For now, Adams is helping the Braves try to get to the .500 mark.
Freeman will still be hurt when the All-Star Game rolls around in a few weeks, so he can’t make it even with his great numbers the first six weeks of the season. But could Adams take his place once again? With the way Adams is playing, he deserves All-Star consideration.
And the Braves can thank him for not allowing Freeman’s injury to be the death nail in their season.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.