Nats prospect watch: Freeman’s simple swing should pay dividends at Double-A

Nationals prospect Cole Freeman was a Carolina League All-Star in 2019 and also got a shot at playing 15 games in the Arizona Fall League for the Surprise Saguaros. The 25-year-old worked with Nationals hitting coordinator Troy Gingrich at spring training for a short time. Gingrich admired Freeman’s compact swing.

“I only got to see him for three days,” Gingrich said. “He’s very simple. He’s got a short swing. He’s got to where he is using his legs, his lower half, in his swing as well. I think the transformation of moving from second base back out to center field ... has kind of helped loosen him up, too. Now at the plate he just has a lot more confidence. I think also being aggressive at the plate, going up there and being ready to hit right away, helps him.”

The former LSU Tiger star was a fourth-round selection in 2017 and hit .311/.394/.404 with 27 doubles, three triples, three homers, 39 RBIs in 123 games for high Single-A Potomac last season. Freeman has not played in at least 122 games in each of his two pro campaigns. He is currently No. 26 on the MLBPipeline.com Nats top 30 prospects list.

Freeman-Fredericksburg-Fielding-(w-photo-credit)-sidebar.jpg“He knows the strike zone very well,” Gingrich said. “If it’s nothing he wants early in the count, he is letting it go. ... He is not afraid to get to two strikes just because he is short (in his swing) and can put the ball in play. Being aggressive, knowing the strike zone and being ready to hit have been good things for him to (assets) that he has to get to (and play well) at Double-A.”

Freeman knows his swing and had a game plan of what he worked on prior to camp. Gingrich said they focused on Freeman’s initial setup in preparation for his at-bat in the box.

“It’s interesting because every year, he kind of comes in with a different goal,” Gingrich said. “A few years ago, he wanted to get better and hitting the ball the other way, so he really worked hard on that. And then last year, he wanted to get better at being more aggressive, being able to hit the ball where it was pitched. Just kind of knowing that he has goals and ideas in his mind of what he feels he like he needs to get better at and that’s what we work on.”

Taking advantage of what the defense gives Freeman is what Gingrich pinpointed for the infielder/outfielder. At 5-foot-9 and 175 lbs., Freeman can use his speed to add a base each time he puts the ball in play.

“I need him to get a little bit better with his gather before he got himself into position (to hit),” Gingrich said. “That is what we worked on this offseason. It’s helping him use his legs a little bit more, so he will now have a little bit more strength when it comes off the bat, which is a good thing for him, too. He knows guys play him shallower. (With these adjustments,) balls he hits in the gap he can now turn singles into doubles and triples. That is awesome for him.”

When the next season arrives, Freeman will get a shot at finding the cavernous gaps at FNB Field for Double-A Harrisburg. The left-center and right-center gaps are 405 feet, further away than even the 400 feet mark to dead center field. With the 16-foot outfield wall, Freeman’s ability to be a gap hitter will be a distinct advantage.

“He knows he is not going to pop 15 (homers),” Gingrich said. “He might run into two or three or five in a year, especially at Harrisburg. Harrisburg is one of our biggest fields that we have in our organization. The gaps for him will play. He will be able to run into 35 or 40 doubles and maybe five to 10 triples. That’s great for him. That’s what he needs to do.

“He knows what type of player he needs to be. That helps as well. He knows he wants to get on base and score runs. Any way he can do that, that is what he is going to try to do.”

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