Monday, October 17, 2011

Freese


David Freese, meet Jason Bartlett.

Three years after Bartlett started at shortstop in the World Series, Freese will start at third base in this World Series.
 
What else do the left-side infielders have in common? Both were drafted for the Padres by Bill "Chief" Gayton, and both were traded by the Padres as minor leaguers.


The Gunslinger sent Bartlett to the Twins for Brian Buchanan.

The Freese trade was even worse for the Padres. The player they got from the Cardinals, Jim Edmonds, performed so badly that the Padres cut him and ate most of the $6 million in salary.

Now Freese is the toast of St. Louis, having won MVP honors in the League Championship Series after batting .545 with three home runs and nine RBI in the six games. This season, he batted .297 with 16 doubles and 10 home runs in 97 games.

Today, I asked Gayton about Freese, a ninth-round selection out of South Alabama in 2006.

Gayton said scout Bobby Filotei "really liked Freese's bat and thought he would be a good defender."

Padres scouts thought Freese a bargain then.

"He was a fifth-year senior that was in a bind because (South Alabama) was on the cusp of making the NCAA tournament or still in the playoffs when the closed period began," said Gayton, who has scouted for the Cardinals the last year-plus. "Had he been eligible to sign prior to the draft, he would have actually received more money. But more than anything, Bobby liked him, and for whatever reason, he slid down in the draft and we selected him."

Sandy Alderson said that the two biggest mistakes of his Padres tenure were Joakim Soria's exposure to the Rule V draft and the Edmonds trade. The club's belief that Chase Headley would grow into a starter at third base influenced the decision to use Freese to acquire Edmonds, Alderson said.

The stories of Freese, Bartlett and Soria are a reminder that when a franchise signs an amateur player, it's only the starting point in getting value out of that player.

Repeating myself here, I believe player development gets short shrift from draft analysts and others who evaluate draft decisions. A lot goes into developing minor leaguers into big leaguers -- not a Padres strength for many years.

Just as getting traded to the Padres as young big leaguers benefited Adrian Gonzalez and Cameron Maybin, the move to St. Louis suited Freese. The righty is surrounded by able hitters, including righty stars Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday.

"Down the stretch, he's been healthy, getting comfortable in the majors and in the city where he grew up," Gayton said.

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