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The Cardinals had just won an improbable World Series championship, and the on-field celebration was barely over last October when David Freese was ushered into the media interview room at Busch Stadium. The third baseman sat on the stage with a look of disbelief on his face as he answered questions about living out a dream. The St. Louis area native was the named the Most Valuable Player of the Cardinals' win over the Rangers in the World Series, adding to the MVP trophy he won in the National League Championship Series.

Yet it was hard for Freese to absorb it all at that time. A series of injuries and off-field incidents had stunted his growth as a player and person, and it had started to look like Freese would never live up to his potential.

Nearly six months later, it has finally sunk it for the third baseman.

"There hasn't been a day that's gone by that somebody doesn't remind me about it," Freese said with a smile. "Not that I mind."

Freese has become a major celebrity in his hometown and at least a minor celebrity nationally because of his post-season heroics. Yet the fact of the matter is Freese turns 28 on April 28 and has logged just 705 plate appearances over four seasons, the type of profile that makes him either a late bloomer or a run-of-the-mill player who had a hot stretch of well-timed plate appearances last fall.

Freese has looked like a late bloomer in the early part of this season. In his first nine games and 38 plate appearances, he hit .371/.421/.629 with three home runs and a .340 True Average. PECOTA, though, does not see Freese emerging as a star; it projects him to hit .274 this season with 16 homers, 68 RBI, and a .272 TAv.

Scouts are mixed on Freese's future.

Said a pro-Freese scout: "The only thing that stands between him and stardom is health. He's a good hitter with pop, and he's a good defensive third baseman. He showed last October just how good he can be."

Said an anti-Freese scout (who should probably be called Prestone): "He's an average player at best. I don't think he's anything special. He's a solid major-league third baseman, but he's not going to suddenly become a star. Run-of-the-mill guy."

Former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who retired two days after the World Series ended, believes Freese's mental approach gives him a better-than-even chance to succeed in the long term.

"He never gets overjoyed with himself," La Russa said. "I guarantee you that the success he had last season had no affect on him as a player or a person."

New Cardinals manager Mike Matheny confirmed that, saying Freese worked as hard as any player in his team's spring training camp.

"He came in with the perfect attitude," Matheny said. "He appreciated what he did last year, but he also realized that last year was over. He put all the good memories in the past and concentrated on becoming a better player this season."

The path Freese's career takes could be an interesting study in the power of positive thinking. Confidence admittedly hasn't been one of Freese's strong points, either in his belief in his on-field ability or in choosing people he surrounded himself with away from the ballpark. Yet little should add to player's confidence than shining on baseball's biggest stage, and Freese did that last season while also distancing himself from his past alcohol-related problems. Having had nearly a half-year to digest what happened last October, Freese believes he is a different player, a better player.

"When you're facing the types of pitchers we were facing game in and game out when we were playing the Phillies, the Brewers, and the Rangers, it was a really tough task, and it wasn't easy to go into those ballparks in Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Texas because the fans were loud. It was a little bit intimidating," Freese said. "To be able to succeed in those situations was special. I really believe I can succeed in any situation now. You can't duplicate that kind of experience, and I learned a lot from it."

A few minutes with Rays manager Joe Maddon

On if the Rays have the best starting rotation in the major leagues: "I don't know if it's for me to say who has the best rotation, but I will say that I am very happy with our five starters—and the starting pitching depth we have both on the major-league roster and in the minor leagues—and would take our guys against anyone else's starting pitching. The best part about our rotation is there is upside there. I don't think we've seen the best of David Price yet, and he's already proven he is awfully good. I certainly don't think we've seen the best of Jeremy Hellickson, and he was the American League Rookie of the Year last season. It's exciting to think what Matt Moore can become. James Shields is an undisputed leader, and Jeff Niemann is a very good pitcher."

On Moore attempting to live up to the hype surrounding his rookie season: "I know that Matt Moore had one of the best starts in post-season history last year (shutting out the Rangers in seven innings in Game One of the American League Division Series), and he is not going to rest on that. If you have a chance to talk him, you'll learn very quickly that he is a very special young man. He is not only very talented, but he is very intelligent and is very driven. Plus, he has great stuff, and that always helps, too."

On adding Carlos Pena and Luke Scott to the lineup: "As much as I respect and appreciated the efforts of Johnny Damon and Casey Kotchman made to our club last season, we really felt we needed to add more power in our lineup. It's great to have Carlos back. He's had the best years of his career with the Rays. He is someone who should be a Ray. He's back, and it's like he never left. Luke has proven to be a consistent power source when he is healthy, and we feel good about adding him to our lineup."

Scouts' views

Angels shortstop Erick Aybar: "They're paying him for defense because he's a top-of-the-line shortstop. He has good range, a good arm, and he can make the tough play as well as anybody. He is what he is offensively at this point in his career, a guy who'll put the bat on the ball consistently but not do a whole lot else. He's so good defensively, and the Angels' lineup is so deep that they can carry him."

Giants first baseman Brandon Belt: "I keep hearing talk that Belt is the guy the Giants will dangle if they decide to trade for a closer, and I think that would be a mistake. This kid can really hit. He might not pop 30-35 home runs a year like you'd ideally like from your first baseman, but he'll hit .300 with 20-25 homers a year. He's a helluva hitter, and he's going to have a good career. I hope, for the Giants' sake, that they understand what they have."

Reds left-hander Aroldis Chapman: "I love him out of the bullpen, but he needs to be starting. They've got to wonder what he could if they gave him 200 innings. I think at some point they need to give him a look in the rotation because you're talking a guy who has the stuff to be a No. 1, even if he doesn't fully develop his changeup. I mean, this guy could win multiple Cy Youngs if he gets the chance."

Twins designated hitter/first baseman Justin Morneau: "I know it kind of screws up their lineup if they have to use Morneau as the DH instead of Ryan Doumit, but the Twins really need Morneau in the middle of their order. If keeping him off the field as much as possible keeps him healthy, then the Twins have no choice but to keep him at DH. If they lose him again this year, they've got no chance to be respectable."

Mets center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis: "He's doesn't have one great tool, but he's the type of player who does everything well. He can pop you some home runs, he'll steal some bases, and he plays a decent center field, though I like more on a corner. He plays hard and he's fundamentally sound, and that helps him play above his tools. I like him, and I think he's going to have a decent big-league career. And I think he could really become a big deal in New York because the female fans are going to love him. He's a good-looking kid."

Five personal observations

  • The season is barely two weeks old, and manager Bobby Valentine has already created plenty of tension in the Red Sox' clubhouse. It'll be interesting to see the exact date of the player revolt.
  • Luke Scott took a lot of heat for saying Fenway Park is a dump, but that is nothing most visiting players don't say in private. While Fenway is a wonderful park to watch a game and absorb history, the visiting clubhouse offers the amenities of a 19th-century jail.
  • The home run sculpture at Marlins Ballpark is so weird and borderline repulsive that I actually can't wait to see it in person in the sort of the way a motorist can't help but look when he drives past an accident on the highway.
  • I'm sorry Giants closer Brian Wilson needs season-ending Tommy John surgery. That being said, I'm completely Brian Wilsoned out. Simply put, he's not funny.
  • My heart tells me Ivan Rodriguez, who plans to announce his retirement next week, is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. My head, though, tells me I need to study his situation closer before I'll ready to put a checkmark next to his name on the Hall of Fame ballot.'s Doug Miller chronicles the successful battle against leukemia waged by former Baseball Prospectus author Dave Cameron in this week's Must Read.

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What is it with scouts occasionally talking about player's looks? I've noticed that in spots through the years. To me, it negates everything they say. I mean, do we really care what a dude looks like? I don't get the point.
Because scouts are visual creatures. Isn't that patently obvious?
Having seen most of Chapmans appearances this year, I concur with the scout, he's ready to start. He's really slowed things down this year and looks much more incontrol of his stuff. It's gotta be nice to ease back a bit and still throw 98 mph.
Does Nieuwenhuis have an 80 face? Does he have all 5 tools - eyes, lips, hair, bone structure, and can he smeyes?
Yeah....its just out of place.

"Springer maintains great balance at the plate. He keeps his hands back and the barrel of the bat in the strike zone. He uses all fields, but can pull the inside pitch when needed. He could stand to be a bit more disciplined. He has a fantastic ass."
Your reading comprehension skills are poor.
Who cares about the face, does “He ha[ve] some sexy calves”?
You're asking the right questions.
Brian Wilson isn't funny? Be serious. Or rather...
I think he means the schtick is old.
If Pudge Rodriguez isn't a Hall of Famer, then you might as well shut the joint down.
I know, right? Most intriguing comment of the article that begs for an in-depth explanation. I look at the numbers, the MVP award, and how he was the best catcher in the game for a while, his longevity, and I wonder, how would you not vote for him for the HoF?
Brian Wilson never was funny.
But he has WACKY facial hair!!! That's so funny, like when a guy is dating two girls, and they BOTH show up at the same restaurant!
Maybe a black ops unit stole his funny.
I'd be astonished if the Giants traded Belt for a 'closer'. They've got Santiago Castilla who throws as hard as Wilson did, and if that isn't enough, they've got Heath Hembree at Fresno who might throw even harder. If they don't care about the entertainment value of high velocity and are content to just get batters out, they have Sergio Romo and Javy Lopez. As with last year, the Giants primary problem is scoring runs, not with failing to close games out, and Aubrey Huff is a prime offender. It would be fool hardy to trade your best hitting prospect to replace him in order to solve a problem that you don't have. That said, I think I just convinced myself that that's exactly what Brian Sabean will do. Maybe all Giants fans need to go to the ballpark and chanting 'Armando Benitez! Armando Benitez!' or something to remind Sabean of closers past.
"The visiting clubhouse offers the amenities of a 19th-century jail" - awesome description John.
Just piping in to put my two cents in Brian Wilson's corner. I continue to enjoy you.
Scouts do love to talk about guys having a "good face," which means he has a confident look about him. You guys are right, though, there is a look of talk about how guys look. Maybe it's all those nights on the road, I don't know.

As far as Brian Wilson, the schtick is indeed old. He's an extremely bright guy and I love that he's different but it's like he's now trying too hard to be funny.

Thanks John, for providing yet another insight into your terrible HoF voting. Please give up your vote so it doesn't count in the divisor for players percent calculation.
His voting has to be better than your posting. He said he instinctively thought a very strong candidate for the Hall of Fame should get in on the first ballot, but that he would need to do some research before he made a definite decision. Tell me how that's a problem.
Wilson's "schtick" got old about 10 minutes after it started. Can't believe the press just continued to eat it up.
Thank you for the Brian Wilson thing! I thought I was the only one, but reading these comments, looks like there are a lot of us out there. I just moved out to San Fran and it's beyond annoying. When he went down I had a silent celebration, knowing I wouldn't have to hear about him for 12 months.