Freese Named Cards Minors Player of the Year

Freese Named Cards Minors Player of the Year

Memphis Redbirds third baseman David Freese is our 2008 Scout.com Player of the Year for the St. Louis Cardinals Minor League system. Freese discusses the award, his season and preparations for 2009.

Believe it or not, one year ago, Jim Edmonds was still the centerfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals.  Edmonds, a crowd favorite and walking highlight reel, was beginning to show the wear-and-tear of a late-thirties outfielder that was continuously sacrificing his body game after game, year after year. 

 

With the replacing of general manager Walt Jocketty by John Mozeliak, the organization was ready to start a "youth movement". It appeared the perfect place to start was the outfield, with a bounty of young players led by Rick Ankiel ready to make their mark on the grass of Busch Stadium.

 

On a Friday night in December, I vividly recall coming home and turning on my computer.  With nothing out of the ordinary, it was what I found waiting in my inbox that was totally surprising.  One of the greatest centerfielders in the history of the most storied franchise in the annals of the National League, Jim Edmonds, was traded to the San Diego Padres.  Not only was he traded, but the hero of the 2004 National League Championship Series and one of the MV3, had been traded for a minor leaguer just finishing his first full season of professional baseball in the California League. 

 

I am pleased to announce that minor leaguer, David Freese, is our 2008 Scout.com St. Louis Cardinals Minor League Player of the Year.  In what appears to be a made for TV story, Freese is a native of St. Louis that dreamed of one day wearing the Birds on the Bat.  After a 2008 in which he hit .306/.361/.550 with 26 home runs and 91 RBIs, that dream is coming close to becoming reality. 

 

I recently was able to catch up with David while he is spending his off-season playing winter ball in Venezuela. 

 

Dustin Mattison: First off, I want to congratulate you as The Birdhouse's 2008 St. Louis Cardinals Minor League Player of the Year. 

 

David Freese: Thank you very much.  It is an honor to receive this award.  There are so many players that deserve this recognition, and I greatly appreciate it.  Coming into this season, especially being a part of a new organization, I didn't really know what to expect.  Having a chance to go to Big League Camp was a great opportunity for me to meet new teammates and coaches and basically get a head start on the 2008 season.  I had heard that there was a possibility that I would jump to Triple-A so I knew that it would take a lot of hard work to prepare and get ready to try and show the organization that I was capable of playing at that level right out of Spring Training.   

 

DM: You had a great season at Memphis.  Were you disappointed not to get a September call up? 

 

DF: I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself sometimes because I set really high expectations for each season.  At the end of the year I wanted to look back and say that I worked hard and got better throughout the year.  It was disappointing first off not making the playoffs with Memphis.  I've been fortunate to be in the playoffs both years of my professional career and they are a lot of fun to be a part of.   As far as not getting a September call up, I was pretty disappointed but there are reasons for that and I have no control over the decision-making.  I was really happy for the guys that got to go up and it was awesome watching them.  

 

DM: Along the same lines, were you disappointed not to get an invite to the Arizona Fall League?

         

DF: I really wanted to play some more in the off-season, either in the AFL or down in Venezuela, to continue to see competitive pitching.  I was told that Venezuela would be a better fit for me so that is where I am.  The competition is pretty high and the pitching is definitely going to help me become a better ballplayer.   

 

DM: How did you come about playing in Venezuela?  Were there any concerns about going there?  What are your living conditions like?  What is the play on the field like? 

 

DF: Around June, I let the Cardinals know that I wanted to play winter ball of some sort if the opportunity came up.  Getting the chance to come down here is huge for me because I get to face veteran pitching that will help me become more comfortable next season.  When I heard I was going the play for Caribes, I got really excited. 

 

Not only to keep playing but also to go outside of the US and live is an experience that lots of people don't get to experience.  I live in the Venetur Gran Hotel by the field and it's right on the ocean so it's pretty incredible.  The games are intense.  The crowd gets real involved with every pitch and every game feels like the playoffs.  They definitely take baseball seriously down here.      

 

DM: One year ago at this time, you were a farmhand in the San Diego organization.  Now, you are the Minor League Player of the Year for the organization you grew up rooting for.  What has this past year been like for you?  Is there any added pressure being a local? 

 

DF: This past year was so much fun, especially, since we were in the playoff hunt until the last week.  The Memphis Redbirds treat you with complete respect.  All the guys were great to play with and I'm so glad we had a successful year as a team.  Winning games always makes it more fun. 

 

Hammer, Blaise, and Budaska were great to play for.  They all brought a lot of heart to the field and I definitely learned a lot about adjusting daily to the upper levels.  Budaska, our hitting coach, took me under his wing and worked with me every day.  I think the first step was to trust him and understand that if I stick to a plan at the end of the year everything would fall into place.  Skipping Double-A, I knew it would take time, but I tried to stay positive and kept working. 

 

Being close to putting on that Cardinals uniform is pretty surreal.  Growing up, that's all I ever wanted to do.  If I am lucky enough to get that chance next year, it would be a dream come true.  There always is pressure, but being a local I think adds a little more just because you're in the spotlight a little more. 

 

DM: Reading scouting reports after you were traded, it seemed like a lot of scouts felt you might not be able to stay at third base.  Well, seeing you at Memphis, I don't think that is the case and now that talk seems to have disappeared.  What is the difference, was it hard work, coaching, etc.?

           

DF: I was fortunate enough to have gotten drafted by the Padres because they believed that I could possibly play third at the major league level.  I have a lot of fun playing third and that is where I want to play.  But the most important thing to me is playing at the next level so if something changes that would be fine.  I definitely have worked hard at becoming a better infielder.  The key for me was to soak up advice and go from there. 

 

DM: Three of the top position prospects in the Cardinals system are you, Allen Craig, and Brett Wallace.  What are your thoughts on the logjam at the hot corner?

 

DF: It's like déjà vu all over again.  This is similar to the situation I had with San Diego regarding Kevin Kouzmanoff and Chase Headley.  It's obviously good for an organization to have multiple players at one position because it can create position changes to get more bats in a lineup or free up someone for a trade.  I don't know what's going to happen.  To play for the Cardinals would be unbelievable but the bottom line is that I want to play in the Majors, wherever that may be.

 

DM: How much different is the Pacific Coast League compared to the California League?  How difficult was it to make that jump?

 

DF: Baseball is baseball.  That is how I look at it.  The two leagues are pretty different though.  The pitching is a lot better in the PCL.  Not to say they throw harder, but they aren't as raw.  To succeed, you really need to learn how to make in-game adjustments.  When the count is in your favor, that doesn't mean you are going to see a fastball, let alone something right down the middle.  It's really cool being able to face guys that have Major League time because it's a challenge.  Picking the brains of guys like Joe Mather and Josh Phelps gave me perspectives from guys that have played and succeeded at Triple-A.  So, it was very helpful having them around.     

 

DM: Have the Cardinals given you an indication of their plans for you this spring?  Do you plan on going to spring training with a shot of making this team.

 

DF: I haven't had any 2009 discussions yet, but I would assume that I would be heading to Big League Spring Training again.  I'm going to go into camp trying to make the club. Knowing that is probably unlikely with Glaus in front of me and that I'll start in Memphis isn't going to make me not keep trying to show the organization that I'll be ready if they want me in the big leagues some time in the future. 

 

I think Mather really showed in Spring Training that he was ready for the call-up when an opportunity presented itself.  That is what I want to do this spring if making the club doesn't occur.

 

DM: When you are not playing baseball, how do you like to spend your time?

 

DF: The best days of the off-season are NFL Sundays.  That is one thing I don't miss if I can help it.  Maybe it's the fantasy football that makes it more exciting.  Also, being back in St. Louis has given me the chance to hang out with friends and family I haven't seen in a while.  I watch a ton of movies and TV shows.

 

DM: I usually end with the same question. What is one thing that Cardinals fans should know about you that they probably don't already know?

 

DF: One thing that usually comes up with people I know is what I would be doing right now if I didn't come back and play baseball after I quit for a year out of high school.  After playing at Lafayette and finishing up with SLABA in the summer, I decided it was time to hang'em up.  I just didn't feel like playing baseball anymore. 

 

With about two weeks left until I would have to pack up and go back to Mizzou for my sophomore year, I woke up and called my Mom at work and said that I wanted to play baseball again.  I thought hard about it.  I realized I didn't want to be kicking myself 20 years down the road saying what if?  A couple days later I was enrolled at Meramac JUCO and got back on the field.

 

Thanks again to The Birdhouse.  I really do appreciate the recognition.  If it wasn't for my family, friends, coaches and teammates, I wouldn't be where I am today. 

 

 

I thank David for taking time out of his busy schedule for this piece and once again congratulate him for being our 2008 Minor League Player of the Year. 

 

The others

 

As a reminder, following is the full list of our 2008 Position Players of the Year at the various levels of the Cardinals system.  Premium Article Scout.com subscribers can click on the players' names to read the detailed articles on each, recapping their 2008 accomplishments, quotes and much more:

 

Memphis: Freese

Springfield: Allen Craig

Palm Beach: Daryl Jones

Quad Cities: Pete Kozma

Batavia: Colt Sedbrook

Johnson City: Curt Smith

Gulf Coast League: Ryde Rodriguez

Dominican Summer League: Audris Perez

Venezuelan Summer League: Gerardo Mannbel/Alberto Riviero

 

By the numbers

 

As with all system-wide awards, there was significant competition. Our own Leonda Markee assembled 2008 system-wide stats, both traditional and sabermetric, for Cardinals minor league position players.

 

link to stats page

 

Master article with all 2008 Scout.com Cardinals Minor League Players of the Year and the schedule for daily announcements: link. (This link is also permanently located at the lower left of The Birdhouse home page.)

 

 

If you missed our Players of the Year as they were unveiled, it's not too late to catch up! Subscribe now to Scout.com and follow our countdown of the top Players and Pitchers of the Year at every level of the Cardinals minor league system. Next up will be Top Rookies of the Year, reliever, starter and position player.

 

Here's some of what else we have been running and have planned, exclusively for our subscribers.

 

Currently running:

 

Premium Article Receive the most comprehensive St. Louis Cardinals winter ball news every day all off-season long via our daily Cardinals Winter League Notebook.

 

Premium Article Cardinals farm director Jeff Luhnow and instructional league camp coordinator Mike Shildt discuss emerging organizational prospects Ryde Rodriguez and Yunier Castillo.

 

Premium Article First-hand scouting report from Hawaii Winter Baseball on Blake King, following earlier ones on Tony Cruz, Tyler Herron and Jim Rapoport.

 

Coming soon:

 

Premium Article Our annual reports and interviews direct from the Arizona Fall League.

 

Premium Article Our annual Top 40 Cardinals prospects countdown, "40 Days, 40 Nights, 40 Prospects".

 

Premium Article Interviews with more Cardinals executives on the heels of our recent exclusive multi-part features with Jeff Luhnow and international director Moises Rodriguez.

 

Premium Article …and much more…

 

Try our seven-day free trial to catch these articles, access to our Cardinals insiders message board and so much more as a Scout.com subscriber.

 

 

Dustin Mattison can be reached via email at dustin@whiteyball.com.

 

© 2008 stlcardinals.scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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