The Chattanooga Lookouts regular season came to an end on Sunday (they begin their playoff run on Tuesday). James Free capped things off with a double, run, RBI, and he was hit by a pitch. Today he was named the final week’s Southern League Player of the Week for his efforts in Chattanooga against Birmingham.

The first game of the week didn’t go well, with Free going 0-3 with a walk. He then ran off a 5-game hitting streak the rest of the way. On Wednesday he picked up a triple and an RBI. He followed that up with a 3-hit night on Thursday with a double, walk, and an RBI. Friday night saw him pick up three more hits that included a double and a homer. He also walked and drove in three runs. Free homered again on Saturday.

For the week he would go 10-23 with six extra-base hits. That led to a .435 batting average, a .519 on-base percentage thanks to three walks and a hit by pitch, and he slugged .913. Free scored six runs and he drove in seven.

It’s been a bit of a breakout season for the 25-year-old. In the past he split time between catching and playing first base, with more time coming behind the plate than at first. That limited the amount of playing time he was getting, racking up under 250 plate appearances in each of his three professional seasons prior to 2023.

In 2023 he only caught three games and didn’t start any of them – catching just six total innings. He split time between first base and designated hitter. That allowed him to get 489 plate appearances in 117 games. With more playing time, and more consistent playing time (and probably less wear and tear on the body from not being behind the plate), Free hit .268/.364/.456 while hitting 24 doubles, 2 triples, and a career best 17 home runs – nearly matching the 18 he had on his career entering the season.

Here are the other Players of the Week this season from the farm system:

  • Andrew Abbott – Southern League – April 10-16
  • Blake Dunn – Midwest League – April 24-30
  • Noelvi Marte – Southern League – May 1-7
  • Matt McLain – International League – May 1-7
  • Noelvi Marte – Southern League – May 16-21
  • Tommy Eveld – Southern League – May 22-28
  • Christian Encarnacion-Strand – International League – June 5-11
  • Connor Phillips – Southern League – June 5-11
  • Connor Phillips – Southern League – June 12-18
  • Rece Hinds – Southern League – June 12-18
  • Esmith Pineda – Arizona Complex League – June 26 – July 2
  • Brooks Crawford – Midwest League – July 3-9
  • Blake Dunn – Southern League – July 17-23
  • Connor Phillips – International League – July 17-23
  • Blake Dunn – Southern League – August 21-27
  • Teddy Stankiewicz – Southern League – August 21-27
  • Ethan O’Donnell – Florida State League – August 21-27
  • James Free – Southern League – September 11-17

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5 Responses

  1. DaveCT

    MBS has carried the Free train all year and I may have gotten on it now, too. What’s really gotten my attention is the 20% K rate and the 13% BB rate. Those will work at higher levels, even as a 1B/DH.

    • MBS

      That’s a great way to end the regular season for Free. We were talking about Hurtubise the other day and his K to BB rate is fantastic, 15.4% K to 15.1% BB.

      With this new expanded roster, that 13th player isn’t going to get a lot of playing time, there’s just so many AB’s to go around. I think it’s why I like guys like Free/Trautwien who can emergency catch, or Hurtubise who can DR/PR. I feel like the last guy on the roster should have a unique skill set, and not just be another bat.

      • DaveCT

        I agree. I normally look at guys like Miguel Hernandez (my 2024 sleeper by the way — really great defender at SS), Ivan Johnson, Francisco Urbaez as those guys at the end of the bench, because of their infield/outfield versatility. But guys like Trautwein and Hunter may well show they can catch at the ML level, too, adding that 3rd catcher role.

  2. MK

    A lot of young DH/1B talent ahead of Free at this point. I would love to see him go someplace this winter to get more time behind the plate. It would be the edge he needs to be that third catcher/utility guy.

    As potential future catchers go, Vellojin is a major disappointment this season. He needs some winter ball this year as well and some place better than Columbia which is comparable to A-ball.

  3. EyeballsInNooga

    For what it matters (more than most people acknowledge, less than I wish), he also plays a really good 1B. Had an absolute robbery on a ball Sunday that was headed for the corner.