Scrappers’ top hitter showing California parents his progress


By Dan Hiner

dhiner@vindy.com

NILES

Friday was a special day for Scrappers shortstop Tyler Freeman.

Freeman, a native of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., got a chance to play in front of his parents for the first time this season.

At the end of both games during Friday’s doubleheader, his parents — Greg and Cindy — met with their oldest son at the small hill in the stands which sits next to the locker room.

The last time the Freemans saw their son play was last season when he was in the Arizona League.

“Family’s number one and seeing them out here kinda motivated me a little bit to play even harder,” Freeman said. “Having them out here, it’s a blessing.

“[The family] is all the way in California — it makes it a little difficult. But coming out here is awesome.”

The 19-year-old shortstop was selected by the Indians with the 71st pick of the 2017 draft.

He had college offers while attending Etiwanda High School, but turned them down to pursue a professional career.

Draft evaluations had Freeman moving to second base at the professional level. But Scrappers manager Jim Pankovits said he believes Freeman earned time and is keeping at his original position.

Freeman started 15 of 19 games at shortstop after Friday’s games.

“He’s not gonna move [from shortstop] anytime soon, that’s for sure,” Pankovits said. “I think he’s shown that he has the tools to play there. I just think it’s just a matter of getting some experience.

“He’s played extremely well. He’s even gotten better from Day 1 to today.”

Entering Saturday’s game with the Williamsport Crosscutters, the Scrappers’ No. 2 hitter led the New York-Penn League with a .427 batting average. Second was Vermont Lake Monsters’ Payton Squier with a .362 average.

He also entered the game tied with teammate Mitch Reeves for the team lead in RBIs (15), second most in the league.

“Honestly, when I go up to the plate or field a groundball, I give the best effort I can,” Freeman said. “The results are showing. I might not expect them to show the whole season — everyone has their ups and downs.”

Freeman scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning in the Scrappers’ 7-6 win over the Batavia Muckdogs on Friday.

A call-up is inevitable for Freeman. The only question is when?

According to MLB.com, Freeman is the 13th best prospect in the Indians organization and the third-best shortstop among the Tribe’s minor league affiliates.

Pankovits said the decision is usually made based on a combination of production, experience and various other factors. But the move won’t be made until multiple members of the Indians organization decides the time is right.

Freeman isn’t thinking about a potential promotion to Lake County in the near future. Instead, he’s assuming he’ll stay with the Scrappers the entire season.

“You can only control the now and if I do look for a promotion, that’s when the numbers are gonna start dropping because I can only focus on one thing at a time,” Freeman said. “As of now, it’s Mahoning Valley.”

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