30. Brian Friday, SS
2009 Season: Coming in to the season Friday was fresh off a solid outing with Lynchburg, batting for a .287/.365/.387 line in 341 at-bats in 2008. He was mentioned as a possible future replacement for Jack Wilson at shortstop in the majors, and named the number 14 prospect in the Pirates’ system by Baseball America.
Friday missed a lot of time in the second half of the 2008 season due to back problems. He then struggled in the Hawaiin Winter League, but despite the struggles, was moved up to Altoona for the 2009 season.
Friday started the season strong, going 11 for 22 with one homer in the first few weeks of April. He was then sidelined with an inner ear infection, and missed the rest of April and part of May. Friday returned in May to put up a .264/.338/.417 line in 72 at-bats, but fell off again in June with a .206/.274/.308 line in 107 at-bats.
Friday seemed to pick up the pace in the second half. In his 207 at-bats from July to the end of the season he hit for a .275 average with a .388 on-base percentage. That’s a major improvement over his .259/.338 numbers in his first 201 at-bats. The sudden turnaround could be due to the amount of talent that was added to Altoona’s roster in July.
Not only did the Pirates acquire Gorkys Hernandez in June, but Pedro Alvarez and Miles Durham were brought up from Lynchburg at the end of June, and Jose Tabata started heating up. Suddenly Altoona’s lineup started clicking, and Friday benefitted from that. Of course, it could just be that he finally got healthy after struggling with back problems at the end of 2008, and inner ear problems in 2009.
Friday finished the season with a .265/.361/.386 line, which is respectable when considering his first half struggles. The one downside to his season was his defense. Friday committed 25 errors at shortstop in the 2009 season, an amount that you can’t chalk up to the poor playing conditions in the minors.
Friday is currently playing in the Arizona Fall League, where he has been getting work at second base.
Information: Friday was drafted by the Pirates in the third round of the 2007 draft out of Rice University. In his junior year at Rice he put up a .336/.418/.486 line in 280 at-bats. He followed that up with a .295/.371/.410 line in 156 at-bats with State College. Friday, who is 5′ 11″, 180 pounds, profiles as a top of the order hitter, with strong on-base skills, and the ability to work the count. He doesn’t hit for a lot of power, so it’s hard to imagine him moving down towards the middle of a batting order in the future.
Friday has good plate patience, with a 17.4 percent strikeout rate in his minor league career, and a 9.1 percent walk rate. In 2009 he posted a 16.9 percent strikeout rate in AA, and a 10.7 percent walk rate, showing the ability to avoid strikeouts and draw walks in the upper levels. In the second half of the 2009 season he had a 13.1 percent walk rate, which led to an on-base percentage of .388 in that stretch.
Friday has an above average arm, and is considered average defensively. He has decent range, but often lets ground balls eat him up by laying back on the ball. Friday turns 24 in December, so he still has time to improve on his defensive skills.
On the base paths, Friday has above-average speed, but has yet to establish himself as a base stealing threat. He stole 16 bases with Lynchburg in 2008, and stole only seven bases with Altoona in 2009.
2010 Expectations: Friday is getting extra playing time in the AFL, and should be ready to pick up in 2010 where he left off in 2009 performance wise. Although his 2009 numbers don’t look good overall, his second half numbers look good enough to see him promoted to AAA. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Friday gets some time at second base, as Argenis Diaz will probably play at short in Indianapolis most of the time, and the Pirates have questions at both middle infield spots in the majors. If Friday puts up a strong first half, we could see him in the majors by the end of the 2010 season.
Optimistic Projection: Friday needs to improve his defense and his work on the base paths, while maintaining his solid on-base percentage. If he accomplishes all of this, he could be a a .280-.290 hitter, with a .350-.370 OBP, and 20-30 stolen bases a year. Think a lesser version of Brian Roberts.
Conservative Projection: Assuming Friday maintains his current skills, and doesn’t improve the defense or the stolen base skills, I’d project him to be a Craig Counsell clone at the plate, without the strong career UZR rating in the field.
Check back tomorrow for prospect number 29…