BRADENTON, Fl. – The off-season was short for Pirates’ prospect Adam Frazier, but a quick turnaround is probably exactly what the breakout player wanted going into this spring.
Last year, Frazier finished with a .324 batting average and an .801 OPS for Double-A Altoona, the former being the highest average in the Eastern League. (Frazier was not awarded the batting championship due to a technicality where Bowie’s Trey Mancini, who hit .359 but was 29 at-bats short of qualifying for the award, took an 0-for-29 to reach the required number of plate appearances and ended with a .330 figure.)
Frazier was then selected by the Pirates to play in the Arizona Fall League followed by an invitation from Team USA to play for the 2015 USA Baseball Premier12 Team, who competed in the WBSC Premier12 World Championships in November.
For the Glendale Desert Dogs in the AFL, Frazier hit extremely well in limited action, hitting .321 with a .965 OPS in 33 plate appearances, including three triples. In the WBSC Premier12 World Championships, Frazier went 11-for-31 in eight games for a .355 average.
Frazier admitted that it was important for him to carry over the successes of last year as momentum going into this camp.
“I ended up not taking much time off from swinging,” Frazier said at McKechnie Field. “I’m just trying to carry over what I was doing since I had some success. Usually, you would take a month or two off, but it was different this year, and I got a lot of extra time to play. It kind of threw a wrench in things, and I had to figure it all out again on how to prepare myself for a long season ahead. I just got into it and felt good at the end of the season so I kept swinging.”
Frazier worked out at Vanderbilt University during his short off-season. A former rival school of Frazier from his time at Mississippi State, multiple professional players found a home at the school over the winter, including teammate Jacob Stallings and former Pirate Pedro Alvarez.
Alvarez and Frazier talked often while at Vanderbilt, and Frazier said that Pedro helped him “get a feel for what to expect” in major league camp.
The Pirates seem to expect a lot out of the former sixth round draft pick, as they have aggressively pushed him through the system. Frazier skipped Single-A West Virginia, and he spent his first full professional year with High-A Bradenton. Although his 2014 season with Bradenton did not look great statistically, Frazier has consistently displayed the tools needed to excel at a higher level.
The Pirates saw those tools in full swing before Frazier was even drafted, as he had an extraordinary collegiate career in a very competitive league. As a sophomore while playing at Mississippi State in 2012, Frazier ranked third in the SEC with a .371 batting average and 91 hits. He was named the MVP of the SEC Tournament and was a member of the 2012 Baseball USA Collegiate National Team. He was also a workhorse for the Bulldogs, starting all 64 games in a season where his team went to the College World Series.
Knowing the kind of player that Frazier was capable of being, he moved to Double-A Altoona last season and had a breakout year. His successful year led to the Pirates inviting him to major league camp this spring, where Frazier has shown his worth.
Last season, the Pirates worked Frazier at multiple positions, playing him at shortstop and center field for the majority of the season. Playing the outfield was new to Frazier, but he fully committed to learning the position.
The club has communicated with Frazier that they would like him to continue playing multiple positions this spring, including shortstop and second base, as well as center field and possibly the other outfield positions. So far in Grapefruit League action, he has found action at both middle infield spots and all three outfield positions (he played left field for the first time on Sunday at McKechnie Field).
Clint Hurdle said after Friday’s Spring Training game that Frazier is being utilized in variety of roles early in camp.
“Right now, we can use Frazier more in the outfield than in the infield,” said Hurdle, “but there will be a day where he’s a guy who will come back in the infield, because he’s shown the ability to play there.”
To the eye, it looks as if Frazier’s best fit would be at second base, as he has a strong enough arm for all of the throws on that side of the infield. Last season, it did not seem like his arm was strong enough to stick at shortstop. So far this spring, it looks like he may have added a little arm strength, as his throws have been fast and accurate, but I believe he still would be best served at second.
Fortunately, they have yet to try him out at third base, and he doesn’t believe that will be the case any time soon. That might be difficult, as it is already a difficult enough job to bounce back and forth between infield and outfield positions.
“It’s kind of tough to switch back and forth between the infield and outfield,” said Frazier. “I have to try to find places to get all of my reps. I’ll just go wherever they feel I’m needed.”
On top of positional flexibility, Frazier knows that he has to continue hitting for more power in order to try and be more than a future utility player. That is something that improved as he played late in the fall last year.
“In the Instructional League last year, I worked on a few different things to try to get a different barrel on the ball that could ultimately create a little more power,” Frazier said. “I had a little more power in the Fall League, so I’m just trying to carry it over. I want to get my pitch and drive it.”
As the 2016 progresses, it will be interesting to watch where the organization continues to play Frazier, as it may lead to opportunities with the big league club later in the year, especially if he keeps hitting well. If his power numbers continue to improve and his defense proves not to be a liability, Frazier could be a depth bench option in September, and might even challenge Alen Hanson and Max Moroff for a future starting role.