Ernesto Frieri

Born: July 19, 1985
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 205
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Signed: Int’l free agent, 2003 (Padres)
How Acquired: Trade from Angels (for Jason Grilli)
Country: Colombia
Agent: Matt Colleran


The Pirates acquired Frieri from the Angels for Jason Grilli after both pitchers had lost their closer roles.  Frieri has a history of extremely high K rates, high walk rates, low opponents’ averages (.199 career), and a reverse platoon split (career opponents’ OPS of .629 by LH batters and .684 by RH batters).  He’s an extreme flyball pitcher who’s had problems with gopher balls.  Frieri relies primarily on a fastball that’s consistently averaged a shade over 94 mph for the last three years.  He threw the fastball over 85% of the time in 2012-13, but a only a little over three-quarters of the time with the Angels in 2014.  His principal secondary pitch is a slider that’s not a plus pitch, and he occasionally throws a changeup.

R:  7-1-0, 1.17 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 46.1 IP, 5.6 BB/9, 11.5 K/9
A+:  0-0-0, 2.70 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 3.1 IP, 2.7 BB/9, 8.1 K/9

Frieri dominated in his US debut in rookie ball, aside from walking a lot of hitters.  The Padres used him both starting and in relief.  Baseball America rated him the Padres’ 17th best prospect after the season.

A-:  3-3-2, 3.82 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 37.2 IP, 3.6 BB/9, 9.1 K/9
A:  0-0-0, 9.00 ERA, 6.00 WHIP, 1.0 IP, 45.0 BB/9, 9.0 K/9
A+:  0-0-0, 6.00 ERA, 1.83 WHIP, 6.0 IP, 4.5 BB/9, 6.0 K/9

Frieri pitched well, but wasn’t as dominant, in short season ball.  He pitched in relief except for one start.

A:  1-2-0, 2.64 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 64.2 IP, 3.2 BB/9, 9.0 K/9
A+:  1-0-1, 1.25 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 21.2 IP, 2.5 BB/9, 11.2 K/9

Frieri dominated in relief at the two class A levels.  On the season opponents batted just .196 against him.

A+:  8-6-0, 4.00 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 123.2 IP, 2.3 BB/9, 7.9 K/9
AA:  1-0-0, 4.09 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 11.0 IP, 1.6 BB/9, 8.2 K/9
AAA:  1-0-0, 1.50 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 6.0 IP, 3.0
 BB/9, 10.5 K/9

The Padres moved Frieri to the rotation for most of the season.  Considering that he was in the hitting-happy California League, he put up solid numbers, but he was more hittable than he’d been in relief.  He had some trouble with gopher balls, allowing 1.1 per nine innings.  BA rated him San Diego’s 29th best prospect after the season and the Padres’ added him to their 40-man roster.

AA:  10-9-0, 3.59 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 140.1 IP, 4.0 BB/9, 7.6 K/9
MLB:  0-0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP, 2.0 IP, 4.5 BB/9, 9.0 K/9

Frieri remained a starter in AA and continued to put up just solid numbers.  He did cut his HR/9 to 0.8.  He got into two games in the majors in September.

AAA:  3-1-17, 1.43 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 37.2 IP, 4.3 BB/9, 11.7 K/9
MLB:  1-1-0, 1.71 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 31.2 IP, 4.8 BB/9, 11.7 K/9

The Padres moved Frieri back to relief and he dominated in AAA, holding opponents to a .114 average and earning a mid-July callup.  He continued to dominate in the majors, allowing opponents just a .162 average.

AAA:  1-0-0, 2.70 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 3.1 IP, 5.4 BB/9, 13.5 K/9
MLB:  1-2-0, 2.71 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 63.0 IP, 4.9 BB/9, 10.9 K/9

Frieri spent the season with the Padres, except for a brief AAA rehab after a back problem.  He wasn’t as dominant as in 2010, but remained hard to hit.  He continued to have some control issues, but struck out well over a batter an inning.

MLB (SD):  1-0-0, 2.31 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 11.2 IP, 3.1 BB/9, 13.9 K/9
MLB (LAA):  4-2-23, 2.32 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 54.1 IP, 4.3 BB/9, 13.3 K/9

Frieri continued pitching very well for the Padres, but they traded him to the Angels in May for what turned out to be little return.  He took over the Angels’ closer role and was very effective.  He struck out a higher percentage of hitters faced than any pitcher in the AL with more than 13 innings pitched.  Frieri did, however, start having gopher ball problems, allowing 1.2 per nine innings on the season.

MLB:  2-4-37, 3.80 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 68.2 IP, 3.9 BB/9, 12.8 K/9

Frieri had an uneven season, largely due to a miserable month of July, when he had an ERA of 8.64, and a HR rate that grew to 1.4 per nine innings.  On the season, though, he saved 37 games in 41 opportunities.

MLB (LAA):  0-3-11, 6.39 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 31.0 IP, 2.6 BB/9, 11.0 K/9

Frieri struggled with the Angels and lost the closer’s job.  Much of the trouble stemmed from a huge increase in his gopher ball problem.  He allowed 2.3 per nine innings, as his HR/FB climbed to 21.1%, far above his previous high of 12.9%.  Oddly, he became more hittable overall, giving up more hits than innings pitched, while also posting easily his highest GB%, although it was still a relatively low 35.3%.  His K rate dropped but remained very high, and his walk rate dropped significantly.  Despite the terrible ERA, Frieri’s xFIP, probably the best measure of how well a reliever is pitching, was 3.20.

Frieri came to the Pirates in a swap of struggling former closers, but he should present a much better chance of a turnaround than Jason Grilli.  Unlike Grilli, his velocity isn’t down, and his control has improved rather than getting worse.  The main issue is his alarming HR rate, which may simply be bad luck.  Moving to PNC, which in recent seasons has depressed HRs, may not help that much, because the Angels’ ballpark tends to depress HRs, too, although not quite as much as PNC.  Other advantages that Frieri presents over Grilli are the facts that he’s eight years younger and has two more years of control.  Frieri won’t close for the Pirates initially, but could do so eventually.

UPDATE:  In a month and a half with the Pirates, Frieri was even worse than he’d been with the Angels, while Grilli turned things around in LA.  The Pirates designated Frieri for assignment in early August when Pedro Alvarez returned from the bereavement list.  Unsurprisingly, given his salary, Frieri cleared waivers and was outrighted to AAA.

Baseball Reference–Majors
Baseball Reference–Minors
2009: $400,000
2011: $417,100
2012: $489,100
2014: $3,800,000
Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 2005
MLB Debut: 9/26/2009
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2017
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 11/19/2007
Options Remaining: 0 (USED:  2008, 2009, 2010)
MLB Service Time: 3.101
January 18, 2003: Signed as an international free agent with the San Diego Padres.
November 19, 2007: Contract purchased by the San Diego Padres.
May 3, 2012: Traded by the San Diego Padres to the Los Angeles Angels for Alexi Amarista and Donn Roach.
June 27, 2014: Traded by the Los Angeles to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jason Grilli.
August 8, 2014: Designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates; outrighted to AAA on August 13.