ADAM FRAZIER, SECOND BASEMAN
|Born: December 14, 1991
Drafted: 6th Round, 179th Overall, 2013
How Acquired: Draft
College: Mississippi State
Agent: Bo McKinnis
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|Frazier played shortstop for Mississippi State, but he’s probably always profiled better as a utility player or second baseman. He failed to hit a homer in three years of college. He was considered to have excellent instincts rather than any outstanding tools, but he’s proven since he got to the AA level to have a very good hit tool. He draws his share of walks, doesn’t strike out often and has average speed. At the plate, he focuses on putting the bat on the ball and hitting gap-to-gap, rather than trying to drive the ball, but in recent years he’s begun turning on the ball effectively at times. The Pirates saw a lot of Frazier as he was teammates with first round pick Hunter Renfroe, whom they scouted heavily. He signed late due to the College World Series.
Frazier’s first pro season was as advertised: he did an excellent job of getting on base, made good contact, and didn’t hit for power. He had no platoon split to speak of. Frazier shared the middle infield positions with Michael Fransoso, but took the lion’s share of the time at short. It doesn’t look like he’s going to be a base stealer.
As they generally do with advanced college draftees, the Pirates moved Frazier up to Bradenton for his first full year. He started at short, pushing Max Moroff to second. Frazier struggled through the first two months, especially May, when he posted just a .481 OPS. He bounced back in June, hitting 355/394/430, but he tailed off again after that and finished with weak numbers. He managed only a .560 OPS against LHPs, but at .641 he wasn’t that much better against RHPs. He also struggled at times in the field, committing 36 errors.
Frazier missed the first month of the season due to a broken finger, then went to Altoona. By the time he got there, Gift Ngoepe was having a good season playing shortstop. The Pirates dealt with the situation by giving Frazier time in center field, which should increase his ability to fill a utility role. He mostly played center during JaCoby Jones’ stay in Altoona. After Jones was traded and Ngoepe promoted, Frazier went back to playing short primarily and in fact made the most appearances there. At the plate he had a breakout season. A lot of it was fueled by a .424 average in June, but he still hit .283 in his worst month. He would have won the Eastern League batting title, but it went to a player who didn’t have the minimum plate appearances but still had a higher average than Frazier if enough ABs were added to his total. Frazier’s number were driven by a .360 BABIP that he isn’t likely to be able to produce consistently, but his “true” level may not be far off from his 2015 production. He had a mild platoon split, with an OPS of .815 against RHPs and .761 against LHPs. Altoona’s ballpark, a pitchers venue, doesn’t seem to have helped him, as he had a .701 OPS at home and .906 on the road.
Frazier continued hitting very well in AAA while spending most of his time in the outfield, primarily left. In late June, the Pirates called Frazier up and he stayed with them the rest of the year in a utility role. In the field, he mainly alternated between second and left, although he got a few starts in right and at third. He hit very well initially and was batting 356/396/578 at the end of July, although his playing time was very limited as Clint Hurdle seemed reluctant to give him many starts. Frazier had just a .583 OPS in August, although still in very limited playing time. With the team beset by injuries, though, he got 14 starts and appeared in 27 games in September and October, putting up a .722 OPS. He seldom hit against LHPs, but still went 10-for-24 against them. He showed decent plate discipline and did not swing and miss much. He showed respectable power even though he generally tries to hit the ball on a low trajectory; in spite of that, his groundball rate of 43.8% wasn’t remarkably high. Frazier was helped by a high .353 BABIP, but he had a BABIP of .369 in AAA and .360 in AA in 2015, so he may be able to sustain at least some of it. Defensively, he had problems with errors and other mistakes at every position he played, but judging by the fielding metrics (albeit in very small sample sizes) his range was average or better. It’s possible he needs time to adapt to a utility role.
Frazier spent the season with the Pirates as a utility player. Due to various problems, including injuries and Jung-Ho Kang’s absence, he ended up playing more or less regularly. He missed three weeks starting in late April with a hamstring strain, and also missed about ten days starting in late August when he tweaked the other hamstring. Otherwise, he was in the lineup for the majority of the team’s games. He started 55 games in the outfield, mostly in left, along with 35 at second and one each at third and short. He developed the reputation among Pirate fans as being bad defensively, but both UZR and the Fielding Bible plus/minus metric had him as somewhere around average in the outfield. The latter had him as being average at second and the former as being well below average. On offense, Frazier got off to a hot start, then slumped in June and July before finishing well. He had a mild platoon split, with the main difference being a lack of power against LHPs; he put up a 304/355/321 line against them in limited opportunities (63 plate appearances). He had a 271/343/411 line against RHPs. He did very well in clutch situations, with a 1.009 OPS with two outs and runners in scoring position, and .993 in late and close situations. He also had an .887 OPS as a pinch hitter.
Frazier opened the season with the Pirates in a utility role, but struggled at the plate. By early June he was batting 239/323/355 and they sent him to AAA. He struggled even more there, but they called him back up in late July. At that point, apparently due to a suggestion from his father, he got hot at the plate. He put up an OPS over 1.000 in July and August, and batted 306/357/533 overall the rest of the way. The improvement included surprising power, as Frazier developed a knack for turning on the ball. He had only 70 plate appearances against LHPs and managed just a .586 OPS. His defense at second base also seemed to improve markedly. UZR agreed, at least, although the sample sizes are far too small to be useful. On the season, Frazier started 47 games at second and 19 in the outfield, divided among the three spots. Even with Josh Harrison hobbling on a bad hamstring, though, Clint Hurdle wasn’t willing to put Frazier in the lineup every day. In September, Frazier became more or less the starter at second, although he continued to see time in the outfield, partly due to injuries, and Harrison continued to start one game at second in each series.
Frazier spent the season as the Pirates’ second baseman. At the plate, he had something of a repeat of 2018, struggling early in the season (he had an OPS below .700 in both April and May) before putting up strong months in July (.922) and September (.889). He again had a platoon split, with a .787 OPS against RHPs and .666 against LHPs. The slow start may have resulted from the fact that he was playing through a fractured finger and a slight shoulder separation, injuries that weren’t revealed at the time. Frazier started the year as the leadoff hitter, but spent a lot of time low in the lineup in the second half, partly due to Kevin Newman’s strong season. For some reason, a lot of fans consider Frazier a liability and, in particular, a terrible defensive player. By both UZR and DRS, though, Frazier was an above-average defender. In fact, by the newer metric of Outs Above Average he was one of the top fielders at his position in baseball. He also was one of three nominees for the NL Gold Glove. He certainly wasn’t at fault for the Pirates’ NL-leading team error total, as he committed only five. Overall, in fWAR he rated 11th among second basemen in MLB and 6th in the NL.
Frazier was the subject of trade rumors during the off-season, as there seemed to be some demand for him. Once the truncated season started, he got off to a terrible start, so apparently that habit isn’t connected to April. On August 28, he had just a .544 OPS. He hit a little better in September until he finished on a 9-for-25 stretch with two home runs. In keeping with their bizarre habit of playing middle infielders in the outfield, the Pirates gave Frazier 13 starts in left. He continued to play very well defensively at second and was again a Gold Glove finalist.
Given his odd habit of struggling over the season’s first month or two, Frazier’s 2020 problems may not mean that much, or at least hopefully not. Kevin Newman, Cole Tucker and Erik Gonzalez were all significantly worse than Frazier in 2020, so he should remain the starting second baseman.
|Signing Bonus: $240,600
MiLB Debut: 2013
MLB Debut: 6/24/2016
MiLB FA Eligible: 2019
MLB FA Eligible: 2022
Rule 5 Eligible: 2016
Added to 40-Man: 6/24/2016
Options Remaining: 2 (USED: 2018)
MLB Service Time: 4.073
|June 7, 2013: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 6th round, 179th overall pick; signed on July 3.
June 24, 2016: Contract purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates.