Adam Frazier began the season on the disabled list before making the jump to Double-A on May 6th. Before his injury in Spring Training, it was widely thought that Frazier would make a bid at becoming the starting shortstop or second baseman for the Altoona Curve. It seemed as though the timing would have been perfect for Frazier and come up to take the starting shortstop job from Gift Ngoepe, since Gift was struggling from the plate at the beginning of the year. The problem was that Ngoepe went on a run from the end of April through May, batting well over .300 and remaining the best defensive option for the team. With Gift and Max Moroff both excelling, Adam Frazier became the odd man out, but he has taken advantage of every opportunity he has been given so far this season, becoming a utility man for the Curve.
Frazier has only 103 plate appearances compared to the other regulars on the Curve having over 200, but statistically, he is leading the team in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Frazier currently has a .348 batting average with a .884 OPS. His 7.7% strikeout rate is phenomenal, and his walk rate is about the same as 2014.
Situationally, Frazier has really impressed with runners on base, hitting .519 with a 1.271 OPS. Even better, he is batting .600 with a 1.467 OPS with those runners in scoring position.
He has also improved as the season has progressed. Frazier was good in May after he debuted for Altoona, batting .293/.359/.362 in the month; however, the month of June has seen him turn it on like no other. His June sees him hitting .441 with a 1.163 OPS. He also hit his first Double-A home run on June 8th in Erie.
Lastly, from the statistics side, he has also found himself batting leadoff often for Manager Tom Prince, batting .367 with a .975 OPS in the 12 games where he was penciled in the lineup first.
The jump to Double-A from Single-A baseball has not been a difficult one for him so far. Frazier showed enough of the tools and skills to put him #40 in our Prospect Guide going into the season, even though the numbers did not translate last season for Bradenton. He only hit .252 with a .616 OPS last season, but the Pirates chose to keep him at shortstop and continue starting even with JaCoby Jones behind him last year looking for a promotion. This season, it seems as if everything is starting to click, and the numbers are showing it as well.
The difference between this and last year is that, rather than Frazier having a starting job without performing at the highest level, he is fighting for playing time and moving around the field while hitting extremely well. As of June 17th, Frazier has played five games at shortstop, one game at third, ten in center field, and two in left field. He has also found himself as the DH six times.
“The changes are tough,” Frazier said. “I’ve never really played outside of the middle infield my whole life. I got up here and had to play a little outfield and third base, so it’s tough. I’m trying to learn each position and talk to the guys to get a few tips here and there to help me out. Wherever I am in the lineup, I just want to play the best I can and help the team, contribute, and lead us to a win.”
The position changes and inconsistency have definitely been difficult for Frazier, but he also understands that it adds versatility and value down the road. When I think about what Frazier has been able to do this year, I think about Josh Harrison for the 2014 Pirates. He has performed so well that Manager Tom Prince has been forced to find ways to configure the lineup to get him in there more often.
“The ability to play multiple positions can only add value to yourself,” Frazier noted.
Frazier wasn’t told that he would be playing a lot of outfield until he was rehabbing from his finger injury in extended spring training. He was expecting to play middle infield like always, but he was able to learn to position on the fly. His athleticism has really helped him make the adjustment with the ability to track and cut off balls while manning a large center field in Altoona. The only noticeable disadvantage for Frazier in the outfield is his arm strength, which he acknowledges has been the most difficult thing about the transition. He has been working on winding up to make longer throws rather than quick, hurried throws like an infielder.
Moving forward, expect Frazier to find a lot of time in the outfield still, especially when the Curve play American League Double-A affiliates, allowing Stetson Allie to DH. Gift Ngoepe and Max Moroff have taken a hold of the starting jobs at shortstop and second base, respectively, so the only way Frazier would find consistent time in the middle infield would be because of an injury or promotion. Also, Dan Gamache is still fighting for playing time in the infield while he is hitting extremely well for the Curve.
In case you missed it, Frazier got the game winning RBI on a bases loaded HBP on Friday night in Altoona.