Matt Fraizer is the Pirates Prospects 2021 Breakout Prospect of the Year

“Fraizer comes with questions about his bat…”

That was the introduction to Matt Fraizer’s profile in the 10th Anniversary Prospect Guide coming into this season.

That certainly doesn’t seem to be the case after Fraizer’s 2021 season.

Fraizer spent the 2020 season working on adjustments to his swing, which we’ve detailed before on the site. His focus was on his contact point, staying balanced as a hitter, and staying more true to the ball.

The results led to Fraizer leading the High-A East league in average (.314), OBP (.401), and slugging (.578). He moved up to Altoona by the end of the season and hit for an .848 OPS. Between the two levels combined, he hit 23 home runs. The overall performance makes Matt Fraizer the 2021 Pirates Prospects Breakout Prospect of the Year.

The changes from Fraizer came about during the lost 2020 season, after a meeting with the Pirates.

“They sat me down and said you need to be in your legs a little more, be a little more athletic, and be able to use the strong legs you have,” Fraizer said. “Finding out what stance and what fits best for me personally, we found that out. Also, my contact point, just starting a little bit earlier and making the adjustment where I’m trying to hit the ball. And then if I have a little bit of room for error, I can still hit the ball the other way.”

Fraizer was drafted in the third round in 2019 under the old front office, though his development has largely been with coaches who remained in the system. He’s worked with hitting coordinator Kevin Young, along with hitting coaches Jon Nunnally and Jonny Tucker.

The adjustments to his swing have left Fraizer in a better position to react to breaking pitches. This led to the growingly rare combination of power production, without sacrificing batting average.

“I feel like my swing is very short and very repeatable,” Fraizer said. “I don’t need much adjustment. There’s a lot of room for error, where I don’t have to be perfectly on-time. I feel like that definitely helps me, where if I’m a little bit late or a little bit early, I’m able to recognize the ball a little bit with my swing.”

The next stage of Fraizer’s development will come this offseason, as he works on his outfield defense. Fraizer will focus on getting a better first jump, route efficiency, and a better running form. He will do this at home over the offseason, fielding fly balls with a local group of players during live batting practice.

“I feel like my defense may be par this year, but I feel I can definitely play a lot better,” Fraizer said. “I’m going to make sure I work on that each year.”

The Pirates have two long-term outfield spots open in Pittsburgh, and Fraizer’s breakout season has put him among the top prospects in the upper levels to contend for one of those spots. With the recent way the Pirates have been aggressive promoting upper level prospects, it’s not out of the question to think we could see Fraizer in Pittsburgh at some point in 2022.

Previous Winners

2020: No Season

2019: Tahnaj Thomas

2018: Oneil Cruz

2017: Jordan Luplow

2016: Mitch Keller

2015: Yeudy Garcia

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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