Kevin Gorman: Adam Frazier looks forward to starting at second for Pirates
Adam Frazier has played a handful of positions for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the infield and outfield but was in danger of becoming a jack-of-all-trades and master of none.
Frazier showed he could play second base, shortstop and third base, as well as all three outfield positions but didn’t play any of them effectively enough to earn a starting job.
That was his goal all along.
“I think it helps anybody, coming to the yard every day and knowing where you’re going to be,” Frazier said. “My goal is to play as good as I can and be ready each and every day, give the team all I’ve got and win games.”
After a strong second half last season, Frazier started spring training focused on locking down not one but two spots. He is projected to start at second base and bat leadoff, both positions of need for the Pirates.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, for one, is rooting for Frazier.
“I’d like to see that play out,” Hurdle said. “I’d like to see us keep his legs underneath him, keep him strong, keep him fresh because we can use the offense, especially at the top of the order where he has hit most of his major-league at-bats.”
The Pirates have no other clear-cut candidates to bat first in the order or play second base after they declined to exercise the option on two-time All-Star Josh Harrison. That created a golden opportunity for Frazier, who arrived to Pirate City early to get in extra reps.
After playing so many positions the past two seasons, Frazier wanted to find a home. He discovered it after being sent down to Triple-A Indianapolis in early June, where he settled into second base by working on his hand position and feeds to the bag. Frazier also rediscovered a swing he could repeat, showing some power along with the ability to drive the ball, and he brought that back to the big leagues.
“I was able to hit on a few things that had been, I guess, bouncing around that I wasn’t able to get comfortable at when I was up,” Frazier said. “I worked on a few things, being more aggressive with my hands and my feet, so when I came back up I felt pretty good. I just continued to work and things fell into place.”
Frazier overcame his first-half struggles — he slashed .239/.323./.355 with three home runs and eight RBIs through the first 58 games — with a second-half surge that saw him slash .306/.357/.533 with 20 doubles, seven homers and 27 RBIs in the final 55 games.
“He came back and put a foot down. It was fun to watch,” Hurdle said. “I think he found something that works and he can replicate it. The beauty of it, though, is pitchers saw a whole different Adam Frazier in the second half of the season. They’ll counter-punch. But the workable swing he’s got right now, there is power, there is intent and there is ability to drive the ball. There is no reason for him to make any adjustments right now.”
Nor does Frazier feel the need to make adjustments, especially after batting leadoff 47 times last season (compared to batting second 14 times and fifth once). It’s a spot in the order where he provides some pop and speed on the base paths to set the table for the likes of Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco and Josh Bell.
“It’s something I’ve done for a long time, so I’m comfortable there,” Frazier said. “I moved down in the order last year and didn’t mind it at all because there’s a lot of RBI opportunities. The name of the game is to win. Each day I go out there, wherever I am in the lineup, and the goal is to get a hit, drive somebody in and score more runs than the other team so I’m not really worried where I’m at.”
The greater worry is with his defense as an everyday second baseman, especially with a new double-play partner as Erik Gonzalez and Kevin Newman compete for the starting shortstop job after Jordy Mercer signed with the Detroit Tigers in free agency.
That should be one of the Pirates’ greatest concerns this spring, as there’s no guarantee they will make turning two appear as routine Harrison and Jordy Mercer did over the past five years. But Frazier already feels comfortable with Bell at first and played with Newman at Indy and against Gonzalez in the minors.
“I know I’ve got a lot of work to do, so I’m going to hit the ground running here,” Frazier said. “I’m looking forward to getting after it. What I’m most excited about is just being able to have that focus on one spot and not have to worry about bouncing around.”
Now, Frazier is focused on batting first and starting at second while knowing there isn’t a third thing for him to worry about.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .