Minor league report: Versatile Frazier sees opportunity in Altoona
In April, while he rehabbed a hand injury he suffered during spring training, Adam Frazier began to ponder how he would adapt to life as an outfielder.
At no point in his baseball career, including youth games, had he occupied a non-infield position. He defined himself as a middle infielder. Yet little fear of failure struck Frazier.
Open-mindedness paid off for the 23-year-old Mississippi State product, a sixth-round pick in the 2013 draft. Able to move to different spots on the diamond when he joined Double-A Altoona in early May, Frazier raised his value in a farm system with several promising shortstops and second basemen.
His .834 on-base plus slugging percentage through Friday certainly helps, too.
“The more positions you can play, the better your chances are of getting to the show,” Frazier said. “We've sent like 12 guys to Triple-A so far, so it speaks volumes about our program and our organization and how they prepare guys. But I just take it day by day. You play your best, and that opportunity will come. But you've got to be patient.”
A frustrating 2014 season with High-A Bradenton provided Frazier some perspective. After a laudable first year in the Pirates organization — he had a .761 OPS in 2013 in short season-A — Frazier discovered how much fatigue factors into performance during a full season of pro baseball.
Frazier batted .252 with a .616 OPS during a season in which he made 117 starts at shortstop.
“It really opened my eyes to what goes into this,” Frazier said. “Coming into my first offseason after I had played baseball for four months in a row (in 2013), I'd never done that before, so I didn't know how to prepare myself or how to go about it. … I learned a lot. It was pretty humbling.”
He developed a more thorough offseason training regimen after his year with Bradenton.
He entered his second spring training camp with a concrete idea of the toll a six-month season takes on the body. But his positional fate became more fluid than at any point in his life.
“I was pretty skeptical at first, but you get out there, and it's not bad,” Frazier said. “There's not as much responsibility as there is with middle infield. ... It's going well. Probably better than I expected it to, having never played outfield before.”
He's still a middle infielder at heart. And he still gets time there — he made 29 starts at shortstop, 24 in center field, two in left field and one at third base through Friday for Altoona.
But Frazier recognizes he needs to find a way to differentiate himself from former Curve teammates Gift Ngoepe and Dan Gamache, two infielders who moved up to Triple-A Indianapolis earlier this season to join top middle infield prospect and Pirates 40-man roster member Alen Hanson. He's also cognizant of Max Moroff, Altoona's second baseman and one of the team's best bats.
“You help each other get through (the minors),” Frazier said of the Pirates' abundance of promising infielders. “It's not a bad thing. And it's not something you really worry about.”