The Pittsburgh Pirates have had super utilityman Adam Frazier on their 25-man roster since June of 2016. But what role should he play for the Pirates in 2018?
Ever since debuting in the Major Leagues in June of 2016 super utilityman Adam Frazier has become a favorite of many Pirate fans. Since his debut, Frazier has played all three outfield positions, third base, shortstop, and second base for the Pirates. He has also had spurts where he has hit the ball well.
2017 was Adam Frazier’s first full season in the Major Leagues. Frazier finished the season with a strong .344 on-base percentage. However, his .399 slugging percentage left a lot to be desired. This led to Frazier finishing the season as a slightly below league average hitter with a .322 wOBA and a wRC+ of 97.
Following Adam Frazier’s 2017 season a lot of questions have arose about what the Pirates should do with him. Should he play every day? Or should he be a part-time bench player? Should Frazier continue to play in the infield? Or focus solely on being an outfielder?
Well, I’m here to answer these questions!
Many people, including Pirate announcers Greg Brown and John Wehner, think that Adam Frazier has the ability to be a leadoff hitter at the Major League level. There are two problems with this. First off, the only positions Frazier plays well enough defensively to play at every day are the corner outfield spots. Due to what the Pirates have both at the Major League level, as well as at Triple-A Indianapolis in the outfield that will never happen in Pittsburgh.
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Secondly, Adam Frazier has proven to be at his best when he is not playing on a daily basis.
In 2017 Adam Frazier started 53 of the 89 games the Pirates played before the All-Star Break. Frazier missed 18 of the team’s first 89 games due to a stint on the disabled list. This means he started 53 of the 71 games (75 percent) he was eligible for before the All-Star break.
At the All-Star Break, Frazier was having a horrible season. Entering the break Frazier owned a .333 on-base percentage, .353 slugging percentage, a .303 wOBA, and a wRC+ of 85. He was very much so a below league average hitter when playing regularly in 2017.
After the All-Star Break, Adam Frazier made 37 starts for the Pirates in 73 games (51 percent). While playing in a part-time role after the break, Frazier was a much better hitter. After the All-Star Break in 2017 he owned a .360 on-base percentage, .462 slugging percentage, a .349 wOBA, and a wRC+ of 115.
This goes to show that Frazier is best served as a bench player. He is at his best when he gets two or three starts a week, not five or six. The positions that Frazier plays best is a factor as well.
The Pittsburgh Pirates need help at third base in 2018. This help could come from Josh Harrison sliding to third base and someone new playing second base. In theory, that player could be Adam Frazier. However, his defense is unplayably bad at second base.
Frazier owns just a lifetime .948 fielding percentage at second base. He has a -18.4 UZR/150, and -2 defensive runs saved (DRS). Meanwhile, in the OF, his lifetime fielding percentage is .980 and in 2017 it improved all the way to .992. Also, his career DRS in the outfield is +3, as it improved from -2 in 2016 to +5 in 2017.
With how much he has improved as an outfielder, having Frazier should also eliminate the Pirates’ need to add a true fourth outfielder. Frazier has proven he is more than capable of making a start or two a week in the outfield.
During the 2017 season Adam Fraizer also excelled as a pinch hitter. He posted a .458 on-base percentage, a .429 slugging percentage, .396 wOBA, and a 146 wRC+ in 24 plate appearances as a pinch hitter in 2017. He also did not strike out a single time while pinch hitting. Frazier’s success a pinch hitter is yet another reason for him to be a utility bench man in 2018.
In 2018 Adam Frazier’s best role would be that of a utility bench player. While also serving as the Pirates’ fourth outfielder, Frazier should be getting two or three starts a week in 2018 and not playing every day. Because, as 2017 proved, Frazier is at his best when being used in a bench role.