With a crowded middle infield situation, Adam Frazier could be the odd man out among the choices. However, the Pittsburgh Pirates have multiple paths to choose when it comes to Frazier’s future with the club.
One of the biggest issues the Pittsburgh Pirates have to face this season is their middle infield situation. Right now, it seems that Adam Frazier and Kevin Newman will have second base and shortstop to themselves, but that could change at a moment’s notice. Cole Tucker is making it hard to send him back to Triple-A, and between Newman and Frazier, Frazier may be the likeliest to lose his starting job.
Now, that’s no knock on Adam, either. Last season, Frazier got his first chance at regular playing time at second base and did solid. In 608 plate appearances Frazier’s batting line included a .278 batting average, .336 on base percentage, and a .417 slugging percentage. Overall, not too impressive, as it was worth just 99 OPS+, and 97 wRC+. However, he did have 33 doubles and he owned the 10th lowest strikeout rate in the Majors (12.3%).
Plus, he’s not that far removed from a much better offensive season. In 2018, Frazier finished the year with a .277/.342/.456 with 10 home runs and 23 doubles in 352 plate appearances. Among second basemen with at least 350 plate appearances, Frazier’s 116 wRC+ ranked 9th at the position. That still outclassed Ozzie Albies, Daniel Murphy, and placed him just below Royals’ All-Star, and back-to-back MLB hit leader Whit Merrifield (119). But the real attraction to Frazier is his defensive ability.
Frazier was a Gold Glove finalist in 2019 and for a good reason. He was responsible for +6 defensive runs save, a 1.6 UZR and 0.8 dWAR. Only two second basemen ranked higher than Frazier in DRS, that being Gold Glove winner Kolten Wong (+19), and Albies (+11). Outs above average put Frazier in the spotlight. He was worth +11 OAA, which tied him with MVP candidate Francisco Lindor, overall, he was in the 97th percentile of OAA.
So, this leads us to what the Pirates should do with Frazier. As stated earlier, Tucker is not making it easy on the Pirates to make a decision. Plus, after Newman posted solid numbers in his rookie season (.800 OPS, 111 OPS+), the Pirates are left at a crossroads.
If the Pirates were to keep Frazier, they would probably move him back to a utility role. This isn’t something Frazier would be unfamiliar with. After all, that was his primary role from his 2016 rookie season up through 2018. Frazier has 878 and two-thirds innings logged in the outfield. His outfield adventures include +7 DRS and -1.2 UZR, but he isn’t limited to just second base and the outfield. Although he has limited major league action at third base and shortstop, Frazier’s primary position coming up through the minors was shortstop. He has nearly 2000 professional innings at the position.
But trading Frazier is absolutely a possibility. The only question is who would be interested at this point? The Oakland A’s initially showed some interest in Frazier at the beginning of the off-season, but they seem content with trying out prospects Franklin Barreto, and Jorge Mateo at the keystone. After all, both of them were once very highly-touted prospects. In 2016, Mateo finished the year as the 18th best prospect in the MLB, and Barreto finished as the 33rd best prospect in the MLB in 2017. However that’s far from their only options. They also have prospect Sheldon Neuse (6th best prospect in their system), and utility man Chad Pinder as two other options up the middle.
The San Diego Padres also created a hole at second base when they traded away top prospect Luis Urias to the Milwaukee Brewers. But then they traded for Jurickson Profar from the A’s, and signed Brian Dozier right before Spring Training started to satisfy their need at second base.
The A’s and Padres were the biggest teams that had a need at second base, but filled it rather quickly. Other teams that have a hole there currently either are not in competition, and wouldn’t trade any prospects for Frazier, or have someone coming up through the system like the White Sox.
Right now, the best option might just be to hold onto Frazier. Even if Frazier is forced back into a utility role, that could change at any time. Outfielder Gregory Polanco is far from the most durable player, and third base will be one of the biggest question marks to open the season. It is not far fetched that Frazier could slide over to third base in 2020 to accommodate for starting time for Tucker. At the deadline, there will be some team desperate for infield help, and that will probably be the best time to trade him if they decide to go down that route.