Pittsburgh Pirates: A Day in the Life of a Minor Leaguer With Matthew Fraizer
In today’s installment of ‘A Day in the Life of a Minor Leaguer’ I sat down with Pittsburgh Pirates outfield prospect Matthew Fraizer
In my 12th installment of ‘A Day in the Life of a Minor Leaguer,’ I had the pleasure of talking to Pittsburgh Pirates outfield prospect Matt Fraizer. As most of you know, Matt was a third round pick for the Pittsburgh Pirates who possesses high potential.
In order to get a feel for who he was as a person, I asked him to describe who he was off the baseball field. “I’m a big family guy. I have four siblings at home. I’m the middle child, so growing up was a little hectic because either I had practice or my brother had practice, or my sisters had things to do. Baseball has always been a big part of our lives.”
Matt continued, “My dad played for Fresno State and the University of New Mexico. He then got drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 24th round.” For those of you that didn’t know, Matt himself was drafted by the Athletics in 2016 before going to the University of Arizona. “It was a pretty cool experience for a brief moment to get drafted by the same team my dad played for.”
A question I like to ask everyone is who or what drove them to play baseball?
“I’d honestly say my dad. He coached me growing up, and I loved the game as much as him, I’d say. He would coach a travel ball team, and just being around those older guys and him, it really inspired me to be the man I am today. At the same time, he didn’t push baseball on us growing up. He said, don’t play baseball just because I played only play if you love the game.”
People take tidbits from just about anyone in their life, whether they are good or bad, especially from coaches of the past for a ballplayer. So, naturally, I wanted to know who exactly those coaches were.
“I think every coach has had a big impact on my life. Even if it was a little thing, I would always remember that. I think that’s a big part of being an athlete is taking things from each coach, whether small or big.”
As another California kid, I’m sure he saw a ton of talent come through that very fruitful pipeline. So I wanted to know if he looked up to any particular player growing up.
“There is a guy, his name is Luis Ortiz. He got drafted in the first round back in 2014. My dad coached him on his travel ball team and took him in as a father figure. Watching him and following his path to the big leagues that really inspired me. I hope to meet up with him someday in the big leagues and try to get a hit off him.”
Like I stated earlier, Fraizer was originally drafted out of high school in the 38th round. He then went to play for Arizona University and played there until getting drafted in the 3rd round by the Pittsburgh Pirates. So, my question was, what was it like hearing your name called that night?
“To be honest, I was shocked. I honestly thought I was going to go back to college due to my injury. I started out hot, and then I broke my hand, so maybe I should go back to college and get a full year under my belt. I was very grateful to have the Pittsburgh Pirates give me an opportunity to start my professional career. So, yea, I was a bit surprised.”
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He even mentioned that him and his dad were watching the draft, and he dozed off around the third round. His dad then proceeded to wake him and say the Pittsburgh Pirates are about to draft you. “After I heard my name, my phone started to blow up, my mom is a teacher, so she had to get a substitute and then we started celebrating.”
There is an adjustment period for anyone jumping from college to short-season ball in some capacity. I wanted to know if adjusting mentally was an issue at first for Fraizer.
“It definitely was. It’s still the same because it’s baseball, but at the same time, it was a different game going from college to pro ball. Your mindset has to be turned up when you make it to pro ball. In college, every single game is a big game you don’t really have to turn on your competitive edge due to the thousands of fans in the stands. In pro ball, you go out there, and there are some places in pro ball with maybe a hundred people in the stands.”
He mentioned you can find yourself getting lost in the game and go on autopilot mode. “Once I found out that every game matters and I adjusted to that, it was a little easier.”
Like every prospect, your coach will work on specific things with you, whether it is your pitching coach or hitting coach. I wanted to know if the same was true with hitting coach Jonny Tucker and Fraizer.
“Yea, we would always work with different hitting techniques and try some new things. He would always say this is your first year, so just be you, and I want to see what you can do. He’d offer me some tips and tricks, and we would work on those during practice. But most importantly, he wanted me to be me, and we will adjust after.”
Looking over his first year with West Virginia, I noticed he split time between right and center field. I was wondering where he felt the most comfortable out there. “Naturally I’d say center field. I’m really open to any options because I played in right field for a year in college. But I’d say center field is where I feel the most comfortable, and it’s my most natural position.”
Improvement improvement improvement. Everyone has something in their life they want to improve on, so I wanted to know the one thing Fraizer was working on during this extended off-season.
“One biggest thing is I got from the hitting coordinators is to have my contact point out in front. After my short season, I got all the data, and what it said to me is I’m most productive when I hit the ball out in front. I’m really honing in on getting my barrel and my bat head to that contact point.”
In a player’s first year, it’s hard to get a gauge on who they will become in terms of where they will be in the lineup. I asked Fraizer where he sees himself down the line within the lineup.
“I would say I want to be in the middle. Now I don’t see myself hitting 40 bombs a year. I want to be the guy who hits doubles into the power gaps. My main goal is to hit doubles and triples and just make sure I’m getting hits for the team.”
One of the unforeseen aspects of the game itself is the atmosphere within the clubhouse. Last year, Pittsburgh Pirates fans know all too well what the big club’s atmosphere was like with rumors of fights and tension. So I wanted to know how tight knit the West Virginia club was last year.
“I’d say it was close. We didn’t really know each other but knew of each other by playing against each other, growing up, or other things like that. So yea, I’d say we were a pretty close club.”
The conversation drifted more towards workouts and how I’ve heard some guys who played Bob the Builder with homemade gyms and garage power sessions. I wanted to know if Matt has met the same fate. “No, I’ve been blessed to have a gym in our backyard. It’s been nice to have that access in our backyard, especially during this time.”
When I ask questions regarding advanced metrics and stats, I typically reserve them for pitchers, but I felt like I needed to ask Matt how often he looked at those stats. “I try to stay away from the numbers because it can get in your head. If I do start looking at the numbers too much, I could start thinking about that at the plate, and it gets in my head.” This seems to be the consensus with players I talked to. The way to go for them is trusting themselves more than the numbers.
For all of you, Stouffers Mac and Cheese fanatics, I would turn away now because I learned the most essential information of the day here. Matthew Fraizer is a Kraft Mac and Cheese guy all the way! All kidding aside, I enjoyed my time with this young hopeful prospect, and I hope to see him play in full-season ball if there is indeed a season this year.