Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: 5 Breakout Seasons From 2021

Sep 29, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Roansy Contreras (59) delivers a pitch in his major league debut against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 29, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Roansy Contreras (59) delivers a pitch in his major league debut against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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BRADENTON, FLORIDA – MARCH 22: A detail of the 2021 MLB Grapefruit league logo during a spring training game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Baltimore Orioles on March 22, 2021 at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

No. 2 – outfielder Matthew Fraizer

You can’t talk about big breakout seasons in the minor leagues without talking about Matthew Fraizer. The outfielder was drafted in the third round of the 2019 draft. Fraizer only had a .553 OPS in his first taste of big-league action, but his 2021 season would be a huge step forward.

Fraizer collected 499 total plate appearances between High-A Greensboro and Double-A Altoona. Between the two levels, he batted .306/.388/.552 with 23 long balls, a .402 wOBA, and 149 wRC+. Fraizer’s biggest breakout was in the power department. He had a very high home run total with a .218 isolated slugging percentage. He wasn’t an all-or-nothing batter either. He had a solid 21.6% strikeout rate while walking at a healthy 11.2% mark.

The outfielder is also fast. Speed was one of his strong suits when the Pirates drafted him. With a lot fewer ground balls, more balls put in the air, and overall put in play, it’s easy to see why he had a fantastic season.

Fraizer’s big breakout campaign potentially puts him on the map as a potential player that could take over an outfield spot next season. Though he’s mainly played center field so far in his young professional career, he has plenty of experience in both corner outfield spots. Next year will be his age-24 campaign. He has a good shot of starting the season at Triple-A Indianapolis and so long as he stays healthy and his performance doesn’t fall off a cliff, he could be an early-season call-up if either Anthony Alford or Ben Gamle struggle. With Travis Swaggerty also a potential early-season call-up, the Pittsburgh Pirates should have a formidable outfield during 2022 with some combination of Fraizer, Swaggerty, and Bryan Reynolds.

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