As a former big league manager with the Indians, San Angelo skipper Doc Edwards has a pretty good idea of what kind of player he’s looking for when he heads to a tryout camp.
But he can’t take credit for finding Bryan Frichter.
Edwards had to miss the United League’s tryout camp in 2008 because he was having a cancer in his lower lip removed. San Angelo general manager Mike Babcock went in his place. Before Babcock left, Edwards told the GM to find Alexandria manager Ricky Van Asselberg at the camp.
“He knows what kind of players I like,” Edwards said.
Not long after the workouts started, Van Asselberg walked up to Babcock, pointed to Frichter and said: “Pick him, that’s one Doc will like.”
If only all scouting could be so simple. Van Asselberg’s tip has paid off incredibly well for San Angelo. Frichter went on to win the United League’s rookie of the year last year as a hot-hitting right fielder with one of the league’s best outfield arms. This season he’s on track to win the league’s MVP award after making a move to the infield.
He’s hitting an otherworldly .440/.491/.700 (44-for-100). The United League is a hitters’ league where a .300 average isn’t anything special, but Frichter’s numbers stand out—he was hitting 73 points better than anyone else in the league.
He also leads the league in runs scored (26) and stolen bases (16 in 17 tries) while ranking in the top five in on-base percentage (.491), slugging percentage (.700), extra-base hits (14), home runs (five) and RBIs (24).
“I just enjoy hitting with a wood bat,” said Frichter. “It fits how I hit. I stay inside the ball well. I like to use the right side of the field.”
Hitting has never really been a problem for Frichter. He hit .319/.403/.425 in his senior year at Southeastern Louisiana and .349/.410/.564 last year as a United League rookie. The one season he struggled was in 2006 as a junior with the Lions, but that .257/.317/.380 season carries some explanation—his family’s house in Chalmette, La., had been flooded by Hurricane Katrina and much of his family had been uprooted to Houston. Although he doesn’t give it as an excuse, Frichter spent much of that year bouncing back and forth between home and college.
And after moving to third base (he’s also played some at second), he is also helping his chances of getting signed by an affiliated club. Frichter was a shortstop when he headed to college, but an elbow injury during his freshman year helped lead to a move to the outfield. The arm bounced back last year in San Angelo, which gave Edwards an idea.
Frichter’s quick hands at the plate and strong arm are his best assets, but as a 5-foot-11 right fielder, Frichter didn’t really fit the profile teams are looking for from a corner outfielder. As a third baseman, he’s a much better fit.
“We started getting ideas when he said he played shortstop in high school and college,” Edwards said. “To see his arm get back to what it was last year, we finally said we’ll give him a shot in the infield. I didn’t want to have him go all the way to shortstop, but in retrospect maybe it wouldn’t have been a problem. Lot of people probably rolled their eyes then (when we moved him), but no one is rolling the eyes now.
“He’s a big league third baseman right now. He can make all the plays. He has tremendous range. He can make every play. And when he has to turn it loose it looks like the runners are running in water.”
An opposing manager said Frichter’s hands are quick enough to hit any fastball in the United League, but he’s also shown the ability to make adjustments and handle offspeed stuff as well. Although third base seems to be his best fit, he also showed solid range at second base in a stint early this season.
• Frichter isn’t the only hitter starring in the United League. Amarillo first baseman Trent Lockwood was second in the league with a .367 average, although the argument could be made that he’s having an even better year offensively than Frichter. Lockwood hit .378/.434/.687 for Texas-San Antonio as a junior and .340/.443/.693 as a senior last year. He went undrafted as teams worried whether his metal bat power would translate to wood.
That has not been a problem as Lockwood is making a clear bid for United League rookie of the year honors. He led the league with eight home runs, and was fourth in on-base percentage (.434), first in slugging percentage (.733) and first in extra-base hits.
• The Northern League all-star game ended up as a 5-5 tie as the teams remained deadlocked after 10 innings. Joliet first baseman Freddie Thon was named the game’s MVP thanks to his 2-for-5 night with two RBIs.
• Kris Regas signed with the Tigers in the offseason but failed to make it out of spring training. Now he’s getting a second chance. After going 2-0, 1.19 with 15 saves for Sioux Falls, Regas re-signed with the Tigers in early June. Regas, 29, converted 45 of 47 save opportunities in two years with the Canaries.
• Patience has paid off for Southern Maryland shortstop Travis Garcia. A 21st-round pick of the Mets in 2003, Garcia was released in 2005 and latched on with the Frontier League’s Chillicothe Paints, where he quickly turned into one of the league’s best hitters. He earned a spot on Baseball America’s first-ever Independent League top prospects list, but it took a move to the Atlantic League and the Blue Crabs to finally get another shot at affiliated ball. The Mariners signed him after he hit .338/.362/.543 for Southern Maryland. At the time of his signing, Garcia was third in the league in batting average, third in home runs (12), second in RBIs (53), first in hits (91) and third in slugging percentage (.543).
• Rockford’s Jason James broke the Frontier League record for the longest hitting streak when he reached on an infield single on July 7. That hit extended his hitting streak to 33 games, which is the league’s best for a single season. James was still chasing the combined record of 35, set by Kevin Holt during the 1996 and 1997 seasons. James easily leads the Frontier League (and all indy leagues) with a .443 average. Pichi Balet holds the Frontier League record for batting average with a .405 average in 2002. Hitting for a high average is nothing new for James—he hit .350/.396/.542 for Rockford in 2008, finishing second in the Frontier League batting race to teammate Joe Anthonsen.
• The Liberty Division defeated the Freedom Division 7-5 in the Atlantic League all-star game. Southern Maryland second baseman Mike Just was named the game’s MVP thanks to his 2-for-5 night with two runs scored, two RBIs and a stolen base. Long Island’s Bill Simas picked up the win with 12/3 scoreless innings. Newark’s Armando Benitez gave up four runs on five hits in one inning to take the loss.