A year ago, righthander Luis Frias’ future was looking up. It also might have been pointing toward the bullpen. His secondary stuff needed work. His command could be erratic. His weight was a concern.
But after an impressive 2019 season in which he reached low Class A Kane County, Frias faces fewer questions. He improved his curveball and developed a split-changeup. He began repeating his delivery more consistently. He also took his conditioning more seriously.
Frias, who has always had an electric fastball that regularly reaches the upper 90s, logged a 2.83 ERA with 101 strikeouts in 76.1 innings between short-season Hillsboro and Kane County. He still has a ways to go, but it has become much easier to envision him in a major league rotation.
“When he pitched, every single guy in the league looked overmatched,” Hillsboro manager Javier Colina said. “He was the best pitcher in the Northwest League, no doubt.”
Colina credited Frias for his work ethic, mentality and dedication. He also credited Hillsboro pitching coach Barry Enright. In spring training, Enright suggested Frias change his breaking ball grip to a spike-curveball.
Enright also helped the 21-year-old Frias transition from a traditional changeup to a split-change grip. While it might not be a plus pitch at the moment, it’s a clear third offering.
“It’s just a change of speed,” Enright said, “so hitters aren’t always seeing a breaking ball and a hard fastball.
“A lot of guys, until this year, saw him more as a reliever because he didn’t have that third pitch. Now that he has that third pitch, it being so new and him having such a good feel for it and him being able to pick things up relatively quick, I think he has, on the low end, the (upside) of a No. 3 starter. He has the arm of a No. 1 starter.”
Frias, 21, has put on more than 40 pounds since the D-backs originally signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 2015. His weight had started to become a concern within the organization. But unlike last year, when he got as high as 252 pounds, Frias spent most of this season in the 235 range.
— Catcher/outfielder Daulton Varsho and righthander Josh Green were named the organization’s player and pitcher of the year, respectively. Varsho hit .301/.378/.520, leading the Double-A Southern League with an .899 OPS. Green had a 2.71 ERA in 126.1 innings between high Class A Visalia and Double-A Jackson.
— After missing the final two months of the season with an ankle injury, outfielder Jake McCarthy returned to action in the Arizona Fall League and got off to a nice start, going 10-for-27 (.370) with three doubles, a triple and four stolen bases.