Matt Fraizer: Pirates 2021 Minor League Player Of The Year
Outfielder Matt Fraizer had an impressive full-season debut after waiting out the lost 2020 season.
The 2019 third-round pick out of Arizona led High-A East in batting average (.314), on-base percentage (.401), and slugging (.578). The Pirates promoted him Double-A to finish out the season, where Fraizer continued to hit.
In 112 games for Greensboro and Altoona, Fraizer hit .306/.388/.552 with 23 home runs, 26 doubles and 15 stolen bases.
“It’s tough to top what Matt Fraizer has done this year,” Pirates farm director John Baker said. “Leading a league in every offensive category, being promoted to Double-A, continuing to hit and continuing doing the same things. What a year he’s had.”
Fraizer got to this point after working on some adjustments to his swing during his down time in 2020. He focused on starting earlier in his swing to adjust his contact point with the ball and using his legs more to generate power.
The power showed up. Fraizer's 23 home runs far exceeded his preseason goal.
“I know I’ve always had power,” Fraizer said. “Trying to figure out how to get to it was my key. Coming into the year I had a goal to hit 10 to 15. I think I succeeded that a little bit.”
The adjustments to the swing weren’t a huge overhaul but have led to a noticeably different move to the ball, which Baker feels is an improvement.
“I’ve seen the side-by-side videos of 2019 to now,” Baker said. “That swing was okay, and this one is really good.”
Fraizer entered the season off the top prospect radar, having only shown raw tools, and struggling in his pro debut in 2019. He finished the 2021 season as one of the top outfield prospects in the Pirates’ system.
The 23-year-old Fraizer knows what's next for his development.
“I like to take pride in my outfield,” Fraizer said. “It’s been good, but I think that’s where I might emphasize this offseason to be the best player I can be, a five-tool player.”
— Finishing off a 101-loss season, the Pirates gave their fans a preview of the future, calling up shortstop Oneil Cruz and righthander Roansy Contreras for their MLB debuts. Contreras pitched three shutout innings with four strikeouts in his debut. Cruz played two games, going 3-for-9 at the plate with his first home run—a 408-foot blast on an 80 mph changeup a foot off the ground. The 6-foot-7 Cruz launched the ball with a flick of his wrist from his knee.
— Righthander Adrian Florencio had one of the more impressive pitching seasons in the Pirates’ system. He recorded a 2.46 ERA in 95 innings, with 117 strikeouts and 30 walks for Low-A Bradenton. The 6-foot-6, 205-pound Florencio sits 93-94 mph with his fastball and also throws an 11-to-5 curve in the mid 80s and a sharp slider that is slightly slower than the curve.