Matt Fraizer has been one of the biggest risers in the Pirates’ farm system this year.
In early August, he rose to Double-A Altoona after a dominating three-month run at High-A Greensboro.
The 23-year-old outfielder was drafted by the Pirates in the third round in 2019 from Arizona. His pro debut didn’t go well with short-season West Virginia that summer. He hit .221 with a .553 OPS.
Fast forward to 2021, and Fraizer looked like a new hitter. He batted .314/.401/.578 with 20 home runs and 14 stolen bases in 75 games for Greensboro.
The upper levels of the minor leagues are more of a true test of a college hitter’s abilities. With better pitches being thrown in the lower levels of the minors, it might not be the same test it once was.
“If he continues to perform like this, and not go out of his zone, then I don’t think the level necessary matters,” Pirates farm director John Baker said. “Stuff-wise, as we’ve gone around this High-A league, pitching is just flat-out better than it used to be.
“Guys throw harder. They spin it more. The breaking balls are nastier.”
Fraizer worked to adjust his swing during the lost 2020 season. The result has been better plate patience and more in-game power. His new approach allows more time to evaluate a pitch, which could help his swing play at any level.
“There’s just not a lot of movement or counter-movement for him to be able to get ready and generate bat speed,” Baker said. “When you can do that, you have the opportunity to wait longer, and you don’t have to be perfectly on time all the time. That just gives you a better chance in the modern game.”
The Pirates have two long-term outfield spots open in Pittsburgh, and Fraizer could put himself in a discussion for one of them if he has a strong finish to the year in Altoona.
— No. 1 overall pick Henry Davis, a catcher out of Louisville, went 2-for-4 with a home run in his pro debut in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League. Davis signed for an under-slot $6.5 million, with the Pirates using the savings to help land three high school players ranked among the top 40 draft prospects.
— The Pirates were busy at the trade deadline, dealing away second baseman Adam Frazier, lefthander Tyler Anderson and relievers Richard Rodriguez, Clay Holmes and Austin Davis. Among the players coming to Pittsburgh in the deals were top 30 prospects Tucupita Marcano and Carter Bins.
One of the more interesting additions was second baseman Michael Chavis, whom Pirates general manager Ben Cherington drafted for the Red Sox in the first round in 2014. The Pirates added Chavis in a straight-up deal for reliever Austin Davis. Chavis presents an interesting change-of-scenery option to challenge for the second base job in Pittsburgh.