2021 is going to be an enormous year for Boston College and their baseball program. It’s looking very likely this will be the most talented team ever fielded in school history. And that team will be led by Lexington, Mass. native Sal Frelick.
At 5-foot-9, 180 pounds, Frelick isn’t the most physically imposing player on the diamond, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in grit, intensity, and firecracker highlight reel talent on the field.
A middle-infielder by trade, Frelick has seen his versatility grow during his time in Chestnut Hill. He’s spent time at second base and shortstop, whilst also roaming center and right field for the Eagles. Frelick draws massively high marks for his work ethic and desire to be great. He’s a vocal and physical leader in the clubhouse, and would almost certainly be a healthy addition to any team culture seeking greatness.
Frelick plays the game with immense energy and bravado. It’s not quite to Eric Byrnes Reckless Abandon™ levels, but it’s not too terribly far off either. He’s the sort of athlete and competitor that will help your team on both sides of the field, as well as off the field too. He’s an “in the trenches” type grinder that appeals to his peers and coaches.
In essence, Jay Buhner would love him.
Boston College isn’t a college baseball powerhouse. They’re not a program that sends players to the big leagues, or even gets players drafted on a regular basis. In fact, the last Eagle drafted at all into the big leagues was Justin Dunn in 2016. Pretty stunning considering there’s ordinarily 40 rounds in each draft -- 2020 an outlier.
Frelick anchors what figures to be a handful of future pros on this years roster. Middle-infielder Cody Morissette and starting pitcher Mason Pelio are both also in the first round discussion. The program has had ten players drafted in its entire history. Granted, five of those have been first round picks, but this is an unprecedented year for the program.
Frelick has been a staple at the top of Boston College’s lineup for two seasons now. In 2019, as a true freshman, Frelick started 38 games. He’d slash .367/.447/.513 with four homers and 18 stolen bases. He walked more times (22) than he struck out (16). Equally as important for a young player, he didn’t commit a single error.
An abbreviated 15-game sophomore campaign resulted in a .241/.380/.414 line with two more dingers and seven more stolen bases. Again, he drew more free passes (11) than he punched out (6). Again, he didn’t commit an error.
54 collegiate games under his belt and Frelick is a .322/.428/.486 hitter with 26 stolen bases and zero errors to his name. He’s walked 33 times and struck out just 22 times in 208 at-bats. Not bad. Music to Jerry Dipoto’s ears.
This summer, without a Cape Cod League, Frelick took his talents to Futures Collegiate Baseball League, playing for the North Shore Navigators. He’d play in 35 games, slashing .361/.438/.594 with seven homers. He stole 22 bags and, you guessed it, walked more than he struck out. And again, zero errors to boot.
The track record is plenty impressive, and it’s the type of advanced approach at the plate that will garner scouts’ attention.
TOOLS (Future Value)
Frelick has a simple, quiet approach at the plate with a minimal toe-tap and almost non-existant stride. He relies heavily on his core and shoulders to produce torque, dragging the bat head through the zone. Frelick works primarily up the middle in into the left-centerfield gap where he finds plenty of extra base hits.
This summer, he actually flirted with eliminating the toe tap and stride all-together at times, instead solely using a weight shift mechanism to get into the ball and slash it into the gaps.
I doubt this sort of operation will play at the big league level against truly advanced stuff, but it’s interesting nonetheless to see him tinkering with his swing in a manner to, presumably, find more contact at the cost of abandoning some pull-side power.
It’s a really simple bat path, aimed toward producing line drives up the middle and into the gaps. There have been instances where Frelick gets heat at the letters that he hasn’t been able to turn on, instead stiffening up and driving the ball into the dirt. Regardless, the kid has some really quick-twitch, explosive hands that should work well as he gets comfortable with big league pitching.
Despite his diminutive frame, Frelick has a bat that really packs a punch thanks to the aforementioned hands and core strength speed. He hasn’t been a power hitter just yet at the collegiate level, but some of his physical marks lead me to believe he’s going to tap into some pretty usable power at the big league level.
Most of the punch as it currently stands is pull-side. The homers he’s hit when turning and burning on a pitch have been prodigious shots. The bat speed itself is undeniable.
He’ll probably never have the raw power to muscle balls out opposite field, but I do think there’s 15-20 home run potential in this bat, buoyed by a mature hitter who puts himself into favorable counts and swings at ‘his’ pitches. He’ll probably need to add a little more leg kick and/or stride to juice up the ball more regularly, but it’s in the tank. He can induce a good bit of punch into the ball when he keeps that front shoulder tucked and his lead arm cocked.
Frelick hit a ball 108.1 mph in 2020. That’s good for one of the Top 100 hardest hit balls in all of college baseball last season. Statistically, that’s 92nd percentile juice. That, from a 5-foot-9, 180 pounder. The kid can clean up.
Frelick is a double-plus runner who will undoubtedly be a nightmare on the bases. Not only is the speed real, his instincts on the base paths and route running ability in the field allow the tool to seemingly play up a tick. Not only that, it’s supreme athleticism and a body teams should rest assured will age and project well into a pro career.
This is what 3.98 speed home-to-first looks like -- comfortably 70-grade legs. He clocked a 6.60 60-yard dash time in high school too, which would be a shade above plus. I think Frelick is getting faster as he’s putting on good weight, and that should lend well as he gets into a professional nutrition and player development program at the next level.
This is where things get a little sticky. Frelick is a solid defender. He’s played most of his games in right field for the Eagles, though most scouts believe his final destination in the grass will be in centerfield. The speed, the route running ability, the instincts and reckless abandon... it all speaks to a plus defender in centerfield at the next level. Did I mentioned he’s yet to record an error since arriving to campus?
But Frelick is a natural second baseman too. And frankly, the bat profiles just as well at second base as it does in centerfield. Maybe he ends up a jack-of-all-trades type player who rovers all over the diamond, filling a team’s daily need to spell someone off the lineup card. Who knows. Regardless of where he ends up, he’ll be a really nice addition, and his versatility is certainly more of a boon than a crutch.
Ok, one more...
Frelick has a good arm that should be strong at second base or in centerfield. It’s less useable in right field or at shortstop, but is plenty strong enough to make the routine plays if called upon.
The arm action itself is plenty athletic and long, so I wouldn’t worry about regression so long as the bill of health holds true.
I think Sal Frelick’s greatest attribute is his versatility, as well as some of the extraneous characteristics that lend well to a big league clubhouse. He’s an accomplished hitter at the plate, and this type of profile can serve as a firecracker at the top of a big league lineup sooner rather than later.
I view the player as an Adam Eaton type of contributor. Not only will he provide some spark with the stick and in the grass, but he’s the type of glue an organization needs when pushing for pennants. I had another evaluator throw a Brian Roberts comparison on Frelick and I don’t hate that either.
Frelick will likely need to showcase some of that burgeoning power to insert himself into the conversation at pick no. 12, but he’s a pretty good bet to go on day one.