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40 in 25: Adam Frazier

No wasted motion in the swing, no trouble getting hits in the bigs.

MLB: San Diego Padres at San Francisco Giants Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

What he has done is hit.

Every discussion of Adam Frazier has begun and ended there, whether or not more was interjected around that core truth. As a Mississippi State Bulldog in the shadow of slugging future first rounder Hunter Renfroe, Frazier was a secondary consideration. The 5’10, 185 lbs infielder did not crack a single home run in his three year collegiate career. The Pittsburgh Pirates took enough interest in the then-shortstop to take him in the sixth round in 2013. There are many players with Frazier’s profile taken at this points in the draft. Donovan Walton, Chris Taylor, Mike Salvatore, Drew Jackson - some names you may recall, some names you may not, all taken in the same range as Frazier in nearby seasons. Clubs need infielders to fill their rosters, and Frazier, for all his limited power, could play all over the field.

What he has done is hit.

In a collection of nearly 20 lists from different sources in 2014, not one had Adam Frazier within their top prospects. Whether the list stretched to 10 or 30, he was an afterthought, and did little to allay that concern as a 22 year old in High-A Bradenton. Though he did club his first home run in five years, there was just the one, and there was a lot less of everything else that had made Frazier successful. His average dropped to .252, his slugging barely eclipsing his on-base percentage. This is the ledge that halts careers. Scrawny infielders with contact swings stop being able to make enough contact or do enough damage against superior pitching. And yet Pittsburgh challenged Frazier again, pushing him straight through to Double-A Altoona in 2015 despite his struggles. He ran a .324/.384/.416 line with TWO whole home runs, covering both middle infield spots and some center field. He’s never been back.

What he has done is hit.

By the time Frazier made the bigs, he’d ticked onto prospect radars nominally, entering some Top-20 or Top-30 rankings for the Pirates, though never approaching his college teammate Renfroe’s heights of Top-50 prospect rankings nationally. Frazier was a year late for the fun Pirates, the 2013-2015 club that made three straight playoff trips, including a 98-win 2015 relegated to a Wild Card loss. His MLB career has featured just one winning season, an 82-79 campaign in 2018 balanced out by utter desolation over the past three campaigns. Spraying singles and blooping doubles, he’s carved a career 103 wRC+ on his .281/.344/.412 line. He hasn’t played shortstop since 2017, but his handiwork at the keystone has drawn positive grades year after year. As rare as Frazier’s aversion to strikeouts is (just 12.9% rate for his career), it’s similarly impressive that he walks as often as he does (7.4% for his career) given his lack of power. As Pittsburgh’s rebuild sank deeper into a morass, Frazier donned his rubber boots and kept trudging forward.

What he has done is hit.

2021 took a peculiar turn for Frazier, as despite the destitution of his club, he turned in a star performance. The lone All-Star for the Pirates was nonetheless a worthy selection, earning his freedom from the floundering Buccos to attempt to steady the teetering San Diego Padres near the trade deadline. Frazier’s numbers slipped in his final third of a season, yet nothing deeply worrisome stood out. A few more hits caught here or there, a reversal of fortune from a gilded first half. The balance remained a steady, average hitter with a steady, above-average set of gloves, good for infield and outfield alike. Frazier’s 2021 was a career year, and the Seattle Mariners have taken on faith that he can give them one more year of excellence. The M’s will ask plenty of Frazier, with him likely slated for the lion’s share of second base time, across the bag from his kindred spirit, at least in overall profile: J.P. Crawford. May the glove flips and bloop hits rain down all summer like a March afternoon in Seattle.