The Pittsburgh Pirates had a disappointing 2016 season. As the off-season begins, it is time to grade out the club. Today we look at a surprising prospect in Adam Frazier

After just 299 plate appearances at Triple-A, the Pittsburgh Pirates called up Adam Frazier on June 24th.

By the time the season was over, Frazier had all but sewn up an inside track to a spot on the 2017 Opening Day roster. He did this primarily through versatility and strong plate discipline. His strengths were many, his warts were few. Here now is a complete look at his 2016 season.

Success Despite Relative Inexperience

Frazier’s call up was a surprise to many, but not to those that followed the Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor league system closely. Our own Jaime Baker had this to say about Frazier back on June 13th:

A name you may not be very familiar with in Indianapolis is Adam Frazier. Frazier not only leads the team in batting average, but tops the entire International League with a .338 BA. Frazier finished second last year in the Eastern League with a .324 average. Not to mention, in 49 game appearances, Frazier only has one error this season.

Frazier stepped right in and acclimated himself very well to Major League pitching despite collecting just 299 plate appearances iwth Triple-A Indianapolis. The Pittsburgh Pirates typically like to see around 500 or so trips to the plate at Indy, so for Frazier to be considered “major league ready” so quickly is a rather large tally in the ‘plus’ column that cannot be ignored.

I wrote about Frazier’s strong play in the season’s waning days, and not much had changed. Below is a table from that post:

Frazier Vs MLB Average

 SwStrZoneContactHard-HitLine Drive
Frazier7.7%50.6%85.1%34.7%33.3%
MLB Avg.10.1%44.8%78.3%31.5%20.7%

Those stats were compiled on September 6th, and the final tallies are not far off from those numbers. Frazier stepped right into the major leagues and became a very disciplined hitter, almost immediately. That is incredibly impressive for any rookie, much less one with the small amount of time at Triple-A.

That is not to say that there aren’t holes in his game, however.

Power Outage

There was a resurgence in power across MLB this season. The average number of home runs per game in 2016 – 1.17 – matched the total in 2000, the near-height of the “steroid era.” With stronger disciplinary systems in place for PED usage, this new trend is a legitimate one, and it leaves low-power teams such as the Pittsburgh Pirates, who ranked 26th in all of baseball with 153 round-trippers, at a growing disadvantage.

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Frazier is never going to be confused with a power hitter, but his two home runs in 160 plate appearances could be a red flag. That red flag is magnified if the Pirates feel – as do many – that Frazier can be an important bench bat in 2017. His three home runs against 357 total plate appearances in the minors shows that this was to be expected. For what Frazier was asked to do in 2016, this was a non-issue.

With an expanded role looming in 2017, however, many would like to see a little more pop from Frazier. His 23.1 percent fly ball rate ranks second-to-last among Pittsburgh Pirates with at least 50 plate appearances in 2016, second only to David Freese.

It is also entirely fair to wonder if Frazier had himself a “lucky season.” His .356 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is 52 points above the National League rate. His hard-hit rate of 33.4 percent shows that this may not be a fluke, but still something to keep an eye on.

Some Defensive Concerns

In addition to his patient bat, defensive versatility helped keep Frazier in the Major Leagues.

Frazier played all three outfield spots – with a short cameo of three innings in centerfield – as well as second base and third base during 2016. It was at second base that Frazier saw the most trouble, with three of his six errors coming at the keystone. His total defensive runs save in 2016 across all positions clocked in at -2, a rating that that Pittsburgh Pirates absolutely cannot live with. This is especially apparent with the team’s stated desire to re-emphasize run prevention.

Conclusion and Final Grade

The Pittsburgh Pirates found a solid complementary player in Adam Frazier..

frazier-grade

His patience at the plate, despite just 299 plate appearances at Triple-A, is to be applauded. Chiefly due to this fact, I have given Frazier a ‘B’ grade for his debut season. I am fully confident that his defensive abilities will only improve with more innings as well as a full offseason with the big league club. His lack of power is a concern, but there is a better than average chance he could develop 10-12 home run power. For what the Pittsburgh Pirates will ask of him, that would be more than acceptable.

What Grade would you give Frazier?

You’ve heard our take, now let us know how YOU feel. Hop over to twitter and vote in our poll.

For a complete listing of past entries in our 2016 Gradeouts series, CLICK HERE.

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Jason Rollison

Jason Rollison has been analyzing baseball and the Pirates in one way or another for 4+ years. Jason's previous stops include rumbunter.com, Pittsburgh Sporting News, Call To The Pen and several print publications. He also covers the State College Spikes for the Centre County Gazette (State College, PA) When it comes to analyzing baseball, he likes to take a middle-of-the-road approach, with one foot on the analytics side of the fence and the other on the old-school side. Having said that, he is a sucker for pitchf/x. Jason has appeared as a phone-in and in-studio guests in numerous outlets, including Trib Live Radio and 93.7 The Fan (CBS Sports Radio)