BRENT STECKER

Mariners Breakdown: What you need to know about 2B Adam Frazier

Nov 28, 2021, 2:53 PM | Updated: 10:52 pm
Mariners Adam Frazier...
Adam Frazier celebrates a home run against the Kansas City Royals on Sept. 12, 2020. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

The first big move of the Mariners offseason came with Saturday’s trade between the M’s and San Diego Padres that brings All-Star second baseman Adam Frazier to Seattle.

M’s get Frazier for prospects | Drayer: All options still on table for M’s after Frazier trade

So what do Mariners fans need to know about Frazier? Here’s a close look at somebody who should play a key role in 2022.

Frazier at a glance

Let’s start with the basics.

Frazier, who will turn 30 on Dec. 14, is a Georgia native who starred in college for the Diamond Dogs at Mississippi State. He was named MVP of the SEC Tournament as a sophomore in 2012, then led the NCAA with 107 hits as a junior in 2013, which also broke the Mississippi State single-season record.

After the Pittsburgh Pirates took Frazier in the sixth round of the 2013 MLB Draft, he just kept on hitting in the minors leagues, posting an average over .300 at every stop except one (High-A Bradenton in 2014) before making his MLB debut with the Pirates in 2016.

A left-handed hitter listed at 5 foot 10 and 185 pounds, Frazier was a solid and consistent presence over his first five seasons in the big leagues. He broke out in 2021, however, hitting .324 with a .388 on-base percentage, .836 OPS, 28 doubles, four triples, four homers and five stolen bases over 98 games with the Pirates, earning his first All-Star selection along the way.

His performance also caught the attention of the San Diego Padres, who beat out the Mariners (more on that in a minute) and other teams to acquire him on July 26 just a few days ahead of the MLB trade deadline.

Frazier’s San Diego tenure didn’t go as smoothly as the Padres had hoped for, as he slashed .267/.327/.355 for a .662 OPS in 57 games, but he still finished 2021 with several career-high numbers including average (.305, 11th in MLB), OBP (.368, 20th), doubles (36, tied for 13th), steals (10), and walks (48).

As things stand now, the Mariners have Frazier under contract through just 2022, which is his last season of arbitration eligibility. MLB Trade Rumors estimates that he will make $7.2 million in 2021.

On Mariners’ radar for “quite some time”

During a video call with reporters on Saturday, Mariners general manager/president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto was asked how long back the team’s interest in Frazier goes. Dipoto said he has “been on our radar for quite some time,” and it turns out that pretty much dates all the way back to what was Dipoto’s first year with Seattle and Frazier’s debut season in the big leagues.

“Oh, probably (since) 2016 or ’17,” Dipoto answered. “He’s one of those players, like when we talked this summer about Abraham Toro or like we’ve talked in the past about Ty France, with this type of skill set we usually gravitate toward this type of player pretty early in their careers. And you know, when Adam graduated to the big leagues with the Pirates back in ’16, it was pretty evident that he did the things that we really value.”

What Dipoto was pointing to as the thread that connects Toro, France and Frazier is their bat-to-ball skills, which keeps their strikeout numbers down. Frazier is certainly elite in that regard, having struck out just 315 times in 2,443 career plate appearances and no more than 75 times in a single season, so it makes sense that a team that preaches controlling the strike zone would keep trying to acquire him.

“Adam to me is one of the better strike zone managers in baseball. He’s got great contact skill,” Dipoto said. “In an era where strikeouts are prevalent, he doesn’t strikeout. His strikeout rates would be good in any era, really. He uses the field, he makes contact, he draws about an average-ish walk rate. And that combination of events with the ability to hit for a high average, which he’s generally done as a major league player, results in significant on-base skills.”

And as alluded to in the previous section, this wasn’t the first time in 2021 the Mariners tried to trade for Frazier.

“We were at the goal line to acquire Adam at the trade deadline last year. Obviously we missed out, (but) we stayed in touch with the Padres as we headed into the offseason knowing that they had a pretty robust roster,” Dipoto said. “We just like the player so we stuck with it through the GM meetings in San Diego up until yesterday when we finally were able to agree on players and push it across.”

Positional flexibility

While Frazier has spent the majority of his MLB career manning second base (437 appearances), he’s no stranger to the outfield, especially left field where he has started 79 games and appeared in 112.

Frazier was a shortstop in college and started there in the minors, but outfield was actually his main position in Triple-A and his first two seasons with the Pirates. It wasn’t until 2018 that he became Pittsburgh’s primary second baseman, and the fact that Frazier has moved around the field is a big part of the Mariners’ plans for him – provided they are able to acquire the big infield bat they’re after in free agency (who now definitively won’t be Marcus Semien).

“He can play second, he can touch third, he can play both left and right. That just gives us so much flexibility in what we do with the other players,” Dipoto said. ” … We felt like adding Adam made us a deeper team without stopping us from doing anything else we would have wanted to do, which is double the fun. We can continue to add to our team because Adam is so versatile.

“… He has great acumen for the game, and if you can line that up with the ability to play multiple positions – and excel at multiple positions – we feel like that gives us a more complete roster than we had yesterday, which was the goal.”

Frazier himself is open to playing wherever the Mariners think he can make the most impact, as you can hear in the video below from his session with reporters on Saturday.

But if Frazier ends up being Seattle’s primary second baseman in 2022, that’s OK, too.

“He’s a very good defender at second base,” Dipoto said.

He hits all over the place

Even though Frazier isn’t known for hitting the ball over the fence much – he has 40 homers over six MLB seasons – he hits it just about everywhere inside the park.

Watch the video of highlights at this link from the first half of his 2021 season and you’ll see how he’s very comfortable going the other way. For a more precise look, check out his 2021 spray chart in the top right-hand corner from Baseball Savant here, which is full of singles to the left side and doubles both down the line and to the left-center field gap.

He’s pretty good at yanking the ball to right for extra bases, too, which you can see (plus a few nice defensive plays at second) in the video below.

After seeing those highlights, I get the feeling he’ll hit a few more homers than usual by virtue of playing his home games in 2022 at T-Mobile Park, which has a short porch in right field similar to Pittsburgh’s PNC Park but without the extra hurdle that is the 21-foot Clemente Wall.

You also might notice that Frazier hits the ball pretty similarly to Mariners shortstop and leadoff hitter J.P. Crawford, and there are numbers to back that up, as Prospect Insider’s Luke Arkins explained in a post of his own Saturday. Read that here.

Frazier is likely to join Crawford as a 1-2 punch at the top of the Mariners’ lineup, and Dipoto believes that’s going to help Seattle score a lot more runs next season.

“If you take Adam’s on-base skills and you take Ty France’s on-base skills, we’ve talked about the consistent growth we’ve seen in J.P. and his ability to get on-base, and you keep putting players out there on the base paths – Toro is another who’s got great bat-to-ball skill and does get on base – that gives players like Mitch (Haniger), like Jarred Kelenic, like Kyle Lewis the ability to go clean it up,” Dipoto said. “And the more traffic we can create, the better.”

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