While the Pirates weren’t expected to contend this year, they also weren’t expected to struggle as badly as they have.
Frazier has not struggled.
He has made a name for himself this season, and Pirates fans are understandably optimistic about his value.
Jon Heyman on Adam Frazier via @MLBNetwork : "Right now his value is extremely high … there are a ton of teams that could use an Adam Frazier. To me he's the best infielder likely to be traded."
— John Toperzer (@PiratesTalk) June 22, 2021
But could Frazier’s strong campaign just be lightning in a bottle?
Here are three reasons why the 29-year-old may be becoming overrated this season.
3. His Hot Start In 2021 May Not Be Sustainable
Credit where it’s due: Frazier is working on an extremely solid 2021 season.
But if his track record is any indication, the success may not be sustainable.
Frazier is batting .322 this year with an .839 OPS.
While Frazier has never had much trouble hitting for average, he has never been able to post big OPS marks.
In fact, he has never finished a season with an OPS above .800.
Further, he has finished three of his five full MLB seasons with a below-league-average OPS+.
His struggle isn’t getting on base—he has a career .344 OBP mark—but he rarely hits for power.
I'm a huge Adam Frazier fan. he has a low k rate, a lefty and hits for average.
I feel like he'll be a great fit. And a playoffs bat
But let's be honest. Overall he's a average batter with zero power. He's a Joe Panik… Not a savior https://t.co/kqq9Tozr86
— @realBoShek (@realboshek) June 4, 2021
Frazier has never left the yard more than 10 times in a year.
This season, he uncharacteristically leads the National League with 23 doubles.
That’s a 54-double pace, a number that would blow his previous career-best of 33 out of the water.
All of those doubles have helped him to a .451 slugging mark, which will likely not stick around beyond this season.
2. This Season Aside, Value Statistics Don’t Like Him
Over the first five seasons of Frazier’s career, he accumulated just 7.2 WAR.
To be fair, many of those seasons were abbreviated campaigns for one reason or another, so the best way to present this data is on an adjusted scale, like this: Per 650 plate appearances, Frazier averaged 2.7 WAR from 2016 to 2020.
There’s obviously nothing wrong with being a net positive—a 2.7 mark is just fine—but that is a number that is typically right in line with an average MLB player.
Nothing more, nothing less.
But again, to give credit where it’s due, Frazier is on pace for an extremely solid 4.7 WAR this season.
It just doesn’t seem likely that he’ll be able to replicate it again.
1. He Rarely Makes Solid Contract
Of 128 qualified players, Frazier has the second-worst barrel rate in all of baseball, according to Baseball Savant.
A barrel is defined as a batted ball with an exit velocity of at least 98 miles per hour and a launch angle between 26-30 degrees (although acceptable launch angles vary depending on the exit velocity).
Why are barrels important?
Well, since barrels were first tracked in 2015, batters have enjoyed a batting average of .500 or better and a slugging percentage of 1.500 or better on barreled balls.
Check out MLB.com for more on that.
Frazier has barreled the ball in just 0.7 percent of his plate appearances in 2021.
That’s an alarmingly low rate.
It’s also further evidence that his 23 doubles this season have largely been a product of luck and not hard contact.
While Frazier deserves credit for his 2021 so far, it may be a fluke.