Matthew Fraizer Continues To Mash In Altoona

Baker Bowl (aka National League Park, Philadelphia Park or Philadelphia Base Ball Grounds/Park) was home to the Philadelphia Phillies of the National League from April 30, 1887 until it closed its gates on June 30, 1938. Unofficially though, many used the term “Bandbox”-a compact cardboard box designed to hold a hat-to describe the stadium, where it was seen as much easier for players to hit homers due to its outfield dimensions.

In recent years this moniker has been bestowed upon present day Major League Baseball Stadiums, such as Toronto’s Rogers Centre (the Skydome) and Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park.

For reference, the dimensions of each of these stadiums are as as follows:

Credit to Andrew G. Clem for his amazing illustrations of these, and many other stadiums. Please visit his site http://www.andrewclem.com/Baseball/index.html to see his collection. As a side note, I have gotten lost looking at ballparks past and present on this great site.

Now, Mr. Clem has also completed diagrams of several Minor League Ballparks, but unfortunately the Greensboro Grasshoppers’ First National Bank Field; however if he did, it would fit everyone, with the exception of the original “Bandbox” of the Baker Bowl-the true rectangular shaped hat holder, with its 281 foot right field line. But with a 60 foot fence I might add.

First National Ball Park is 315 ft to left, 365ft to the left-center power alley, 400 ft to straight away center, 362 ft to left-center and 312 ft down the right field line; a true power hitter’s dream. And actually a dream stadium for any ball player, who can get a little bit of lift on their swing.

Related to me by several Minor League Players over the years, in the old-timey label of “Bandbox, or simply as a fly ball pitchers nightmare-where almost any routine pop-up could find its way out of the park-I have been extremely cautious not to overvalue the potentially inflated numbers of the Pirates Minor Leaguers, who have passed through Greensboro over the past couple of seasons. This doesn’t mean that everyone’s power is consistently painted with a rose colored brush inside the friendly home confines of the Grasshoppers, I just want see it continue as the move on up to Altoona, or Bradenton in 2019, before I get too excited about the potential.

This cautious optimism was no different with the latest Pirates power hitter to have Guilford on his hat, Matthew Fraizer.

Fraizer had been selected by the Pirates in the 3rd Round (95th Overall) of the 2019 MLB June Amateur Draft out of the University of Arizona. Prior to this Fraizer’s draft stock had taken a little bit of hit, as his Junior Season came to an end due to a broken hamate bone, suffered from simply swinging the bat in the Wild Cats’ 19th game that year. At the time Fraizer was by far Arizona’s most dominate player by slashing .412/.452/.565, although he was not known for his power; hitting only one homer that year and two the previous season.

In his first season of professional ball, Frazier found himself in Morgantown with the West Virginia Black Bears, where he struggled mightily to the tune of a .221 AVG, with a little over a handful of doubles (6) in 43 games and 171 plate appearances.

Given the benefit of the doubt due to his hamate injury, there was a lot for Fraizer to prove to himself and the new Pirates regime in 2020; which once again, as it was with so many Minor Leaguers-including the subject of my most recent prospect article, Blake Sabol-the year came and went with no place for him to put his hard work on display.

Then came 2021, with a placement with the new High-A Greensboro Grasshoppers; and in honesty for me it was make it or break it for the young man, who had since turned 22 and then 23 years old during the layoff.

So, what did Matthew Fraizer do? He broke out. In 75 games and 350 plate appearances, Fraizer slashed .314/.401/.578 with a ridiculous 20 homers; but more importantly for me his K rate hung around 21%, while his BB rose to 12.3%. He was seeing the ball like he had back in Tucson; with a patient approach he always possessed to hopefully go along with some new found power. At the same time, as I said before, I am being cautious with this optimism.

In comparison to Fraizer, 2019’s breakout power hitter, Mason Martin-also in Greensboro-hit 23 homers in only 5 more plate appearances, with 12 more coming in his 201 in Bradenton. This season he has hit 19 absolute bombs in 340, as his pace has slowed tremendously. Over his last 74 plate appearances, since July 24th, Martin does not have a single home run. He has also struck out 25 times and walked only 9 (12.1%); which is technically an improvement over his season average of 8.5%, but I digress.

These concerns I have about Martin are obviously not exactly parallel to those I potentially have about Fraizer because the plate discipline isn’t even necessarily comparable. With Fraizer is all about maintaining the power. However, if he doesn’t it isn’t the end of the world either. It would simply modify the projection the newly promoted member of the Altoona Curve; who in the smallest of small sample sizes (7 games), has hit .423 with a 1.231 OPS and 6 extra base hits; including this oppo-taco, so there is still some hope that the power surge is real.

Published by Craig W. Toth

Former Contributing Author at InsidethePirates.com, Co-Host of the Bucs in the Basement Podcast and life-long/diehard Pittsburgh Pirates Fan!

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