A look at what Adam Frazier could add for the Orioles

As infielder/outfielder Adam Frazier joins the Orioles this year after signing a one-year deal for $8 million in December, which player on offense will the club be getting? The player that was above average in 2021 when he was a National League All-Star, or the player that was below average last season?

Or maybe the stats meet somewhere in the middle.

In 2021, over 639 plate appearances between Pittsburgh and San Diego, Frazier hit .305/.368/.411/.779 with 36 doubles, five triples, five homers, 43 RBIs, 10 steals and 83 runs scored.

But over 602 plate appearances for Seattle, which made the postseason in 2022, the 31-year-old lefty hitter batted .238/.301/.311/.612 with 22 doubles, four triples, three homers, 42 RBIs, 11 steals and 61 runs.

Big difference in that Frazier’s OPS+ was 114 in 2021 and just 80, or 20 percent below league average, last season. Frazier has a career .728 OPS, which produces an OPS+ of 99, or just about at league average for his career.

We still don’t know exactly how the Orioles will use Frazier. Is he going to be a regular at second base? Will he platoon at times with Ramón Urías? Will he get the occasional outfield start?

“I think I can provide a lot of things for the Orioles,” Frazier said in a Zoom call with O's reporters last month. “An exciting young team. I think everybody got a glimpse of that (last) year. I was just looking at the roster and I’m second-oldest now, so that’s exciting for myself. I got a little taste of being able to be that veteran-type guy in Seattle, and a lot of the same kind of qualities in that team as Baltimore has.

“It’s a lot of fun for me coming from the outside just watching them and playing against them, the excitement that they have, and the energy they brought each and every night. Looking forward to that and hitting the ground running.”

We know Frazier will not hit many homers and we know his average exit velocities will likely be among the lowest in baseball. But overall numbers closer to his 2021 season, when he produced a combined 41 doubles and triples, could be productive for the Orioles, and he is likely to bat toward the bottom of the order.

But we also know that Frazier is among the best contact hitters in the game and doesn’t strike out much. The major league average K rate for a batter is 22.3, and his K rate was 10.8 in 2021 and 12.1 last season. That would have easily been the best contact rate on last season’s O’s club. Among the 10 Birds with 200 or more plate appearances last season, Adley Rutschman, at 18.3, had the lowest K rate.

As the Orioles search for more offense this coming season, the elimination of shifts could help add a few points in batting average for a player that needs to keep the ball on the ground more than most. Also, his batting average on balls in play was a robust .339 during his strong 2021 season, and his BABIP was just .268 last summer. That was below the .290 American League average. Maybe his final number here finds middle ground this year, and that helps on the stat sheet.

In 2021, when Frazier made the 2021 National League All-Star team, in the 89 games before the break he hit .330/.397/.463. For his career, Frazier has hit .279 with a .749 OPS against right-handed pitching only, and maybe manager Brandon Hyde will look to limit his exposure to lefties. He had an OPS of just .576 against southpaws last year.

When Frazier talked to O's reporters earlier, he mentioned letting the Baltimore hitting coaches take a look at his 2022 season and see what help they can give him for next season. He's already got some of his own thoughts on that.

“Really just trying to get connected with the lower half and the top half again,” he said. “I felt like after spring training last season I couldn’t get the feeling of using the ground as my friend and driving down into it, so just trying to get that connected again and simplifying a few things and not trying to do too much, using the whole field again." 

Frazier brings solid defense and defensive versatility to the club. Last year he played in parts of 124 games at second base and 21 in right field, 16 in left field, four at shortstop and two in center field. He basically can play six positions between infield and outfield. 

For his career of 643 major league games on defense, he has started 515 times at second base, 88 in left field and 28 in right field.

For his career, Defensive Runs Saved, Ultimate Zone Rating and Outs Above Average have all been metrics where he has fared well, especially at second base and left field. He ranked in the top 10 percent in the majors last year in Outs Above Average and top 27 percent in 2021. He was twice a Gold Glove finalist (2019 and 2020) at second base.

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