Fryer Hitting Stride, Ripping SAL Pitching

Former Ohio State catcher and 2007 10th round draft pick Eric Fryer has made the transition to the outfield as he and West Virginia zoomed to the top of the South Atlantic League standings.

A light didn't suddenly flash on or anything. Eric Fryer kept the same approach, one that focused on a workmanlike attitude, and his hitting stroke began to pay dividends.

The former Ohio State University standout and 2007 10th round Milwaukee draft pick batted .209 with three homers and 19 RBIs at Rookie League Helena last year and was sitting at .269 on June 12 this year.

But the 6-foot-2-inch, 215-pounder has been terrorizing South Atlantic League pitchers ever since, so it's no coincidence that West Virginia, the Brewers' Lower Class A squad, has used him as a springboard.

Fryer is among the league leaders in nearly every offensive category, while the Power have gone 21-7 since his tear began and sit atop the Northern Division second-half standings.

"Last year I was getting used to the system and the longer season," Fryer said of his 43-game campaign in Helena. "I wasn't comfortable and tried different approaches and never really hit my stride. But right out of spring training this year, I've kept the same approach of just trying to put the ball in play, and things have been falling into place.

Don't fault Fryer, batting .372 during his last 10 contests through July 15, for making such an understatement.

He was hitting .352, .425 against southpaws and .335 versus right-handers, with 16 doubles, four triples, six homers and 37 RBIs. That translated into .410 and .549 on-base and slugging percentages, respectively, and a .960 OPS. And don't forget about his 11 stolen bases in 13 attempts.

Fryer, who played in two NCAA tournaments in three seasons with the Buckeyes, highlighted his hot stretch with a 5-for-5 effort July 6 that featured three doubles and six RBIs.

"That started with a broken-bat double to left field, then a line drive to right-center and a chopper down the left-field line," he said of the three straight two-baggers to start his perfect day. "I'm just seeing the ball and putting it in play with runners on base."

It's been a remarkable performance considering he's made the switch from full-time catching duties to mostly playing left field. The transition has created peaks and valleys, but Fryer has embraced the move because he knows that increased versatility should keep him climbing the organizational ladder.

"I've been a catcher since Little League, although I did play occasionally in the outfield in high school and college to get a break," Fryer said. "I like catching because you kinda run the show and it's easier to stay in the game because sometimes in the outfield I won't even get a ball hit to me, and you have more time to worry about previous at-bats and things. So, playing out there you really have to be ready.

"I'm not sure what their plan is for me, whether I'll be catching, playing the outfield or first base," added Fryer, who spent the first few weeks of the season in extended spring training to learn his new craft. "I prefer catching, but I'm prepared to do whatever they have in mind. And the nice thing about it is that I'm not limited to one position."

Flexibility and versatility often create opportunities, whether it's in the Milwaukee system or elsewhere. Fryer and his Power teammates have seen the business side of baseball firsthand because relief pitcher Rob Bryson was one of the three minor leaguers who were shipped to Cleveland in the CC Sabathia trade, and a fourth prospect will be the "player to be named later."

"There was a lot of speculation and names flying around, so we didn't know what to expect," said Fryer, who rooms with infielder Steffan Wilson and outfielder Curt Rindal. "Rob was a teammate, and I got to know Matt LaPorta last year during spring training. I think it was cool to be involved in a big-name trade like that."

Meanwhile, Fryer is happy where he's at and simply wants to continue progressing and hopefully help West Virginia reach the postseason.

"This organization treats us well and the player development system is awesome because they have a plan and a vision," Fryer said. "My goal this year was to be at West Virginia and be a starter. It helped to get off to a good start, which takes some of the pressure off. This is definitely where I wanted to be, and we're in first place and that's much better than having to play catch-up."

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