Name: Evan Frey
Draft: 10th Round, 2007
Weight: 170 lbs
History: In his 2007 professional debut, Evan Frey exhibited no power, only decent pitch recognition, and poor base stealing instincts. The fact that he was able to bat over .300 at Yakima and cover a lot of ground in the outfield was overshadowed by all of the things that he could not do. Frey barely cracked the FutureBacks Fifty last April based on these deficiencies.
Statistics Courtesy of The Baseball Cube
It just so happens that this little outfielder from the University of Missouri is extremely self-aware and coachable. He worked hard on his weaknesses last winter to make himself a more well-rounded player. For one thing, Frey realizes that the days where a centerfielder could get by without any power are over.
"In the offseason, I worked out a lot and tried to build up my strength," explained Frey. "Instead of hitting it to the outfielders, I'm hitting it to the gaps so that it can shoot through."
That approach allowed Frey to string together a 23-game hitting streak at South Bend. Shortly after being selected to the Midwest League All-Star team, Frey earned his promotion to Visalia, where he finally cracked some home run power after a slow start.
"Whenever I moved up to the Cal League, it took me a bit to get adjusted." Frey admitted. "It probably took me 40-50 at-bats to get adjusted to the pitching. The pitching was different; I saw a lot of offspeed."
After a successful campaign in the California League, Frey was named to the Phoenix Desert Dogs' Fall League roster as the Diamondbacks' only farmhand there who had no Double-A experience. Nevertheless, Frey more than held his own in the AFL, capping a .288 batting average campaign with a three-RBI performance in the Dogs' title-clinching victory.
Frey has proven that he can hit advanced pitching and hit with some authority, but he has also improved the stronger points of his game. Frey knows what his strengths are and how to use them to best help his team win and advance as a prospect.
Batting and Power: "I think that's going to be my main goal throughout my career: to set the table," said the sage Frey. "My main goal is to get on base, make the defense think about me a little bit, and score a lot of runs for our team."
The weight lifting and increased power will aid Frey in getting on base, because pitchers will be less likely to throw him first pitch strikes, allowing Frey to work the count and continue to draw walks at higher levels.
"I tell you, he's a battler," raved Mark Haley, Frey's manager at South Bend. "He's got a definite plan: he knows what he wants to do, and goes out there and does it. He can play the small game, but we're in the situation where we develop hitters. The days when a guy could bunt two or three times in a game are kind of obsolete now. Nowadays, you've got to be able to drive the ball. And he can do it."
Of course, Frey is improving as a bunter and drawing more walks. He could hit homers if he tried to, but he understands that a contact-oriented swing is best for him to be able to put the ball in play and utilize his good speed.
Base Running and Speed: Frey stole bases at just a 57% clip in 2007 as compared to 69% in 2008, including the Fall League. The really impressive part of this improvement is that he also increased the number of swipes from 23 to 43.
Again, he is far from the swiftest player in the organization, but he is possibly the smartest base stealer and almost certainly the best base runner. His 11 triples ranked second in the organization only to Tim Raines. His professional ratio of 20 triples to 35 doubles (including the AFL) paint the picture of someone who is always running hard and looking to take the extra base.
"He's a good runner," said Haley. "He's got what we call usable speed; he knows how to use it and when to use it."
Defense: Frey uses his speed well on defense, for sure. Not only does he run well, but he takes straight paths to the baseball, positions himself intelligently for each batter, and makes the play once he gets there. He is known for making the spectacular play, but only after an all-out hustle to get there, never to showboat.
His arm is more surprising. The little guy has a strong, accurate gun that has caught several base runners off-guard. He's nailed 14 runners in just over a major league season's worth of games in center, a total that would have led all major league centerfielders last year. In fact, only two big leaguers threw out more than six from centerfield.
"We worked a lot [on defense] in the Instructional League last year," noted Frey. "I learned a lot from [outfield coordinator] Brett Butler. He's helped me a lot with different ways to think about the game."
Major League Clone: Dave Roberts
Prediction: Frey's path to the majors will be as a reserve outfielder who pinch runs and plays great defense. This is partly due to Frey's skill set and partly due to the Diamondbacks' extensive outfield depth. But here's predicting that the D-backs quickly realize that players with Frey's table-setting and defensive abilities are hard to come by and that Frey is the best man to lead off for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Frey even handles southpaws better than he does right-handers, so there is little reason to platoon him.
ETA: The only thing preventing Frey from being a September callup next year is the fact that the club does not need to protect him on the 40-man roster until the 2010 Rule 5 draft. Expect Frey to split time between Reno and Phoenix in 2010 and challenge for an outfield spot in 2011.
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