Top 50 Prospects #5 - Kevin Frandsen

Kevin Frandsen was a 2004 mid-round pick, a defensive stud with little power or offensive projection who suffered and injury in his first pro year. Now he is a mainstay on Giants Top 10 lists, and likely to make his Major League debut sometime in 2006. What happened? Promotions, an MVP award, cycles, an All-Star Futures Game appearance, game winning home runs and a league championship. In other words, 2005 happened.

Date of Birth: 05/24/1982 Position: 2B Height: 6'0" Weight: 175 Bats: R Throws: R
Acquired: Drafted in the 12th Round (#370 Overall) of the 2004 Draft
2005 Stats
San Jose - High A .351 .429 .467 .897 291 57 102 22 3 2 40 26 22 13 11
Norwich - AA .287 .336 .395 .731 129 22 37 8 0 2 20 4 14 7 3
Fresno - AAA .351 .378 .543 .920 94 18 33 10 1 2 16 2 5 1 1
Mesa - AFL .266 .326 .367 .693 79 8 21 3 1 1 12 2 7 2 0

Perhaps no prospect in the Giants organization garnered more chatter or discussion than Kevin Frandsen.  Maybe that was because of his meteoric rise from High-A San Jose to AAA Fresno, but it might also be because no one saw him coming.  Which is hard to do, because this kid seems to want to do everything.

Well, maybe not everything.  Felipe Alou called him ‘like Matt Cain as a position player,’ which is an exaggeration even for Frandsen’s biggest fans.  Frandsen is not burdened with overwhelming tools, and may not even end up with average power.  What he is, is an infielder with a great contact bat and above average speed and defense.  But there’s something else.  He’s got that intangible, that thing that’ll make him the most popular player on the team even if he’s not a superstar.  He’s the next Robby Thompson, or Rich Aurilia

What you get in Frandsen is a kid who’s going to work harder than anyone to make it as a Giant. "To have 'San Francisco' across my chest, that's my goal. I want to be a San Francisco Giant more than anything,” Frandsen says.  Frandsen grew up in the South Bay, the son of Leland High’s basketball coach.  And like a coach’s son should, he always worked hard.  He was a two-way football player at Bellarmine High School, playing both wide receiver and cornerback.  At San Jose State, he not only was a star second baseman, but was voted the WAC’s best defensive third baseman in his junior year of 2003.

Still, most prospect hounds don’t expect much out of a 12th round pick who has little projectionable power.  He had a solid pro debut at Salem-Keizer in 2004, batting .296 in 25 games before a collarbone injury ended his year.  Expectations couldn’t have been lower from observers for the then 22 year old second baseman.  But then something happened, and that something was 2005.

He was a non-roster invitee to spring training, and despite appearing in only 10 games, became a team favorite by going 4 for 11 with 2 walks and no strikeouts.  That helped him earn a push up to San Jose, skipping Low-A and playing on the same field that he played on in college with the San Jose State Spartans.  On familiar turf, he only hit .351 in 75 games, walking 26 times to only 22 strikeouts.  He became only the 2nd San Jose Giant in history to hit for the cycle, and represented the Giants at the All-Star Futures game in Detroit, filling in for the injured Marcus Sanders.  He was promoted to AA Norwich, where after a slow start he came on strong to hit .287, then got promoted to Fresno, where he hit .351 again, and despite being there for only 20 games, still managed to hit a 3 run, 12th inning game winning home run for the Grizzlies, in what would become their last win of the year.  Despite only playing in San Jose for half the season, he was named a Co-MVP with Eddy Martinez-Esteve.

Surprisingly, that wasn’t the end of his year.  After San Jose made the playoffs, he was informed he wouldn’t be rejoining them.  Still, he went to manager Lenn Sakata and asked if he could workout with the team, and Sakata agreed.  Less than 24 hours before Game 1 of the playoffs, the team learned that Martinez-Esteve would miss the postseason with a foot injury, and called up Frandsen to ask him to play.

Frandsen only managed to tie a franchise record for hits in a playoff game (4) in the first game of the playoffs with such short notice. He also ended up scoring the run that won the California League championship for the San Jose Giants.

The Arizona Fall League season was tougher, and Frandsen had problems with his batting average dipping to .179, but like in Norwich, he made adjustments and raised his hitting by nearly .100 points in the last few games.

His versatility and ability to make adjustments are his biggest strengths.  Although Frandsen played 2nd most of the season, he made a few appearances at shortstop during the year and a couple back at third in the AFL.  General Manager Brian Sabean indicated that Frandsen will be given more time at those positions this year.  At the plate, Frandsen is a scrappy, smart hitter.  He doesn’t have the best batspeed and certainly will never develop major power, but he finds ways to get on base when it’s needed most.  He’s also a smart hitter, one who can adjust to pitchers and will adjust what he does to fill a need or fix a problem.  He’s not afraid to take one for the team, as he collected 23 HBP’s during the regular season, and got more in spring training and the playoffs.  In fact, when he scored the championship winning run, he got on base by getting hit by a pitch.  He plays very strong defense and has enough speed to be a threat on the basepaths, where he had 21 steals in 2005.

Now Frandsen is a regular on Giants Top 10 lists, and everyone agrees he has a future in the major leagues, perhaps as soon as this season.  But he’s not perfect just yet.  Although he’ll never have the power to be a truly accepted everyday third baseman, that shouldn’t be a worry since he has a better future in the middle infield.  However, without power, he needs to focus on his ability to take walks to make better use of his contact skills and speed.  Although he walked more than struck out in A-ball, that was as much a facet of having such low strikeout numbers as anything.  He only had 6 walks in 232 plate appearances at AA and AAA, though much of that may be having not enough time to adjust to the new leagues and pitchers.

Defensively, there’s a need for him to learn the type of lesson a new quarterback in the NFL has to learn, and that is when to eat the ball or go for a safe play instead of forcing the spectacular one.  Every now and then, he’d try to force an incredible play, but ended up not getting an out or taking an error.  But that’s a lesson that he’ll learn with more experience, so it’s not a big worry.

Long-term, there’s a lot of questions about where Frandsen will end up.  Ray Durham’s contract is up after 2006, so there’s an opening, but Frandsen can also play third, even without the ideal power, and the third base market is shallower for the 2007 season.  Omar Vizquel will also need a backup at shortstop.  Will Frandsen be given a chance to start, or will be a utility player?  If he ends up in the middle infield, there may be conflicts with talented prospect Marcus Sanders beyond 2007.

But short-term, it’s likely Frandsen will be back in Fresno starting instead of being a utility player in the majors, despite some people saying he’s got a shot.  With Jose Vizcaino on the roster and Angel Chavez around, Frandsen will get more out of playing in Fresno.  However, if Frandsen picks up where he left off and something happens to Ray Durham, Vizquel or Pedro Feliz, don’t be surprised if the Giants give Frandsen the first crack to be their replacement.

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