Ryan Frith is a player with natural power and solid baseball skills. Unfortunately, he also has some holes in his game that the Phillies will work on. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to success is hitting the breaking ball. Throughout his baseball career in high school and college - and now in the minors - Frith has struggled against pitchers with a good breaking ball. Possibly because he's aware of how much he struggles, he seems to try to compensate and it affects his plate discipline, leading to a lot of strikeouts. The upside is that if a pitcher makes a mistake against Frith, he'll pay for it by watching Frith hit the ball well. Actually, Frith downplayed his expectations when he talked to PhillyBaseballNews.com last August. "I've hit more homeruns than I thought that I would," remarked Frith. "I actually tried to keep my expectations low, because I knew there would be an adjustment period."
Frith's lack of success in hitting breaking pitches should get better. If anything, Frith has the mentality to work on learning the true art of hitting and he will take instruction well. The rest will be up to him and when you consider the raw talent that he's shown, it's likely that he'll be able to adjust. One of the things that the Phillies liked most about Frith when they drafted him is that he has a pretty rare combination of talent and the willingness to work hard to get better. Many young players are content to rest on their laurels. Frith wants to get better and better each season and he'll do what it takes to succeed.
One other thing that the Phillies hope will happen is that Frith will fill out a little more. He's a little on the thin side, but through training regimens he can fill out and develop more muscle on his frame.
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Acquired: The Phillies drafted Frith out of the University of Southern Mississippi in the 17th round of the 2004 Draft.
Batting and Power: The raw power and talent is there. Frith came within one homerun of tying the USM record for homeruns in a single season in his senior year. A lot is made of Frith's strikeouts, but if he cuts down on those, he has the potential to become an awesome offensive force. Many scout like to look at a player's doubles early in their careers to determine future success. Frith had 11 doubles at Batavia, finishing third on the club in doubles in 2004.
Baserunning and Speed: One of the things that people overlook when talking about Ryan Frith is his speed. He's not going to set land speed records, but he stole 13 bases at Batavia and swiping bases could well become a part of his game. Frith is one of those guys who doesn't always get the fastest start, but once he gets going, he's an above average runner and will make opposing defensive players stay on their toes because he'll take an extra base if they nap at all.
Defense: Frith has good to above average defensive skills. Again, he doesn't always get a great jump on balls, but when he gets going, he generally makes up for his first few strides being a little sluggish. His arm is also above average and is accurate. Frith is very athletic and can make all the plays necessary to be a strong right fielder. He also continues to work on his defense, but doesn't need as much work as he does offensively.
Projection: The Phillies are likely to assign Frith to Lakewood for 2005. He's a smart enough kid and has progressed well enough to continue to develop while playing for a full-season team and doesn't need to be held back in extended spring training. Long-term, how far Frith goes will depend on what adjustments he can make at the plate. As he moves up the ladder, he'll see better and better breaking pitches, so he needs to adjust now and likely again down the road.
ETA: It's likely that Frith will need a little more than a full season at each level, particularly when he reaches the AA and AAA levels. Because of that, he may not be a factor for major league consideration until 2010 at the earliest.
Comparison: There would be a good comparison to David Bell if Frith had better plate discipline. It's not out of the question that Frith could become a player much like Bell in that he plays hard and won't necessarily put up huge numbers, but will be consistent and solid.