Ryan Frith started the off-season by taking some time off. Then, it was into a workout routine with trainer Carl Frank, which added 20 pounds of muscle to Frith's frame. "I think it (the added muscle) will help my game overall and make me more durable," said Frith, who was taking a timeout from the batting cage to talk. Certainly, the added muscle will add to his power game and Frith doesn't see any downside to his new physique. "I haven't lost any speed and I feel better and stronger, so I don't think there's been any downside," said Frith.
Since Frith is the kind of player who is never satisfied with the results, it's not surprising that he's worked so hard during the off-season. "I think it's just part of what you have to do. You always have to get better and adjust to situations and where you're at in your career," stressed the 23 year old. "I'm just never really satisfied with how I'm doing."
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Acquired: Drafted by the Phillies in the 17th round of the 2004 Draft out of the University of Southern Mississippi.
Batting and Power: Frith's new muscle should help him build on his homerun totals from his first two seasons. Even without the added muscle, Frith would have been likely to put up even more homeruns, but the new muscle almost guarantees it. "I should be able to drive balls better to center and right field," explained Frith. In 2004, Frith finished second in the New York - Penn League with 11 homeruns. Power isn't the most important change that Frith looks for though in 2006. "I need to cut down on my strikeouts," he explained. "I never liked to strike out a lot. So far, the Phillies have been pretty forgiving because I've been hitting some homeruns, but being more disciplined at the plate will help everything." Better discipline at the plate should help Frith to close the gap between his walks and strikeouts and being more selective should help push his average and power numbers higher. One thing is for sure, left-handers should fear Frith. He hit .333 (33-for-99) against lefties in 2005, versus .247 (74-for-300) against righties.
Baserunning and Speed: "I haven't lost any speed," said Frith when talking about his added muscle. Frith is surprisingly fast and knows how to steal bases. He's stolen 21 bases in his first two seasons and while that's not the biggest part of his game, Frith definitely helps himself and his team with his speed. He's aggressive on the basepaths and looks to turn singles into doubles the second he starts to move toward first base. Of course, with added power, a lot of those doubles could be going over outfield walls and not just rolling to them.
Defense: Frith's defensive skills showed definite improvement in 2005 and it's something that he's worked hard on. Nobody figures on Frith to win a Gold Glove, but he's got average to above average outfield skills and instincts. His arm isn't the strongest, but at least it's accurate.
Projection: Without a doubt, it's going to be interesting to watch Ryan Frith in 2006. He should be at Clearwater to start the season. His 2005 numbers were good, but if you take away his dismal August (1 HR, 3 RBI, .173 AVG), his numbers would have been much better, with his season average sitting at .292 without the August swoon. If his durability increases the way Frith figures it should, this could be a much bigger season for Frith. Throughout his career, Frith has struggled with hitting breaking pitches and he's going to see a healthier diet of them as he moves up the ladder. The good thing is that Frith realizes his shortcomings and is taking steps to adjust and correct them.
ETA: Let's see how Frith does once he hits the AA level where many prospects start to fall apart. For now though, he appears ahead of where we thought he would be last season and could get a late 2008 audition. If he stumbles a little along the way, which wouldn't be out of the question for most prospects to do, then his major league target could get pushed back a little. Of course, if Frith improves the way he figures he can this season, he could get there a little quicker.
Comparison: There is little doubt that if he continues to adjust, Frith could become a right-handed version of Chase Utley. His power may wind up being a little less than Utley, but all the necessary tools are there for Frith to succeed. It's interesting that earlier in his career, Utley made adjustments to strike out less and was also touted as not being as good defensively as he eventually wound up being. It's possible that we'll be saying the same things about Ryan Frith a few years down the road.