Under the Radar prospects: Garrett Frechette
He's a sweet swinging guy!
Photo Credit: The Scouting News
When Jim Callis was on my podcast, he told the story of his continuing efforts to get Garrett Frechette onto the backend of his Giants Top 30 prospect ranking. Frechette was a player Callis really liked coming into the 2019 draft, and several times over the last couple of years he had just managed to sneak Frechette in at the #30 spot in MLB Pipeline’s team ranking when the Giants would go and acquire some new prospect (a Dany Jimenez Rule 5 pick here, a Luis Basabe deal there) and knock Frechette back off the list again. MLB’s ranking for the 2021 season isn’t quite out yet, so no telling if Frechette earns an inclusion this year or not, but so far this is a perfectly apt summation of Garrett Frechette’s prospect status: interesting enough to merit consideration but not quite so interesting as to force his way into your attention.
So let’s dig in on the 2019 5th round pick and find out what makes him such an almost-but-not-quite-but-quite-possibly-in-the-near-future-you’ll-be-excited-about-him kind of guy!
Frechette, who grew up in the San Diego area, has spent much of his teenaged life in the travel ball and showcase circuit that defines the “sandlot to pro” baseball pipeline in the United States. If you check out his profile page at Perfect Game (an organization that runs a lot of the prestige youth baseball showcases in the country), you can find him taking part in 17U, 16U, 15U tournaments going back to his Junior High School days. This is a kid who was on scouts’ radars as a very young teenager.
And throughout those teenaged years, his scouting reports were consistent: tall, very projectible, loose, handsy left-handed swing, with an expectation that he would grow into the power that his frame suggested. He seems to have been over 6’ tall from a young age and possessed the classic “swing to dream on.” Scouts almost universally praised the looseness of the swing that seemed to cover the zone well and was geared for some pull side impact from early on, as well as the bat speed. In fact, metrics covering bat speed at his showcase events invariably placed him in the >90% of the players in his class. He’s almost always graded out exceptionally well in terms of his pure bat speed at impact, hand speed, and time of bat to impact, often in the 96-99% range.
Interestingly though, his exit velocity metrics didn’t tend to rate as highly as the bat speed did, and over the years there have been some scouts that groused that he was more impressive in batting practice sessions than in actual games. Still, the teenager was an impressive looking young player.
Still, as you can hear from the clip above, Frechette had plenty of enthusiastic supporters who loved the projectibility of his classic, left-handed stroke. And there were certainly several events where he starred during the game, as for instance, the 2017 Memorial Day Classic at Camelback Ranch, where he took away the tournament MVP award (that’s the Dodgers’ spring training home, so hopefully that’s not a bad omen!).
As Frechette prepared for his draft year, however, he wanted to boost his profile into the upper echelon of his High School class, so he transferred to a Southern California prep baseball power, Orange Lutheran, a perennial top-ranked team in the state and country that was the prep breeding ground of Gerrit Cole, among others. There, Frechette hoped to showcase his game skills against the best competition in his class. Almost immediately, things started going wrong. He hurt his hamstring in the fall and that injury was quickly followed by a hamate bone injury. Finally, as the spring season approached, he fell to a bout of mononucleosis.
Not too surprisingly, the pileup of injuries affected his ability to stand out in the spring. He still hit — Frechette always hits — posting a solid average of .347 in 24 games. But he managed just 3 extra base hits in his senior year, raising questions among scouts of how exactly to project his power and ability to impact the ball, especially given the somewhat unknown long-term effects of mono on a young player’s strength development.
The Giants seemed to view Frechette much as they do major league pitchers — the health-skewed senior season offered an opportunity. Instead of hitting his way into 1st round consideration, Frechette’s more modest accomplishments dropped him down the draft, falling to the Giants as a 5th round bargain. The health issues all seemed to be behind him when Frechette was reportedly launching BP pitches into McCovey Cove during a pre-draft workout. They signed him to the third highest bonus in their 2019 draft class and sent him to Rookie League.
In his pro debut, Frechette continued to show his strengths, hitting .290 and walking a decent clip (enough to post a .364 OBP), and showing a good sense of the strike zone. Once again, though, that came with relatively little power (7 doubles, 2 triples, 0 HRs in 145 PA).
So what to make of Frechette now — more than a year and half since he last took an official professional at bat? The last time he was in an official game, he was an 18-year-old still just recovering from a litany of health issues. The next time we see him, he’ll be a 20-year-old — with all the potential for physical and personal maturity that those crucial years involve. Will the missing 2020 prove to have been a chrysalis for Frechette, from which he’ll emerge as a dramatically different, bolder new version of himself in 2021?
Development isn’t linear. Every year, players take tremendous leaps in development that seem to come from nowhere — it took Luis Matos only about 15 months to go from something of an “also ran” in the Giants 2018 international class to one of the three or four most exciting prospects in the system. Imagine how dramatic most successful prospect careers might seem if you simply eliminated one crucial year from the record. Other players scuffle, fall down, get up. Sometimes it’s a repeat level that makes things click, occasionally even a demotion helps players get back on track.
Because 2020 is a blank space on our understanding of Frechette’s development, he’s still stuck in time back in August of 2019. The truth, of course, is that he’s been working on his game, on his body, on his swing all that time. Working to improve his game in ways that might have seemed incremental in normal times but could conceivably come as a revelation in our most decidedly abnormal year. Or he could still be the guy with the sweet swing and projectible body who’s still looking to fire off consistent game swings that impact and lift the ball — a left-handed version of Jacob Gonzalez essentially (who would also be a good subject for this series).
Come summer there will be players who astound us with the growth they’ve made since we last saw them, eighteen long months ago. Players who have transfigured their bodies with home workouts, players who found something in themselves they hadn’t known before. Will Frechette be one of those in the coming year? Will he take a bound up prospect lists with a breakout 20-year-old season? Or will it be another year in a long, slow trail towards stardom that he’s been climbing since he was 14 years old? Only time will tell. We can never know when exactly the sun will suddenly break through the clouds.
As for the very much ON the radar prospects, yesterday was a terrific spring training day for dreaming of the future. Prospects Heliot Ramos, Steven Duggar, LaMonte Wade Jr. and Joey Bart accounted for all five of the Giant’s home runs, two of them coming from the powerful Ramos. Hunter Bishop nearly had a two hit game and Marco Luciano had his first hit of camp (his first ball in play, even!)
Jason Vosler continued to scald the ball, going 2 for 3. He’s now 8 for 16 with four extra base hits in camp. And Sam Long continued to look like the revelation of the camp, striking out three of the five batters he faced. It was a good day for the youth!
I was going to write: “…for Bart and Ramos it was the first time they’d both homered in a game since…” but it turns out that despite playing together in San Jose, Richmond, AND the AFL in 2019, the pair of top prospects never did both homer in the same game during that season. Twice they had stretches where one or the other homered in four consecutive games, but they never pulled off the trick together. So, absent a camp game at the minor league complex at some point, it’s possible that yesterday was the very first time Ramos and Bart had gone yard together in one box score. May it be the first of many!
Ramos’ day was altogether eventful. Playing the entire game in the OF, he was busy running down flies from the start. Ramos tracked down several difficult chances in the left-field corner and showed off his powerful arm with a bolt to the plate that was just shy of nailing a runner. Moving to CF mid-game, things got a little crazier. First he had a near collision with Luis Alexander Basabe that resulted in a somersalting non-catch, and later he slipped in the grass while lining up to make a throw home and dropped another easy fly. On the whole though, he looked graceful and comfortable manning the OF as normal. My guess is still that he heads to Richmond to start the year with the team hoping things go well enough to promote him to Triple-A in approximately 150 PA, so somewhere in early-to-mid June. There’s always the chance that his camp is overall strong enough to get to Sacramento out of the gate. I’d still look for him to get a solid 400-500 PA in the upper minors this year before the team gives any thought of a major league callup, depending on injury/productivity at the major league level.
Vosler, who has started most of the Giants’ games, playing 3b, 2b, and LF, continues to push for a roster spot. He’ll probably be a victim of numbers (depending on Evan Longoria’s feet) but he’ll almost certainly be a member of the team at some point this year and looks like another excellent depth pickup.
But the real revelation of camp continues to be Sam Long. The Sacramento native has been nearly unhittable so far in camp, and could be enticing the coaching staff to view him as a weapon out of the bullpen. However, with the plethora of LH choices that the team has for the pen (where guys like Caleb Baragar, Sam Selman, and Wandy Peralta all might have trouble making the big league roster), it makes sense to continue stretching Long out as a starter and see if he can be one of the answers to the biggest question looming over the team’s future.