Since being recalled from Indianapolis last month, Adam Frazier has been one of the more consistent hitters for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Is it time for him to finally take over the second base duties full time as the season winds down?
With the way that he has been hitting since rejoining the Pirates on July 25th in Cleveland, Adam Frazier is making it very difficult for Clint Hurdle to take him out of the lineup. The problem is that his primary position is currently occupied by the longest tenured player on the roster, Josh Harrison.
But does Frazier’s recent hot streak mean that it is time for a change?
Frazier has collected 19 hits in 43 plate appearances in 13 games since that game in Cleveland. He is slashing .463/.465/.756 with nine doubles and a home run to go along with a ridiculous wRC+ of 226.
Now, he is having some luck finding grass instead of glove when it comes to his hits in that time span, because he has a BABIP of .529 and that is not sustainable for the rest of the season. The BABIP will regress down and so will some of the other lofty numbers that he is currently putting up. Still though, the team should capitalize on his hot bat and continue to put him in the lineup almost, if not, everyday.
For a comparison, let’s look at how Harrison has performed in his last 13 games. Going back to July 15th, Harrison has collected 12 hits in 44 plate appearances and is hitting .300/.34/.550. He has hit just one double in those games but has left the yard three times compared to Frazier’s one home run in the same number of games.
Harrison may not have the lofty wRC+ like Frazier, but his mark of 136 is still above league average. Harrison’s BABIP in these games is .310 so it does not seem like he is either getting lucky or unlucky when it comes to where his batted balls will land.
Per Fangraphs, Frazier has been a 1.1 WAR player this season and is on pace to set a respectable new career high in his young career. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Harrison has been just a 0.5 WAR player in 2018, and could very well post his worst WAR since becoming an impactful bat in the Pittsburgh lineup in 2014. Some of this is because of Frazier’s recent hot streak, but it is his superior defensive play that gives him the upper hand.
Since both players are second basemen by trade, only that position will be used for the sake of an easy comparison. Harrison certainly surpasses Frazier when it comes to playing time at second with 590.1 innings to just 209.1. So it’s an easy, but not exactly equal, comparison. However, in those innings played, the two players have been vastly different when compared defensively.
In terms of DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), Frazier has saved four runs because of his ability at second base while Harrison’s season total sits at negative two, meaning his defensive limitations have allowed opponents to score more often. If UZR/150 is used, which normalizes UZR to 150 defensive games, Frazier is at 6.2 for the season while Harrison is at -3.6. So both of these advanced metrics indicate that Frazier is the better defender at second base, so much so that Harrison has actually posted negative numbers in those categories.
If the team would decide to move Frazier into the second base role full time, they could easily slide Harrison into a super utility role, something that he thrived in just a few seasons ago. In 2014, the year that he finished ninth in the National League’s MVP voting, Harrison played more than 15 games at second base, third base, shortstop, right field and left field. He has not seen any action in the outfield this year but did play nine games there last season.
However, Sean Rodriguez still occupies that role for the Pirates, so nothing can happen until the team makes a decision on the veteran. But with the acquisition of Adeiny Hechavarria, there is another infielder now in the mix for playing time, and there are only so many innings to go around. But with the acquisitions of Chris Archer and Keone Kela indicating that the team is looking at this year and beyond, it might be worthwhile to shift Harrison to a utility role for the rest of the season since he could be a valuable asset to the team as that type of player in 2019.