PITTSBURGH (AP) — Adam Frazier thinks he might be a better baseball player if he could find a way to put his phone down.
Funny, the screen time doesn’t seem to be affecting the Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman too much. He entered play Wednesday ranked in the top 10 in the majors in hits (98), batting average (.326), on-base percentage (.399) while mounting an insurgent All-Star campaign.
The soft-spoken 29-year-old with the drawl that belies his Georgia roots is one of three finalists for the National League’s starting job, impressive considering Frazier plays in a smaller market for a team that’s in the midst of a “from the ground up” rebuild while the other finalists — Atlanta’s Ozzie Albies and Los Angeles’ Gavin Lux — are on teams with a pedigree and star power.
Not that Frazier is keeping tabs on the fan vote total. He hasn’t even cast a ballot for himself. At the moment, he’s more consumed with Mississippi State’s play in the College World Series. Frazier starred for the Bulldogs before taken in the sixth round of the 2013 player draft.
“Our games and their games,” Frazier said with a smile. “That’s what I’ve been worried about the past few days.”
Maybe “worrying” is too strong a word. Listen to Frazier talk and it sounds like the best stretch of his six-year career is no big deal.
“Pretty good first half I guess, it’s not over yet, though,” he said. “Yeah, like I said, just one day at a time. We’ve got a long ways to go. Long season. To make (the All-Star Game) or to start that game would be an unbelievable dream come true.”
A dream that seemed far off last summer. Maybe the truncated nature of the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened season forced him to press. He’s not sure. Whatever the problem, it led to him hitting just .230 (nearly 50 points below his career average) and speculation he’d be among those jettisoned in the offseason in exchange for prospects.
Frazier, however, stuck around. Though that may be temporary. He finds himself in the strange position of trying to set the foundation for Pittsburgh’s rebuild while remaining well aware that every shot to the gap or bleeder through the hole only increases his value as the trade deadline approaches.
“I’ve got a bunch of other stuff going on to worry about,” Frazier said. “And you know, (trade speculation) has been going on for three years now. I just learned to be where my feet are and have a good time playing baseball and try to do everything I can to win a game every day. If it’s in a Pirate uniform or somewhere else, it doesn’t really matter.”
Frazier and outfielder Bryan Reynolds have been one of the few consistent bright spots for a team with the third-worst record in the majors. While Reynolds is enjoying a power surge — he began play Wednesday with 13 home runs in 75 games, just three short of the 16 he put up in 138 games as a rookie in 2019 — Frazier is taking more of a throwback approach.
He’s not looking to test the outer limits of the ballpark. Line drives and singles work just fine. He’s hitting over .340 since May 8. Frazier attributes the approach to a sense of maturity and understanding of where he fits in. In Pittsburgh, it’s as the leadoff hitter, though he stressed he’d step into the batter’s box with the same mindset no matter where he was in the order.
“I am a contact guy and a guy that gets on base for the home run hitters,” he said. “I guess I just try to be short to the baseball and have a short compact swing and when you’re able to do that, put the barrel where you want more often than not, that allows for a better chance for success.”
Frazier has found enough success that he’s on pace for a 200-hit season and in the mix for a batting title if he can keep it up. Yet other than being wowed by the scorching hot bat of Cincinnati’s Nick Castellanos, Frazier is not keeping track of who is setting the standard that he is chasing.
“I try not to look at numbers, try not to look around the league,” he said. “Then you’re comparing yourself, trying to do too much, trying to do this, trying to do that instead of just going out and playing the game and focusing on each and every at-bat. So yeah, I try to block out all distractions.”
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