Toward the end of a Zoom meeting with the Orioles, as Adam Frazier deliberated whether Baltimore would be the correct fit, Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias asked Frazier to describe what adjustments he was trying to make at the plate this offseason.
It had been a down season for Frazier, his least productive as a professional. His strikeout numbers were still low, among the best in the league, but his average and on-base percentage drooped. The 31-year-old infielder felt his lower half was out of sync in some ways from his hands. Frazier doesn’t envision a major overhaul, just a tweak from what kept him from performing his best with the Seattle Mariners, but there were changes to be made, for sure.
And then Elias pulled up a video of Frazier’s swing, pointing out the inconsistencies. It was exactly what Frazier had just described.
“So it seemed like they’ve done their homework,” Frazier said Friday to reporters on a video call.
The Orioles secured the 2021 All-Star on a one-year deal worth $8 million for several reasons. There’s the excitement of playing as part of a young team — particularly a young team with playoff aspirations — although Frazier admitted that he thinks he’s the second-oldest player on the roster. He cherishes the possibility of being an everyday player, be that at second base or a corner outfield position.
But perhaps more than anything, the way Baltimore displayed an understanding of what makes Frazier a premier contact hitter — and what it will take to get Frazier back to his recent best — was encouraging. Frazier is a bounce-back candidate, and he plans to do so at Camden Yards.
“We view things in a similar manner,” Frazier said. “Having the chance to get back on track, the opportunity the ballpark provides for a hitter like me is pretty enticing, too. And then just the opportunity to be on a young, fun team that’s hungry and really good, that’s exciting.”
For so much of Frazier’s career, largely spent with the Pittsburgh Pirates before a midseason trade to the San Diego Padres in 2021, he has been defined by his ability to reach base at a high percentage. The 5-foot-10 Mississippi State product makes up for a lack of power with his plate discipline.
Frazier hit just five home runs in 2021, but he hit .305 with an on-base percentage of .368. And even as Frazier’s results dipped to a .238 average and a .612 on-base plus slugging percentage last season, he still ranked in the top 5% in the majors in strikeout rate (12.1%) and whiff rate (14.4%), according to Statcast.
He could feel the issues with his swing coming out of spring training, and even as a young Mariners team pushed for their first playoff berth since 2001, Frazier couldn’t break out of it. He resorted to pushing those personal struggles to the side, helping Seattle find wins through his defense and leadership if not for his bat.
“I couldn’t get the feeling of staying in the ground, using the ground as my friend, and driving down into it,” Frazier said of his swing, referring to a lack of ground force torque that helps swing efficiency and power. “Simplifying a few things, not trying to do too much. Using the whole field again. When I’m at my best, that’s my strength.”
Last season, the left-handed swinging Frazier hit a career-low 27.2% of his balls the opposite way. He wants to get back to keeping his hands inside the ball, avoiding the temptation of pull-side power that can lead to swings and misses.
It’s what got Frazier to this point. It’s what he got away from last season, and what he aims to get back now that he’s with the Orioles.
“Understanding who I am,” Frazier said. “I’m not the big 6-4 guy who’s going to drive the ball out of the ballpark 40 times. So understand who I am, get on base any way I can and let the big guys behind me drive me in.”