Nick Frasso, RHP, TOR

When are minor league numbers not to be fully relied upon? When the skills behind the numbers give scouts pause. Meet Nick Frasso.

Video courtesy of FanGraphs
  • Born: October 18, 1998
  • B/T: Right/Right
  • 6’5″, 200-lbs
  • Drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2020 MLB June Amateur Draft out of Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles, CA)

The Numbers

His raw numbers are listed above courtesy of baseball-reference.com. Let’s aggregate by year then focus on the important numbers for minor leaguers:

Other than the so-so walk rate, this is the mark of dominance. Frasso is outclassing his young competition, and needs to be in Double-A sooner and not later. I know he just reached High-A, so we will wait a month or two. And he really could work on that walk rate in the meantime, but man.

The only hint of mortality came from righties in A-ball, but there’s nothing here other than dominance. So what’s the issue? Let’s let Eric Longenhagen tell it:

“I was back at the Blue Jays place the following day for more extended spring action, this time against the Phillies (I’m saving my notes on the Phils kids for a followup post on this trip). The revelation on this day, and perhaps the most significant, opinion-altering look of the entire trip, was seeing Blue Jays righty Nick Frasso. Coming out of Loyola Marymount, Frasso was an atypical college draftee, with his prospectdom more about projection than present stuff. He showed an arm strength bump early in 2021 before blowing out and requiring Tommy John in June. He’s not even 11 months clear of the surgery and is already back and throwing every bit as hard as he was in 2021, sitting 94-96 mph and touching 97-98 in this short look. 

Perhaps more importantly, Frasso’s breaking ball has added power and velocity. Once a loopy, low-80s slurve, Frasso’s slider is now a real mid-80s weapon in the 83-85 mph range. He showed good feel for landing this pitch in the zone for strikes, and he threw one vicious back-foot breaking ball at the end of his outing. He also has a high-spin changeup with lots of horizontal movement, but his feel for that pitch is understandably behind. I’ve moved Frasso from the 35+ FV tier (he had ranked 32nd, with the idea that we wanted to see how he looked coming out of rehab since he was throwing harder prior to blowing out) into the 40+ FV tier on the Jays list, as he now looks likely to be a solid big league reliever given the current state of his stuff, while his developmental context (smaller school prospect with big physical projection, missed reps due to surgery, new breaking ball) allows for abstract projection that might make him an impact big league arm with continued development.”

In-person scouting report from fangraphs in may 2022

Ah, improvement to explain the dominance, that’s good. But “likely to be a solid big league reliever,” is not that great for our purposes, is it?

He has a good FB and slider, but unless that changeup develops, he isn’t likely to be a big league starter, A-ball hitter results notwithstanding.

BaseballHQ, in their Minor League Baseball Analyst book, says this about Frasso:

“Durability and CU [changeup] are both in question and could be bullpen arm down line.”

BaseballHQ Minor League Baseball Analyst

If he does develop that changeup, and if his health allows (he already had Tommy John surgery), he would then have the stuff to be a mid-rotation arm. But even if his control does not improve, his FB/SL combo could wipe out major leaguers from the pen. Notes from the video above say he was reaching 98 mph on his FB, so yeah, it could be big league quality.

The Scouts

Warnings

His health is a question mark.

He hasn’t faced Double-A yet.

Without a quality third pitch, upper level batters won’t succumb as easily to his pitches.

Conclusion

Here is a textbook case of a pitcher dominating the competition, but the scouts look and think, ‘nice, but he’s probably a pen arm.’ And realistically, they are probably correct.

But if you hear his changeup is improving, and if he finishes the year healthy and still dominating — say Double-A by then — you might be seeing the emergence of a big league starter.

For now, think bullpen. And a very good one at that. And remember that it takes more than just overwhelming low-level batters to prove you can be a major league starting pitcher.