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2021 Arizona Diamondbacks Reviews, #61: Seth Frankoff

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A tale of perseverance. And inconsistency.

St. Louis Cardinals v. Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Ralph Freso/MLB Photos via Getty Images
  • Rating: 1.94
  • Age: 33 (since August 27)
  • 2021 Stats: 4G (3GS), 14.2 IP, 9.20 ERA, 7.47 FIP, 1.977 WHIP, 11:9 K/BB, 47 ERA+
  • 2021 Earnings: $282,164 (via Spotrac)
  • 2022 Status: Released by the Diamondbacks in September 2021, now a free agent.

Introduction

The hopes for Frankoff to reach the MLB weren’t high for him when he was selected in the 2010 draft by the Oakland A’s in the 27th round out of North Carolina.

But Frankoff’s story is one of perseverance and if there is one consistent line in his baseball career so far it is the willingness to learn, wherever he can, and keep on trying to become better to reach what is his ultimate goal: “my dream has always been the big leagues.”

That quest started, as we already mentioned, in 2010. Originally a starting pitcher, by 2012 the A’s decided that his future would be in the bullpen. In 2013 Frankoff would write on a blog: “The biggest thing that I want to work on is consistency. I feel like in my career thus far I have had some pretty good stretches followed by some times where I struggled.” The change to reliever was not something he felt bad about as he would say in a 2015 interview: “I like relieving because it allows me more opportunities to pitch.”

That might be somewhat of an understatement, as he would literally cross borders to pursue those opportunities to pitch more: while still in the Oakland minor league system, he chased the possibility of playing in the Dominican and Venezuelan winter leagues in 2014-15.

Eventually Frankoff would encounter his biggest troubles in Triple A: “At other levels you can sometimes get by when you get behind in the count but at AAA you can’t.” The A’s cut him loose after the 2015 season and 2016 saw him in Dodger blue although he would never reach the majors and spent almost the entire season in Double A. The Dodgers did, however, employ him again as a starter instead of a reliever and that appeal got him a 2017 contract with the Chicago Cubs after he impressed in the Venezuelan winter league with a 2.38 ERA in 34 innings and 8 starts.

After 7 years of hard work he would finally reach the Major Leagues when he was called up on June 7. Frankoff came on in the 5th with the Rockies and Cubs tied 2-2 and would pitch two innings in relief. He gave up a hit and then a 2-run homer to Charlie Blackmon against the Rockies in what would become a 5-3 loss, but, most importantly, his dream came true: “Words can’t describe the emotions I felt”, he would write on Twitter.

Though Joe Maddon was positive about his performance, the Cubs would option him 2 days later and designate him for assignment when rosters expanded in September. The Mariners claimed Frankoff but he would not make it to the big league roster again and after another stint in the Venezuelan Winter league, he signed a contract with the Doosan Bears in Korea.

“The experience in Korea was very good,” Frankoff said. “It was very good for my family, to give us some security.” The experience was indeed very good and in 2018 he was one of the best pitchers in the KBO and helped the Bears to a Korean Series final where he went 1-1 in the series as the Bears would finally end up losing in 6 against Merrill Kelly and his SK Wyvern.

After the 2019 season he might have been able to continue his success in Asia, but he decided to return to the states: “my dream has always been the big leagues. I got a taste of it before I went over there. I wanted to come back, get to the big leagues to stay.”

That dream was supposed to continue with the Padres, where Frankoff actually coincided with new family relative MacKenzie Gore, whose sister married with Frankoff’s wife brother. The shortened 2020 season made him leave San Diego sooner than initially expected but he would latch on for a second time with the Seattle Mariners. The right handed pitcher returned to the majors again on September 8 with a clean performance, but got optioned to the minors after getting roughed up some days later against his former club, the Athletics, giving up 5 runs in 1.2 innings. At the end of the season, Frankoff would elect free agency.

2021 review

The time between him leaving the Mariners and finding a new team wasn’t long as the Diamondbacks signed Frankoff on January 5 and invited him to Spring Training. Statistically, Spring Training was not a success for Frankoff as he allowed a 6.17 ERA in 11.2 innings. He was assigned to the Reno Aces on May 4, but never got that far as he was called up to the big league roster on May 12 when Zac Gallen was placed on the 10-day IL.

With Kelly on the IL and Widener also injured, the starting rotation was already becoming somewhat of a patchwork, while Devenski and Bukauskas were the next ones that would join those on the IL. So Seth Frankoff could not have been at a better place and was to become yet another one of those pitchers that would get a look at, as explained by Torey Lovullo back then.

Well, the Diamondbacks basically got what they asked for when they selected Frankoff’s contract...: innings.

Frankoff made his debut on May 15 as starting pitcher in a game against the Nationals. As Jim and Jack wrote in the preview, in 40 games he would be the ninth pitcher to start a game in 2021, tying a franchise record.

Frankoff looked a bit off, was never commanding his pitches but ended up with a manageable 2 runs in 4.2 innings to get the win in a blowout (??) over Washington.

Six days later he would be less lucky in Denver and never gave the D-Backs a chance. He kept the walks limited, but gave up 5 runs in the first two innings, including two nicely delivered homeruns, one of them a 442-foot bomb from Raimel Tapia, not the biggest slugger in the MLB.

The troubles with his command would chase him as well in his third start, where he went 5 innings but en route to 7 earned runs, 5 of them in the 3rd inning, and thus crashing the Diamondbacks into a hopeless 7-4 loss.

Inconsistency was definitely his trademark as a starter and the borderline MLB pitcher was definitely not helped by the defence at times, as Jim pointed out perfectly in game recap #53:

“I kinda feel for Frankoff. There are times when he looks really good. In the first inning, he made five-time All-Star Nolan Arenado look pretty silly, getting him to take an 88 mph slider and 91 mph fastball for strikes, then have an ugly swing over the top of a curveball. But that only came after his second pitch of the game sailed up and in, plunking the Cardinals’ lead-off hitter high on the shoulder. That run came home to score on a single by Yadier Molina, giving St. Louis a lead they would not relinquish. But he then got Tyler O’Neill to strike out, on an almost non-stop procession of sliders. Frankoff faced the minimum in the second, helped by a beautiful strikeout/caught stealing, Stephen Vogt delivering the latter.”

[...]

“While all five runs in it were charged to Frankoff, it would certainly have been less expensive, had the D-backs defense played their part. After a lead-off single, Frankoff coaxed what looked like a tailor-made groundball to Josh Rojas. But he booted it, and instead of the double-play which would have cleared the bases and put two outs up, he could only get the man at first. Frankoff was clearly not happy, then walking some Goldschmidt guy and hitting Arenado to load the bases. In the space of five pitches, the score went from 1-0 to 6-0. Molina hit a two-run single and O’Neill a two-run double, both on the first pitch, and an RBI groundout later in the inning completed the damage.”

After that fatal Jekyll & Hyde performance the Diamondbacks moved him to the bullpen to provide some length. As a reliever he got a fourth appearance in Sedona red, this time against the Brewers, where he would give up another homerun.

There isn’t that much to enjoy about Frankoff’s performances, so just appreciate the different homeruns:

A day after his appearance in relief against the Brewers the Diamondbacks made a roster move and placed Seth Frankoff on the 10-day IL with “right forearm tightness”. There was not a loss in velocity in his previous outing, so it might have come as somewhat of a surprise. Ten days later the D-Backs moved the righty to the 60-day IL.

At the end of July he returned and got a rehab assignment to Triple A. He was activated not much later and optioned to Reno. There he did ... well, let’s say, Reno things like many other pitchers.

His time on an ailing team was obviously done and with just a dozen games left for the Aces, he was released on September 8 to open up space on the big league roster for Seth Beer.

2022 outlook

Seth Frankoff was optioned to the Reno Aces when he was released by the Diamondbacks. Although Frankoff does not have much MLB experience, his previous experience and success in the KBO should still get him a minor league contract somewhere. His 4 pitch arsenal does not generate him lots of strikeouts and whiffs but in general he is able to induce the grounders although key is limiting the free passes. However, inconsistency has always troubled Frankoff, as you were able to read in the article, so one can only wonder if that will improve much.

Maybe he will pitch in some winter league again this off-season and with a decent performance I am sure that not long after the season has started we will see him taking the mound again, somewhere in the MLB, and hopefully with more success than he had this season in Arizona.