- Rating: 3.19 (wow, someone gave a 9 here...)
- 2022 stats: 15 G, 17.0 IP, 10.59 ERA, 5.41 FIP, 2.353 WHIP, 0.82 SO/BB, 39 ERA+
- Date of birth: May 23, 1998 (24 years old)
- 2022 earnings: $165,378 (via Spotrac) - prorated league minimum
- 2023 status: On 40-man roster, pre-arb eligible, 1 MiLB options left.
A 2015 international amateur signing for $50,000, Frías was originally signed as a 3B, according to his MLB’s transaction page.
“I hated pitching.” - Luis Frías in a 2021 interview on YouTube
But the player himself, in the linked interview above, tells that he was signed as a pitcher. Whatever the exact reason, he bought a house for his mother, a nice bed and some furniture before he started throwing in the DOSL in 2016. He didn’t take the field in 2017 because of a scaphoid fracture of the wrist.
“Symptoms of a scaphoid fracture typically include pain and tenderness in the area just below the base of the thumb. These symptoms may worsen when you try to pinch or grasp something. Treatment for a scaphoid fracture can range from casting to surgery, depending on the fracture’s severity and location on the bone. Because portions of the scaphoid have a poor blood supply—and a fracture can further disrupt the flow of blood to the bone—complications with the healing process are common.” - Explanation of scaphoid wrist injury on a webpage.
It took an entire year for Frías to heal and so he didn’t return to the field until 2018. When COVID hit 2020, Frías hadn’t pitched above A-ball yet. He spent time on the alternate site but in 2021 travelled from Hillsboro to Amarillo to Reno to the major leagues: a spectacular ride.
Up until his debut for the Arizona Diamondbacks the Dominican right-hander was the starting pitcher in almost every game he played in in the minor leagues. But despite being deployed almost entirely in a starting role, prospect watchers and AZSnakePit writers expressed their concerns more than once about Frías having starting potential because of the lack of dominant pitching despite the velocity, or as we could summarise from the FanGraphs’ prospect reviews: Frías was more of a thrower than a pitcher.
It helps to have a lightning fastball to become an interesting prospect with MLB potential and that is why Luis Frías jumped up on FanGraphs’ prospect list in 2019 and MLB Pipeline’s in 2020. Said to have a 96+ mph fastball and a plus curve (ranked as slider by statcast), what Frías lacked was a third pitch and movement on his fastball. He developed the third pitch recently: a change-up, although not very highly ranked by prospect watchers. But could the pitch mix be enough to stick as either a back-end starter or relief pitcher in the major leagues? The few innings he pitched in 2021 gave a glimpse of what could be: in a bad and a good way.
Frías pitched just 2 innings in Spring Training, before being assigned to Reno on March 31. There he was, maybe somewhat surprisingly, used as a starting pitcher again. He pitched with some mixed results: he gave up 7 runs in 3 starts and 13.2 innings of work, but also had an interesting 20:5 K-BB ratio and a 0.645 S%. The Diamondbacks at the end of April were moving a lot of pitchers up and down and between one IL to another and one of them was Luis Frías, who was called up on April 28 as, what later proved to be, a bullpen reinforcement.
He “survived” in his first performance against the Cardinals, throwing just 50% of his pitches for strikes, but got the Hold in 1.2 innings of work, despite allowing two walks, a hit and a runner to score from 3B on a balk.
His second outing was disaster. In a game against the Marlins he gave up 4 runs in just 0.2 innings of work. That was, amongst which, the result of two walks and a ground rule double after review (it bounced to foul territory via the chalk line) on a 100 mph heater straight over the middle of the plate to Jazz Chisholm Jr.
Frías was optioned to Reno again a couple of days later, but wouldn’t return to a starting role. The Diamondbacks apparently had decided that the best way to move forward from now was with Frías working exclusively out of the bullpen, maybe that way they could work more on his strike% and his control, while maxing out the velocity on his pitches.
In his third game in Reno he showed good command and control and the Diamondbacks decided to use him again in the MLB instead of Edwin Uceta.
Against Kansas City on May 23 he got away with a lack of command, but 3 days later the Dodgers were less kind and tagged him with 4 runs in 2.2 innings of work, although they were already up 6-0 when Frías faltered to impress yet once again.
After that game Frías was optioned once again.
The rest of the season would be more or less the same for Frías, in both Reno and Arizona. He’d return to the majors and got two long looks, in August and September, that were marked by giving up 7 runs in a single outing against the Phillies and 4 runs in his final two outings of the season, against the Giants and Astros.
I am not very optimistic about Luis Frías and his chances to become a member of the major league bullpen in 2023. Frías is still very young, so I am not saying that he won’t become a viable major leaguer sometime and somewhere, but I don’t see it happen soon and in Arizona.
Frías is currently not a major league pitcher. His BB% in 2022 is a shocking 18.9 and completely nullifies his strikeout potential. He also sticks to the usage of his fastball (62.4% usage), hoping to blow batters away with the velocity, but that isn’t happening: the spin rate on his fastball is too low and not fooling many.
On top of that he has problems locating the pitch within the strike zone, leading to many hard hits (44.8%) and an expected weighted on base average of .459. Add to that the command problems in general and we are basically describing the Hindenburg here: there is a lot of gas and everything around it is terribly wrong.
Frías is pitching in the LIDOM this winter and the lack of command isn’t going to improve in 2023: for Licey he is currently walking 5.6 batters per 9 innings.
I can see Frías getting an MLB opportunity again this year, but with just 1 option remaining he could see himself out of the 40-man roster once people will have to start making room for the better prospects and waiver pick-ups.
I know there are some Frías-believers out there, but it’s not just about having gas, it is also about how you store it and how you use it.