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2023 Diamondbacks Reviews: #27 Luis Frías

Ahora o nunca in the desert.

World Series - Texas Rangers v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Four Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
  • Rating: 5.18
Distribution of the ratings AZSnakePit members gave to Luis Frías
  • 2023 stats: 29 G, 31.0 IP, 4.06 ERA, 4.67 FIP, 1.52 WHIP, 1.53 SO/BB, 108 ERA+
  • Date of birth: May 23, 1998 (25 years old)
  • 2023 earnings: $301,938 (via Spotrac)
  • 2024 status: On 40-man roster, Pre-Arb., 0 options remaining.

Introduction

In last year’s player review I was quite vocal on Luis Frías: the way he was pitching, he could go anywhere but the MLB. We already mentioned that a long heard criticism about Luis Frías is that he is more of a thrower than a pitcher: having high velocity on your fastball is one thing, commanding it and supplement it with some good secondary offerings is a whole different thing.

Problem with Frías here has been his late turn-around to pitching, although looking at the age at which kids from the Dominican sign for a professional baseball team you’d tend to say late is never too late. But Frías’ development has been hampered by an injury that cost him his 2017 season and the 2020-cancelled minor league season surely didn’t do him any favours either, and until mid 2022 Frías also pitched as a starter in the minor leagues.

Despite the setbacks it says a lot that Frías has made it to the MLB, where he made his 2021 debut, but despite a fine track record at the lower minor league levels, the right-hander hasn’t been able to translate that success to the major leagues.

And the problem for that seems exactly that: his arsenal and his throwing.

2023 review

It could be that the team saw that Frías needed something different to become successful at the highest level, especially in his final option year, and so it is possible that both decided he should work on his cutter.

The cutter is a pitch that isn’t completely new for Frías, because he also showcased it in 2021 and 2022. The increase of its usage was combined with a lower velocity in all of his pitches, perhaps as an attempt to become more of a pitcher than the thrower he was until 2023:

  • The slider dropped in velocity from 85.4 to 83.8
  • The 4-seamer dropped in velocity from 96.9 to 96.1
  • The cutter came in at a velocity of 90.5 mph, with a similar spin rate to his fastball.

The cutter became Luis Frías’ best pitch in 2023 and that was very necessary too, because the four-seamer fastball and the slider/curve (slider for statcast, curve for FanGraphs) were still pitches with a negative value.

Luis Frías eventually found some mild success at the end of the season. It didn’t come immediately, and we all know that: in his first appearances in April he gave up 4 runs in just 1.2 innings, 3 of those against the Brewers, where he didn’t pitch well, but was also not helped with some unfortunate batting and defensive plays, while Andrew Chafin let 2 inherited runners score.

He pitched fine in Reno and got called up a second time, in May, but this time there was no excuse for the 53% strike rate and the 4 runs he gave up in 5 innings.

Frías continued to work on his pitching in Reno until he was called up a third time, now after the All Star break. From July 21 to August 13 he pitched well for a while, allowing no runs over 9.0 innings, with a healthy 62% strike percentage. But then Coors Field came and the right-hander started to get nervous again, allowing 3 runs in 1.2 innings of work. The Diamondbacks decided to option him to Reno for the fourth time in the season.

He didn’t stay long in AAA and when September came he was back up and wouldn’t leave the team again. In the final 12 games of the season he allowed 3 runs and had a 10-4 K/BB, with a strike-rate of 68%. It was the best he had pitched in the season, although he did end the regular season somewhat disappointing when he gave up 2 runs in the final game against the Astros.

Frías had just 1 hold in the entire season, so it shows that the Diamondbacks were very careful in deploying him in the MLB, aware of the fragility of his pitching.

Luis Frías earned a spot on the post-season squad in both NLCS and NLDS and the World Series and did rather well. Helped by a ridiculously low BABIP of 0.071, he saw action in 7 games, pitching 6.2 innings in which he gave up 3 runs, 2 of them a homerun, although 3 of 4 inherited runners also scored. That surely puts a question mark on the sustainability of Luis Frías’ success, but you have to give the kid credit for adding a pitch to the mix.

I am sure that the mediocre rating Frías got was heavily skewed by his BABIPy post-season performance, but that is okay.

2024 outlook

Frías was mildly successful in 2023. He took a new step in his development and the team was able to successfully carry him on their roster after the All Star break, which is positive news.

The question for Luis Frías is: what is next in line for him? The clock for Frías in Arizona is ticking. The team has exhausted his options, so the Dominican can’t be optioned no more to Reno in 2024. Because of his age Frías is a lock to get claimed should he get designated for assignment.

Frías still needs more seasoning. His sample size in the major leagues is so small (he has pitched in just 51.1 innings in 3 seasons), that it is hard to make any conclusion based on statistics only, but it looks like in 2023 he was more of a pitcher than he was in 2022. I wouldn’t be surprised if in 2024 we will see Frías make more use of a change-up: his second non-fastball pitch that is much needed and he has developed, but hasn’t used much yet.

My guess is that we will see a lot of Frías in 2024 unless things turn really sour very soon. Expect him to enter the game with a 2-run deficit or worse or with a big lead, to chalk up some batters and work on his pitching at the same time. Only a large sample size will show if the reliever can be major league material in Arizona.