What Happened In 2014: Split time between Double- and Triple-A rotations before an August ticket to The Show.
Carlos Frias was signed seven (!) years ago out of the Dominican Republic. Signing didn’t receive much acclaim, and it took him awhile, but he might be a classic “late-bloomer.” He ranked No. 28 in my preseason Top 50 prospects and No. 24 in the midseason Top 25. Here’s what I wrote about him last January.
“He has a surprisingly effective low-90s fastball that has a little movement to it. His slider is his primary out pitch, as it’s a low-80s pitch with tight break when he gets on top of it. He also mixes in a changeup that’s fringy. He’ll need to improve it to be effective against lefties. Frias’ delivery is repeatable, like many Dodger pitching prospects. His control and command need some work, but he could be a guy to keep an eye on for the upcoming season.”
His slider is now a harder pitch that resembles a cut fastball, but he can still throw the “classic” slider every once in awhile.
Frias began the 2014 with the Lookouts in Chattanooga. After just 48 total innings there (16 in 2013, 32 last season), he was promoted to Triple-A to be a member of the Isotopes’ rotation. While that could be a proverbial death sentence for most (Hi Zach Lee and Chris Reed), Frias showed some glimpses of what the Dodgers saw in him so many years ago. His start on June 16 stood out the most, as he allowed four hits, one runs, zero walks and struck out 10 New Orleans Zephyrs over eight innings — in Albuquerque, no less. It was easily the best start of his professional career. That is, until he was promoted to Los Angeles in August.
He came up and made his Major League debut out of the bullpen in an impressive 2-inning outing on Aug. 4 against the Angels. He even struck out now-Dodger Howie Kendrick in his first inning of work. He worked out of the bullpen in his first eight games, and was up-and-down. Then, he was called upon to make a spot-start against the Nationals, also known as baseball’s winningest team in 2014. Everything was set up for disaster, so, naturally, Frias turns in six shutout innings in a game that Mike would dub “The game that broke baseball.”
“Frias was spectacular, really more than you could have possibly asked for, throwing six scoreless innings at a very good Washington lineup and needing only 77 pitches to do it. Frias allowed only four hits and a walk; I’m not sure if this will be the high point of his entire career, but if it is, it will be a good one. He’s earned another start. We’ll see if he actually gets one. Either way, good on him.”
Spoiler alert: He did, and it was horrific. In fact, in the span of four innings (three games, arbitrary endpoints, SSS), he allowed 13 hits, 11 runs, walked two and struck out six. Yikes.
But there’s reason for optimism for the young right-hander. I opined he should have made the postseason roster (he didn’t, which was fine). Despite an ugly ERA, Frias posted a respectable FIP and xFIP, he threw strikes (1.9 BB/9), missed bats (8.1 K/9) and got ground balls (52 percent). Those are all really encouraging numbers. Call it good timing, but Carson Cistulli of FanGraphs wrote a little about the similarities between Frias and Angels’ ace Garrett Richards on Wednesday at Fox Sports.
“The primary successor to Pineda and Richards isn’t A.J. Cole, however, but rather Dodgers right-hander Carlos Frias. Signed out of the Dominican in 2007, Frias has been absent from all notable top-100 prospect lists. He made his major-league debut this season as a 24-year-old, and, so far as run prevention is concerned, the results weren’t great: over 32 innings he conceded 22 of them (i.e. runs), leading to a 6.12 ERA. Frias’s fielding-independent performance was actually much better, however, as suggested by his 88 xFIP- and 102 FIP-. The resemblance to both Pineda and Richards was also evident at the major-league level: with the Dodgers, Frias produced a walk rate of just 5.1% while also sitting with his fastball in the 93-96 mph range even in his two starts.”
I’m a skeptical of that (as is everyone, including Cistulli), but I do think Frias can be a quality pitcher — most likely out of the bullpen — in the majors.
2015 status: Should be in the Triple-A rotation with the possibility of a spot-start in LA. His future lies in the bullpen as a 6th-7th inning guy, maybe an 8th-inning guy if things break right. Or maybe he truly is the next Garrett Richards.