Last year we saw Eric Fryer go from high-A to the majors in the span of one year. He made his debut at the Double-A level at the beginning of 2011, and ended up in the majors by mid-season. A big reason for the promotion to the majors was out of desperation. The Pirates had so many injuries to their catchers that they needed Fryer for 26 at-bats.
He got off to a hot start in Altoona, with a .345/.427/.549 line in 113 at-bats. He didn’t fare so well with Indianapolis, posting a .203/.333/.314 line in 118 at-bats. But he was still moved up to the majors, where he had a .269/.345/.269 line in 26 at-bats.
Over the off-season the Pirates designated Fryer for assignment, clearing room on the 40-man roster. He cleared waivers, and was outrighted to Triple-A. Despite being outrighted, and despite every team in the majors passing on a waiver claim, we had him ranked as the 41st best prospect in the organization in the 2012 Prospect Guide, and the third best catching prospect behind Tony Sanchez and Ramon Cabrera.
Fryer has great defense, highlighted by a laser arm. He’s athletic, to the point where the Pirates had him playing at third base during the Fall Instructional league. This year he’s starting the season as the primary catcher in Indianapolis. Despite his strong defense, he hasn’t had this opportunity in the minors. He’s always been blocked by a better prospect.
In 2008 he was behind Jonathan Lucroy on Milwaukee’s low-A team. In 2009 he only caught five games, as he was on the same high-A Yankees team as Austin Romine and Jesus Montero. Later that year he was traded to Lynchburg, where he received playing time until the end of the year, when Tony Sanchez moved up and caught every game. Fryer was behind Sanchez again in 2010 and 2011.
He’s got the defense to be a backup catcher in the majors. However, Fryer also has some offensive potential, to the point where he could make it as a sleeper candidate as a starter in the majors.
Fryer needs more time hitting in Triple-A before he could have a shot at that. He didn’t get much time last year, and came in to the season with 144 at-bats above the Double-A level. So far he’s off to a hot start in Triple-A, going 9-for-20 with four doubles. He’s got hits in all five of his games, including four straight multi-hit games.
Tony Sanchez is still the catcher of the future, and the Pirates have some interesting options in Ramon Cabrera and Carlos Paulino. But don’t count out Fryer. He already has the defense. If he continues getting it done with the bat, he could find himself back in the majors, and this time it wouldn’t be out of desperation.
Links and Notes
**Pirates lost 4-1 to the Dodgers. Game story here.
**Prospect Watch: Josh Bell hits his first home run.
**Pirates Notebook: The bats need to step up.