Kevin Frandsen did not get rich a few days ago when the Phillies signed him for $850,000 plus incentives. That is certainly not big money when it comes to baseball contracts. But when you think that it took eight years of minor league ball and several cups of coffee for him to stick at the major league level, that is a pretty big deal. But his signing doesn't mean that the Phillies will actually hand him the third base job. The team is rumored in on the Kevin Youkilis sweepstakes. Such is the life for Frandsen, a guy who has never had it easy.
To get some sort of picture of what it took Frandsen to reach this point, here is a sequence of events leading up to his 201 plate appearances for the Phillies in 2012:
- Played at a small San Jose college and set the record there for hits.
- Not drafted until the 370th pick (12th round) by the Giants in 2004.
- Hit well in his first two minor league seasons and appeared in 41 games for the Giants in 2006. He finished with a .607 OPS.
- Appeared in 109 games for the Giants in 2007 and played at five different appearances. Fared better at the plate with a .710 OPS and a .331 on-base percentage.
- Blew out his Achilles tendon in 2008 and missed the entire season except for one at bat in the last game of the season.
- In the spring of 2009, Frandsen was in a competition with Emmanuel Burriss for the starting second base job. Burriss won. How ignoble is that? Can't even beat out Emmanuel Burriss? He was sent to the minors
- Only appeared in a handful of big league games in 2009 and finished with a .384 OPS. Ugh.
- Was traded by the Giants to the Red Sox for cash and an unknown player to be named later on March 26, 2010.
- After just a three-day look, the Red Sox optioned him on March 29th of that same year.
- The Red Sox then DFA'd him a month later on April 28.
- The Angels took him off waivers a day later
- Frandsen played in 54 games for the Angels in 2010 at five different positions. Again, he did not hit an finished with a .613
- The Angels non-tendered him after the season.
- Signed a minor league deal with the Padres on January 5, 2011. They released him two months and twenty days later.
- Signed with the Phillies to a minor league contract in 2011 and he did not see any major league playing time.
- Signed a minor league deal with the Phillies again in 2012 and played 99 games for the Triple A, Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.
- Polanco hurts himself and on July 29, 2012, Frandsen was recalled from the minors and played nearly every day for the remainder of the season.
That is quite a long ride to earn himself (finally) a nearly million dollar deal! But Frandsen played really well when he got his chance this time. He rated above league average in the field, mostly at third base. He batted .338 with a .383 on-base percentage. His .834 OPS was good for a 124 OPS+.
And it should not be that big a surprise. In 2,563 plate appearances in the minors, Frandsen had a .310 batting average with a .368 on-base percentage.
The Phillies do not quite trust what they saw though. As stated, they are in the hunt for Youkilis and if they don't get him, they have stated that they would consider platooning Frandsen with Galvis. Seriously? Frandsen did not have any kind of batting split against right-handed pitchers. Most of his plate appearances were against right-handers and look at the numbers he put up.
There is some understanding of the Phillies' reticence. Frandsen's game does have a few weaknesses. He doesn't walk much with only a 5.4 percent rate for 836 big league plate appearances. He does not have power. As good as his season was, his ISO was only .111. Teams like their third basemen to have some pop. And Frandsen hits too many ground balls. His ground ball to fly ball rate was over two.
But there are strengths to his game. He hardly ever strikes out and his swing and miss rate is only 5.6 percent for his career. He hits a lot of line drives and again, he plays good defense.
Frandsen's story is one of perseverance. You root for guys like him. His fine two months of play last season will not guarantee him anything with the Phillies heading into 2013. But at least it guarantees him a major league job all season and his first real payday of his career. His game isn't ideal. But it is not half bad either.