While intriguing, the Padres should pass on Sal Frelick

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The San Diego Padres pursuit for outfield help drags on.

It’s by far the most discussed and concerning hole for a current Padres roster, which you can still argue boasts only one MLB-caliber starting outfielder on the current 40-man roster, Fernando Tatis Jr. 

Yes, Jose Azocar and Jurickson Profar both harbor roster spots, but given Azocar’s career wRC+ of 81 and wOBA of just. 292, and Profar is coming off a 23’ where he posted a -2.0 fWAR & a 76 wRC+; neither veteran is a player who should be used or viewed as anything more than a 4th or 5th outfield option. 

Reports from the Athletics Denis Lin & Ken Rosenthal have also continued to persist that young talents such as Graham Pauley, Jackson Merrill, and Jakob Marsee will have ample opportunity to earn a starting role this Spring—certainly an intriguing option, but also one that could come with inherent risk. 

As stated before, relying on rookies with zero big league at-bats or MLB journeymen to fill out one or possibly two of the Padres’ opening-day outfield spots is a rather risky and possibly dangerous decision. 

It’s a notion that A.J. Preller and the Padres front office are not blind to, as they have continued in recent weeks to kick the tires on possible starting outfield options. A week ago, Boston Red Sox’s centerfield Jarren Duran was the hot name on the market for the Padres. 

Yet, flash forward to just a week later, and there is a new name on the block. That new name is Brewer’s young outfielder Sal Frelick

But if the Friars were to pull the trigger on the young outfielder, what would he bring to San Diego? What might the return be for Frelick? And just how likely is a Trade? Let’s take a look.


Sal Frelick, OF

Sal Frelick is the former 15th overall pick in the 2021 draft by way of Boston College. The now 23-year-old blazed through the Brewers minor league system, showing extremely high promise in his first full season in 2022 as he played at three levels to reach Triple-A Nashville by year’s end. 

When evaluating Frelick’s film and data, what jumps out is his athleticism, contact skills, and discipline at the dish. 

Perhaps his biggest strength is Frelick’s pure contact skills & discipline. Despite a rapid promotion rate, Frelick continued to see a decrease in his strikeout rate and increase in slugging percentage at every stop in the Brewers farm system. 

Credit: AP Photo

In the minors, Frelick hardly swung and missed, as he never posted a SwSrt% higher than 8.5% in all three of his stops in the Brewers system.

The low SwSrt% would translate to the majors as well, as this past season, in 200+ MLB PAs, he posted a minuscule 4.0% SwSrt%. Pairing with his strong SwSrt numbers was a 90th percentile Whiff% of 14.6%, a K% of 16.6%, and a BB% of 12.6%. 

However, Frelick’s rare bat-to-ball skills are perhaps best exemplified in his raw contact data. In those same 200+ MLB PAs he posted an excellent 90.6% Z-contact% (in zone contact percentage), an overall Contact% of 87%, and a O-contact% (out of zone contact percentage) of 81.7%

Sal’s swing and hand-eye allow him to spray the ball well. His twitchy hands, coupled with his compact swing, allow him to turn on the fastball inside while also firing breaking pitches & “pitcher pitches” the other way for knocks.

His swing is one that is tailored to produce drives, as he boasts a flatter bat path. Frelick also does a good job of doing damage with the ball up in the zone, handling elevated fastballs and mistake pitches well. 

Frelick’s value doesn’t lie solely with his bat; he also possesses raw speed, which has aided him in becoming a strong defender. 

As mentioned before, Frelick is also an elite-level athlete, giving him another plus as a quality defender. 

With 70-grade speed, Frelick often shows an ability to track down balls in the outfield. With fluid hips, an explosive first step, and elite twitch muscles, Frelick is able to utilize every aspect of his athleticism to his advantage to make him a competent and rangy defender who can be capable in either CF or one of the corner outfield positions. 


Concerns & Issues

While there are net positives in Frelick’s game and profile, there are still several concerning data points that make a trade for the Boston College alum risky. 

For starters, while Frelick made a lot of contact this season, the quality of that contact was not necessarily excellent and culminated in some somewhat concerning batted ball data. 

Frelick rarely found the barrel and came away with little hard contact during his extended time at the major league level last season. Posting a Barrel% of just 2.5, a Sweet Spot% of 29.3%, a HH%(hard hit) of just 23.6%, and a Soft Contact% of 27.4%, culminating for an average exit velocity of just 83.3 MPH in 23′ and just a 92 wRC+. Granted, it’s a smaller sample size, but it’s still some rather concerning data.

With just four homers last season, his power showings are far and few in-between. Given what he has shown in the bigs and the Minors, it’s difficult to see him hitting more than ten home runs in a season. An If moved to Petco, a field that has a rep for killing LHH power, it becomes even more difficult to see how and when he would hit for much of any power. 

Pairing with that lack of quality contact and power was a concerningly high GB%. As mentioned, Frelick’s swing and attack angle is flat. That often translates to a high ground-ball rate, and in 23′, his ground ball issues persisted as he posted a 52.6% GB Rate. The high GB% is something that has followed him through his entire professional career, as his lowest career GB rate is 45.3%. 

A combination of little power, with a high volume of ground balls is a concerning trend that makes acquiring Frelick dangerous. 


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What The Brewers Could Seek in Return:

If the Padres do choose to pull the trigger on Frelick, it will no doubt come at a steep price. Coming into this season, Frelick is listed as the No. 2 prospect on the Brewers per Baseball America. 

In Fact, John Heyman has already reported that the Brewers asking price for Frelick is going to be “High,” which is fair given the team’s high opinion of him, his prospect pedigree, and him still being just 23 years of age with multiple years of team control on his current contract. 

The Brewers, again, are a team that seems to be after pitching on the trade market. Given that we know they will be asking for a high return for Sal, it’s fair to assume they would seek someone such as Dylan Lesko or Jairo Iriarte as a return piece for Frelick. 

On the surface, that perhaps seems like a justifiable deal, but it’s important to remember that not all organizations value prospects the same way. And given the rave reviews this Spring and last season about both Lesko & Iriarte, they feel like two players San Diego views as long-term starters and building blocks rather than trade capital. 

Overall, a trade for Frelick doesn’t feel like a strong possibility. Yes, trading for him would fix a hole for San Diego, but how well? & at what cost? 

Frelick profiles as more of a speed-first & slap-contact hitter who offers little SLUG or Power. While there is value in that, he still feels like a low-ceiling type and a high-floor type of player. 

An when considering the return price being asked for Frelick, he feels like a player San Diego should pass on. 

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