The closer you look at Dodgers prospect Nick Frasso, the more impressive his 2022 season becomes.
The Dodgers acquired the right hander from the Blue Jays back in August, sending swingman Mitch White and prospect Alex De Jesus to Toronto. Los Angeles also got rookie ball southpaw Moises Brito. The immediate reaction from many was confusion. White had already made 15 MLB appearances in 2022 for a solid 3.70 ERA and De Jesus was the Dodgers’ 20th ranked prospect on MLB Pipeline. But the deeper you examine the trade, the more it looks like a great move.
Through his first 36 2/3 innings before the trade, Frasso posted a 0.74 ERA with 57 strikeouts. He made six more starts with the Dodgers system before the end of the year, four of which came in his first Double-A stint. Eight earned runs crossed in 17 1/3 innings across those final six starts and left his final ERA at 1.83.
Despite now being 24 years old, this was essentially Frasso’s first professional season, since he pitched only three games in 2021 before undergoing surgery on his UCL. After his great year, he currently finds himself ranked as the No. 18 prospect in the Dodgers system by Pipeline. His surface numbers are great, but it only gets better from there.
Frasso has three pitches that stand out as above-average. His fastball is his best pitch, profiling as one of the best heaters in the minor leagues. Additionally, his high spin changeup with over 18 inches of break and funky gyro slider are great offerings. Rounding out his arsenal are a quality sinker and a curveball that is effective but not used very often.
Analytically, Frasso’s fastball lights up any page it’s on. While sitting in the mid-to-high 90s, it averaged 13.3 inches of horizontal break last year, and he uses the pitch differently on either side of the plate. The numbers when he throws it to his arm side of the strike zone (inside against right handed batters) are astounding. He had a 51% chase percentage, which is unheard of on a fastball. This means he effectively starts his fastball on the corner and tails it off the plate before it gets to the batter to generate an absurd amount of chases.
He also uses the fastball effectively on the other side of the plate, starting the ball outside of the zone and having it tail back onto the corner for called strikes. The glove side fastball for Frasso had just a 48.5% Z-Swing percentage, meaning that hitters got fooled and swung at the pitch less than half the time when it was in the zone. Overall, his fastball had a 34.6% CSW (called strikes plus whiffs) rate, which is well above-average.
The numbers against Frasso’s changeup are equally impressive. The pitch generated a 56% whiff rate last year. For comparison, Brewers reliever Devin Williams, who has arguably the best changeup in the league, had a 43.9% whiff rate on his pitch last season. Frasso’s incredible metrics on his changeup are part of why he had reverse splits, producing better results against lefties than righties. The combination of the rest of his stuff with his absurd changeup breaking away from lefties produced a 43.7% chase rate and far above-average 0.192 xwOBA (weighted expected on-base average) against left handed batters in 2022.
Frasso’s slider is also a weapon to be admired. It produced a 48.6% whiff rate last year, which is comparable to Mets starter Max Scherzer’s slider. Furthermore, its 35.2% chase rate and 0.168 wxOBA are both best among Frasso’s top three offerings. He tunnels his slider and fastball well, keeping right handed batters guessing on which way the ball will break out of his hand. It can be inconsistent at times, but a stark combination of movement and depth makes the pitch extremely effective when it is right.
Many prospects who have ridiculous raw stuff similar to Frasso run into trouble trying to harness it. Frasso, however, still managed to post an above-average 8% walk rate, which is incredible alongside his 35.8% strikeout rate. It takes special ability to make professional hitters whiff without always having to expand the zone, and Frasso shows that talent.
The future could bring bright things for Frasso, including a mid to top of the rotation level ceiling. The main doubt that could be raised is in his durability, as he’s only thrown 59 career professional innings through his age 23 season. At the very least, Frasso’s oozing athleticism and power stuff present a late inning relief floor. He could be among the biggest risers next season if his success continues, and could find himself on the Top 100 prospects list sooner rather than later.
Los Angeles has a history of prioritizing stuff in their minor league arms, and there is no greater example than their acquisition of Frasso. The Dodgers’ scouting department may have found gold in the 6’5″ righty to add to their plethora of great prospect arms. If things stay on track, Frasso will likely debut in 2023 or 2024, and attempt to stick in the majors by 2025. If the Torrance native’s minor league results are any indication, LA could have another great pitcher on their hands.