The Arizona Wildcats will be trying to replace a lot of pieces from last year’s College World Series runner-up team, but the freshmen talent coming in could make for an even better overall squad in 2017.
One of those pieces is Matt Fraizer, a 6-foot-3, 197 pound outfielder from Fresno, CA.
Fraizer seems likely to start at a corner outfield spot thanks in large part to the speed he possesses.
But the thing that sets him apart from most freshmen is his mentality.
“Surprisingly, for someone who hasn’t played at this level, I think he has a good understanding of what it’s going to take for him to be successful,” Arizona head coach Jay Johnson said. “He’s applying it at a high level.”
“My biggest strength is my work ethic and my hustle on the field,” Fraizer added. “I’m doing better with work ethic and just hustling on and off the field, giving 100% in everything I do.”
Part of it comes from his upbringing. His father Terance was drafted in the 24th round of the MLB Draft by the Oakland Athletics after playing at Fresno State. The elder Fraizer played in 222 minor league games, and hit .271 in Low-A and High-A.
“He has a really good mindset,” Johnson continued about Matt. “You can coach him. He grew up in a baseball house. His dad was a really good player, and the bar is set pretty high for him in terms of how you approach preparation, how to approach the game, how hard you play, and I think he has a good awareness of who he is and the tools that he has.”
“It definitely prepared me,” Matt said about growing up in that situation. “My dad played at the college level and professionally, so he knew exactly what the transition was like and how to adjust with it, and that really helped me out a little bit too.”
“It’s been a great experience coming out here,” Fraizer added about shifting from high school to college. “The coaching staff’s been treating me well all around, and also the older guys brought me and the other freshmen in really good. They just helped us out with the transition and everything. It’s a big transition from high school to college.”
“Pitchers know how to locate more and velocity’s definitely going up,” he continued about some of the changes in practice. “You see more breaking balls, and better location on pitches, which is from being older and stuff like that.”
Before making it to Arizona, Matt followed in his father’s footsteps a little bit, getting drafted in the 38th round by the A’s. But going the pro route straight out of high school didn’t really seem to be on his mind at all.
“It was a good feeling, but I already decided I was going to college,” he explained about seeing his name get called. “It was like a yay but get over it, you’re going to college. I already had my eyes focused on here, so that’s what I was getting ready for.”
In the fall, it appeared that Fraizer was going to get his first look in left, with a guy like Jared Oliva in center and possibly Cal Stevenson in right. But Fraizer hasn’t been locked into any one position yet.
“I’ve been playing all around,” he explained. “We’re just switching off right now. Play left, center, right, all of it. Just get ready for the season; play anywhere. In high school I played center, but coming here, there’s always going to be guys better than you, so you just gotta be ready to play wherever you can play.”
Playing in Hi Corbett presents some adjustments that players have to make, especially outfielders.
“At the plate no, because I’m not really a power guy, but defensively you just gotta be more crisp on your angles to the ball,” Fraizer said of what he’s had to focus on. “Being fast helps being able to cut off balls from going in the gaps and stuff like that.”
His speed combined with his mindset could make Fraizer one of the keys to a successful 2017 campaign and beyond for Arizona.