EVERETT — What’s the best way to ensure you can get on the field?
Play as many positions as possible.
That’s something Everett AquaSox infielder Patrick Frick learned early in his baseball career.
“Anyway you can get on the field and be in the lineup, that’s what you want,” he said.
Versatility is a particularly valuable skill in professional baseball. The more positions a player can handle, the more options he gives his manager.
Going into Tuesday’s game at Spokane, Frick had started 25 games this season — 12 at shortstop, seven at second base and six at third base. He hadn’t played in the outfield — the AquaSox have a log jam there, with six outfielders on the roster — but he’s capable of playing either corner spot.
Frick’s ability to play multiple positions has allowed him to get on the field often. He ranked second to outfielder Trent Tingelstad in plate appearances with 110 going into Tuesday’s game.
Frick unlocked that versatility during his freshman season at Wake Forest. He played both middle infield spots and right field for the Demon Deacons in order to get on the field immediately. He bounced around the diamond during his sophomore year before settling in as Wake Forest’s everyday shortstop as a junior.
He’s flashed some nice defensive skills for the AquaSox thus far, but the Greenville, South Carolina, native has struggled at the plate. He was hitting .211 with an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .584 in 25 games with the AquaSox.
Everett hitting coach Joe Thurston said he’s hoping to get some more punch out of Frick’s swing.
“He’s got more pop in his swing than he knows right now,” Thurston said. “We’re working on a few different mechanics to maximize the power that he does have. We’re not trying to have him hit more home runs or anything like that, but I think he’s so used to getting his hits and taking the easy base hits. But I’d like to see him drive the ball more a little more consistently. He has a good knack for the game. He’s not a big strikeout guy. He’s going to put the ball in play. That’s his type of game.”
Frick’s plate appearances end in a strikeout just 14.9 percent of the time, the third-lowest among Everett’s players behind Utah Jones (12.5 percent) and Luis Joseph (14.8 percent), and his swinging strike percentage is just 5.1, lowest on the team.
But thus far, his ability to control the strike zone hasn’t translated into hits. His .256 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is the third-lowest on the team, and his 1.90 groundball-to-fly ball ratio is the second-highest on the team. Neither number is conducive to a hefty batting average.
It was Frick’s contact skills and defensive versatility that prompted the Mariners to select him in the 14th round of the 2019 major-league draft.
“Frick is a really interesting player,” said Carson Vitale, the Mariners’ minor-league field coordinator and the team’s acting manager during Jose Moreno’s one-week suspension. “We asked him to be a little bit aggressive with our defensive shifting and alignments, and he made some really nice adjustments. … But he’s got the ability to play third, short, second and we could put him in the outfield and he could do well there, too. He’s a very versatile athlete and he’s starting to swing the bat, too.”
Frick said signing with the Mariners was an easy decision. He was held back a year in middle school after switching from a private to a public institution, making him older than most of the college juniors selected in this year’s draft.
“I just wanted to get my professional career started as soon as possible being a little older,” Frick said.
The AquaSox are glad he did. His versatility makes life easier for the manager to construct a lineup card each night.
“It just gives the manager such a different dynamic of a lineup, and the more versatile the roster, the easier it is to construct a very deep bench, too,” Vitale said. “That’s exactly what we’re looking for — guys who can play in the middle of the field, move all around and give the manager some options.”