At the August 2nd Trade Deadline last month, the Toronto Blue Jays pulled off a trade with the L.A. Dodgers for righty swingman Mitch White and infield prospect Alex De Jesus for right-hander Nick Frasso and left-hander Moises Brito.
Could Frasso become a prospect we wish the Jays hadn’t traded at the deadline?
While White has provided starting pitching depth at the Major League level since the trade, going 0-3 with a 7.04 ERA in five starts for Toronto covering 23 innings, Frasso has also emerged this summer as a fast rising prospect with a 100 mph fastball.
One prospect we wish the Jays did not trade at the deadline
It’s been a breakout year for Frasso, who missed the 2021 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery to repair his UCL. It was a disappointing start to his professional career, pitching just five innings at Dunedin that June, with eight strikeouts against two walks. However, he was back starting again just 11 months later, notching another eight K’s against only one hit over 3.0 innings at Low A this past May 14th in a 1-0 Dunedin win.
He then earned a promotion to High A Vancouver on July 4th, helping the Canadians to an 8-4 win on U.S. Independence Day with a dominant four innings of no hit ball, punctuated by 10 K’s against one walk. For that effort, he was named the Northwest League Pitcher of the Week for July 4-10.
He’s now made a combined 14 minor league starts this year, pitching to a 1.33 ERA and 0.845 WHIP over 47.1 innings. He’s struck out 72 batters (13.7/9 innings) against only 15 walks, with only 4.8 hits allowed per 9 IP. He’s struck out 39.2% of batters faced; in other words, Nick Frasso is a ‘swing-and-miss’ strike thrower, which is exactly the kind of arm the Blue Jays need.
He’ll now develop in a Dodgers system that has consistently produced steady waves of MLB pitching talent, like Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May, Ryan Pepiot, Ross Stripling and Mitch White to name a few.
In fact, Frasso already earned a promotion on August 25th to the AA Tulsa Drillers in the Dodgers system after only allowing one run over 5.2 innings with the A+ Great Lakes Loons, where he struck out nine of the 21 batters he faced against no walks. He overlapped at A+ with former Jays prospect Kendall Williams, now 22 years-old. Pitching against at players on average 1.5 years older than him at Tulsa, Frasso has allowed three runs in five innings so far with 6 Ks.
Frasso was drafted by the Jays in the 4th round of the 2020 MLB June Amateur Draft from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. As per his MLB scouting report,
"Frasso hit 97 mph with his fastball in college and has reached new heights this summer, topping out at 100 while sitting at 95-97 with some armside run on his [70 grade] four-seamer. His 82-86 mph slider gets swings and misses with its combination of horizontal action and depth… He has a history of throwing strikes, and though he had yet to go past four innings in a pro outing at the time of the trade, he has the upside of a mid-rotation starter. If durability proves an issue, he has the stuff to have late-inning impact as a reliever."
Baseball America gives him a 45 overall grade, and notes that,
"His best pitch based on performance this season is his mid-80s changeup. He’s been limited to 3-4 innings per start which is to be expected as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery."
The Blue Jays organization was also drawn to his excellent athleticism when they overlooked the elbow discomfort and strained forearm, which had forced him to shut down in his junior season at Loyola Marymount in 2020 during the pandemic shortened season.
Given that he won’t have to be protected from the Rule 5 draft by the Dodgers until after the 2024 season, they can take their time over the next few seasons in increasing his workload post Tommy John surgery in 2021. His MLB ETA is projected for 2024.
The other prospect moved for Mitch White in that trade is 6’5 lefty Moises Brito, who was just signed as an international free agent this past June. He’s been solid as well, pitching to a 1.79 ERA and 0.694 WHIP over 40.1 innings in Rookie ball, with an amazing 45 K’s against only one walk. In other words, yet another ‘swing-and-miss strike’ thrower, which is exactly what the Blue Jays need in their farm system.
What about Jordan Groshans?
Some may argue that former ##3 Jays prospect Jordan Groshans, moved in the trade with Miami for Anthony Bass and Zach Pop, is closer to being major league ready. However, he’s shown a serious lack of power in AA and AAA, with only ten home runs combined over the past two seasons, spanning 712 plate attempts. Worse, he’s only hit 38 doubles over that span and looks more like a singles hitter.
He doesn’t project as a prototypical infield corner bat, and besides he was already blocked at the major league level by 3B Matt Chapman, SS Bo Bichette, and other top prospects like 3B/SS Orelvis Martinez, and the recently drafted Cade Doughty.
Further, Groshans has tumbled down the prospect rankings lists and out of the top 100, and is only the 9th highest ranked prospect now in the Marlins system according to Baseball America; MLB puts him at #13.
Will Jays fans regret the trade of Nick Frasso?
Given how dominant he’s been in High A so soon after Tommy John surgery last year, even earning a recent promotion to AA Tulsa, it looks like Frasso is rising fast as a projectable power arm who generates lots of swing-and-misses with his four seamer/slider/change-up combination. The 15-18 mph variance between those three pitches in his repertoire certainly screams top of the rotation starter upside if he can stay healthy. Add in his athleticism and size, and Jays fans may come to regret the trade for Mitch White and infield prospect Alex De Jesus, now ranked #16 in the Jays system.
Add that upside to the swing-and-miss rookie ball stuff of Moises Brito, and surely the Dodgers are happy to have two more power arms throwing strikes in their highly rated farm system. The fact the trade only raised the floor for major league back of the rotation depth, the Blue Jays and their fans might come to regret giving up so quickly on the high ceiling of Nick Frasso. In fact, the necessity of adding a swingman like Mitch White might call in to question the whole evaluation system for pitching prospects and talent. Why give up two 6’5” 100 mph flamethrowers with high ceilings for a guy who tops out at 94-95 mph and only -at best – raises the floor for back of the rotation depth?