It’s pretty unusual for a collegiate pitcher drafted outside the first 10 rounds to climb onto top prospect lists in their first full season. However, San Francisco Giants right-hander Matt Frisbee has done just that.
“I was never the guy that had the light on him,” San Francisco Giants prospect Matt Frisbee said in an interview with Around the Foghorn.
That’s where it all starts for last year’s 15th-round pick out of the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, who is used to being in the background.
“In high school, I wasn’t really a big name. I felt I was good enough to play in college, which fortunately I got the chance to. But from the beginning, I had to prove something,” Frisbee said.
How players deal with this dilemma can be the great separator. After all, only a select few are ever considered elite prospects. The rest have to live with being noticed, but rarely being the center of attention.
For Frisbee, the reaction was easy: “I’ve always had the motivation and the will to do what I wanted to do.”
His long-term goals became clearer when baseball was taken away. Early in high school, Frisbee played basketball and football alongside baseball. During his sophomore year, he tore his ACL and missed the season.
“I couldn’t play and it opened my eyes…this is what I want to do,” Frisbee said.
Once he recovered, he left his career on the gridiron and court behind, turning his attention solely to baseball.
When he reached college, he immediately jumped into the middle of the UNC-Greensboro rotation where he was a mainstay for the next three seasons. After a solid sophomore season, he earned an opportunity in the Cape Cod League, an amateur summer league known as a hotbed for collegiate talent.
“I didn’t have my best summer, but I knew this can happen for me,” Frisbee said.
The more you talk with him, the more you can hear how committed he is to the sport. When I asked him to describe himself as a player, he didn’t talk about his slider, which is considered by some a potential plus pitch, or his low to mid-90s fastball.
Instead, he wanted to make clear he is “all-in on the mound” and willing to “do whatever I can to give us a chance to win” when he takes the ball.
Taking every challenge head-on has been especially necessary for Frisbee early in his professional career. Last summer, after he signed with the San Francisco Giants, he was moved to the bullpen. That was a departure from the norm for a pitcher who had spent his entire life to that point as a starter.
“Routine is everything,” Frisbee said. “You lose that routine coming out of the pen.”
This offseason, he worked to get acclimated to a high-leverage relief role. However, the Giants organization was undergoing a transformation of its own. Farhan Zaidi replaced Bobby Evans as the president of baseball operations, while the head of player development, David Bell, left to become manager of the Cincinnati Reds.
When the new faces in the organization got their first up-close look at him in spring training, it sparked another role change for the 22-year-old.
“I threw a couple bullpens and they sat me down and said ‘I think you’re a starter,'” Frisbee said. “I was so happy to have that routine again…it just felt right.”
Whoever made the decision to let Frisbee back into the rotation was vindicated rather quickly. After four strong outings with Single-A Augusta, he became the second pitcher from the San Francisco Giants 2018 draft class to be promoted to High-A San Jose.
In 22 appearances following the move up a level, he posted a 3.17 ERA and tallied 131 strikeouts against just 22 walks while holding opponents to a .231 batting average in 116.1 innings. That was enough to earn him the team’s Pitcher of the Year honors.
Not only did Frisbee have a strong first full season as a pro, but he seemed to get stronger as the year went on.
He mentioned how he saw teammates “who were gassed” down the stretch, and that’s pretty par for the course. Figuring out how to balance workouts and throwing sessions throughout a long season is one of the toughest adjustments for prospects.
However, Frisbee seemed to find the proper balance, posting a 1.91 ERA over his final 10 appearances.
His performance is one of the strongest campaigns in recent memory from a San Francisco Giants pitching prospect in his first year removed from the collegiate ranks. Even first-round picks like Chris Stratton and Tyler Beede struggled to prevent runs, rack up strikeouts, and limit the free passes in the way that Frisbee did at High-A this year.
On the heels of his stellar performance, he currently ranks No. 24 among Around the Foghorn’s top 30 San Francisco Giants prospects and he’s set to start next season at the Double-A level.
Matt Frisbee may have never been the center of scouting attention, but his performance this year has put him on their radar. Perhaps, less than a year from now, the small-town kid from North Carolina could be making a push to pitch for the San Francisco Giants under the bright lights at Oracle Park.