Brewers Prospect Sal Frelick on Being a Pure Hitter

Sal Frelick

Sal Frelick is a pure hitter from a cold weather climate. He is also one of the top prospects in the Brewers’ system and ranks 68th overall on our recently released Top 100. A Massachusetts native who was drafted 15th overall in 2021 out of Boston College, the 22-year-old outfielder is coming off of a first full professional season in which he slashed .331/.403/.480 with 11 home runs between three levels. Moreover, he fanned just 63 times in 562 plate appearances and spent the final two months with Triple-A Nashville. Assigned a 50 FV by our lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen, the 5-foot-9-and-a-half, 184-pound left-handed hitter doesn’t project to hit for much power, but his elite contact skills make him one of the more intriguing position player prospects in the National League.

Frelick discussed his line-drive approach and his ascent to pro ball prior to the start of spring training.


David Laurila: You’re obviously a very good hitter. Where did you learn to hit?

Sal Frelick: “I don’t know if I ever learned from anybody, For as long as I can remember, the only thing I’ve tried to do is not strike out. I’ve wanted to put the ball in play, and over time, with that being the number one priority for me, it’s kind of how the swing I have now developed.”

Laurila: Is it basically the same swing you had as a kid?

Frelick: “Just about. It’s obviously gotten a little cleaner mechanically, but for the most part it’s been just short and compact. It’s not the prettiest thing you’ll ever see, but it gets the job done.”

Laurila: What’s not pretty about it?

Frelick: “If you look at your average lefty, sweet-swinging [Robinson] Canó-type of player, they have these nice long swings. Because I’ve always been trying to stay as short as possible, trying not to swing and miss, it’s just kind of compact.”

Laurila: How would you describe your swing?

Frelick: “I would say I try to stay in the zone as long as possible. And it’s a very even swing. I’m not thinking ‘get on top of it’ or ‘get under it,’ I just want to get it in the zone and keep it there the whole entire time until I make contact. That allows me to be able to square up more pitches in the zone, whether it’s a 90-mph fastball or an 80-mph changeup; I can hit that fastball deep and catch the offspeed out front. The longer your bat is in the zone, the better chance you’re giving yourself to adjust to the pitch.”

Laurila: What goes into keeping a bat in the zone for a long time?

Frelick: “I think a lot of it is just your approach. When I get up there, I’m trying to stay inside the ball and hit all of the fastballs I get to left-center. Because I have that approach, and because my bat is in the zone, if I get flipped an offspeed, even though I’m thinking fastball, I can hit it out front and pull it.”

Laurila: Circling back to you “learning to hit,” there have to be people who helped you along the way. There are a lot of of good hitting instructors in the New England area.

Frelick: “There are, but I haven’t really worked with anybody except John Murphy, who was our hitting coach at BC when I was there. He’s a phenomenal person, and someone who helped me out tremendously. But in the offseasons, during the winter, it was never like I was going to a hitting coach.”

Laurila: What about your offseasons now? Do you spend a lot of time in cages?

Frelick: “Oh yeah. All the time. But again, I’m not with hitting coaches. I really like getting in the cage and challenging myself. I love machines and stuff like that. I’ve always been a guy who likes to go in there and work through my swing, finding what’s comfortable, instead of having somebody there telling me what they see.”

Laurila: What kind of machine do you like working with?

Frelick: “We have this thing called a Black Box — I think that’s what it’s called — and it’s pretty cool technology. You can dump a big bucket of balls in the top and it just spits them out. I’ll program this thing. It can give you a fastball, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup, and I’ll have them come in random sequences, so I don’t know what’s coming. It’s hard to hit against — I‘m missing all the time — but I want to challenge myself as much as I can when I’m in the cage. That way, when I’m facing the big guns, I’m kind of up to speed.”

Laurila: Changing direction a bit, what was the scouting and draft process like for you? Was going to the Brewers pretty much what you expected?

Frelick: “I had absolutely no clue. Even right before that pick, I had no idea where I was going. I kind of knew that I was going to be taken at some point in the first round, and was hoping earlier than later — somewhere between 10 and 20 would have been my best guess. But beyond that, I was just really excited when I heard my name called.”

Laurila: I assume you had conversations and were asked if you’d sign for X amount if you were taken with whatever pick.

Frelick: “No one ever really asked that. It was more that they just wanted to get a vibe from you. Those conversations on draft day, would you sign for X amount of money, usually happen with the agent, but I had met with all 30 teams prior to the draft. I wouldn’t say that any teams seemed more interested than the other teams. I definitely wouldn’t say that, after I’d talked to all of them, it was ‘the Brewers are really high on me.’ I literally had no clue.”

Laurila: You did talk to all 30 teams.

Frelick: “Yes. With college kids, they haves scout meetings that happen in the fall before winter break. They’re usually in-person, but it was COVID when I was a junior, so it was all over Zoom. Basically, you hop on a Zoom call with each team and kind of just chat; it’s kind of like an informal interview.”

Laurila: The Red Sox had the fourth pick (and took Marcelo Mayer), so while that wasn’t very likely, the Yankees picked 20th. I assume there would have been a pretty clear preference between the two.

Frelick: “I mean, I grew up a huge Red Sox fan, a huge Boston fan, so when I was 10 years old, my reaction to the Yankees would have been, ‘No way I’m signing with them.’ But come the day you’re actually drafted, you just want to go to a respectable club. I don’t know if there is one that is more marketable that the Yankees, so that would have been cool. But I was definitely thankful that it was the Brewers.”

Laurila: You weren’t drafted out of high school. Were there conversations with scouts prior to BC?

Frelick: “Not at all during the draft. I then played in the Futures League, a collegiate summer league up in New England, before my freshman year of college and played really well. A few scouts there were interested in signing me post-draft as a free agent — one team made an actual offer — but I was like, ‘No, I’m going to college.’ Unless it was $10 million, I was going to BC.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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Greg Simonsmember
1 year ago

I’m curious how others define “pure hitter.” I’ve always thought it meant someone who hits for a high batting average, which may or may not be particularly valuable depending on their other skills.

1 year ago
Reply to  Greg Simons

I always thought a pure hitter was one who had been blended to the consistency of a soft creamy paste.

Oh wait, that’s a purée hitter.

1 year ago
Reply to  Greg Simons

I personally dislike the term for that reason. It’s typically applied to a guy with moderate/little power that makes a lot of contact, which excludes most of the best hitters in baseball