'I just feel fresh': Frelick returns from injury hitting better than ever

June 18th, 2023

Tearing a ligament in his left thumb could have been a moment to derail 's season. But after returning from surgery in just seven weeks, the Brewers' second-ranked prospect is hitting better than ever.

In just his third game back with Triple-A Nashville, Frelick hit his first homer since September 2022 and reached base four times with four RBIs in Saturday's 7-4 win over the Gwinnett Stripers.

“It feels good to get back to ... the rhythm of things quickly after being out for a couple of months,” Frelick said.

Injuries are nothing new to the 23-year-old, baseball’s No. 22 overall prospect per MLB Pipeline, who twice underwent meniscus surgery at Boston College. But in comparison, Frelick felt like this thumb injury -- suffered on April 18 while sliding into second base -- was relatively minor.

The silver lining of this injury was that the outfielder was able to take his time off to reset after a slow start to the season in which he slashed just .232/.318/.321.

Although he couldn’t swing a bat until recently, Frelick focused on getting his forearm muscles back to full strength -- spending a lot of time in rehab squeezing putty -- while maintaining a better lifting and running regimen than he otherwise would have been able to in the middle of the season.

“You obviously train the whole offseason,” Frelick said. “You’re lifting every day, you get in great shape. Once the season starts, it’s kind of hard to continue to get strong. The big goal is maintaining that strength. It’s hard when you can’t get into the weight room every day when you’re playing six days a week. It was nice, being 10 weeks into the season, it kind of feels like a fresh start, almost like I had a second offseason. I just feel fresh.”

Going through those injuries at Boston College and having to watch his teammate play without him built up a mental toughness in Frelick. It helped him push through potential hurdles of wondering, on the cusp of making the Majors: What might have happened if things played out a little differently?

“I could have easily knocked myself down and said, ‘What if? What if? I should be playing here,’” Frelick said. “I was able to put that aside and really take it as a time to get my body right and lift every day, run every day, so that when I was cleared to go, I was able to come out firing.”

And come out firing he has. Combined with his first two games, Frelick is 5-for-11 with three walks since returning, good for a ridiculous 1.390 OPS. He struck three different balls Friday with an exit velocity of at least 100 mph and even made a spectacular catch in right field in foul territory.

It’s fair to wonder, if he keeps this up, how much longer it may be before the 2021 first-rounder gets the call up to Milwaukee. The Brewers are in the hunt in the National League Central, but one of their spots of potential improvement is in the outfield, where they rank 25th in baseball with a 93 wRC+ among outfielders -- and that’s with Christian Yelich hitting well as the everyday left fielder.

Frelick's former Sounds teammate Joey Wiemer is having an up-and-down rookie campaign (.214/.285/.403), and Brian Anderson is hitting around league average in right field. Versatile Tyrone Taylor landed on the 10-day injured list (right elbow sprain) in early June and hasn’t hit much when healthy.

Sounds manager Rick Sweet says that Frelick still needs more seasoning -- after all, he’s only played in 175 professional games after quickly moving through Milwaukee’s system. But Sweet sees a mature approach out of this high-energy player, whose 70-grade bat shouldn't be held out of Milwaukee too much longer if he continues to play this way.

Here's more from Milwaukee’s full-season affiliates:

Triple-A Nashville
Infielder , who went into this season one of MLB Pipeline’s Top 5 Brewers prospects before graduating in May, is on a tear since being demoted after a 3-for-44 stretch in the Majors. He singled in a 1-for-4 game on Saturday to snap a three-day streak of hitting home runs, capped by a walk-off, two-run home run on Friday against Gwinnett.

Turang went into Sunday having hit safely in six of his first seven games back with Nashville.

Double-A Biloxi
Third baseman (Brewers No. 5 prospect) went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts in the Shuckers’ walk-off, 6-4 loss in Montgomery on Saturday, an unremarkable performance that was actually quite remarkable considering it snapped Black’s 35-game on-base streak.

It was the longest such streak in Shuckers franchise history and was the longest active streak in Minor League Baseball. Over those 35 games, Black had a .421 on-base percentage with 32 walks, 31 hits and 30 stolen bases. His 46 walks and 36 stolen bases lead the Southern League this season. Overall, Black reached base safely in 50 of his first 52 games this year coming off an injury-plagued 2022.

High-A Wisconsin
6-foot-7 phenom (Brewers No. 4 prospect) has visited the state of Wisconsin only once in his life thus far. That was to undergo a physical exam and sign his first pro contract after the Brewers made him their second-round pick in last year’s Draft.

That will change Tuesday when he makes his third start for the Timber Rattlers -- his first in front of the home fans. The confident right-hander has struck out 10 of the first 34 batters he’s faced since the move to High-A, after striking out 46 of 101 at Single-A Carolina. He’s scheduled to match up against the A’s No. 29 prospect, Joelvis Del Rosario. Tickets are available through the Timber Rattlers’ website.

Single-A Carolina
Outfielder (Brewers No. 16 prospect) was MLB Pipeline’s top Brewers prospect going into 2021 when he got at-bats in big league Spring Training games as a 17-year-old, but he’s struggled since then, posting a .202/.267/.353 slash line at Carolina over parts of the past three seasons. He went into Sunday with a .572 OPS there. He’s still just 20, so the Brewers aren’t giving up on him.

“That’s been a tough one, because repeating that level, we expected performance,” VP of player operations and baseball administration Tom Flanagan said. “He was very young for the level when he went to Carolina [to start 2022], and repeating it, we thought it would be a boost for him.

“He’s shown flashes in some areas, like controlling the strike zone. There are signs of making some progress there. And he’s gotten some big hits for the club, so that’s great. But overall, it’s still been a little bit of a grind for him. Or, a lot of a grind. We’ll see how the second half goes and progress from there. It’s definitely been a head-scratcher.”