MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers spent their first-round Draft pick on a collegiate center fielder who bats left-handed and is regarded for his speed and athleticism.
Last year it was UCLA’s Garrett Mitchell to Milwaukee in the first round, and this year it’s Boston College’s Sal Frelick. He's six inches shorter than Mitchell at 5-foot-9, but he is heralded as a terrific defensive player and potentially a sparkplug atop the lineup, a former three-sports star in high school whose hand-eye coordination from hockey and athleticism from football show up on the baseball field, according to Brewers area scout Ty Blankmeyer.
The Brewers drafted Frelick 15th overall with the first of their two picks on Day 1 of the three-day MLB Draft. The team also took Wright State second baseman Tyler Black at No. 33 overall.
“I said this a lot in meetings about this kid: If I was just a fan, right, I would go to the game and pay to watch Sal Frelick play baseball,” Blankmeyer said. “And I say that because ... he doesn't take pitches off. He does the little things. He has some impact tools to be exciting. He gets the big hit. But the big thing is the kid's a tremendous person, he's a tremendous teammate, he makes people better around him. So, this is the whole package, in my opinion. It's legit.”
Frelick was the captain of the baseball, football and hockey teams at Lexington (Mass.) High School, but went undrafted before attending Boston College, where he slashed .359/.443/.559 this season as a junior, with six home runs and 13 stolen bases in 48 games. He was MLB Pipeline’s 11th-ranked prospect going into the Draft and the top-rated prospect from Massachusetts.
“I don’t think I had any interest coming out of high school with baseball. I wasn’t even sure I was going to play baseball until the end of my senior season in baseball,” Frelick said. “With football, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I don’t think I saw my full potential in baseball.
"Even after my freshman [year at Boston College], I had a pretty good campaign, but I had some injuries. Sophomore year, COVID. So, it wasn’t a smooth path by any means to get here. I was sitting down [Sunday] night and it was a little bit of a realization, like, 'Wow, I’m finally in this spot.' I don’t think it really hit me until that night.
“I think the next level is going to be good for me, because I don’t think I’ve reached that full potential. I haven’t tapped into it yet, just because I’ve been cut short with injuries, cut short with that COVID year. This was my first year playing fall ball and a spring season all together. I just know there’s so much more potential for me and the ceiling is high. So, I’m excited to get to work.”
A left-handed hitter and right-handed thrower, Frelick played the corner outfield in his early seasons at Boston College, but stuck to center field in 2021 and won a collegiate Gold Glove Award at the position while being named ACC defensive player of the year.
Frelick said he figured he had a chance to be drafted in the middle of the first round and knew he was the kind of player – college bat, high contact rate, versatile up-the-middle defender -- the Brewers have targeted lately. But he didn’t learn he was going to Milwaukee until about 30 seconds before the pick was announced on television.
“Sneaky athlete,” Brewers scouting director Tod Johnson said. “I say ‘sneaky’ just because you look at him and he doesn’t scream super-athlete. Then you watch him do everything on the field and it’s incredible.”
Those other sports, Blankmeyer said, “flash through” when Frelick is on the baseball field.
“There's hockey, you can see that with the bat to ball,” Blankmeyer said. “Football, you can see it just by his defense and routes and athleticism. So, it's a special athlete.”
As for his relatively diminutive stature?
Well, there are plenty of good baseball players who stand 5-foot-9. The Dodgers’ Mookie Betts is one. The Brewers think they have a good one in infielder Luis Urías.
“He acts like he's the biggest dude on the field,” Blankmeyer said. “He knows his game. He's very sharp. He's got a very high aptitude, so he understands what he has to do to be successful. The twitch and the athleticism and the explosiveness make up for -- I don't care how big you are, because this guy, his game is big. He might be 'small,' but his game's not small, it's big. When you go watch him in the game, he always does something to make you get up out of your seat, like, 'woah.' He's an exciting player.”
The Brewers’ speediest prospect at the moment is infielder David Hamilton, who grades a 70 on the scouting scale, which tops out at 80. Frelick is graded similarly.
“It shows up everywhere,” Blankmeyer said. “It shows up running the bases, stealing bases, getting down the line. It shows up on defense. And he has instincts to go with it. Now, people have 70 raw speed, and then sometimes their run tool actually plays to average. This kid has 70 raw speed and his actual game speed and instinct plays up. I think it's going to be 80-game speed.”
The Draft resumes Tuesday with the second round live on MLB Network and MLB.com beginning at 12 p.m. CT. At the conclusion of the second round, the second day will continue with Competitive Balance Round B through the 10th round on MLB.com. Rounds 11-20 will be held Tuesday starting at 11 a.m. CT on MLB.com.
The Brewers have until Aug. 1 to sign Frelick, Black and their other 2021 picks. The slot value assigned to pick No. 15 is $3.89 million and for pick No. 33 it is $2.2 million.