On April 17th, the Yankees sent right-handed reliever Johnny Barbato to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a player to be named later. On Wednesday, it was announced that the Yankees would receive Matt Frawley, a 21-year-old right-handed reliever, to complete the trade. The Yankees assigned him to Low-A Charleston.
Coincidentally, the trade was announced when the Frawley’s former team, the West Virginia Power, was in Charleston for a three-game series against the RiverDogs. Frawley just had to move his stuff to the other dugout after he got the news. His debut for the RiverDogs on Friday ended up being against his former team. He struck out four in two relief innings.
The Yankees designated Barbato for assignment on April 12th to make room on the 40-man roster for Jordan Montgomery. Two days after that, he was traded to the Pirates.
Getting rid of Barbato wasn’t really a surprise. The Yankees really showed a lack of faith in him when he did not receive a September call-up at the end of last season. Players with similar scouting reports—average-to-above-average stuff with poor command—aren’t necessarily hard to find either. When the Yankees needed to create space, Barbato was the odd man out, and they exchanged him for Matt Frawley rather than lose him for nothing.
In last year’s draft, the Pirates used their 17th round pick on Matt Frawley, a three-year player from Purdue University. Frawley spent his freshman year coming out of the bullpen but spent his final two years with the the Boilermakers primarily as a starter. In his final season with Purdue, he pitched to a 2.78 ERA in 74 1/3 innings. He was far and away the best pitcher on a terrible Purdue team that only won two games in the Big Ten last year.
Frawley ended up pitching an additional 31 innings after being drafted last year. A majority of his work came in short-season Class-A last year. Frawley pitched to a 4.18 ERA at short-season las year, but he did also strikeout a fair amount of hitters. In 28 innings at the level, he racked up 33 strikeouts.
Frawley got called up to Low-A West Virginia at the end of last year and opened the 2017 season at the same level. Frawley’s stuff won’t blow guys away. He uses a low-90’s fastball to offset a “fringy” curveball, but he has good numbers so far this year.
In 33 1/3 innings with the Pirates’ Low-A affiliate, Frawley has looked pretty sharp. He yielded just one home run and only four walks, while striking out 32. In his sole appearance for the RiverDogs, he pitched a perfect two innings.
The Pirates used Frawley exclusively as a reliever, and Frawley came out of the bullpen in his one appearance in the Yankees’ organization so far. However, the Yankees do have a history of trying to convert relievers into starters. Chance Adams, Tyler Webb, and Johnny Barbato all attempted to make the reliever-to-starter conversion, but only Adams has worked out so far. Given Frawley’s history as a starter, it might not be entirely surprising to see the Yankees try him out as a starter in the future.
Frawley is by no means a big time prospect, but the Yankees were likely going to lose Barbato anyway. This trade is very much a “get something rather than nothing” scenario. Frawley has a long journey ahead of him before he has a shot at making the Major League roster, but that’s okay. Barbato wasn’t going to help the Yankees win, and he isn’t currently helping any other major league teams win. Frawley is essentially a lottery ticket, and hopefully he can pay off down the road.