Observing the Cubs over the past few seasons, it’s kind of hard not to get the sense of talented newcomers whizzing their way up the charts and assisting the big league club in a winning season. But not all prospects have such a rise through the system, as Cubs president Theo Epstein noted shortly after he was hired in saying “not all player development is linear”.
On a recent trip to Triple-A, one “non-linear” prospect, RHP Seth Frankoff, gave his views of the process. “I spent five and a half years with the Oakland A’s system”, said the 28 year old, “the A’s released me after I had an oblique injury and I was signed by the Dodgers”. During that time, Frankoff not only experienced the ups and downs of the promotional ladder, but the in and outs of the starting rotation. Part of that has to do with Frankoff’s repertoire. “I have a very aggressive approach, said Frankoff. I come at hitters with a fastball, curve, a cutter, and a change.”
Selected by the A’s in the 27th round of the 2010 MLB Draft, Frankoff began his roller-coaster ride as a starting pitcher, moving from the rookie league, to Short Season-A Vancouver, to Low-A Burlington, and back down to Short Season-A Vermont in his first two seasons. During that time, Frankoff started 30 out of 34 appearances and posted a 3.72 ERA over all.
In 2013, it was a new level and a new role for Frankoff, as he was moved to the bullpen for Advanced-A Stockton. The change seemed to suit Frankoff, as he posted a 2.78 ERA in 48 appearances. That was good enough for Frankoff to get an invite to the Arizona Fall League, where he was teammates with future Cubs Albert Almora, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, and Jorge Soler.
The next two seasons saw the 6-foot-5, 210-pounder bounce between Double-A and Triple-A, as he led Midland in saves in 2014 with 15 and a 2.41 ERA. In his final year with the A’s, Frankoff was a combined 0-2 with eight saves and a 3.71 ERA for 2015. It was during this time that Frankoff began playing in Venezuela during the winters, a practice that he has continued through this year.
“It’s a really great experience down there, with their wild fans and cheerleaders and such” said Frankoff of his time in Venezuela. “They treat ever game as if it were Game 7 of the World Series. From what I have heard, it is the closest you can get to the major league experience.”
For 2016, it was more moving around for Frankoff as a member of the Dodgers organization. With Double-A Tulsa, Frankoff returned to the rotation, starting ten of his 21 appearances before moving up to Triple-A Oklahoma City in July. All totaled, Frankoff was 4-4 with a 3.89 ERA before he was released.
It was this that caught the attention of his current teammates. “I try to be a good teammate, and many of them have been curious about the process. They want to know what it was like to be released and a free agent” said Frankoff. “You have to remain positive and keep on believing in yourself”.
That self confidence has paid off for Frankoff this season, as he has tossed 55.1 innings in 11 appearances (nine starts) and a 2.77 ERA. “Frankoff has the ability to be a real innings eater, whether in long relief or as a spot starter. He has been really consistent and has good stamina” said the Des Moines Register’s Tommy Birch.
Broadcaster Randy Wehofer was a little more conservative in his assessment. “I would like to see Frankoff get up to one hundred pitches more often. He is currently only going through the line-up twice, and I would like to see what happens once the other team adjusts to him. The next month will be critical for Frankoff.”
But the front office had seen enough of Frankoff to add him to the 40-man roster and select his contract from Iowa last Friday. In his first big league appearance, Frankoff went two innings and gave up a two-run home run to Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon. A day later, Frankoff was optioned back down to Iowa, and his non-linear path took yet another turn.