When you mention sports and North Carolina together the first two things that come to mind for many people are NASCAR and ACC Basketball. Growing up in Apex, North Carolina things were no different for Seth Frankoff, a diehard sports fan, he cheered for the North Carolina Tarheels, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the Boston Red Sox. For Frankoff, he did not want to be the next Michael Jordan or Earnhardt Jr. He preferred baseball and emulated the hard-nosed work ethic of Red Sox outfielder Trot Nixon growing up.
Hailing close to the research triangle, where basketball is known as king, the regions baseball programs have quietly grown into some of the best programs in the country. After finishing his senior season at Apex High School where he went 7-2 with a 1.46 ERA, the two-time most valuable player was set to begin the next chapter of his playing career at UNC Wilmington.
Through most of Frankoff’s college career he found himself pitching as part of the Seahawk’s starting rotation. In his first three years at UNC Wilmington, the right-handed starter went 9-8 in 30 starts. It wasn’t until Frankoff’s senior season where he was transitioned out of his starting role into the bullpen. In the pen, Frankoff saw all his numbers improve and finished the season with a 5-1 record. It was the first time in his college career where the right hander saw his strike out rate (10.93/9) increase to over a strike out an inning. Frankoff fanned 68 batters in 56.1 innings and had a career best WHIP of 1.45.
As the 2010 MLB draft approached, the unknown awaited Frankoff. He was unsure when and if he would be selected in the draft. After spending some time following the draft, Frankoff opted to relax and let it all play out. As he sat on a bass boat with one of his best friends fishing near his hometown he received the phone call every college or high school player is waiting for. The Oakland Athletics were calling to inform him they had just selected him in the 27th round of the 2010 draft. The next chapter in Seth Frankoff’s baseball journey was set to begin in the Oakland Athletics organization.
The A’s quickly signed Frankoff and his professional career began when he was assigned to the Arizona Athletics in the Arizona Rookie League. The right hander appeared in eight games and made four starts compiling a 2-3 record and an impressive ERA of 2.28 over the course of 27.2 innings. An August promotion saw Frankoff heading north of the border to Vancouver in the Northwest league. With the Canadians, Frankoff pitched exclusively as a starter and finished the season with a 3-2 record over 30 innings of work. In his pro debut season, Frankoff struck out 66 batters in 57.2 innings of work.
Frankoff was promoted to the Burlington Bees in the Midwest league to start his 2011 season. The right hander struggled in his five starts with the Bees. He went 0-1 and allowed 15 runs in his 12 innings of work. The A’s sent Frankoff to work on his mechanics and he would return to game action with the Vermont Lake Monsters when the New York- Penn League got underway in June. Frankoff returned with a strong performance and started 14 games with the Lake Monsters. He pitched in 73 innings and finished the season with a 6-3 record.
As 2012 began, he once again found himself in a familiar place starting the season with the Burlington. Over the course of the 2012 season Frankoff found himself getting work both in starting and relieving roles as a member of the Bees pitching staff. Pitching a career high 104 innings, Frankoff started in 9 contests while relieving in 25 others. From an A’s prospective this was a transition period to find out if he could find more professional success working out of the bullpen.
A full transition to the bullpen took place in 2013. The A’s promoted him to their California League affiliated in high A ball, the Stockton Ports. Frankoff embraced the bullpen role and came into his own while with Stockton. Playing in one of the most hitter friendly leagues in the game, Frankoff shut down opponents left and right. He struck out opponents at an outstanding 11.3/9 inning rate. He also held runners of the base paths with a WHIP of just 1.076. Appearing in 48 games, Frankoff threw 74.1 innings and finished the season 2-0 to go along with four saves. The right-hander from Apex, North Carolina seemed to have found his niche in the bullpen.
Following the 2013 season the Oakland A’s announced that Frankoff would be a part of a group of players to represent the A’s in the Arizona Fall League. The fall league is widely regarded as a place in which some of the top prospects in the game are invited to get additional work and instruction. In 12 games, Frankoff was even better than his regular season showing. He finished the fall season with a 1.46 ERA and struck out 15 in his 12.1 innings of work. He continued to keep runners off the base paths with an impressive 0.89 WHIP
The A’s promoted Frankoff to the Midland Rockhounds in the Texas league as the 2014 season got underway. Frankoff settled into the role as Rockhounds closer where he continued his dominating performance. Frankoff picked up 15 saves in 27 appearances out of the bullpen. He continued his recipe for success, striking out batters (12.6/9) and keeping runners off the bases (1.188 WHIP). Frankoff was rewarded for his hard work and success on the diamond when the Oakland A’s promoted him to their triple A affiliate in July.
In his initial outings as a member of the Sacramento River Cats, Frankoff was hit hard adjusting to the new level of play but he rebounded and continued to put up solid numbers in the bullpen. He appeared in 22 more games (30.2 innings) facing a mix of prospects and veterans, some with major league resumes. He finished his season 1-1 with a 4.40 ERA and he picked up his first AAA level save. Playing in triple A provided him a preview of what challenges await in the future.
Although his off-season was just beginning, Frankoff was not ready to put down a baseball, his next destination would be the Caribbean winter leagues. Frankoff signed with the Estrellas de Orientales in the Dominican Republic and got his first taste of Caribbean baseball. While he only appeared in five games for the Estrellas, Frankoff was able to soak in the incredible game atmosphere and learned how coaches manage the game differently than he had seen before.
A few weeks after leaving the Dominican Republic, Frankoff once again found himself on the move. His next destination would be Venezuela after he signed to play for Navegantes del Magallanes in the Venezuelan Winter League. Magallanes is known as one of the most storied teams in Venezuela and crowds packed stadiums on the road and at home to see the team play. While he was limited to just three appearances with Magallanes his performances were strong allowing zero runs and striking out seven. As with his experience in the Dominican, Frankoff was able to soak in that atmosphere and he feels that this experience will better prepare himself for the larger stadiums of AAA and the Major Leagues.
After two stints in the Caribbean, Frankoff could finally put down a baseball, but it wasn’t the last accomplishment of his off-season. In January, Frankoff was selected by the Oakland Athletics to attend the MLB Rookie Career Development Program in Washington, D.C. The program prepares young players on the cusp of making it to the big leagues on things like transitioning to the big leagues as well as interacting with the media and social media.
Spring training is fast approaching and its a good bet when the season starts Seth Frankoff will be attacking hitters at the back-end of the bullpen. We will continue to follow his journey all season long as he continues his quest to make his major league debut with the Oakland A’s. Be sure to follow him on twitter @Frankoff34 and follow us at @CTD_Sypien as we will provide updates on Seth all season long and into the future.
Eight Questions with Seth Frankoff
1. What was draft day like for you? What were you doing when you got the news the A’s had selected you?
The draft is definitely a crap shoot. Unless you’re a sure thing you first rounder you have no idea who is really going to take you or what can happen. I was drafted as a senior, I was expecting to get drafted as a junior and I ended up not getting selected. It ended up being a very miserable couple of days. Going into my senior year draft day several scouts had indicated they may take me but it got to a certain point where I just couldn’t follow along anymore. I left the computer and listening to the conference call and I went with one of my best friends and we went fishing. When I got the call that the A’s had drafted me I was on a bass boat in the middle of the pond fishing.
2. You started your professional career as a starting pitcher but during the 2012 season converted into the role of a relief pitcher. What were the differences for you between the two roles and how did your mentality on the mound have to change at all?
The great thing about starting is your able to have a set routine. After you start you have your day off, then your side day, long toss day and so forth which is very good especially earlier in your career when your trying to work on a number of things. The bad thing about starting to me and I think hindered me as a starter was I was not mature enough at the time to handle the whole thing. If I pitched great then the next five days were going to be great and I was enjoying myself. If I had a rough outing it was tough for me to go five days without pitching again. I would sit there and over analyze things. My next outing I felt like I had to go back out there and try to make up for my bad one. Sometimes I was my own worst enemy on the mound.
I like relieving because it allows me more opportunities to pitch. I especially like pitching out of the back-end of the bullpen, its more of a high-octane situation. I was always a position player until my senior year in high school so I always say I’m a position player in a pitchers body. I really just enjoy getting out on the mound as much as possible. I want to be out there on the field as much as I can helping my team win.
3. Over the last few years you have had more opportunities to close out games. Tell us what pitches do you currently throw and a bit of what you bring to the mound when your out there?
Most guys in the bullpen are usually two pitch guys but I throw four. I throw a fastball, cutter, change-up and a breaking ball. What has made me successful the last couple of seasons is my ability to throw all those pitches at any time in the count. As a closer your going in there to get three outs. It doesn’t matter how you get them your just going out there to get the job done. The ninth inning is a different animal, hitters tend to have a different approach so I just want to attack them and go after them as best as I can.
4. At the end of the 2014 season, you made it up to the 2014 level. The next step is obviously the major leagues. At each level, which level for you was the most challenging to adjust to?
The biggest jump for me was the jump from AA to AAA. When I first got to AAA I really got my tail handed to me my first five outings. I was really struggling and the biggest thing was when you get to AAA you’re facing lineups in which most guys has some amount of big league time. Guys who are either up and down or big leaguers who are trying to rebound and get back to the majors. The hitters really have a good idea of what they are trying to do. At other levels you can sometimes get by when you get behind in the count but at AAA you can’t. I had to focus myself on getting ahead on guys and understand that quality pitchers are better than trying to be perfect. It was definitely an adjustment and a growing process for me. After I made the adjustment I felt I was able to throw the ball pretty well.
5. In 2013 you had an opportunity to represent the Oakland Athletics in the Arizona Fall League. Tell us about your experience and what you took away from it.
The fall league was an awesome experience for me. It was honestly one of the most fun experiences I’ve had in professional baseball. It was an honor to go there and represent the A’s. The fall league was a who’s who and your playing the best of the best from each teams minor league systems. It was a great challenge and a great experience to see some other guys from leagues all around who I had not met or played against. The team I was apart of was extremely talented, we had guys like Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant and Addison Russell on our team. It was great to get out there and compete but it was just as fun to see some of these extremely talented individuals play.
I was able to see how some other guys go about their business. In the A’s organization there are certain things they try to stress upon us and the way we go about playing the game or executing pitchers. It was nice to see how other players do things and how they have been taught coming from different systems. What stood out to me the most though was how good we have it with Oakland as far as how our programs are and how structured everything is. I am very fortunate to come up in an organization that really stresses the importance of a throwing program, arm care and stuff like that.
6. Is there a particular coach or instructor in the Oakland system that has really helped you get to where you’re at in your career?
There are a lot of guys who have helped me along the way get to where I am at today. The coaches and player development we have with Oakland is great. I can’t say enough about how they are they are the reason I am still playing this game today. There are people who have stuck up for me and have really worked with me during my time in the A’s system. All my previous pitching coaches and coordinators have help me out immensely. My previous pitching coordinator who is currently our bullpen coach in the big leagues, Scott Emerson has really had a big impact on my in my career both on and off the field. He really helped me not only with my mechanics but my thought process on the mound.
7. This off-season you had the opportunity to play in the Caribbean in both the Dominican Republic and Venezuela can you tell us about both experiences and also how it helped your game?
I first got an opportunity to go to the Dominican Republic and played for Estrellas de Orientales. It was absolutely beautiful, they put us up at a hotel right on the beach. It was a great experience but the country itself is economically depressed and that was an eye opener for me. It really put things into perspective and made me thankful for where I come from. The baseball is pretty similar to that in the states. There was a lot of velocity, I saw more 95 to 100 mph pitches than I have ever seen. There is way more match-ups in the Dominican than in stateside baseball. The rosters tend to change over almost every day so the managers have 14 or 15 pitchers at their disposal at any time. I’ve never been a part of so many four hour plus games in my life!
About a week after I got home from the Dominican I had another opportunity to go play for Navegantes del Magallanes in Venezuela. I really enjoyed my experience in Venezuela. The team took excellent care of me. I’ve never been on a team before that everywhere we went the Magallanes had more fans than the other team. We would literally be on the road 10 hours away from home and we would still have more fans at the game.
Heading to the winter leagues was a great opportunity to get out their and work on some more things. The biggest thing was I was able to keep pitching. I feel like playing in the fall league or in the winter leagues can really help you bounce back when getting started with the next season. I feel that when spring training comes around I will be ready to go a lot quicker than in the years I did not play in the off-season.
8. Also this off-season you had the opportunity to go to Washington D.C. for the Rookie Development Program. What did you do there and what was your experience like?
It was four days in D.C. The first day I had one of my best experiences in my life time. They actually took us to the Capital Building, we had dinner and we had a complete tour of the building. We then got to go out on the balcony of Speaker of the House Boehner’s office and see the view of the national mall and the Washington Monument. I am a huge history buff so it was such a great opportunity for myself to get to see so many things that I have never got to see before.
We also got to go to the house of representatives and we got addressed by a congressman from the state of Texas. I’ve never been inside the House of Representatives so that was really cool to be right there, where the state of the union takes place. So much of the history of our country has been decided right there in that room. Outside of baseball that was such a great experience.
As far as the baseball aspect the next three days was a lot of meetings and seminars. Some were in a classroom setting where we listened to different speakers and took notes and others were very interactive and they had us participate. The players union and Major League Baseball put on the event and they addressed a lot of things. A big part was media and dealing with social media. They also address the financial side of things and how to deal with your money. The way I looked at things was that it is hard enough to stay on the field with just your performance and this program helped to try to eliminate as many off the field distractions so you can be the best you can be on the field. We also got to meet Tony Clark who is the new head of the players union which was good for all of us there at the program. I am very thankful that the A’s thought I should go to the program.
A Few For Fun
1. Who was your favorite baseball player growing up and why?
I actually have two. First would be Trot Nixon, I was born and raised a huge Boston Red Sox fan and Trot exemplified everything that my father wanted me to be as far as being a hard-working guy and team player. He is also from Wilmington, North Carolina and that is where most of my family is from so that had a big influence on it as well.
Another guy who I always looked up too was Landon Powell. He played a few years in the big leagues and is from my home town. I looked up to him immensely and he has been a great mentor to me in my life. Those two guys are the two who are my favorite players.
2. Your off-season twitter feed is often filled up with college basketball talk. Who do you like at this point in the season to take home the National Championship this year?
There is so much parity in college basketball right now its very hard to speculate. I am a huge North Carolina fan and growing up in Tobacco Road a big part of our lives is college athletics, especially ACC athletics. I think you might see one of the ACC schools win it this year.
3. If you could sit down with any one person over dinner and pick their brain who would it be?
I would love to sit down and talk with George W. Bush. The reason that is and taking politics out of the equation he was our President during some of the most strenuous circumstances that we have ever seen in our countries life, at least in our lifetime. I’d just like to pick his brain on how he handled those situations under extreme stress. He is a big baseball guy as well so I think he would be a really interesting guy to sit down and talk to.
I would also if I could have the opportunity like to sit down with my grandfather. I never had the opportunity to meet my grandfather and I’ve heard so many things about him from my family and I think it would be interesting to meet him and just get to know him and how he has influenced all of my family.
A big thank you to Seth Frankoff for taking some time out of his schedule to chat with us. We look forward to following him all season long and into the future. We will also feature more of our interview with Seth in a future piece on the Caribbean winter leagues. Please remember to give him a follow on twitter @Frankoff34 and like Chasing MLB Dreams on Facebook and follow us on twitter @CTD_Sypien as we continue to feature and follow all of our featured players as they chase their way to the major leagues.