BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Travis Fryman carved out a promising 13-year major league career as a five-time All-Star and a two-time Gold Glove winner. After his playing days came to an end, he passed his devotion to the game to his son Branden Fryman, a minor league prospect in the New York Mets organization.
Branden Fryman benefited from growing up within a baseball family and gained the understanding of what it takes to thrive at the professional level.
“My dad advised me to focus each day on every pitch and enjoy the moment out there,” Branden Fryman said. “He tells me if I give it my all that good things will happen on the field. Growing up in a baseball family has brought me around the game at an early age. It’s helped me learn things quicker than I think most people would. He’s given me some pointers and tips that I learned at a young age, like professionalism and seeing how the players go about their business after at-bats.”
Branden Fryman experienced his first taste of professional baseball as a teenager watching his dad manage the New York-Penn League’s Mahoning Valley Scrappers. He observed the minor league culture and even traveled with the team on the road to cities such as Lowell, Massachusetts and Jamestown, New York.
Watching his dad manage for three seasons was an added benefit for Fryman, who opened his pro career in the same league for the Brooklyn Cyclones.
“I did travel around this league a good bit. I never came to Brooklyn, but I came to a bunch of different ballparks,” Fryman said. “When my dad was managing Mahoning Valley, Jason Kipnis was there. Giovanny Urshela, who is now with the Yankees, was there. I think Jose Ramirez came through there, and I’m sure there was a lot of others that started out in the league.
“I remember the competition being good and while the parks are a step up today, things are very similar. It’s weird being the player and not the kid that is watching it all happen. It’s a different point of view.”
After starring shortstop for Tate High School in Cantonment, Florida, Fryman had an offer to turn pro by the Mets as a 37th round pick in the 2016 MLB draft. But he bypassed the opportunity and attended Samford University, a Division I school in Alabama that recently produced Cincinnati Reds outfielder Phillip Ervin.
Although he hit .393 in his final season in high school, Fryman was not heavily recruited by most Division I programs. Instead, he saw Samford as a place where he could play immediately and better prepare himself for the future.
“I was still pretty small, and I wasn’t fully grown yet,” Fryman explains. “I knew that college would be the best thing for my development. I needed to get in some more game time and sort of work my way up from there. I was very appreciative of being drafted, but I never really considered turning pro.
“I came into Samford as a walk-on, so it gave me a little chip on my shoulder to go and prove myself as a player, so I’ve been able to play right away and put in a leadership role and learned how to play the game. The facilities at Samford are nice. Coach Casey Dunn is a great guy, and the assistants are great as well. I think people are starting to realize what Samford is all about as a baseball school.”
At Samford University, Fryman began finding his promise, earning his first varsity letter his freshman season and making the Southern Conference All-Freshman team. He also provided the Bulldogs with speed and a sure-handed glove at shortstop.
Following a stint in the Cape Cod League with the Chatham Anglers, Fryman had a standout junior season, batting .323 with a .792 OPS and helped Samford tie a school record for victories. Fryman credits his work in the Cape Cod League for the strides he made as a junior.
“The biggest thing I worked on between my sophomore and junior years was my composure throughout the course of the season,” Fryman states. “Every season has some ups and downs, so maintaining a steady base is very important. I think my sophomore year, I was a little erratic, getting a little hyped up, which is not always the best thing to do.”
At 6-foot-1 and 160 pounds, Fryman profiles as a contact hitter with quick bat speed through the zone and as someone who can line the ball up the middle. On the basepaths, he has the speed to steal an occasional base.
His natural speed is a plus when he fields his position, and he proves capable of making most routine plays with the right positioning and enough arm strength.
The question of where Fryman projects will come down to whether he can add muscle to his frame and translate his line-drive approach for added power.
“Overall strength I know is something that I know I need to work on,” Fryman said. “That will take offseasons and development during the season, but I know that is my main focus. I have been working on my arm strength, and really trying to become every aspect of my game, even the ones when I’m good. I just want to keep improving and make sure I maintain those qualities.”
After watching Fryman’s development for three years at Samford, the Mets chose him in the 21st round of June’s draft. He quickly found a spot with the Cyclones, batting .405 with a .436 on-base percentage and a .897 OPS in his first 10 games in Brooklyn.
Fryman’s torrid start in Brooklyn provided increased opportunities to bat at the top half of the batting order and help ignite the team’s offense.
Assisting Fryman in his early returns is Cyclones hitting instructor Delwyn Young, a five-year major league veteran, who hit his first big league home run off Stephen Strasburg.
Young advised Fryman to keep his hands back in the zone and drive the ball with harder contact. The outcome has been a higher line drive rate and sustained success at the plate that Fryman concludes will help him throughout his career.
“Delwyn’s helped me a lot with starting early,” Fryman said. “Sometimes I can rush my load a bit, and I can be late on certain pitches, so I was able to sort of make that adjustment through my first five or six games. I think the biggest thing is being focused in the batter’s box, clearing your mind, and locking in on the pitcher. You just have to trust yourself up there at the plate.”