Versatility is paramount in college baseball.
In pro baseball, if you have a player who excels at a position, you can park them there, and as long as you’re willing to pay them fair market value, he can stay there for a decade or more.
That’s obviously not the case in college baseball. Every position is going to turn over, at a bare minimum, every four years, and if a player is a real prospect, that spot will turn over in three years, when he gets drafted and moves on to the minor leagues. That’s to say nothing of losing players to injury or transfer, both of which can also wreak havoc on a roster.
So you can understand why a player like FAU’s Tyler Frank is so valuable.
As a freshman, Frank, a natural infielder, volunteered to catch in place of Kevin Abraham, who was going to miss time after a cancer diagnosis. As a sophomore, with Abraham back in the fold, Frank moved out from behind the plate to a more natural spot, but not just any spot. He was the team’s shortstop. If catching is the most demanding position on the diamond, shortstop is probably second, and Frank ably handled both.
Over the summer, as a member of Collegiate Team USA, Frank showed off further versatility, as he manned left field and third base at different points.
Even if he wasn’t offering much in the way of offensive production, that defensive flexibility alone would make him a commodity, but on top of it all, he’s been quite productive at the plate.
His freshman season saw him hit .285 with a .401 on-base percentage and 27 walks compared to just 21 strikeouts. And as a sophomore, he broke out as an all-around threat, hitting .336/.448/.540 with 15 doubles, 11 homers, 43 RBI, and 41 walks compared to 29 strikeouts, good enough for a First Team All-Conference USA nod.
In 2018, the Owls are going to need Frank in a big way, what with some of the turnover on offense. Gone are Austin Langham (.332/.443/.462), Jared Shouppe (7 HR), Esteban Puerta (10 HR), and Stephen Kerr (four-year starter with more than 1,000 career plate appearances).
Getting David Miranda (.319/.419/.590, 13 2B, 12 HR) back is huge, as he’ll provide some support for Frank in the order, but that’s a lot of production to try to replace.
FAU head coach John McCormack should rest easy, though. If there’s any player in college baseball that you’d want to build around with a bunch of holes to fill in the lineup, it might be Tyler Frank. Not only is he going to do a little bit of everything at the plate, but he, quite literally, could probably handle every position on the diamond.
Seasons when you’re replacing a huge chunk of your roster are the seasons when versatility comes in most handy. In other words, those are the seasons when you want to have a Tyler Frank on your team, as FAU will in 2018.