Clint Frazier‘s underwhelming spring training with the New York Yankees deals more with extreme rust than his potential flaming out.
Twenty-nineteen was supposed to be Clint Frazier’s year.
A year in which he would come to spring training in Tampa with a big chip on his shoulder. The Bronx Wildling would shake off an injury-hindered 2018 and dominate at the plate. He would hit a double here, a home run there, maybe an occasional triple. He would finally show his breakout potential, while veteran Brett Gardner was relegated to being the fourth outfielder.
At long last, Frazier’s top prospect potential would rise to the top. Fans would cheer his name the way they did teammate Aaron Judge two years ago. Some would even don red wigs in Frazier’s honor, turning the stands into a Fraggle Rock flash mob.
At least, that’s what Frazier was hoping would happen. Opening Day is just over a week away, and Frazier is likely tagged for a minor league option. He has a slash line of just .162/.250/.270, though he does have five RBI.
Cue the panic button. Frazier absolutely must be traded for young pitching, faster than the 4 train pulling into the 161st Street station. With Aaron Hicks extended and the outfield crowded, there’s surely no long-term use for him.
Except, that is not at all the case. In fact, there is no reason to worry about Clint Frazier at all!
A lost season
If there’s one thing Clint Frazier carries with him, it’s excitement. He’s clearly a fun-loving, high-energy individual. His Instagram alone shows that, plus a man who loves his cats.
That said, it’s no wonder fans embraced him with open arms when he debuted with a bang in 2017. He gave a tough Houston Astros pitching staff fits and had a walk-off home run in his first six career games. Here was someone with a future in the Bronx indeed!
Frazier missed time with a hamstring injury in 2017, and a concussion derailed his 2018 season. He was limited to just 69 total games between the Yankees and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Sure enough, as 2019 Spring Training approached, I raised a key point. After a lost season, the 2019 campaign was Frazier’s to lose.
Now, let’s be clear. By no means is Clint Frazier’s 2019 season going to set the tone for the rest of his career. Moreover, to say 2019 is his to lose may have been unfair.
That said, while I still believe Frazier needs to have a strong season as a whole to take a step forward, it’s also important to realize he’s probably rustier than the Tin Man after a thunderstorm.
Think about it. He played in just 69 games last year, 54 of which were in the minor leagues, of which only 48 were at Triple-A. Now, to his credit, Frazier hit .311 with ten home runs and 21 RBI at Scranton last year. It can be argued he would have had a career year had he not been injured.
Now, consider Frazier wasn’t officially cleared for Spring Training until the latter half of January. He had been doing some baseball activities prior to that, but the rust factor is real.
His high ceiling aside, it’s going to take time for him to get into a regular groove again.
The good news is the ever-analytical Yankees may as well have foreshadowed Clint Frazier’s early struggles. Manager Aaron Boone said earlier this month the 24-year-old outfielder would likely start the season in the minors, and with good reason:
“He needs to play every day,’’ Boone said of Frazier, who battled concussion issues for most of the 2018 season. “That doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t come here. We expect him to impact our club this year.’’
Just not likely at the beginning barring injury elsewhere.
“But, especially with the time he missed last year, regular at-bats, especially early, are important,’’ Boone said. “So it will be determining will he get that here? We will make that determination as the picture becomes a little more clear in the next few weeks.”
Boone is absolutely right. Even with Hicks beginning the season on the injured list, Frazier will only hurt his development as a reserve outfielder. Moreover, Luke Voit and Greg Bird are still neck and neck for the starting first baseman’s job. That means Frazier is battling for the final roster spot with super-utilityman Tyler Wade.
Speaking of Wade, he’s batting .314 in Spring Training and is a left-handed bat in a righty-dominant lineup. Gardner, who hit .236 last year and was ultimately benched, is back with a vengeance and batting .455.
Thus, better for Frazier to start the year in the minors and get himself back to the basics. Let him have a month of playing every day and getting his confidence back. Have him show he’s fully over the concussion issues and ready to be an everyday player again.
Make him show he just doesn’t need the New York Yankees, but the Yankees need him too.
The long and short of it is Clint Frazier, much like the Doctor after re-generation, is getting his strength back. He’s shaking off some hefty cobwebs, just like teammate Troy Tulowitzki.
That means if Frazier really wants to be an impact player, he’ll take an assignment to the minors in stride. The idea of competing with Gardner for the starting left fielder’s job was nice, but not what’s best for the team. In fact, using Frazier as a reserve outfielder or platoon option could actually harm his development more than he helps it.
Clint Frazier is going to be just fine, especially after already being compared to Mike Trout. His Triple-A numbers last year already show a different player.
Thus, take your fingers off the panic buttons, folks. Clint Frazier is going to be just fine.