After struggling to stay in the majors, New York Yankees prospect Clint Frazier will likely spend the majority of 2020 in Scranton.
Even with rosters expanding to 26 players in 2020, the 25-year-old is still a longshot to make the team coming out of spring training.
Currently, the Yankees’ outfield is expected to consist of Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner and Mike Tauchman to begin the regular season. Unless one of these players suffer an injury, Frazier will be forced to compete for a spot on the bench this spring.
After being left off the playoff roster last season, a bench role could satisfy the young outfielder for right now. Although, the Yankees may not have any room on their bench to carry a fourth outfielder this season.
Since the Yankees will need a backup catcher and will likely keep Miguel Andujar in the majors, that leaves just two open spots left on their bench. While Andujar is attempting to play first base this spring, the Yankees will likely want to have a natural backup first baseman on their bench.
So, that likely means Mike Ford is destined to make the team coming out of spring training. As a result, that means Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada, Estevan Florial and Frazier will all be battling for the 26th spot on New York’s roster this spring.
Since Wade is capable of playing all three outfield positions along with second base, shortstop and third base, he’s likely the favorite to win that final roster spot. With just two left-handed hitters in their lineup, the 25-year-old utility player would also be a serviceable lefty who could provide a boost off the bench.
During the 2019 season, Wade produced three doubles, two home runs, eleven RBI’s, .328 BABIP, .117 ISO, 10.2% walk rate, 25.9% strikeout rate, 88 wRC+, 0.3 fWAR rating and a slashing line of .245/.330/.362/.692 over his 108 plate appearances in the majors.
While the left-handed batter struggled to hit for power with the Yankees in 2019, he endured a lot of success at generating walks last season. As for Frazier, he recorded impressive power numbers but failed to remain disciplined at the plate last season.
Over his 246 plate appearances with the Yankees, Frazier hit 14 doubles, 12 home runs, 38 RBI’s, .329 BABIP, .222 ISO, 6.5% walk rate, 28.5% strikeout rate, 108 wRC+, 0.1 fWAR rating along with a slashing line of .267/.317/.489/.806.
Despite Frazier’s offense, his terrible defense significantly lowered his value in 2019 making Wade a more valuable player. Unless the former top prospect can improve off his -13 OAA and -8 DRS this spring, he’s likely to lose out on the opportunity to begin this season in the major leagues.
Even if Frazier was awarded the 26th roster spot, it would be very difficult for the Yankees to give him consistent playing time. Based on his defensive flaws, positioning him in center field wouldn’t be an ideal situation.
If Judge can remain healthy in 2020, he’ll likely play somewhere around 150 games in right field. So, that would leave just left field as a possible area where Frazier could receive regular playing time. However, Tauchman is poised to become the everyday left fielder for the Yankees this season.
The 29-year-old played in 87 games and received 296 plate appearances last season. During that time, Tauchman hit 18 doubles, 13 home runs, 46 RBI’s, .333 BABIP, .227 ISO, 11.5% walk rate, 24.0% strikeout rate, 128 wRC+, a 2.6 fWAR rating and a slashing line of .277/.361/.504/.865 as well.
Most importantly, Tauchman produced a +16 DRS (sixth-best among all outfielders with at least 650 innings) and a +9 OAA (tied for ninth-best) over his 694.1 innings split between all three outfield positions during the 2019 campaign.
In addition, the veteran outfielder was also extremely successful against both lefties and righties during last season. Starting with left-handed pitchers, Tauchman recorded one home run, .444 BABIP, .171 ISO, 13.3% walk rate, 19.3% strikeout rate, 161 wRC+ and a slashing line of .357/.446/.529/.974.
As for right-handed pitchers, he produced 12 home runs, .285 BABIP, .247 ISO, 10.8% walk rate, 25.8% strikeout rate, 115 wRC+ along with a slashing line of .247/.329/.495/.823. Based on these results, the left-handed batter wouldn’t need to be removed from the lineup when facing a righty or a lefty pitcher.
Even when Judge or Tauchman need a day of rest, the Yankees can just place Giancarlo Stanton in the outfield rather than needing to keep Frazier on their roster. Aaron Hicks is also likely to return from his Tommy John surgery at some point later this season, further proving that Frazier likely won’t be needed at the major-league level in 2020.
If the Yankees were to choose Frazier over Wade, they would also be left without a backup middle infielder. So, that’s why it would make a lot of sense for the Yankees to utilize Frazier’s final minor-league option this season.
After the 2020 season, Frazier will be eligible to enter arbitration for the first time in his career. Meaning, he’ll likely earn a significant raise from his 2020 salary of just less than $600K.
Unless the injury bug hits the Yankees hard once again, there just isn’t a lot of upside from keeping Frazier within the organization for much longer. So, general manager Brian Cashman will likely continue shopping his young outfielder during this season.
If successful in completing a trade, Frazier would no longer be the odd man out in New York, which is something he’s been attempting to accomplish in each of the last three seasons.