When the New York Yankees traded some of their stars for a flurry of young players there was a buzz around their team again. After almost a decade of parading older, star players out on the field everyday they were finally restocking their talent and getting younger. Among all of the acquired talent at the time was one name that pumped up the fan base more than the others.
With all of the talks of Gleyber Torres and the epidemic that is “Gleybermania,” Torres wasn’t considered the top prospect acquired in July of last year. Frazier was and still is, discussed as a potential five-tool player in the major leagues.
When Frazier came to the Yankees, he was immediately sent to the Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, a level he only had five games at and was going to a place he did not know anyone in. This helped contribute to Frazier hitting .228 with three home runs to finish the season with the RailRiders.
For Frazier, an offseason has made a world of a difference. He’s now in a town and clubhouse he’s more familiar in and is more acclimated with the AAA level. Frazier acknowledges it’s difficult to come to a new team mid-season but in his second year, he’s having much more fun.
“It’s so transparent how comfortable I am this year as opposed to last year,” Frazier said. “I’m more in my element as far as it goes with the relationships I have with the guys and I feel a part of the team.”
Frazier is off to a better start this season. Going into June 7, he has nine home runs and 30 RBIs. That can’t all be attributed to scenery, though. Frazier is a hard worker, and he’s always working with his hitting coach, P.J. Pilittere.
“He knows what this organization is all about and he knows how we do things on and off the field and I think that has relaxed him a little bit,” RailRider’s manager Al Pedrique said. “He can be himself instead of like last year when he came in and tried to do too much.”
Even though he’s trending in the right direction, Frazier still has some work to do at the plate. Pedrique said he’s been working with his hitting coach to stay short through the zone and to use more of his legs.
“Sometimes he gets over aggressive, and the key for him to slow the game down is to trust his hands and note the fact that little by little, the more he plays, he’s going to understand the strike zone better,” Pedrique said. “One of the things we’ve seen this year from the last year was he was swinging at a lot of bad pitches, but this year he’s doing a lot better.”
Pedrique said Frazier is trusting his hands more and he’s trying to see the ball first and hit his pitch. This has led to his on-base percentage to be higher this year, and the team is starting to see a different hitter at the plate.
Patients seems to be the key for Frazier in taking the next step at the plate. After he was acquired, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman notoriously called his bat speed “legendary.” Someone with that amount of bat speed could tend to get ahead of himself when hitting.
“I think (the bat speed) is a gift and a curse,” Frazier said. “At times, when I’m early I kind of fly through the zone a bit but at times when I’m late a bit, it helps me catch back up to it. I think it’s just about managing how to use it and to harness it at times when I need to.”
A lot of that approach comes with experience and Frazier was able to witness some of that experience in his first taste of big league spring training last March. At first, he was just trying to get acclimated to his environment and wanted to see how people operated around him. He said he was able to learn a lot from one veteran in particular.
“(I learned a lot) from Matt Holiday,” Frazier said.” “He’s a great guy, and he’s been around for a while. Some of the advice he had was pretty good.”
One thing most people don’t realize about Frazier is what a great presence in the clubhouse he is and what a good person he is off the field. He has emerged as a leader in the RailRider clubhouse and takes a good attitude into every day.
If he continues to be patient and make his adjustments at the plate, he has the makeup to be a force in New York and lead the youth movement for years to come.