The players have all reported to spring training, and there’s more buzz around this Yankees team than I could remember. From the Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, batting practice show to Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres‘ potential as permanent fixtures in the Yankees infield the hype around the team has been massive. But all of the eyes in spring training are missing someone: Clint Frazier.
Frazier spent his first full season with the Yankees organization after being acquired in the trade that sent Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians at the July 2016 trade deadline. He struggled in his first couple of months with Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre, and he only hit .256 in time with them. He also got his first taste in the majors and after a few splashes ultimately ended up hitting .231.
What I saw from watching Frazier last year in Triple-A was that when he was on his game, the talent was evident. The potential to be a five-tool player was right there, but then Frazier would go through very tough streaks of not being productive and during those times he just seemed greatly unbalanced. That became even more clear when he was promoted to the Yankees mid-season.
When Frazier struggles, it seems he cannot catch up to a fastball which is strange for someone who, when acquired, was touted for how extraordinary his bat speed was. This became even more evident when he earned his promotion to the Yankees. Pitchers got him out on fastballs an average player should get to.
The culprit? His back foot.
When Frazier swings his back foot naturally jumps out of his stance, and he is relying solely on his arms to catch up to the pitch coming in. Even the fastest of bats would have a hard time doing that. When he’s going well, it’s not as pronounced, but most of his hits would go towards the right-center part of the field suggesting he was a bit late on it.
Baseball-reference.com defines a power pitcher as a pitcher that is in the top third of the league in strikeouts plus walks, and they define a finesse pitcher as one that is in the bottom third of the league in strikeouts plus walks. When Frazier faced a power pitcher, he had a slash line of .204/.220/.449 but when he encountered a finesse pitcher, he hit .282/.317/.513.
Again, not usually an issue for someone with, as Brian Cashman put it, “legendary bat speed.”
Coming over from the Indians also was not a smooth transition for him. He admitted to me during the season last year that it was hard on him coming over to a new organization not knowing anyone or the area he was in. Then after getting acclimated and ready for 2017, there was controversy over his hair and clubhouse presence. Stories like that take a toll on a young player on the verge of the big leagues.
Coming into this spring Frazier has been eager to show the work he put in during the offseason and from the limited video I’ve seen thus far I’m incredibly impressed. His swing is noticeably improved. He’s getting to the ball quicker because his swing has less moving parts and most importantly when he swings the back foot has stayed planted. Combine that with all of the previous stories being a non-factor this year and Frazier is ready to take the next step.
Eliminating the flaws in his swing is going to let him relax at the plate and just let the talent he has showcase itself. He has an uphill battle to climb being buried down the depth chart, but if his mechanical problems are solved, he’s going to be a force.
I predict by the end of March the name we’re hearing pushing the issue is not going to be Torres or Andujar. It’s going to be Clint Frazier.
Despite how it shakes out for him there’s one thing that is certain:
Frazier is ready to rake.