The New York Yankees decided it was time to rebuild in July of 2016.They had struggled through three lackluster seasons in four years, and general manager Brian Cashman had decided to trade a few veteran pieces to revitalize his club. Aroldis Chapman was traded to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Gleyber Torres. Reliever Andrew Miller was dealt to the Cleveland Indians for highly touted outfield prospect Clint Frazier.
The Yankees’ plan was to be ready to contend for a championship by 2019. Young stars like Torres, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez have helped accelerate that time table. They have been contenders for the pennant for the last two seasons, and they are currently contending for the league’s best record.
They have both a deep and powerful lineup and bullpen. The team has a very bright future, but Frazier’s part in that future is now in doubt. He may no longer have a place in Yankee outfield or on it’s roster.
Clint Frazier’s Development
Frazier was not an immediate success in the Bronx. He hit only .231 and struck out 43 times in just 134 plate appearances in 2017. However, he did collect 17 extra base hits and drive in 17 runs. He also showed off better than average speed as a base runner and an outfielder.
He suffered a severe concussion in 2018 and appeared in only 15 games as a result. The Yankees had also acquired Giancarlo Stanton before the 2018 season, creating a log jam in the outfield. Aaron Hicks‘ increased production and power combined with Brett Gardner‘s defense made it unlikely that Frazier would make the opening day roster in 2019.
Clint Frazier’s Future Brightens in Early Season
Hicks suffered a back injury in spring training, and Stanton pulled an abdominal muscle in the season’s opening week. Clint Frazier was given an opportunity, and he took advantage of it. Frazier had a knack for hitting with runners in scoring position, collecting 34 RBI in 191 at bats.
He showed extra-base power, hitting 11 doubles and 11 home runs. He compiled a slugging percentage of .513 and an OPS of .843. The rookie collected 98 total bases. The Yankees had suffered a multitude of injuries, and Frazier had helped them to remain competitive. Frazier’s future seemed bright at the plate.
Clint Frazier’s bat was an asset, but he had trouble catching the baseball. He was taking poor routes to the baseball. Cameron Maybin, acquired as insurance in the outfield, began to eat into his playing time.
Maybin proved to be a great presence in the clubhouse, a fine defensive outfielder, and a better offensive player than the Yankees expected. His slash line sits at .301/.381/.505 in 210 plate appearances through August 22nd. Judge’s looming return from an oblique injury meant that they’d have some hard choices to make.
Frazier’s days appeared to be numbered when the Yankees acquired Edwin Encarnacion on June 15th. However, Luke Voit‘s abdominal injury before the All-Star break meant that Encarnacion would be taking over at first base for a while.
That injury combined with Stanton’s return to the injured list seemed to signal that Frazier’s bat was too valuable to discard. Nevertheless, Clint Frazier was demoted on July 17th.
He took the demotion hard, feeling that he’d contributed a lot to the team’s first half success. His fastest route back to the majors would be to hit his way back although his hitting has regressed slightly at Triple-A.
Frazier is batting just .251 for the season in Scranton-Wilkes Barre. He has struggled to find consistency since his demotion, and he has been passed over as many other players have been back and forth between Scranton and New York.
Mike Tauchman was promoted instead of Frazier when the Yankees needed an outfielder. Tauchman has more speed and is a significantly better outfielder than Frazier. He has also not stopped hitting since his return to the big league club. He has hit nearly .380 since his promotion, and he has found a home run stroke that figures to keep him with the big club for a while.
The Yankees have a commanding lead in the AL East, but still have work to do. They hope to hold off the Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians, and Minnesota Twins in the race for home field advantage in the American League playoffs. It is unclear what role Clint Frazier will have in that pursuit. For now, it appears he will not be seen until the rosters expand from 25 players to 40 on September 1st.
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