Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier must be one of the most discussed minor leaguers in baseball. Some wonder why the 24-year-old, a former top prospect, isn’t on the Yankees. Others ask why the outfielder-laden Yankees haven’t traded him away for immediate pitching help over the past couple years. It doesn’t seem they’ve shown a lot of willingness to add Frazier to their roster or trade hm since sending him back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in mid-June. Frazier has been stuck in the land of Dunder Mifflin for about two months with no clear end in sight, which he discussed with James Wagner of the New York Times in a piece that’s worth a full read.
Frazier held his own offensively earlier this season in the bigs, where he used what general manager Brian Cashman once called “legendary bat speed” to slash .283/.330/.513 (116 wRC+) with 11 home runs in 209 plate appearances. But that wasn’t enough to keep Frazier in New York. When the team acquired designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion from Seattle on June 15, it demoted Frazier. His defensive issues were among the primary reasons why (and it also helped that he has minor league options remaining).
Frazier had an embarrassing outing in right field, where he was filling in for the then-injured Aaron Judge, during a nationally televised loss to the Red Sox on June 3. That night wasn’t the lone dark hour for Frazier as a defender, though. Rather, Frazier has accounted for minus-11 Defensive Runs Saved and a minus-8 Ultimate Zone Rating in 686 innings since he debuted in 2017.
Cashman, wanting Frazier to become less one-dimensional, was “brutally honest” in a phone call with the player a a few weeks after they sent him down, Frazier told Wagner. To help Frazier, the Yankees have deployed Scranton defensive coach Julio Bordon to work with him in the field. Manager Jay Bell appreciates Frazier’s diligence, informing Wagner, “I can’t tell you enough how impressed I’ve been with the way he’s gone about his work.”
Frazier does indeed seem committed to improving as a fielder, saying, “All my energy is going into being a defender because if I’m fortunate to get that call back, man, I want to be in the outfield and turn heads and people be like, ‘Wow, this guy has been working down there.’”
That may explain why Frazier’s minor league offensive numbers are significantly worse than they are in the majors this year. He has batted an underwhelming .250/.301/.469 (89 wRC+) with seven home runs in 173 trips to the plate. In Frazier’s estimation, though, it’s “crazy” that he’s not in the majors. “It’s one of those things where I know I’m not a finished product, but I don’t know if anyone is a finished product up there. I think I need to be tested against major league pitching and defense in the outfield in every aspect.”
Frazier, however, did admit: “I can’t be mad about my situation. Ultimately, I put myself here.”
Even with Encarnacion, first baseman Luke Voit and outfielder Giancarlo Stanton battling injuries, the Yankees haven’t recalled Frazier. There’s simply still no place for him in New York, which – despite its myriad injuries – is seemingly able to plug in anyone and get a big year from that player.
Veteran outfielder Brett Gardner has continued to get the job done, while fellow outfielders Mike Tauchman and Cameron Maybin have come from nowhere to enjoy magical campaigns. Judge and Aaron Hicks returned from early season injuries a while ago, too, and Mike Ford is logging time at DH/first. Frazier will have to continue waiting for his turn this year, then, and whether the Yankees will give him a real shot next season is difficult to determine. Judge, Stanton and Hicks will be back to start in the outfield, Encarnacion could return as DH, Tauchman won’t have an option remaining and the rock-solid Gardner could re-sign.