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Clint Frazier’s breakout

Ever since Clint Frazier was acquired, Yankee fans have been chomping at the bit to see the young outfielder come into his own and seize a starting outfield job.

In the summer of 2016, the Yankees leveraged an overvalued reliever market to rebuild their farm system and acquired the former fifth overall pick from the Indians. This was before Aaron Judge made his debut, and before they had Giancarlo Stanton. Frazier became the future big bat that we desperately needed at the time, and was ranked as our number one prospect at the time of the trade.

It was tough to see Frazier go through the various stages of post-concussion symptoms last season. For those of you that aren’t aware just how serious his injury was, check out these quotes from an ESPN article written by Coley Harvey earlier this year:

“You don’t feel like you’re in your body. You feel like you’re watching yourself or you’re kind of on autopilot going place to place, and then sometimes you wonder, like: ‘How did I get here?'” Frazier said. “Like, it’s just one of these things where you feel distant from reality.”

Clearly the injury wasn’t just a bump in the road, but a massive boulder on his career train tracks.

Fast forward to 2019, and wow, what a difference a year makes. Injuries to other outfielders have forced Clint into an everyday lineup spot, and he has been rewarding us ever since.

Frazier is currently hitting .324/.342/.632 good for a 151 wRC+. He has cut down his strikeout rate to a very manageable 21.9 percent, which is around league average. Whenever you can get this kind of power out of a player, a league average strikeout rate is more than acceptable. Thanks to Statcast, we can determine the “quality” of contact a player is making, based on launch angle and exit velocity off of the bat. I will spare you the nerdy details, but see below for Clint’s improvement throughout the years:

Now obviously, 2018 was a lost year for him because of the concussion, but I just wanted to illustrate how good Clint’s quality of contact has been so far this season.

Another thing I noticed recently, Frazier is developing into a more complete hitter and is using the entire field. Here is his minor league spray chart from 2017 on the left and 2019 MLB on the right:

Small sample size alert, yes, but I think we are starting to see that opposite field power that we knew was in his bat. Clint has long been known for his good bat speed. An interview from 2016 yielded this comment from Yankee GM Brian Cashman:

“Frazier has an electric bat,” Cashman said. “His bat speed is already legendary. He’s got all the tools –he can run, he can hit, he can hit with power, he can play all three outfield positions. A very exciting, high-energy guy that shows up for the National Anthem in a dirty uniform.”

I think Clint is learning that he doesn’t have to be a dead pull hitter to be successful. Yes, the home run over the bullpen the other day was very impressive, but to me this was just as important:

…and no not because of the cool shoes, but yes those are pretty cool. Most MLB players hit the ball out of the ballpark when they put their best swing on it. I think Clint got handcuffed a bit on that, put a 70 percent swing on it, and it still went out. Impressive. He will hit a lot more in that direction, especially as it heats up in the summer.

Right now things are going well for Frazier, however, being a great major leaguer entails responding to adversity, and making adjustments. Considering that he’s healthy, and has had time to develop, Frazier is better equipped than ever to be an impact player for the Yankees. We may be witnessing his breakout season.

Meredith Marakovits asked him where his confidence level was on Sunday and Frazier’s response was, “All-time high.” Makes sense to me.

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