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Can Clint Frazier ever return to form?

Clint Frazier’s season has sadly been cut short due to recurring concussion symptoms. The outfielder recently celebrated his 24th birthday on September 6, but he has been limited to only 34 at-bats in the Majors this season and has only been able to play in 54 Minor League games. Once a highly-touted prospect who was part of the haul that sent Andrew Miller to the Indians at the trade deadline in 2016, Frazier has yet to get a sustained opportunity in the Big Leagues to showcase his potential.

Concussions are no laughing matter. There are many athletes who have to deal with residual effects for the rest of their lives. They can affect many intricacies that are important to a hitter, such as hand-eye coordination and reaction times. So, if Frazier is able to come back next year and be a part of the 2019 Yankees, how will his game be impacted?

The study

To make an estimation, I looked at a study that examined recent concussion history in the MLB and the impacts on performance. The study focused on players who had sustained concussions between 2007 and 2013. They looked at BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, BB%, K%, HR/AB during three periods: the two weeks before the injury, the two weeks after return, as well as four to six weeks after return. They then compared these stats during these periods to players who had missed time due to paternity or bereavement leave.

The average time missed due to a concussion was nearly 11 days. The findings were what you might hypothesize. Of the metrics that were statistically significant between the groups, all showed a decrease in performance post-concussion.

However, the interesting thing is that most of the stats recovered in the long term (four to six weeks later). Now, this is slightly different from Frazier’s situation, as he has suffered multiple concussions, but there is potential for him to come back and perform at a high level. Due to the fact that he has been ruled out of playing for the rest of the year, he will have more than an adequate amount of time to recuperate. Nevertheless, concussions can be somewhat volatile, so we can’t say for certain that Frazier won’t be dealing with the impacts in the future.

Impact on Frazier

Frazier suffered a concussion in Spring Training and consequently started the season on the disabled list. Once he returned, his Major League performance hasn’t dipped in comparison to his first taste of the Big Leagues in 2017. Although it is a small sample size (142 plate appearances in 2017, 41 in 2018), most of his stats besides power are up. One, in particular, is his BB/K ratio which is over two-times better at .385 versus .163 in 2017. This could carry some significance as his eye has most definitely improved.

Of course, it is difficult to distinguish whether his concussion history is having an effect or if it’s simply a young player developing (more likely). In terms of Statcast measures, his exit velocity is comparable (88.7 MPH in 2017, 88.1 MPH in 2018), but the percentage of pitches he is barreling up is much lower (12.0 percent in 2017, 4.8 percent in 2018).

Clint Frazier is a promising young player who is known for his moxie and bright red hair. It has been a frustrating couple of years for him with injuries, but hopefully he can use his determination to continue the trend of MLB players being able to return to their expected level of performance after a concussion.