Here’s an understatement: Clint Frazier is ready for the new year to arrive.
The Yankees’ 24-year-old outfielder, who spent the majority of the 2018 season on the disabled list due to lingering symptoms from a concussion, told the YES Network on Thursday that his health has improved considerably, and he’s looking forward to competing for a role on the major league roster this upcoming spring.
“I’m feeling good. It’s been a long process, a process that’s kind of a unique one to go through,” Frazier said. “I’m not used to feeling like I’m hungover every day. So, the way to beat it is to just continue to do the workouts and push through the symptoms, and just know at the end of the tunnel, you’re going to be better. It’s been a long road, but I’m ready for spring training.”
2018 was a lost and trying year for Frazier. During the first week of spring training games in late February, he suffered a concussion against the Pittsburgh Pirates after colliding with the outfield wall in Bradenton, Florida. Although Frazier’s odds of making the Opening Day roster out of camp were slim, he was never given an opportunity to prove himself, as the symptoms to his head injury lingered for weeks, forcing him to sit out all of March and April.
Frazier eventually returned to the field in early May with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and in 54 minor league games, he slashed .305/.388/.562 with 11 home runs, 15 doubles, three triples, 27 walks, 21 RBI, and 55 strikeouts in 189 at-bats. Between June and July, Frazier appeared in 15 games for the Yankees, hitting .265 in 34 at-bats.
Unfortunately for Frazier, his post-concussive issues returned in spurts. In late July, he landed on the seven-day concussion disabled list due to lightheadedness and migraines. Following that setback, he played in just two August games for High-A Tampa before the Yankees shut him down for good in early September.
“It was upsetting because that was one of the best seasons that I felt like I put together in the Triple-A level,” Frazier told YES. “The opportunities that I got up there [with the Yankees], I felt like I capitalized on them whenever they came about. To go through it again was tough. It’s definitely been one of the most trying times for me in the past couple months. It’s just something that I don’t wish on anybody. I don’t want anyone to have to go through the symptoms I felt because it’s a very uncomfortable one. It’s a mental battle…”
Frazier will be one of several outfielders vying for playing time in the Bronx next year. Two months ago, the Yankees re-signed veteran Brett Gardner to a one-year deal worth $7.5 million, and this past season’s outfield trio of Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Giancarlo Stanton will be at the club’s disposal in 2019. For what it’s worth, the Yankees believe Jacoby Ellsbury, who missed all of 2018 due to a variety of injuries and hip surgery, will be an option for them, too.
Because of this outfield depth, Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman bluntly dismissed the ongoing rumors of the club pursuing top free agent Bryce Harper during baseball’s winter meetings last week, telling reporters that, “At no point all winter have I said I am looking for an outfielder.”
The question is, was Cashman bluffing? Do the Yankees actually believe there wouldn’t be any room for a generational talent like Harper? Well, that remains to be seen.
All Frazier can do is maintain his steady progress. Last week, he took to Instagram to share a video of himself swinging off a tee. Frazier’s been slowly hitting and throwing, he told YES, and he’s beginning to take overhand batting practice in order to work on timing at the plate.
“My goal is the same one. It doesn’t matter what position I play as long as I can play one,” Frazier said. “I feel like I put myself in a good spot whenever I was out on the field. And I know there’s time to be made back up for me to go out there and ultimately win that job. But everyone is well-deserving to win that job. It’s just a matter of who’s probably hot at the time, what are the needs, and overall how much we can help the team.
“I’m pretty confident of what I can do and I’ll go out there and play as hard as I can and win that job and help the team.”
Position players report to Tampa to begin the 2019 season on Wednesday, February 18. The Yankees’ first full-squad workout will take place the following day.