Clint Frazier may be knocking, but don’t count on the Yankees opening the door.
The center field job belongs to Aaron Hicks, and that isn’t going to change, according to manager Aaron Boone.
“When [Hicks] is not getting hits, he’s getting on base 35 percent of the time,” Boone told the New York Post. “And he’s a real center fielder that can really legitimately play center field. He has power and in a lot of ways is still a young player who’s still developing and is highly productive.
“[Frazier] continues to grow and establish himself as a big part of our future. Aaron is a really good player for us and plays a premium defensive position. You can’t just fire anyone out in center field.”
Consider this as Boone’s way of saying that the club is satisfied with Hicks’ performance in the field and at the plate, even though Frazier, the Yankees’ 23-year-old rookie outfielder, has been swinging a hot bat with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Hicks put an end to a 0-for-15 dry spell on Wednesday night by going 1-for-3 with an RBI double, walk, and run in the Yankees’ 5-3 win over the Astros. But the 28-year-old hasn’t produced at a high rate this season. In fact, Hicks’ numbers are slightly down compared to last year. His batting average sits at .232 (.266 in 2017), his on-base percentage sits at .339 (.372 in 2017), and his OPS sits at .745 (.847 in 2017).
“Of course I want to get out there and get hits, but I feel like every time I’m hitting the ball hard I’m not getting the result that I want,” Hicks told NJ.com. “That’s just kind of baseball. It’s a long season and everything seems to be able to work itself out.”
Nevertheless, the Yankees trust Hicks and his overall package. At his best and healthiest, Hicks plays an exceptional center field — his strong arm and range can attest to that. And though he’s occasionally experienced bad luck at the plate, Hicks still serves a valuable switch-hitter. Perhaps Hicks hasn’t reached his potential yet, but the Yankees have a big vision for him.
In defense of Frazier, the club has high hopes for him as well. Since joining Triple-A on May 1 after spending two months sidelined with recurring concussion symptoms, Frazier is hitting .341 with five home runs and five doubles in 22 games. But the Yankees don’t consider Frazier as a center fielder, since he’s predominately played the corner outfield positions.
The fans’ ongoing campaign for Frazier has been loud enough to grab Boone’s attention, but right now, Hicks isn’t at risk for a reduced role.
Tyler Austin: ‘I got to prepare better’
One of the reasons why the Yankees elected to send utility infielder Ronald Torreyes down to Triple-A was because they wanted to see how first baseman Tyler Austin would fare against Astros’ left-hander Dallas Keuchel.
In short, Austin didn’t pass the test.
The 26-year-old struck out four times on Wednesday night — three times against Keuchel — in just his third start in the last eight games. He also left four men on base.
“I just got to prepare better, and that’s all it is. That’s all it boils down to,” Austin told the New York Post. “Today I was terrible. I got to prepare better… It’s not easy, but I got to be a veteran. I got to prepare myself better.”
Overall, Austin has produced this season. As the backup first baseman to Greg Bird, who missed all of April and nearly all of May with an ankle injury, Austin has slashed .222/.280/.500 with eight homers and 23 RBI in 108 at-bats.
But, Austin’s in a bit of a pickle. Since Bird returned to action this past weekend, Austin’s role has been diminished. He’s also struggled at the plate of late, as he’s in the midst of an 0-for-18 skid (11 strikeouts).
Although Austin’s playing time is more sporadic with Bird as the starter, Boone still expects Austin to produce when called upon.
“Outside of Keuchel, we’re running up [against] a pretty good stretch of righties,” Boone told the Post. “But I still think you can look to get guys a day here and there that you want to get and kind of maneuver guys and use that DH slot and do the best we can to keep guys fresh.”