Hours before Miguel Andujar boarded the Scranton shuttle following a three-game weekend call-up against the Nationals, Clint Frazier made the third out of the eighth inning with the go-ahead run on second via an infield pop-up.
The at-bat capped an 0-for-4 day for Frazier who had just one hit in three starts during the three-game set. He’s seven for this last 63 (.111) since April 9 and has just three hits over the Yankees’ last three series’ (eight starts).
Frazier’s 2.9 plate appearances per team games played falls just below the 3.1 threshold established by MLB to effectively compare stats, but, for perspective, his .143 batting average would rank worst for a leftfielder across the entire league. Kyle Schwarber and Austin Meadows currently sit last and second to last at .193 and .195, respectively, among qualified players and only four outfielders have been worse – Jason Heyward being No. 1 hitting .173 (30 points ahead of Frazier).
There’s no other way to spin it, Frazier has been, offensively, the worst outfielder in MLB nearly a quarter of the way through the 2021 season. Which creates the questions – how long is Frazier’s leash and is Andujar a legitimate alternative?
Prior to an uninspiring 0-for-9 during his first major league action of the year this weekend, Andujar enjoyed a big start to his season going 6-for-13 with three home runs and five RBI in the Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre RailRiders’ first three games. The stint included two starts in left, a position he first started getting reps at during spring training in 2020 and likely his best non-injury related route to an extended stay in the Bronx.
The 26-year-old started seven games at the position in 2020 for the Yankees where he made one error in five chances, but injuries and a cancelled minor league season have prevented him from getting expanded experience. At his best defensively, it’s not reasonable to expect he’d be better than the much-improved Frazier, but it’s something you can live with if the offensive production is even average compared with what you’re currently getting out of the lineup spot.
With Mike Tauchman now in San Francisco, Frazier’s greatest ally is the Yankees lack of outfield depth on the 40-man roster. Outside of Andujar, the only other two potential internal replacements would be Brett Gardner or Estevan Florial – the former being a 37-year-old who was brought back to supply depth and leadership, not everyday at-bats, and the ladder being a 23-year-old who is getting his first action above A-ball this year. The Yankees have deliberately moved Florial through the system to this point and won’t fast track him now.
Giancarlo Stanton could theoretically be an option as well but given his offensive start and ability to, so far, stay healthy, the Yankees aren’t going to take any chances by making him play regular defense.
Frazier earned a shot at being the everyday man in left coming into the spring but his small sample size in 2021 is rapidly expanding and the lineup can’t afford a regular who isn’t even hitting his weight. Continued struggles combined with continued Andujar hitting could force a lineup change before we even reach the all-star break.