A couple of young sluggers [2019 Season Review]

The 2019 season has started to become a distant memory, though we still have a few more reviews to complete. Today, we tick the box on a couple of power hitters who spent time in Scranton and the Bronx to varying degrees of success.

Clint Frazier’s roller coaster season

Red Thunder was supposed to start the season in Triple-A, but Giancarlo Stanton’s bicep strain just three games into the season changed things. The Yankees summoned Frazier to replace Stanton, and little did we know how long Stanton would actually be on the shelf.

Simply put, Clint was terrific in the early going. He hit .324/.342/.632 (148 wRC+) in April, alleviating Stanton’s absence. Frazier cooled down in May (83 wRC+), but recovered for a strong June (126 wRC+) before his demotion, which I’ll touch on more in a moment. First, I have to touch on his defense.

Much of the good Clint did at the dish was overshadowed by some ugly defensive plays. He was charged with three errors — all as a right fielder — but that doesn’t tell the story. Statcast had Frazier as 13 runs below average, second-worst in baseball. Plays like this are why:

Even with Frazier’s defensive woes, it came as a surprise when the Yankees optioned Frazier to Triple-A in the middle of June. He had 11 homers in 209 plate appearances and a 119 wRC+, quite impressive for a 24 year-old. But, the Yankees had just acquired slugger Edwin Encarnación and Frazier wound up being the odd man out.

Perhaps more surprising than Frazier’s demotion was that he didn’t return until roster expansion. Granted, he struggled offensively in Triple-A (85 wRC+), but to keep him down for about two-and-a-half months over the dog days of summer was unexpected. Yes, Mike Tauchman and Cameron Maybin carried the load just fine, but the rash of injuries could have afforded him another shot.

Frazier didn’t do much in September with the Yankees. He appeared in 14 games but hit .176/.243/.353. But even with the disappointing second half, Frazier again reminded us that he can really hit. He had the same barrel rate as Aaron Judge (10.7 percent) and a solid 88.5 MPH exit velocity.

Mike Ford made the most of his opportunities

Ford was an afterthought when the season began. He wasn’t on the 40-man roster, but as it’s well documented by now, the Yankees had a bazillion injuries and had almost no choice but to give Ford a shot.

By Independence Day, Ford had two brief cameos with the Yankees but didn’t do much. He hit .200/.400/.333 (99 wRC+) in 40 plate appearances and hit one homer. Ford was a nice story as a local product and an undrafted amateur free agent first getting a taste of the majors at 27 years-old, but perhaps this is who he was: a Quad-A slugger. He’d clearly mastered Triple-A, a level he dominated since 2017, but the Yankees didn’t give him a second thought for a few years. They even nearly lost him in the Rule 5 draft.

So, the early returns this year seemed to indicate there was a reason for the Yankees ignoring Ford. However, he got one more opportunity and he made the most of it.

The lefty first baseman absolutely mashed in August and September. In 123 trips to the plate, Ford hit .274/.333/.619 (145 wRC+) with 11 homers. He was much more aggressive and it certainly paid off. His biggest moment came against Oakland’s relief ace, Liam Hendricks, on the first of September:

Overall, Ford finished with a .259/.350/.559 (134 wRC+) batting line and impressive 10.4 percent and 17.2 percent walk and strikeout rates, respectively. The combination of power, patience, and bat-to-ball skills gave the Bombers a big lift down the stretch.

Now, whether or not Ford’s hitting ability is for real remains to be seen. He could be just another Quad-A slugger to get his moment in the sun, but there are some underlying positives. He crushed the ball this season to the tune of a 91.9 MPH average exit velocity and 9.6 barrel rate. Not many guys can do that while striking out below the league average mark.

What’s next

Frazier has perpetually been on the trade block forever, it seems. That’s probably no different this winter, although there is an opening for him. Should the Yankees let Brett Gardner walk, Frazier could take over. That said, such a scenario seems doubtful. A Gardner reunion is assuredly in the works, Frazier still has one more minor league option, and Clint’s defense and poor finish may have scared the Yankees a little. Now, will he be traded? Who knows. He’s been rumored for so long that I won’t believe it until I see it.

Ford’s role on the 2020 Yankees is somewhat uncertain. The Yankees are set at first base (Luke Voit) and have an abundance of options at DH (Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Andújar, and Voit), so there’s no open regular gig for Ford. However, he could snag a bench role now that rosters are one player larger. If not, Ford will probably clobber Triple-A pitching until an injury opens up some playing time in the majors.


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  1. MaryAnn Slater

    I really hope the Yankees add Ford to their roster. He did a lot more than Frazier.

  2. DJ Lemeddardhieu

    Bozo the Clint has got to be traded, Derek. If you can’t get a decent arm for Gary throw Bozo into the deal and see if a team bites. I don’t like his attitude. He whined when he was sent down to AAA while guys like Chad Green accepted it and worked to get better. Clint got worse when he came back in Sept. His numbers were ballooned by bad Orioles pitching, which was basically AA pitching. With Tauchman as 4th outfielder and Wade able to play the corners Clint is expendable. All he does is run around in circles like a clown and drop the ball anyway.

    Mike Ford is a polar opposite of Clint and Clint doesn’t even deserve to be mentioned in the same post. Ford came up when we desperately needed a power jolt and gave it to us and gave us a good glove at 1st when Edwin got hurt again and again. Without Ford we don’t make the postseason. He needs to be on the MLB roster next year as the 26th man and platoon with Voit. He’s proven he belongs and shout out to my friend Big Dan who has an eye for talent and said Ford should be up here years ago.

    • D.B.

      I know this is replying to eddard, but…

      Mike Ford is, at best, an average 1B defensively.

  3. RetroRob

    I thought Clint would take some less-than-optimal routes on balls when he first arrived in the majors in 2017, which fits what I had heard about him in the minors. I could also see his skills. He was fast, aggressive, strong arm. At worst, I figured he’d eventually be ok out there. No Gardner, but acceptable. He then turned into one of the worst defensive OFers I’ve seen. He was missing simple plays, turning easy outs into run-scoring plays for the opposition. The speculation that it’s concussion related is likely true. It started after he returned, and you can see it on his approach on balls anywhere near a wall. Hopefully he can get past that. The bat looks real.

    As for Ford, his decent season was built on his final 59 PAs, most of which were in September. He was slashing .200/.308/.309 in late August before having that great finish when he batted .358/.424/.849. Hot finish, but never judge a rookie based on September stats. He’s also a likely beneficiary of the rocket ball used in 2019. His role will be 1B in AAA to serve as a backup for Voit, and to bounce up and down when the Yankees might need a bat. He might sneak in another 150 MLB ABs during which the Yankees can further assess if he’s more than a quad-A hitter.

    My guess is ten years we’ll look back and see Clint will have been a consistent major league hitter for some team, while Ford will be mostly forgotten. Hope I’m wrong on the latter as it’s a nice story.

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