“Clint has earned his place”Aaron boone
That’s a direct quote from Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone back in February, via Bryan Hoch. Indeed, Clint Frazier deserves to be the starting left fielder for the Yankees. Especially after last season, when the 26 year-old was a shot in the arm for the 2020 club. He hit .267/.394/.511 (149 wRC+) in 160 plate appearances and unexpectedly played good defense.
And yet, Frazier has sat out three of the last five games. Unless he’s banged up, this is pretty unusual for a player named a starter. Sure, he hasn’t hit well so far. But who has? In fairness to Boone, Clint’s slow start (.200/294/.267, 65 wRC+) hasn’t been the manager’s reasoning. Rather, the skipper cited his desire to have a lefty in the lineup (Brett Gardner) over Frazier when the Yankees faced Chris Archer and Brent Honeywell/Michael Wacha last weekend.
Then, yesterday, Frazier was in the original lineup but not the final one. Once Toronto scratched Ross Stripling for TJ Zeuch, Boone swapped in Gardner for Frazier. Gardner singled against Zeuch last week, whereas Frazier struck out against him. Surely, that wasn’t the reason for the lineup change. Boone pointed to the different type of pitchers that Zeuch and Stripling are, for what it’s worth. Still, it’s weird.
So for the last five games, Frazier effectively has been on the short side of a platoon. Meanwhile, righties Michael Wacha and Tyler Glasnow will start the first two games of this weekend’s series against the Rays. It’ll be interesting to see how Boone constructs his lineup.
Keep in mind that Frazier hit righties (152 wRC+) better than lefties (141 wRC+) last season. His lifetime major league numbers indicate the same (112 vs. 107), so a straight platoon doesn’t really make sense in the first place. Now, I’m sure the Yankees have better internal metrics specifying the types of pitchers certain hitters fare well against, hence the decision to replace Frazier when Toronto made the change yesterday, I suppose.
Look, I like Gardner just as much as the next person. He keeps on producing in spite of folks writing him off annually. I’ve been one of those people before! He’s also off to a good start thus far at the plate: .286/.423/.381 (137 wRC+). But let’s be real here. Frazier is a better everyday player than Gardner at this stage of each players’ careers. Not to mention that Gardner has oddly hit third in the lineup twice already this season.
Now, Gardner definitely deserves to play a good deal. He can help with load management for Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge. I’m totally fine with him spelling Frazier against a really tough righty (like Glasnow this weekend, for instance). But it’s a little alarming that Boone felt the need to get Gardner in the lineup over Frazier because Zeuch — TJ freakin’ Zeuch — started yesterday. No disrespect, TJ.
If Frazier is the team’s starting left fielder, treat him like it. He’s already dealt with enough in his young career, from his concussion to being perennially parked in Scranton. Why are the Yankees handling him like this after just a couple of weeks of games? Frazier deserves better.