I don’t envy Clint Frazier’s current predicament.
I mean, I envy most other things about Clint: His cats, his crazy-good hair and his ability to mash taters with the best of them. Those are tremendous pets/qualities to have.
But Frazier is caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place, in need of time to develop parts of his game, yet having more than enough talent to contribute in the Major Leagues for all 30 teams.
I’ll emphasize that again: Frazier can play for all 30 MLB teams right now. On the 25-man roster. Over 209 plate appearances this year, he’s hit .283/.330/.513 with 11 home runs and a 117 wRC+, and he’s likely just scratching the surface. For some, like the Yankees, he’d be an overqualified fourth outfielder, but he’d be an MLB player.
Yet he’s in Triple-A right now. I don’t know if Scranton is nice this time of year, but I’m sure he’d prefer New York for the obvious professional and lifestyle reasons. Frazier, though, has to fix his glove and doesn’t have the time in the Majors to do it.
The Yankees stand in the middle of a pennant chase. One may even consider them the favorites despite a slow start to the second half. Whether it was his shaky defense in Kansas City or his butchered flyballs against Boston, Frazier hasn’t made even the basic defensive plays look easy. He is second-to-last in baseball with a -11 Outs Above Average by Statcast.
Frazier has had the chance to work on his craft in the Minor Leagues, working with Julio Borbon and the Scranton-WB staff, and he’s already showing signs of improvement.
Ideally, for a player of his ilk, he’d have the chance to play every day while working with the MLB staff. The Edwin Encarnacion trade eliminated that chance as Frazier can’t even get the everyday DH at-bats that would keep in in the Majors. With Aarons Hicks and Judge as well as the age-defying Brett Gardner, the Yankees’ have a full outfield.
Many of you understandably want Frazier to be the fourth outfielder over Mike Tauchman, but that doesn’t do him or the Yankees much good. If he’s going to step into the lineup in 2020, you don’t want him having squandered much of the second half as a bench bat with 8-10 plate appearances a week, yet you do want him in the Majors, getting reps. That dichotomy defines why he’s in such a difficult position.
Instead, Tauchman makes the better bench player. The Yankees aren’t as concerned about his development — or trade value — and his glove makes him more than playable at all three positions. His light-hitting bat is much derided, but he produces enough to justify his roster spot.
And that leaves Frazier stuck in Scranton until a trade, injury or a new season frees him up. His relationship with the team appears at a low from the outside, though his talent and what the Yankees would bring in return should dictate whether or not the team deals him, not a supposed attitude problem that has been entirely overblown.
Unfortunately for him, Frazier may have a tough time breaking through in 2020 as well. Gardner might be back on a one-year deal and Judge, Hicks and Stanton aren’t going anywhere, limiting even the DH at-bats when Encarnacion is bought out. Even if Gardner isn’t back, the Yankees may yet find a bargain for a fourth outfielder.
Frazier is still young, turning 25 in September, but he deserves Major League playing time before long. His bat works in any lineup and could one day earn him a spot in the All-Star Game. Whether that appearance, or even his next MLB stint, comes with the Yankees remains unclear, and it’s not his fault. Sometimes, those are just the breaks you get.