When the Yankees sent Clint Frazier to Triple-A back in mid-June, I expected to see him back in pinstripes before September. Sure, the Yankees’ outfield was crowded and Frazier struggled defensively. However, it was difficult to think that he wasn’t one of the best 25 players. Obviously, it didn’t help Frazier’s case that guys like Mike Tauchman and Cameron Maybin proved their worth over the summer while Clint lingered in Triple-A.
As weeks and months passed, there was certainly some skepticism about the Yankees’ intentions. Were they showcasing him for a trade? Or, were they looking to keep him in the minors long enough to obtain an extra year of control? In any event, alternatives for the corner outfield and designated hitter roles stepped up and made it difficult to squeeze Frazier on the roster anyway. But now, circumstances have changed. Rosters have expanded and Frazier is back in the majors. Meanwhile, an opportunity has once again arisen because of performance and injuries to others.
Tauchman has been a revelation. He has a 126 wRC+ and 2.3 fWAR in 82 games, which is unquestionably better than anyone could have expected. While there’s some legitimacy to what he’s done to date, he has slowed down lately. Whether it’s late season fatigue or regression to the mean, it’s evident that his production has tapered off. He’s in the midst of a .115/.233/.115 skid since August 24th and it’s not merely a result of bad luck:
Tauchman’s not hitting the ball as hard as he was back in July and early August. Could he be wearing down? He hasn’t played too much September baseball before, mainly because Minor League seasons end early. It could also be a slump, but either way, I think it’s fair to pull back some of his playing time in favor of Frazier.
Maybin has appeared in two games since August 24th because of a wrist issue. One of those appearances was as a pinch runner. But even before that, Maybin hadn’t hit much since the calendar turned to August. He had a 100 wRC+ last month, though a strong first week buoyed that mark. From August 9th on, Maybin has a .122/.200/.244 line in 45 plate appearances. Surely, his wrist contributed in some part to the slump. Regardless, it would behoove the Yankees to be patient with Maybin’s recovery. That gives Frazier more chances for the time being.
Frazier can also provide extra opportunities to rest Brett Gardner. As great as Gardy has been, he’s notorious for slowing down late in the season. Even though he’s shown no indication of a downturn in 2019, it can’t hurt to take precautions. They can play Tauchman in center and Frazier in left to do so. At least until Aaron Hicks returns, which hopefully will be soon.
Giancarlo Stanton is the one guy who unquestionably should supplant Frazier when healthy. We’ve begun to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but Stanton’s probably gone for at least a couple of more weeks.
Based on the current situation, Frazier appears to have a few weeks as a regular to leave an impression. Although he’s hitless in two games since returning to the Yanks, he did have a chance to show off his arm yesterday:
That was pretty. And so far, he hasn’t made any of the egregious outfield mistakes that he had in the first half. He may not ever be a good fielder, but he’s athletic and certainly has the arm to at least be average out there.
As much as it seemed like Clint was in the dog house for the last few months, he still has an opportunity to be part of the team’s long-term future. There is an opening for a left fielder and/or designated hitter next season. And, depending on which position Stanton primarily plays, and Frazier would fit in the other spot. Thanks to some new opportunities this month, Frazier has a chance to remind everyone why he belongs.