Clint Frazier has a new stance at the plate. You may remember this from Spring Training, where it was a bit of a minor storyline. It’s a pretty obvious adjustment. Check out this screengrab from a recent interview between Meredith Marakovits and Clint:
In Spring Training, Frazier was obviously putting more weight on the back leg. He claimed about 60% of his weight was on the back leg. He was also pointing his hip directly at the pitcher. It seemed like a legitimate change – Frazier said he worked on it all offseason with a number of people – but you never know with Spring Training adjustments. Many of them aren’t as permanent as you’d think. This one, though, isn’t limited to the Grapefruit League: the new stance is still here.
Again, this is obvious to the eye. Look at his front foot in this 6th inning at-bat last night against Ryan Weber (left) compared to a 7th inning at-bat against Lucas Giolito last June (right):
That’s not all, though. The entire mechanics of his swing are different. Check out the difference in his stride as he swings. First, last night’s single:
Then, the stride in last year’s at-bat against Giolito, which also ended with a single:
I am no scout, but his swing sure looks more compact. It seems simpler and more straightforward, allowing him to attack the ball with his ferocious bat speed that has always been his distinct offensive skill. Remember, his 2013 Baseball America draft card called his bat speed “tremendous” and their 2017 updated scouting report named Frazier’s “elite bat speed” as the prospect’s “calling card.”
This, too, has always been evident while watching him – go back and watch those videos again. The bat speed is readily apparent. Frazier, on the other hand, told Spencer Fordin in February that he “never really felt like [his bat speed] was always there” and that he “felt like [he] was trying to shoot a gun with it on safety. There were things stopping it along the way.” Again, his new stance and swing are clearly more compact and simple. It’s an encouraging change that could pay dividends for the young slugger.
The tweak has the potential to unlock that bat speed and help Frazier overcome a surprising weakness in his game given his bat speed: an inability, so far, to connect with high-velocity fastballs (HVFB), defined as any fastball thrown 95 mph or harder. In fact, Frazier was below-average in this regard from 2017-19. Check it out:
- Clint Frazier against HVFB: .231 BA, .327 SLG, and a .269 wOBA
- League Average against HVFB: .245 BA, .396 SLG, .315 wOBA
It’s not a huge drop – and it’s just 52 at-bats for Clint, so the sample isn’t huge – but I think it’s interesting given his bat speed. He has just 3 career extra-base hits against such pitches, and his exit velocity drops a bit, too. It isn’t a huge surprise: these are the best of the best fastballs. But, theoretically at least, his bat speed should help him connect with these pitches more easily than other players. Bat speed is not the only important factor here, obviously, but it gives him a leg up.
Anyway, I looked into how Frazier has fared in 2020 after making the tweak. The results are extremely preliminary, with just 6 such fastballs in the zone so far. This is not even in the same neighborhood as “coming close to drawing a meaningful conclusion.” Still, the results are good. He’s swung through a nasty Eovaldi 98+ mph at the top of the zone and fouled off two others. He did this on a different 98+ mph Eovaldi fastball:
That’s his first extra-base hit on a HVFB since 2018, though he did hammer a pitch against Justin Verlander last year that should have been more than a single. In any event, it’s a good sign. Frazier was able to keep his weight back on a very fast fastball from Eovaldi and drill it the opposite way into Yankee Stadium’s power corridor. That is a recipe for success for the Yanks’ latest Next Man Up™. (In fact, it may help the Yankees overall, who struggle against HVFB so far, as Mike Axisa pointed out last week.)
It is way too early to tell if the new swing will help Frazier in this regard moving forward. For now, it’s just something to watch as Clint Frazier gets his long-awaited opportunity to turn into the difference-maker so many fans believe him to be.