Mailbag: Frazier, Florial, Morales, Umps, and Prospect Assignments

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Happy Friday all! This is our first mailbag here at Views from 314 Ft. We received a handful of questions and I’ll tackle them today. Though this is ostensibly a Yankees mailbag, we’re happy to address any other baseball-related questions too.

Have any questions for our next mailbag? Please email viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com or click the contact button at the top of the page.

George asks: Is Clint Frazier likely to be a Yankee in 2020? And if not, where could he be traded?

Bobby made a pretty convincing case to hold on to Frazier yesterday, and I agree. Of course, what we think doesn’t necessarily align with the likelihood that he’s around next year (or even by July 31!).

Aside from untouchable young talent like Gleyber Torres, Frazier is probably going to be one of the most asked about players this trade season. The Yankees need starting pitching, badly I might add, and Frazier’s name is going to come up in rumors over the next month and change.

Any of the other 29 teams would certainly be glad to have a 24 year-old outfielder with a 120 wRC+. At this point though, if he is dealt, the most likely teams seem like those with starting pitchers on the trade block. Think the Giants (Madison Bumgarner), Blue Jays (Marcus Stroman), or Tigers (Matthew Boyd). More clubs could emerge as possibilities come late July.

All that said, my hunch is that Frazier isn’t going anywhere. Time and time again, the Yankees have proven to be internally quite confident in their starting rotation. They didn’t sign Patrick Corbin or Dallas Keuchel over the last half-year. Like it or not, I could easily see the team referring to Luis Severino as it’s big trade deadline acquisition.

Aside from seemingly endless confidence in the team’s internal pitching options, there’s also plenty of room for Frazier this year and next. Once the entire outfield is healthy, he could split time between left field and designated hitter, essentially replacing Brett Gardner.

George also asks: When will Estevan Florial be a regular in the outfield?

First and foremost, Florial isn’t particularly close to the majors. He just got back to playing again at High-A Tampa after missing a couple of months due to wrist surgery. He had a fractured hamate bone in his right hand repaired. After missing a good chunk of time last year with the same injury, he’s missed quite a bit of development time. Even if all goes well this year and next, it’s hard to imagine him getting a cup of tea with the Yankees (or another team) before September of next year or early 2021.

Whether or not Florial becomes a regular is a much more debatable question. There’s no question he has the tools to be a star center fielder: he’s got a great arm, plenty of raw power, and can run like the wind. The big problem, aside from staying healthy, is his propensity to strike out.

At every level he’s spent significant time at, Florial has never posted a strike out rate below 27 percent. It’s not going to get any easier as he moves up, and it’s a big reason why he’s a boom or bust prospect. Via Fangraphs:

Florial’s issues — his strikeout rate has fallen between 27% and 32% each of the last three years — appear to stem from his bat path and limited bat control. Stiff wrists cause his bat head to drag into the zone, which can cause him to be tardy on fastballs at the letters and, more frequently, flail at soft stuff dipping down and away from him

He’s still just 21 years-old, so he has time to work out the kinks. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t expect him to become a starting outfielder on a major league team until 2022 or 2023, at the earliest. And that’s if he doesn’t flame out. If it all comes together though, oh boy.

Many ask a variation of: Kendrys Morales – why is he still here?

This question came in before Morales hit the injured list. Although he’s now off the active roster, he’s still around and theoretically could be back later in the year. Obviously, there seems to be no reason to bring him back whenever he is healthy again. Not only did he struggle, but there simply won’t be room for him assuming the roster remains relatively healthy. Still, I totally understand why the Yankees decided to give Morales a shot a few weeks ago:

They took a chance hoping that his results would catch up to his expected output, but no dice thus far. The big problem is that Morales simply hits the ball straight into the ground far too often. More than two-thirds of his batted balls are grounders since he’s joined the Yankees. That’s terrible.

A few things kept Morales around up until yesterday. Although it was a possibility that Didi Gregorius’s return could have sent Morales packing, it made more sense to demote Thairo Estrada so he could play everyday in the minors. Further, what were the other internal options? Mike Ford and Mike Tauchman? There’s no certainty they’d be better. It was clear the Yankees were planning to ride it out with Morales until the return of Giancarlo Stanton.

Bardo asks: I think I remember the rule that a player (or manager of bench jockey) arguing balls and strikes was an automatic heave-ho. I’ve watched a lot of games this year and there is an incredible amount of batters talking to umpires (I have no idea of what is said) about called strikes. You can see it as they turn around and say things to the umpire. What gives with this? Lots of leeway unless they throw an F-Bomb?

Anecdotally, I agree that there appears to be an increasing tension over ball/strike calls over the past few years. My general assumption about the letter of the rule was similar too, but let’s check with the MLB rulebook. Here’s what rule 8.02 says:

8.02 Appeal of Umpire Decisions

(a) Any umpire’s decision which involves judgment, such as, but not limited to, whether a batted ball is fair or foul, whether a pitch is a strike or a ball, or whether a runner is safe or out, is final. No player, manager, coach or substitute shall object to any such judgment decisions.

Rule 8.02(a) Comment: Players leaving their position in the field or on base, or managers or coaches leaving the bench or coaches box, to argue on BALLS AND STRIKES will not be permitted. They should be warned if they start for the plate to protest the call. If they continue, they will be ejected from the game.

So, it does seem like there is some leeway before ejection even though it’s not supposed to be permitted. Leaving one’s position on the field is a no-no, but even that is supposed to merit a warning first. For instance: a hitter can gripe as long as he remains in the batter’s box and doesn’t persist or insult the ump. At least that’s how I’m reading it.

Further, even leaving one’s position doesn’t constitute an automatic ejection. A manager emerging from the dugout is supposed to be warned before getting tossed.

Ultimately, the discretion of the umpire is what makes the difference here. I’m sure teams know which umpires have little patience for disagreement with the strike zone.

Brian asks: Much has been made if Frazier’s defense. Obviously Judge will be back but how does Frazier compare to Nick Swisher’s profile? Not a great defender (had some serviceable years) and for a while had a hell of a bat.

Indeed, Frazier’s defense has been a hot topic. It’s still really early in his career, so it’s hard to compare Swisher’s full career to Frazier early on. He still could find ways to improve out there, you know.

I do know that Swisher had a poor reputation as a fielder, but the defensive metrics really aren’t bad. It makes him look a lot better than Frazier, though again, Clint’s sample size is still quite small. Here are their career numbers:

PositionInningsDRSUZR/150
Frazier – LF396.1-6-8.7
Frazier – CF9.00-37.6
Frazier – RF272.2-5-26.8
Swisher – LF1130.2-67.5
Swisher – CF1020.1-9-14.7
Swisher – RF6088.2-23.7

Swisher barely played any left or center for the Yankees, of course. I gotta say, I wasn’t expecting Swisher to be slightly below average in right field per DRS and above average per UZR/150. Swisher did accumulate -5 DRS during his career in pinstripes in right field, so he was obviously better in his younger days with Oakland. Per UZR/150, Swish was only a negative in 2009 (-2.9) and 2012 (-0.6) in the Bronx.

It would be nice to have Statcast numbers for Swisher, but alas we do not. Frazier’s are pretty terrible, as you probably know by now. Only Domingo Santana has a lower Outs Above Average. The big issue for Frazier is his jump on balls, particularly his immediate reaction. He actually is only 0.3 feet below average (defined as feet covered in 3 seconds), but that’s only because he makes up for it with good routes (0.8 feet above average). His initial reaction is 1.2 feet below average, which is not surprising. It seems like he really struggles to get reads on batted balls.

Now, did Swisher make some goofy mistakes in the field? Yes, to my recollection. However, his arm was probably his worst trait – not necessarily his route running, for example. It got a little better in 2011, but regardless, Frazier definitely has a stronger arm.

I’ll also add that Clint is quite a bit more athletic than Swisher was, so there’s definitely potential for him to be a passable fielder. Perhaps he’s just uncomfortable in a new position (right field) right now, because based on the eye test he’s looked tolerable in left.

Turning to offense, I think Frazier has the potential to be what Swisher was in some regards. Swish had a lifetime 114 wRC+, and that doesn’t seem out of the realm for Frazier in the long-term. Fangraphs new Plus stats help make for a nice comparison:

NameBB%+K%+AVG+OBP+SLG+wRC+ISO+BABIP+
Swisher1561239510710711412996
Frazier7813310297111105123112

Frazier hasn’t walked much (yet), but his minor league track record does indicate some patience in there. Still, Swisher had an elite eye, even if he struck out his fair share. I don’t think Frazier will ever walk at that level. On the other hand, I think Clint has a chance to be a better hitter in terms of batting average and power.

Mark asks: Where will Everson Pereira, Antonio Cabello, and Osiel Rodriguez go once their Extended Spring Training assignment is done?

Let me start by saying asking me to predict this sort of thing is definitely not my specialty. Thankfully, I don’t have to predict anything, because the decisions have been made already.

Pereira is joining Staten Island. Their roster was released yesterday.. He just turned 18 in April, and he struggled in rookie ball last year, so this will be a challenge for him. Last year Pereira had a 88 wRC+ and 32.8 percent strikeout rate with Pulaski.

Cabello is a few months older than Pereira and won’t turn 19 until November. I saw him listed on the GCL Yankees West roster, though these things aren’t always timely updated before the season begins. Robert Pimpsner of Pinstriped Prospects says he’s going to join Pulaski. Cabello killed it in the GCL last year (174 wRC+), and I’d selfishly love to see him in Staten Island at some point this season.

The 17 year-old Rodriguez hasn’t pitched at any level yet after just signing last season. He’s not listed the DSL roster nor either of the Yankees’ two GCL squads. But again, those might not be up to date yet. Pimpsner says he’s starting in the GCL.

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3 Comments

  1. Deltajoe15

    Nice Mailbag Thanks a nice read

  2. Re: Clint – Wonder if part of his issue is that he is generally a left fielder, but mostly playing RF while Judge is out. I know he wasn’t perfect in LF, but he seems to be having significantly more issues adjusting to RF…

    • Derek Albin

      Yep, I think that’s the case. The way the ball spins and tails off the bat is the opposite of what he’s accustomed to out in left.

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