You know the guy – wild red hair peeking through his Yankees cap, a nose ring glistening under the stadium lights, and cleats that would make even the most die-hard shoe fanatic proud. Clint Frazier isn’t your typical New York Yankee.
So who is No. 77?
Drafted as the fifth overall selection in the 2013 MLB Draft, Frazier went ahead and signed with the Cleveland Indians instead of enrolling at the University of Georgia. He received a $3.5 million signing bonus at the time. His young athletism and talent gave baseball fans something to be excited over. In fact, during his first professional game, Frazier hit a home run and triple. In 44 games with the Arizona Indians, he batted .297/.392/.506 with five home runs and an exciting 28 RBI.
Frazier quickly worked his way through the minor league system. First, he made a name for himself with the Arizona Indians before donning a Lake County Captains’ uniform in 2014. While with the Class A Midwest League team, he batted .266 with 13 home runs and a whopping 50 RBI in 120 games. By 2015, he had advanced to the Lynchburg Hillcats, compiling an average of .285 with 16 home runs and 72 RBI in 133 games.
In 2016, he appeared in the All-Star Futures Game, going 2-for-3 with an RBI double and a stolen base. He played for the Akron RubberDucks before being promoted to the Columbus Clippers. Mere days after being promoted to Triple-A, the Indians traded Frazier along with Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller, and J.P. Feyereisen to the New York Yankees for Andrew Miller in July of 2016.
The Yankees went on to assign Frazier to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He finished the 2016 season with a combined .263 batting average, 16 home runs, and 55 RBI in 119 games between three different clubs. During his time with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2017, he played 73 games. He posted a .257 average with 12 home runs, 42 RBI, and nine stolen bases.
He was promoted to the New York Yankees on July 1, 2017.
Ups and downs with the Yankees
In his first Major League Baseball appearance, he doubled for his first career hit and would check off his first career home run in his next at-bat. Six days later, he hit his first carer walk-off home run off of Corey Knebel – giving his Yankees a 5-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers. Continuing with success, the redhead became the second Yankee ever with nine extra-base hits before his 15th carer game, after Joe DiMaggio.
Unfortunately, Frazier went on the disabled list before the 2018 season. While taking on-field batting practice, he suffered from a concussion. Many look to his concussion for the problems that took place in 2018 and into early 2019. He quickly went for a ride on a carousel between Triple-A and MLB. By September, it was announced Frazier would miss the rest of the season due to ongoing symptoms from the concussion.
By Spring Training 2019, Yankees manager Aaron Boone made another announcement – Frazier would likely start the season in the minors. However, with Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, and Jacoby Ellsbury going on the disabled list, Frazier had an opportunity to make a name for himself in an already heavily talented lineup and was called up to the majors. Despite his productive hitting, his defense could not hold up to Yankee standards. By the middle of June, Frazier was sent back down to the minors to make room for Edwin Encarnacion.
The maturity of 2020
Although COVID-19 stalled Major League Baseball, Frazier continued to use the time to work on himself. From the moment he took the field after MLB’s return, he seemed like a different man. With Judge and Stanton having played less than 50 games this season, Brett Gardner‘s age catching up, and Mike Tauchman‘s shiny new car-like magic wearing off, Frazier went from being the face of the future to the face of the present.
And for good reason.
Offensively, Frazier was lightning quick with his bat. As of September 21, 2020, he is batting .296 with a .410 OBP, .574 SLG, .415 wOBA, and a WAR of 1.7 in 139 plate appearances. Compared to 2019, that’s a significant improvement.
Compare this to his 2019 season with the Yankees where he recorded 246 plate appearances with a .267 average, .317 OBP, .489 SLG, .333 wOBA, and a 0.1 WAR. Not only has the 26-year-old increased his offensive statistics, but he has done it with grace.
One of his key improvements has been an increase in his walk rate, showing more patience at the dish. Frazier only drew walks 6.5% of his plate appearances last season, but has become more patient and improved his walk rate to 16.5% this season. Not only has his walk rate improved, but his strikeout rate has also decreased with time.
His defensive metrics have shockingly improved to the naked eye. In 236.0 innings played, he has only committed one error and has a fielding percentage of .982. With advanced fielding stats, Frazier currently sits with a 4.1 UZR, 32 BIZ, and a .938 RZR.
Whether Frazier is your cup of tea or not, Major League Baseball should have faith in Clint Frazier.
Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)