MLB execs discuss Clint Frazier's Yankees future: 'I really think he's got All-Star potential'

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Anthony McCarron
·4 min read
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Clint Frazier treated image with bat behind him
Clint Frazier treated image with bat behind him

So Clint Frazier is finally, firmly entrenched as a starting outfielder for the Yankees. Aaron Boone said so on Wednesday, anointing Red Thunder the Yanks' left fielder following a strong 2020 season.

Now, perhaps, the real fun begins and Frazier's renowned bat speed can lift him into a new realm in the majors. Is he poised on the precipice of stardom? Some in the game believe that is Frazier's next stop, especially with him not facing nightly auditions or being viewed as a flashy stopgap.

"I think his best years are ahead of him," says a front office executive from an American League club, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "I really think he's got All-Star potential.

"It takes some guys time to get comfortable (in the majors). But the want-to, the will to be good, it's all there for him."

And that bat speed? "Oooh, it's real, brother," the exec says.


Frazier, who's still only 26, had a terrific 2020 season, notching a .905 OPS with eight homers and 26 RBI in 39 regular-season games. He batted .267 with a .394 on-base percentage and perhaps shed his reputation as a subpar defensive outfielder by being named one of the three finalists for a Gold Glove in right field.

The key now is continuing to get regular at-bats, says Dan O'Dowd, the former GM of the Colorado Rockies who is now an analyst for the MLB Network. O'Dowd says Frazier must make sure that the "Yankees don't waver from him" even as Frazier might run through hot and cold streaks during the season.

"For me, for him to take the next step, he’s got to control the strike zone," O'Dowd says. "Those hands of his are ridiculously quick. To become more comfortable staying in the strike zone, he needs to play regularly."

O'Dowd notes that Frazier's strikeout percentage dropped 28.5% to 27.5% from 2019-20 and his walk percentage soared from 6.5% to 15.6%. Even the slight drop in K% shows progress, O'Dowd says, and the change in walk rate was a harbinger that should delight the Yankees.

"They didn't have options but to play him last year because of injuries," O'Dowd says. "And he began to relax. If he can drop the strikeout rate, it's a really high ceiling.

"I'm not saying he's going to be a high average guy, but he'll have a high on-base and a high slugging. He fits the game today really well."

Adds O'Dowd: "Once you have this kind of talent, you have to commit. You say, 'OK, give this guy 550 plate appearances.' At 26, now's the time."

That's why Boone's words Wednesday, which came as part of his first press conference of spring camp, were perhaps vital. The Yanks' manager confirmed Frazier's place in the lineup and noted the player has "obviously come a long way in every aspect of his game and certainly earned his place."

"Obviously, nothing was given to him," Boone said. "He had to earn everything, really the last couple of years. Last year proved he was ready to grab an everyday role on this team. At his age, his experience, the success and the confidence he's continued to build has put him in a position to come into this camp as an every day player.

"He's certainly earned that."

It'll be interesting to see, as camp progresses, if the Yankees re-sign Brett Gardner and, if Gardner returns, whether that impacts Frazier's playing time.

Frazier, a former first-round pick by the Indians, came to the Yankees in the 2016 trade that sent LHP Andrew Miller to Cleveland. He arrived with plenty of hype, including some courtesy of GM Brian Cashman, who said that Frazier had "legendary bat speed."

Frazier reached the majors for the first time in 2017, but had trouble sticking around. Even last year, he was sent to the Yanks' Alternate Site early in the season before re-ascending.

It's another reminder, perhaps, that player development isn't always a straight line from touted prospect to MLB staple. As the AL executive puts it: "There's a lot of psychology to this. Not only are you dealing with a kid who was traded -- and to New York -- with a very high ceiling on the player and very high expectations.

"It can take time to blend in and find your way. But he really takes pride in his game and he's obviously not as bad an outfielder as people thought."

It took a little while for Frazier to arrive. Now, after winning the left field job even before an official spring training workout, it appears to be Frazier's time.