When July 31st comes around each year contending teams are faced with a predicament; sacrifice the future to win now or stand pat. Standing pat is usually a bad optic for teams in the playoff hunt and the Cleveland Indians haven’t won a championship since 1948. When Yankees ace reliever Andrew Miller hit the trade market the Indians went all in, trading pitchers Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller, and J.P. Feyereisen, and outfielder Clint Frazier.
Frazier was the top prospect in the Indians organization and now he’s a top prospect in the Yankees system.
“I didn’t know how to handle it,” Frazier said about of the trade. “There were a lot of emotions, mixed emotions going through my head at the time but this is where I’m supposed to be and I’m happy to be here.”
The first round pick in the 2013 draft spent most of this season this year in Double-A with the Akron RubberDucks where he slashed .276/356./.469 in 341 at-bats. He also added 13 home runs.
He had just been promoted to Triple-A at the time of the trade, amassing a mere 21 at-bats before switching organizations, and his initial struggles at the newest level followed him to Scranton too.
“Guys are more experienced [in Triple-A]. [They] have a better feeling for what they’re throwing,” Frazier said about transition from Double-A to Triple-A. “I have had to adjust. They throw a lot more offspeed and overall it’s been some mechanical things I’ve been going throw lately, trying to hash [those] out and get better.”
When Frazier is on his A-game it is a sight to behold. His spray chart this season shows that Frazier is an all-field hitter. In fact, the right-handed hitter has significantly more hits to right field than he does left field this year and that leaves little cause for concern with Frazier's struggles for those who watch him daily.
“I’m looking to drive something hard through the second baseman,” Frazier said about his approach at the plate, "that way I can stay on some breaking balls and have the ability to pull them, but the overall approach is to stay line-drive somewhere in the opposite field gap.”
First year manager Al Pedrique has seen Frazier for month now and is very impressed despite the lower numbers so far.
“This kid has a lot of tools,” Pedrique said. “We just have to be patient with him. He’s only 21 playing Triple-A already and that’s what I told him a couple of days ago; relax, don’t put so much pressure on yourself that you want to show the organization why they made the move or why you’re here, just worry about the things you can control between the lines, keep preparing yourself day in and day out.
"But this kid can run, throw, and he has power. It’s amazing how the ball jumps off his bat and I’m sure once he’s feeling comfortable with a new organization and teammates this kid is gonna show what he can do.”
When Frazier first arrived in Scranton all the buzz was about him. He had to conduct two or three interviews per day after batting practice which isn’t normal for a minor league player.
“He said in the beginning he put a lot of pressure on himself,” Pedrique said about Frazier handling his business on and off the field. “The media, everything that he read, the rumors that were said about him coming to the Yankees, and I told him it’s all part of the game. It’s a learning process for you stay humble. That’s the key, if you stay humble you’ll figure it out and start playing the game the way you can.”
Frazier openly acknowledges too that when he first arrived he was putting extra pressure on himself.
“Any time you’re the new guy coming into a new situation that you’re not necessary comfortable with it you try to up there and impress guys,” Frazier said. “Lately I’ve kind of settled down at the plate and started to feel a little bit more like myself.”
Unfortunately for Frazier the numbers haven’t improved but he has established himself as one of the hardest working guys in the Railrider clubhouse. IIt is almost impossible to get a postgame quote from Frazier because he’s in the back working almost daily following games.
“If I don’t feel good in a game I like to hit after [in the cages] and try to leave the field feeling good about myself,” Frazier said.
"He’s been working real hard with Tom Wilson our hitting coach in the cage trying to figure out some things in his swing,” Pedrique added.
But it’s not just the hitting coach Frazier is getting advice from. The Railrider clubhouse can be a surprise day-to-day; one day Hideki Matsui might be around or minority owner of the Railriders and Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson.
“It’s an honor,” Frazier said about having conversations with Reggie Jackson. “To have him in this clubhouse working with the guys, giving us any kind of knowledge we can take from him is awesome. That was my first time meeting him. He’s a great guy and I’m looking forward to working with him in the future.”
Frazier has been playing all three outfield positions since arriving in Scranton. Many so-called experts and scouts project him to be a corner outfielder longt-erm but Al Pedrique has penciled him in centerfield a few times too.
“I haven’t seen him enough in center, he had only played two games in center,” Al Pedrique said. “He’s done a good job in the corners but he still needs to work on his routes. He has shown arm strength and lately his jumps have been getting better… but he has enough speed,”
"I think I can play all three [outfield] positions,” Frazier said. “But overall it’s not my decision where I play in the end, where ever the Yankees need me to play I’ll be happy with it.”
Frazier returned from the disabled list on Monday and homered not only in his first game back but in the regular season finale. With the playoffs opening up on Wednesday it could be a good sign of things to come to have a healthy Frazier, one who is beginning to feel more like himself lately, back in the lineup.