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Can Clint Frazier be an elite home run hitter?

Scouts have Clint Frazier pegged as a 20-25 home run threat when he gets to the big leagues. After he gets comfortable at the plate, he could blow past those expectations.

MLB: All Star Game-All Star Futures Game Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Clint Frazier’s swing is a sight to behold. After trading for him, Yankees GM Brian Cashman described Frazier’s bat speed as “legendary,” a characterization that has not been met with much, if any disagreement. Scouts are also in agreement about his ability to turn his bat speed into power that can be used in games. FanGraphs projects him as having a Future Value of 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale for game power, which translates to 23-27 home runs over a season.

ESPN’s Keith Law pegs Frazier around the same area, comparing his bat speed to that of Cubs second baseman Javier Baez and seeing him as someone who can hit 20 home runs per season. While Keith Law certainly knows his stuff, Frazier might surprise a lot of people with just how much he has left in the tank.

When Frazier was traded from Cleveland, Eric Longenhagen at FanGraphs provided scouting reports on the players involved in the deal. One quote in particular sticks out about Frazier:

He’s hit despite the excessive loop his hands take back to the ball, a mechanical hiccup that I think causes his barrel to arrive late and robs him of the ability to pull the ball consistently. This could dilute his game power a bit, but Frazier is strong enough to muscle some of those balls out to right field anyway, and the new Yankee Stadium will be particularly kind to this flaw.

Looking at the data, Longenhagen appears to be up to something. Here is where Frazier hit the ball in 2016, courtesy of MLB Farm:

As a right handed hitter, Frazier often found himself going the opposite way or up the middle, which would make sense if he is late in getting his barrel through the strike zone. Still, he has been an extra base hit machine in the minors. In 2015, he had 36 doubles in 133 games for Cleveland’s High-A affiliate. He followed the 2015 season up with 25 more doubles in 89 games at Double-A, before struggling a bit in Triple-A. He has been able to maintain a high slugging percentage without pulling the ball, which is not an easy thing to do.

There are a few other things to consider as well. Over the last few years, we have seen the demise of the notion that players need to be 6’4” to hit for power. Players like Mookie Betts, Brian Dozier, and Rougned Odor are showing that height does not tell the whole story when it comes to hitting home runs. Frazier is listed at 5’11”, which may impact how scouts view his ceiling as a power hitter.

Also, a common adage among hitting coaches is that developing power to the pull side takes the longest for hitters. In an article discussing Mets outfielder Michael Conforto’s struggles at the plate, FanGraphs’ Eno Sarris discussed the idea that pull power comes last. He cited a quote from Marlins’ manager Don Mattingly, who argued that Christian Yelich will become one of the game’s elite hitters when he learns to pull the ball.

Yelich is an interesting comparison, as he is 25 years old with a few years of MLB experience already under his belt. He is also an effective hitter already, with an .859 OPS in 2016. Since Clint Frazier has struggled with strikeouts in his young career, he might not want to become a pull hitter just yet. Once he has his foundation as an MLB hitter, Frazier might be able to use his bat speed to kick it into another gear at the plate.

In the meantime, check out this home run Frazier hit for Triple-A Scranton. One thing is for certain, when he does manage to pull a pitch in the air, it can go a long way:

Data is courtesy of FanGraphs.