Heading into the 2018 season, it was clear that the Yankees had an outfield logjam. Not only did they have Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Jacoby Ellsbury all expected to contribute in some way, but Brian Cashman went out and added Giancarlo Stanton to the mix. There was no clear path to the majors for Clint Frazier.
Somehow, the Yankees went from having way too many outfielders during spring training, to starting Shane Robinson every day for part of August. They had to put together a trade for Andrew McCutchen before the waiver deadline just to get a real outfielder on the field. Injuries are obviously going to happen during the course of a 162-game season. However, the injury bug bit the Bombers especially hard in 2018, and Red Thunder was one of the earliest victims.
2018 Statistics: High-A Tampa: 6 games, 26 plate appearances, .250/.385/.450, 1 home run, 3 RBI, 6 runs, 1 double, 2 extra base hits, 140 wRC+
Triple-A Scranton: 48 games, 216 plate appearances, .311/.389/.574, 10 home runs, 21 RBI, 38 runs, 14 doubles, 27 extra base hits, 170 wRC+
MLB: 15 games, 41 plate appearances, .265/.390/.353, 0 home runs, 1 RBI, 9 runs, 3 doubles, 3 extra base hits, -0.1 WAR, 113 wRC+
2019 Contract Status: Pre-arbitration eligible
Early into spring training, Frazier was tracking a ball in the outfield and crashed into the wall. He ended up suffering a concussion, and the recovery process took roughly two months. During that time, Frazier had some awful symptoms, including moments where he forgot the names of his cats. Sadly, post-concussion symptoms lingered off and on for the remainder of the season.
What first appeared to be an outfield logjam quickly turned into a dire situation. Ellsbury started the year on the disabled list for one reason (oblique injury) that turned into eight other ailments. Meanwhile, Aaron Hicks and Billy McKinney both got hurt during opening weekend in Toronto. All of a sudden the Yankees were desperate for help, and Frazier couldn’t provide it. That ended up being a reoccurring theme during a year that must have felt incredibly frustrating to Frazier.
The Yankees did give him a few chances at the big league level when he finally appeared to be healthy in May. He was called up for exactly one game, sent to Scranton for a few weeks, called up again for a doubleheader, sent back down, and so on. Frazier was vocal about wanting to stick in the majors, and they finally gave him a longer look for nearly a week in June, and another week in July. He did not hit particularly well during those stretches, but he also didn’t really have a chance to settle in and play every day.
On July 15th, he made a diving play in the outfield that caused post-concussion symptoms to surface. Frazier played in just three minor league games after that. Unfortunately, the Yankees eventually shut him down for good at the end of August.
There were some positives to his season though. He hit really well in Scranton during that stretch where he played every day and was seemingly healthy. It is sad that he missed out on the opportunity to fill in for Hicks early on, and to fill in for Judge down the stretch. You can’t help but feel sorry for him (unless you’re Michael Kay, I guess).
Brain injuries are very scary and not something to be taken lightly. The Yankees were right to shut Frazier down when they did. It’s just too bad that the injury happened to begin with. The good news is that he got an early jump on the offseason, and will hopefully be symptom-free by the time spring training rolls around. 2019 could be his year.