Clint Frazier has been having a very good 2018. He has also unfortunately been overshadowed by fellow youngsters Gleyber Torres, and Miguel Andujar. You could even make a case for 2018 being Frazier’s best year as a professional.
His .312/.389/.558 triple-slash in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is far and away the best of his career. What’s even better is that in sporadic major league at-bats, he’s been just as good. Frazier had an OPS of .947 in Triple-A, while on the Yankees his OPS so far is .952.
Obviously his .500 BABIP, and .368 average is not sustainable in the big leagues. What is, however, is his 13.0 BB%, also the best mark of his career. It’s still early in the season — 200 combined plate appearances between Triple-A and MLB — but there are signs this isn’t a fluke.
It seems that Frazier has taken a page out of Didi Gregorious’ book, and has become more selective at the plate. In 2018, his overall swing% is down to 40% from 48.9%. This comes of course from swinging at fewer pitches outside of the strike zone (o-swing% down 2.2%), but also more interestingly from swinging at a lot fewer pitches inside the strike zone (z-swing% down 15%). Despite swinging a lot less, Frazier’s contact% is exactly the same (75.0%), which can likely be attributed to fewer swing and misses (SwStr% down 2.2%).
Another noteworthy change in Frazier’s plate discipline numbers is the amount of first pitch strikes, which is up to 73.9% from 60.6%. Taking a first pitch strike is not inherently bad, and often leads to more pitches seen over the course of a game or even a season. Seeing pitches is an important part of development, and is valued very highly by the Yankees’ front office (think Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge).
Even in the midst of the best season of his career, I’d argue there is plenty of room for Frazier to still improve. While his OBP has thrived, his slugging percentage has faltered. He flashed his big league power during his short stint with the club in 2017. That became even more prolific this season in Triple-A with seven home runs in 38 games, which is about a 30 home run pace over a full season.
So far in 2018 (again small sample size) he hasn’t been hitting the ball quite as well. His average exit velocity and launch angle are both down, he’s pulling the ball less, and hitting more ground balls. All around, that’s not a great recipe for success as far as batted balls are concerned.
Amidst this great information though, it’s important to remember that Frazier is playing catch up. He missed all of spring training, and part of the regular season with concussion symptoms. His newfound approach and the extra pitches he’ll see because of it will likely expedite that process, but when it comes to evaluating Frazier we should all follow his lead and practice patience.
Maybe while recovering from his concussion Frazier had time to readjust his approach. Or maybe he’s been in the Yankees’ system long enough to finally absorb all the different philosophies they preach. No matter what the cause, with Gardner’s free agency looming, Frazier’s continued development will be one of the integral stories of the 2018 season.