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This could be Clint Frazier’s last chance to make an impact with the Yankees

In the haze of injury, a former top prospect will get a chance to shine

MLB: New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

In every crisis, there is opportunity.

The Yankees are in something of a crisis now, at least as much as one can be in a crisis after six games. More than $85 million in annual salary commitment sits on the injured list, and the names read like a who’s who of a potential All-Star Game ballot. Aaron Hicks, Dellin Betances, Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Andujar and Didi Gregorius alone mean more than a dozen fWAR from a year ago are on the shelf.

This presents a golden opportunity to Clint Frazier. The lynchpin of the Andrew Miller trade almost three years ago, Frazier’s become the epitome of a great minor league player who can’t quite make the jump. He’s struggled mightily with contact and plate discipline, and his “legendary bat speed” doesn’t mean much if he can’t make contact with the ball.

That in and of itself might not spell doom for his career — lots of players get second, third and fourth chances on a roster because they can play effective defense. Frazie can’t, really, or at least he hasn’t. He takes wonky routes and tends to play all-out, and that led to a concussion last year that cost him almost an entire season. He’s now clear of post-concussion symptoms and is on the 25-man roster as one of several reinforcements. One has to figure this is his last, best shot at cracking the Yankee squad.

Prospect shine is a funny thing. Be a highly-touted, top 50 prospect for one season, maybe two, and everyone will fall in love with your potential. Frazier was ranked as high as the fifteenth best prospect in baseball and seemed like just another example of the rebuilt Yankee farm system. Of course, then he started to slip, as that potential and excitement got cannibalized by an ineffective major league stint in 2017 and a 2018 lost to injury.

This luster affects internal rankings as well. As prospects stumble and slip, they’re replaced by guys with more upside, like Esteven Florial, more flexibility, like Tyler Wade, or more polish, like the recently-traded-for Mike Tauchman. When that once shiny prospect does get a chance at the majors, he needs to prove that something’s different.

We only have three games of data, but the difference hasn’t shown up yet:

Those red dots are Frazier’s 2019 batted balls. The distribution of exit velocity hasn’t changed and his hard hit percentage is virtually the same as last year. He’s not making strides in terms of how he makes contact with the ball.

Where there is an improvement, however, is in his discipline:

Credit: FanGrapbs

The two highlighted metrics are extremely important when we talk about a player’s process. Frazier’s swinging at fewer pitches outside of the zone, and he’s missing less with his swings overall. In the very early goings, it looks like he’s at least learned something from his failures in MLB so far.

In baseball these days, a batter needs to either make a lot of contact, or make great contact. Obviously the best of the league do both, but one of the two is a prerequisite for sticking in the majors. That’s then what we need to watch with Frazier to see if he’s a stopgap option in the outfield or if he really does have a future in the Bronx.