Clint Frazier has been one of the Yankees’ better hitters this season. While only playing in 37 of the team’s games, he has put together some quality batting stats. Frazier has hit 10 home runs and sports a 125 wRC+. If not for Frazier’s offensive production, the weakened Yankees might not sit in first place.
On the other side of the ball, however, Frazier has struggled, mightily. He has had multiple defensive lapses this year, to the point where it’s starting to become an issue. While only committing two errors, Frazier’s Rdrs (Defensive Runs Saved) is -5 and his Rtot (Total Fielding Runs Above Average) is -7, both significantly below average.
Elsewhere, FanGraphs has Frazier’s defensive WAR at -0.9. To go a little deeper, the site has a statistic called RZR (Revised Zone Rating), which measures “the proportion of balls hit into a fielder’s zone that he successfully converted into an out”. This stat shows the extent of Frazier’s struggles. His RZR comes in at .724, which falls into their “awful” category.
One should remember that Frazier is returning from a fairly serious concussion that ended his season in 2018. A few of the balls that Frazier has misplayed this year have been near or on the warning track. It is plausible to think that Frazier may not have gained all of his confidence back yet in terms of putting his body on the line. Yet, there still have been numerous mistakes on routine fly balls or on diving plays that an outfielder should make.
His miscues have gotten to the point where the team is open to replacing him late in the game for a defensive specialist:
Clint Frazier was pulled for defense again. Aaron Boone said earlier today that they are “absolutely” discussing how to improve his defense out there.— Lindsey Adler (@lindseyadler) May 27, 2019
Frazier’s struggles remind me of what Miguel Andujar has gone through in the last year. Both are young Yankees with great bat skills, but also have trouble figuring out the defensive side of the ball. Andujar made 15 errors in 2018 with an Rdrs of -25. The team lifted him in the later innings for defense, and benched him in the elimination game against the Red Sox.
The Yankees, however, struck it out with Andujar. The team didn’t trade him and expressed confidence in the third baseman. His bat proved too valuable and the club found a way to make it work. That bodes well for Frazier, who should get more chances to show he can stick in the outfield.
While only time will tell what the future holds in store for Frazier, fans can feel assured that the Yankees won’t make any rash decisions based on a fraction of a season’s worth of information. The team stuck with Andujar in 2018. They will probably give Frazier a similar amount of latitude.