Clint Frazier did absolutely nothing to deserve his demotion to Scranton. He has been one of the Yankees’ top hitters this season, posting a .283/.330/.513 slash that is good for an OPS+ of 122. While yes, his defense has been suspect at best and disastrous at worst, the truth is, circumstances drove Frazier to Triple-A. He’s good, but not as good as Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, or Edwin Encarnacion.
Baseball rosters are a numbers game, as we all know, and it is no surprise that Frazier, who still has options, ultimately got sent down. Someone like Cameron Maybin, on the other hand, would probably be lost via waivers if the Yankees tried to send him down. Teams like to have as much depth as possible, and for good reason — if it were not for depth acquired by Cashman, after all, we would be looking for Judge and Stanton to help the team keep pace in the division, not to take the team to the next level.
Even so, however, it puzzled most people that Frazier was the first outfielder demoted this week, before Mike Tauchman, who had only returned from Scranton himself a few days prior. When speaking to reporters, Aaron Boone said that this was to allow Frazier to continue getting regular at-bats so that his development wouldn’t get stunted. But what would have been the difference between a demotion on Sunday night and a demotion on Monday night, which Tauchman received? Does one day actually impact player development that much?
Of course it doesn’t — not unless Brian Cashman has some Dr. Strange-esque abilities to see possible futures and realizes that this one roster move has an incredible butterfly effect with repercussions hitherto undreamt of. With a scale as small as this, the move more likely tells us how the team views its prospects and young players in relation to each other. Rather than showing that the team values Mike Tauchman over Clint Frazier — unlikely — this move likely shows that the team values Frazier less than they do top prospect Estevan Florial.
Going forward, the outfield only has room for one of Frazier and Florial. Judge and Aaron Hicks are penciled in for two-thirds of the outfield, and Giancarlo Stanton is, at this point, expected to primarily DH for the next few seasons, while spending some time in the corner outfield positions. One could spend time in left field and the other serve as the fourth outfielder, but the Yankees might feel that they could leverage one of these two young outfielders to help acquire a top-of-the-rotation arm to help them this season. Traditional thinking might say that Florial ought to be the one on the block, as he is unlikely to be a major contributor this season. However, Frazier would provide more value due to being able to contribute immediately to a Major League club. The Yankees might see Florial as having more of a role on the team long-term than Frazier.
Despite missing a good chunk of 2018 and the beginning of 2019, Florial remains a highly-valued prospect. With good speed, a solid glove, and raw power, he has all the makings of a five-tool player, although his high K% and difficulty in identifying pitches makes it unlikely that he will reach this ceiling. More importantly, however, he has spent extensive time in center field and can play all three outfield positions, unlike Clint Frazier. While at the moment, the first spot to open up in the outfield is expected to be left field, the ability to back up — and ultimately, replace — Hicks in center field is something that may be highly valued by the Yankees.
Clint Frazier was demoted due to a roster crunch in June 2019, but his days as a Yankee may be numbered due to a possible roster crunch a year or two down the line.