It has been a hectic week for the New York Yankees. Current players Luke Voit, CC Sabathia, Gary Sanchez, and David Hale have gone to the injured list for a variety of reasons, possibly with long-term injuries. The trade deadline passed by with the Houston Astros reinforcing their pitching staff at the Major League level and the Yankees reinforcing their pitching staff at Single-A. Amidst all this chaos, former top prospect Clint Frazier has remained in the news, a possible trade chip floated by the Yankees in their failed quest to acquire starting pitching.
At the minimum, Clint Frazier will be a Yankee through at least the end of the 2019 season. Which means, as the roster stands right now, he should not be a member of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders for a second longer, as all the obstacles standing in his way — the roster crunch, his defense, and the trade deadline — have been lessened or outright removed.
When the Yankees acquired Edwin Encarnacion on June 16, Frazier was returned to Triple-A despite his 121 OPS+, in part due to the roster crunch (Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton were due to return that same week) and in part to work on his defense, which has been bad at best. He struggled initially upon reaching Scranton, and this, combined with Mike Tauchman’s and Cameron Maybin’s performances, have allowed the Yankees to not miss Frazier’s bat even as injuries have once again mounted.
The situation has changed. With Luke Voit on the IL with a sports hernia — and quite possibly for as many as six weeks — Encarnacion will likely take full-time first base duties for the time being. This will leave the Yankees with a hole smack in the middle of the lineup, and in the DH spot. No option that the Yankees have available can fill that hole better than Frazier.
Before his demotion, Frazier had flashed exactly why he was once such a coveted prospect: he was running a .283/.330/.513 slash line with 11 home runs and 11 doubles in 209 plate appearances. In his last two weeks in the Majors, he had been performing even better, with a .320/.375/.480 slash. Furthermore, his xWBAcon (expected wOBA on contact) of .426 ranks fifth on the team among players with more than 100 PAs, indicating he was striking the ball with authority. Despite strong performances by Tauchman, Gio Urshela, and Austin Romine, Frazier’s bat would be a welcome addition to the lineup — and since he would primarily serving as the DH, his defense would not dampen his value.
Additionally, following a slow start at Scranton, Frazier has been one of the hottest hitters down there. Although his slash line of .247/.299/.610 in the month of July actually pales in comparison to his major-league numbers, it represents a strong bounce back, showing that he has gotten over any post-demotion hangover and has possibly made adjustments at the plate.
Lastly, the Yankees have not promoted Frazier in part due to his presence in the rumor mill, not wanting to rip a guy out of the clubhouse as part of a trade if they could help it. Thanks to the single deadline this year, however, Frazier is now here to stay for the remainder of the year. The only way he would likely be removed from the clubhouse, barring injury, would be if Stanton, Gardner, and Voit all return from the IL — which may not happen until rosters expand. And if he hits like he did earlier in the season, he could force the issue and play his way into regular at-bats.
At least, of course, until the Clint Frazier trade rumors resume after the playoffs.