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Yankees 2020 Roster Report Cards: Clint Frazier

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The Masked Swinger finally demonstrated why the Yankees have been patient with him.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

When the season began, Clint Frazier probably felt like he was in Groundhog Day, as he found himself optioned to the alternate site just days into the regular season. For the second time in as many seasons, however, the injury bug bit the Yankees hard, and on August 11, Frazier received a summons to return to the Bronx. This time, he was determined to leave Scranton behind for good.

Grade: A+

2020 Statistics: 39 games, 160 plate appearances, .267/.394/.511, 8 HR, 26 RBI, 149 OPS+, 1.5 bWAR, 1.3 fWAR,

2021 Contract Status: first-year arbitration-eligible

Up until this season, Frazier had been a bat-first outfielder who hit at an above-average rate, but not sufficiently enough that it outweighed his defensive woes. This season, following a change in batting stance first documented by Josh back in July and later analyzed by Cooper in the second half of August, Frazier saw career highs in barrel percentage (12.5%), exit velocity (89.4 MPH) and hard-hit percentage (43.2%) that powered an offensive explosion at the plate. Furthermore, he was more patient at the plate, seeing his BB% more than double from 6.5% in 2019 to 15.6% this year, which ranked among the top 7% in all of baseball.

Had that been the sum total of his improvements, Frazier would have played himself into regular at-bats for 2021, albeit not necessarily as a member of the starting lineup. As significant as his progress at the plate was, however, it was defensively where Clint truly made strides in 2020.

In 2019, Frazier accumulated -12 OAA (Outs Above Average), with -13% success rate added. According to Statcast data, although his routes actually saw a decline since last season, he more than made up for it with a quicker reaction time — for a more detailed look into his defensive improvements, see Tom’s article from the end of October. Moreover, for the first time since his concussion-laden 2018 season, he was finally symptom-free — an important cautionary tale on the importance of taking head injuries seriously. Combining a healthy head with the amount of work that he put in, and Frazier reinvented himself as arguably the most random Gold Glove Award finalist since Rafael Palmeiro won the 1999 award despite playing only 28 games in the field.

Oh, and to top it all off, let’s not forget the immense maturity he showed when he recognized that he could be a positive role model by wearing a mask while in the field and at the plate.

Clint Frazier seized the opportunity that 2020 put in front of him, and finally showed signs that he may become the five-tool (well, maybe 4.5-tool) player that many fans hoped for when the Yankees acquired him from the Cleveland Indians during the 2016 fire sale. And for that, he will almost certainly be rewarded as the Yankees starting left fielder on Opening Day next season.