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Yankees 2020 Season Preview: Clint Frazier

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Will this be the year Frazier breaks through for good?

Los Angeles Angels v New York Yankees Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

For a lot of reasons, Clint Frazier has become one of the more polarizing Yankees.

For those that are fans of him, he’s bound to break out if he gets the chance. He’s got great potential thanks to his incredible bat speed. Last year when he got regular playing time, he gave the Yankees some extremely valuable production in the face of injury troubles all over the roster.

For people that are over him, he’s a defensive liability who doesn’t quite have the bat to make up for it. He’s shown flashes, but at this point he’s at over 400 career plate appearances and his numbers still grade out at around league average.

As always with these things, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. However no matter what your feelings on Frazier are, this is probably a make or break year for him, at least in pinstripes.

2019 Stats: 246 PA, .267/.317/.489, 12 HR, 38 RBI, 28.5 K%, 6.5 BB%, 108 wRC+, 0.1 WAR

2020 FanGraphs Depth Chart Projections: 77 PA, .243/.304/.444, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 26.7 K%, 6.5 BB%, 94 wRC+, 0.1 WAR

The main thing that stands out about the above projections for Frazier is just the lack of playing time they predict. Although, it’s also not the most shocking thing either. He’s obviously not going to be higher in the pecking order than Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton. Brett Gardner was re-signed in the offseason. Mike Tauchman went from random backup outfielder to an intriguing piece over the course of last season. Aaron Hicks may be injured, but his best is really good. That’s five outfielders, aside from Miguel Andujar getting some work in the outfield this spring.

The sheer amount of outfielders the Yankees have and where Frazier seems to be on the depth chart seems to mean that the most likely way he’ll get regular at-bats is if the Yankees deal with injuries. Which, hey, that’s not impossible. That certainly happened a lot last year, and the Yankees have already dealt with several of them this year.

Injuries or no, Frazier will probably get time with the Yankees at some point in the season, so how might he do when he gets there?

As mentioned, the Fangraphs Depth Chart projections don’t predict great things from Frazier this season. None of the publicly available projection systems have him putting up an excellent season.

Part of that is likely due to the fact that, despite his solid 2019, Frazier’s overall major league career numbers aren’t particularly overwhelming. His career wRC+ is 100, which is exactly league average. Even his final 2019 stats grade out as good but not incredible. He has the prospect pedigree and has shown how good he can be when on, but he hasn’t been the model of consistency.

His peripherals don’t spell the story of someone who has been getting massively unlucky at the plate either.

Other than in 2018 when his wOBA vs. xwOBA suggest he might’ve gotten a little unlucky, his actual numbers aren’t terribly far off his real ones.

Despite all that, Frazier’s talent is evident and was on full display in the first half of 2019. If he gets the chance, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him break out. It’s just hard to see where the at-bats come from without some sort of crisis or injury on under-performance.