Prospect Profile: Clint Frazier

(Scranton Times-Tribune)
(Scranton Times-Tribune)

Clint Frazier | OF

Background
Frazier, who turned 22 in September, attended Loganville High School in the Atlanta suburbs. He was named Perfect Game National Player of the Year as a junior after hitting .424 with 24 home runs, and playing in the Under Armour All-American Game. The next year Frazier hit .485 with 17 home runs as a senior, and was named Gatorade National Player of the Year and Baseball America High School Player of the Year.

Both Baseball America and MLB.com ranked Frazier as the fourth best prospect in the entire 2013 draft class — and the best high school prospect overall — behind Kris Bryant, Jon Gray, and Mark Appel. The Indians selected him with the fifth overall pick after Appel (Astros), Bryant (Cubs), Gray (Rockies), and Kohl Stewart (Twins) went with the top four picks, in that order. Cleveland bought Frazier away from the University of Georgia with a $3.5M bonus.

The Yankees acquired Frazier, along lefty Justus Sheffield and righties Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen, from the Indians in the Andrew Miller trade at the 2016 trade deadline. “There is excitement about coming to terms for a guy that we targeted. At the same time, there was a pit in your stomach because we knew we were trading really good players,” said Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti to Andrew Marchand after the trade.

Pro Career
The Indians assigned Frazier to their Rookie Arizona League affiliate after signing, and he hit .297/.362/.506 (137 wRC+) with five home runs in 44 games in his pro debut. In 2014, the Tribe sent him to their Low-A Midwest League affiliate for his first full pro season, where he hit .266/.349/.411 (120 wRC+) with 13 home runs in 120 games as a 19-year-old. Frazier was 2.5 years younger than the average Midwest League player.

As expected, the Indians moved Frazier up to their High-A affiliate in the Carolina League in 2015. He hit .285/.377/.465 (147 wRC+) with 16 home runs in 133 games during the regular season — Frazier was 2.7 years younger than the average Carolina League player — then put up a .281/.347/.438 (115 wRC+) batting line with three homers in 22 games with the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League.

Frazier started the 2016 season with the Indians’ Double-A Eastern League affiliate, with whom he hit .276/.356/.469 (129 wRC+) with 13 homers in 89 game before being promoted to the Triple-A International League. He was promoted one week before the trade, after participating in the Futures Game. Frazier went 5-for-21 (.238) in five games with Cleveland’s Triple-A affiliate before authoring a .228/.278/.396 (90 wRC+) line with three homers in 25 games with Triple-A Scranton.

“I was thinking to myself, ‘I’ve let other people make me feel pressure.’ And that’s never happened before, I’ve never felt pressure,” said Frazier to Kelsie Heneghan when asked about his mindset after the trade. “You go through that feeling of that you have weight on your shoulders the whole time. Every time I stepped into the box, I was trying to impress people.”

Frazier is a career .273/.353/.444 (128 wRC+) hitter with 54 home runs, a 25.8% strikeout rate, and a 10.0% walk rate in 2,027 minor league plate appearances and 457 games. He’s done that despite being at least 2.5 years younger than the average competition in each league. (He was almost four years younger than the competition for his levels in 2016.) Needless to say, Frazier has appeared on many top 100 prospect lists over the years.

Baseball America MLB.com ESPN Baseball Prospectus
Pre-2014 48th 48th 45th 36th
Pre-2015 DNR 53rd 92nd 89th
Pre-2016 44th 47th 72nd 53rd
Mid-2016 21st 15th 34th 26th

At this point Frazier is a lock for all pre-2017 top 100 prospect lists. Had he followed through on his commitment to Georgia out of high school, he would have been draft-eligible this summer. Instead, Frazier reached Triple-A at age 21, and is now only a phone call away from the show.

Scouting Report
Brian Cashman called Frazier’s bat speed “legendary” after the trade and that has long been the right-handed hitter’s calling card. Frazier has an insanely quick bat and strong hands that generate big raw power. That power doesn’t always show up in games though because he hits the ball on the ground too frequently. Frazier’s ground ball rates in his three full minor league seasons are 41.6%, 42.8%, and 45.0%. Those are a wee bit too high for a high-end prospect. He needs to generate more loft.

Over the years Frazier has worked to tone down his setup at the plate, which featured a lot of unnecessary movement back in the day. He used to waggle his bat, things like that. Frazier has good knowledge of the strike zone and recognizes spin, though he tends to get too swing happy at times and chase out of the zone. It’s not so much an approach problem as it is a “hey, calm the hell down” problem. Frazier plays very hard with an all-out style that will endear him to fans, but sometimes the aggressiveness carries over into his at-bats. Here’s some video from his stint with the RailRiders:

In addition to the bat speed, Frazier is an above-average runner and that allows him to be a weapon on the bases and track down balls in the outfield. He’s played all three outfield spots in his career and has the defensive prowess to remain in center for the foreseeable future. Frazier, who is listed at a stocky 6-foot-1 and 190 lbs., also has an above-average arm that would fit well in right field. Point is, he’s not a one-dimensional player. He contributes at the plate, in the field, and on the bases.

2017 Outlook
Frazier won’t be Rule 5 Draft eligible until next offseason, so he’s not on the 40-man roster and won’t have to be added until after the 2017 season. The Yankees will surely bring him to Spring Training next year as a non-roster player though, and given his talent, Frazier is the kind of player who could force the issue quick and get called up next summer. My guess is he’ll be added to the 40-man and reach the show before being Rule 5 Draft eligible, which doesn’t happen often for high school draftees, even ones selected fifth overall.

My Take
I really like Frazier as prospect, have for a long time, and I was thrilled the Yankees were able to get him (and more!) for Miller. I didn’t think they would be able to pry a prospect of this caliber (and more!) loose for a reliever, even one as good as Miller. The bullpen market really blew up over the last 12 months or so.

Frazier is not without his flaws. He’s going to swing and miss some, and it’ll probably take him some time to get his footing in the big leagues, but the offensive potential is very high, and Frazier is going to play a well-rounded game too. With all due respect to guys like Aaron Judge and Austin Jackson, Frazier is probably New York’s best outfield prospect since Ruben Rivera was in his heyday in the late-1990s.

A Down Season for Dellin Betances is a Great Season for Most Relievers [2016 Season Review]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

It’s not often a team can have a reliever as dominant as Dellin Betances be the third best option in their bullpen. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance that never once happened in baseball history prior to this season. Coming into 2016, Betances was third on the Yankees’ bullpen depth chart behind Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman. Wild.

Betances was the only one of those three to make it through the season with the Yankees, but I’m guessing had another team presented Brian Cashman with a massive offer at the trade deadline, Dellin would have been gone too. Instead, he remains with the Yankees and is coming off his worst full season in the big leagues. Of course, Betances was still one of the most dominant relievers in baseball.

The Same Ol’ Dellin (For Five Months)

When the season started, Betances was back in a familiar role: eighth inning guy. Chapman had to serve his 30-game suspension, which meant Miller closed and Betances set up. And on Opening Day, Dellin took the loss after allowing three unearned runs on one hit and two walks in two-thirds of an inning. It was his own error that opened the floodgates.

The Yankees actually played that game under protest. Joe Girardi argued Carlos Correa was in the baseline and impeded Betances’ throw, but that wasn’t going to hold up, so the protest was dropped after the game. The Astros won the game thanks to the error and Dellin was saddled with New York’s first loss of the new season. So it goes.

Following that game, Betances went on a two-month rampage. He took all his frustration out on opposing hitters. In his next 23 appearances following the error, Dellin struck out 45 (!) in 22.2 innings. He allowed five runs and walked only three. That’s a 54.2% strikeout rate and a 3.6% walk rate. At one point Betances struck out 21 of 29 batters faced in mid-April. I mean, geez.

Weirdly enough, that insane early-season stretch included a stretch of games in which Betances allowed a home run in three straight outings. He’d never done that before. It proved to be just a blip though; Dellin allowed zero home runs in his next 45 games and 45.2 innings. Betances finished the first half with a 2.66 ERA (1.17 FIP) with 45.1% strikeouts and 5.8% walks in 44 innings. That earned him his third straight All-Star Game selection. He’s the only reliever selected to each of the last three All-Star Games.

Dellin threw a scoreless seventh inning with a two-run lead in the Midsummer Classic, and it went strikeout (Corey Seager), single (Daniel Murphy), fly out (Paul Goldschmidt), strikeout (Nolan Arenado). Then, in his first seven outings after the All-Star Game, he allowed one run and struck out eleven in 6.1 innings. That took the Yankees to the trade deadline. Chapman and Miller were gone, so Betances took over as closer.

In his first five weeks as closer, Betances went nine-for-ten in save chances — in the one blown save, he inherited a runner on third with one out in the eighth and allowed a game-tying sac fly — and struck out 21 in 12.1 innings. Typical Betances. On September 4th, he needed 12 pitches to strike out two and retire all four batters he faced. On September 5th, he needed ten pitches to fan two and retire all three batters he faced. That was the last time we saw a consistently effective Betances in 2016.

The Stumble to the Finish

Following that September 5th game, Dellin had a 2.05 ERA (1.43 FIP) with excellent strikeout (44.7%) and walk (7.8%) rates in 66 innings. It was a typical Betances year. It all started to fall apart on September 6th, in his third straight day of work. Betances allowed two runs on two hits and three walks — only 22 of his 40 pitches were strikes — in one-third of an inning against the Blue Jays. Blake Parker had to bail him out with an assist from Brett Gardner‘s leaping catch.

Three days later, Betances allowed a run on three hits in one inning of work. Five days after that, he allowed two unearned runs in an inning thanks in part to his own throwing error. (A Starlin Castro error opened the inning.) Dellin shot-putted a comebacker to the backstop. Yuck. Then, the following night, Betances served up the most devastating home run of the season, Hanley Ramirez’s postseason hopes crushing walk-off blast. I’m not even sure why I’m embedding this video but:

Welp. That was: bad. Worst game in a long, long time. And because that wasn’t bad enough, Betances allowed two runs on a hit and two walks ten days later. And the day after that, he allowed another two runs (one earned) on two walks while retiring zero batters. That’s 13 runs (ten earned) in the span of eight games and six innings. Dellin closed out his season by striking out the side with authority in Game 161, but by then the damage had been done. His September was dreadful.

The Sudden Loss of Control, Again

Following 136 games of total domination, Betances hit a wall in the final 26 games, and I thought he looked worse than he had at any point since arriving in the show for good back in 2014. The problem was control; Dellin walked eight in his final seven innings. This was the second straight year he was completely unable to locate late in the season too.

Dellin Betances walks1

Once is a blip, twice is a trend. I know Betances has a long history of control issues, so it’s not completely unexpected anytime he loses the strike zone, but when it happens so suddenly late in the season two years in a row, it’s hard to chalk it up to coincidence. Fatigue sure seems like a potential problem, especially since he looked visibly gassed on the mound. He had to put more effort into each pitch and that’s never good.

Now, Dellin’s workload has declined each of the last three years, at least in terms of total innings. He threw 90 innings in 2014. It was 84 innings last year and 73 innings this year. The problem is Betances has had to work harder with each passing year. He averaged 15.2 pitches per inning 2014, 16.3 pitches per inning in 2015, and 17.2 pitches per inning in 2016. Also, there’s the cumulative effect. All the innings add up year after year.

I have no idea whether fatigue is the root cause of Betances’ late season control problems the last two years. The circumstantial evidence points in that direction but we don’t really know. Whatever it is, it’s now happened two years in a row, and this year was much worse than last year. The Yankees want to win the World Series against some day. The sooner the better. If Dellin is running out gas in September, what happens in October?

The Unignorable Inability to Hold Runners

It’s become a bigger and bigger problem with each passing season. Two years ago runners went 12-for-15 stealing bases against Betances. Last year it was 17-for-21. This year it was 21-for-21. 21-for-21! Runners had 118 chances to steal against Dellin — that’s the number of runners on first or second with no runner ahead of them — and they went 21 times, or 17.8%. The MLB average is 5.5%.

This is a big problem. It’s not a fatal flaw the same way Jon Lester’s inability to hold runners isn’t a fatal flaw, but it is a big problem. Betances mostly pitches in the late innings of close games, when those extra 90 feet can be a pretty big deal. He doesn’t even had a pickoff move. If he does, I can’t ever remember seeing it. Betances varies his times to the plate and he has a slide step, but obviously they’re not enough. Runners are still going at will.

Now here’s the thing: Dellin is never going to be good at holding runners. Tall right-handed pitchers rarely are. Base-stealers have an 87.2% success rate against 6-foot-10 Chris Young, for example. At least tall lefties like CC Sabathia and Randy Johnson had the advantage of staring the runner down at first base. Betances, with that high leg kick and slow delivery to the plate, doesn’t give his catcher a chance. Even with Gary Sanchez‘s rocket arm behind the plate, runners still went 6-for-6 against Dellin.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Betances doesn’t have to develop an Andy Pettitte pickoff move (or a Nathan Eovaldi pickoff move!). But he has to develop a pickoff move. Something he can put in the back of the runner’s mind. Even if it’s only a lob over to first, it’s better than nothing. Betances is so insanely good that he’s been one of the two or three most dominant relievers in baseball without holding runners the last three years. This is a flaw teams are going to take advantage more and more in the future though, so it’s something he has to work on.

Outlook for 2017

The idea Betances can’t handle the pressure of being the closer would hold water if, you know, he hadn’t completely dominated in his first five weeks on the job. Also, he’s been throwing high-leverage innings for the Yankees for three years now. The guy has excelled in pressure situations since 2014. He’s shown us he can do it. If you don’t think he can handle the ninth inning, then there’s nothing I can tell you to change your mind.

Anyway, as it stands right now, Dellin is the Yankees’ closer. There’s a pretty good chance that will change this offseason because the Yankees are in big on the top free agent relievers, including Chapman. And you know what? Signing Chapman or Kenley Jansen to close would make the Yankees a lot better. I mean, duh. Those guys are great. It wouldn’t make them better because Dellin can’t close, but because he can slide back into that dynamic setup role where he has been such a weapon the last few years.

By many measures, the 2016 season was Betances’ worst since arriving for good three years ago despite a career high strikeout rate (42.1%) and a career high ground ball rate (53.9%). He had a career high ERA (3.08) and a career high WHIP (1.12). Hitters put up a .201/.279/.299 batting line against Dellin this year. That’s outrageously good! But it was .157/.266/.244 a year ago and .149/.218/.224 two years ago. This is not a positive trend!

Betances is still excellent and the Yankees are lucky to have him in their bullpen. I think they have to seriously consider lightening his workload next year — that doesn’t mean he can’t ever go multiple innings, just that he can’t do it as often — perhaps getting it down into the 60-65 innings range. A normal short reliever workload. Also, working on controlling the running game is a must. Betances is still great despite those flaws. He’s just not quite as overwhelming as he was two years.

The Yanks have shown interest in Kendrys Morales, who’d be a pretty good fit, actually

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)
(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees are among the teams to show interest in designated hitter Kendrys Morales early this offseason. He became a free agent a few days ago when he declined his half of the $11M mutual option in his contract. That’s not surprising. He’ll get more as a free agent. The Royals did not make Morales the qualifying offer, so he won’t cost a draft pick to sign.

Morales, 33, hit .263/.327/.468 (110 wRC+) with 30 home runs in 618 plate appearances last season. He put up a .290/.362/.485 (130 wRC+) batting line with 22 homers in 639 plate appearances the year before, when the Royals won the World Series. Morales is a switch-hitter, and throughout his career he’s had a tiny platoon split and been consistently excellent with runners in scoring position, if that’s your thing. I have some thoughts on this.

1. Something would have to happen with McCann first, right? As it stands right now, Brian McCann will be the primary DH for the Yankees next season. Gary Sanchez is entrenched behind the plate, so the only way to get McCann and his 20+ homer power into the lineup is at DH. Either that or they’d have to stick him at first base, and … no. Just, no.

McCann’s name has popped up in trade rumors for a few weeks now and reports indicate the Yankees will continue to entertain offers for their erstwhile catcher. The thing is, even if they find a trade to their liking, McCann is in total control here. He has a full no-trade clause and can shoot down any deal. I doubt McCann would approve a trade to rebuilding team, or a team he perceives as a non-contender, but who knows.

Also, Morales is not going to come to the Yankees if he feels he has to compete with McCann for DH at-bats. He’s also not much of a first base option either. He’s a bat-only player. The Yankees would have to move McCann first to clear way for Morales, or at least be far enough down the line with a McCann trade — that means knowing whether he’ll sign off on a deal — for Morales to be comfortable coming to New York.

2. Morales would add some nice lineup balance. The Yankees are in a weird place. Their lineup has been very left-handed heavy the last few years, but right now, most of their up-and-coming young bats are right-handed. Greg Bird is the only notable lefty. Sanchez, Aaron Judge, and Clint Frazier are all righties. Should the Yankees trade McCann this winter, their best lefty power threat will be Didi Gregorius. I like Didi! But yikes.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

As a switch-hitter, Morales would help balance out the lineup and create matchup headaches for opposing managers. He could slot right in as the cleanup hitter behind Sanchez and ahead of … Starlin Castro, I guess. The Yankees only have one switch-hitter at the moment, Chase Headley, and he’s not exactly a big offensive threat. Morales would replace Mark Teixeira as the team’s middle of the order switch-hitter with power, and it’s hard to think he’d be anything but a huge upgrade over 2016 Teixeira at the plate.

3. Morales offers no defensive value or versatility. This is the biggest drawback. Morales is a DH. You could make him go stand at first base a few times a year during interleague play, but he’ll cost you runs. He’s a DH, plain and simple. That hinders roster flexibility. Sanchez couldn’t stay in the lineup on days he doesn’t catch, for example. We saw how much of a roster headache Alex Rodriguez created the last two years. Morales would be more of the same.

Also, it’s worth noting Morales is a negative on the bases too. He was never fast to begin with, but since shattering his ankle celebrating that walk-off home run a few years ago (remember that? ouch), you’ve been able to measure his home-to-first time with a sundial. It takes three singles to score the guy from first. You live with it if he mashes. Otherwise Morales will really clog the bases in a not good way.

4. He should come on a short-term contract. Two years ago Victor Martinez signed a four-year deal worth $68M, and Edwin Encarnacion is going to get something insane this offseason, so there is some precedent for a DH in his mid-30s getting a huge contract. Martinez and Encarnacion had established themselves as truly elite hitters at the time, however. Morales is pretty good. He’s definitely a notch or two below those guys though.

MLBTR projects a two-year deal worth $26M for Morales. Sounds about right to me, but what do I know. Point is, it’s really unlikely you’ll have to offer him a three or four-year contract to get a deal done this winter. A two-year contract should be enough. Maybe even a really rich one-year contract. Say one year at $15M with a vesting option based on plate appearances. Something like that.

The price is right with Morales. The Yankees could bring him in as short-term offensive help, build the lineup around him as the kids get comfortable, then cast him aside when those young players are ready to do the heavy lifting themselves. Sounds great! Chances are it won’t work out that way, but that’s life. Morales would create some roster flexibility issues, but he’s also add a middle of the order presence, and he’d be that on a relatively short-term contract. That’s a pretty good fit for the Yankees.

Brett Gardner wins first career Gold Glove

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Earlier tonight, MLB and Rawlings announced the 2016 Gold Glove winners, and Brett Gardner took home left field honors in the American League. How about that? He was up against Alex Gordon and Colby Rasmus. Here are all the Gold Glove winners. No other Yankees won (or were finalists).

This was Gardner’s third year as a finalist — he was also a finalist in 2011 and 2015 — and first actual Gold Glove award win. Long overdue, I’d say. Gardner’s been really good in left field for a long time now. I’m a bit surprised Gordon, who had won four of the last five left field Gold Gloves, didn’t win based on reputation.

Gardner is the first Yankee to win a Gold Glove since Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano both won back in 2012. He’s the first Yankees outfielder to win a Gold Glove since Bernie Williams won four straight from 1997-2000. Pretty cool. Congrats, Gardy.

Tuesday Night Open Thread

Day Two of the GM Meetings came and went today, again with no real big news. I thought maybe we’d see a trade by now. Not necessarily involving the Yankees, just in general. Alas. There’s a lot of offseason left though. Plus I’m sure the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement is gumming up the works. Clubs want to know what they’re getting themselves into before making any major decisions.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The (hockey) Rangers, Devils, and Nets are all playing tonight, so talk about those games or anything else right here. Just not politics, please. I know it’s Election Day, but this is a baseball blog. People come here to forget about the real world. Thanks in advance.

Yankees upgrade 40th roster spot, claim Joe Mantiply and designate Branden Pinder

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Earlier today the Yankees claimed left-hander Joe Mantiply off waivers from the Tigers, the team announced. Righty Branden Pinder was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot.

Mantiply, 25, is a pure reliever who spent most of the season in the minors. He had a 2.73 ERA (2.15 FIP) in 59.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, during which he held left-handed hitters to a .168/.195/.224 batting line with a 36.7% strikeout rate and a 1.7% walk rate. So at least he has that going for him.

The Tigers called Mantiply up in September, and he allowed five runs on seven hits and two walks in 2.2 innings spread across five appearances in his first taste of the show. He’s a classic left-on-left matchup guy with a funky delivery, an upper-80s fastball, and an upper-70s slider. Here’s a tiny little bit of video:

The 27-year-old Pinder had Tommy John surgery in April and missed most of the season. He appeared in one game with the Yankees and two games with Triple-A Scranton before blowing out his elbow. Last year Pinder had a 2.93 ERA (4.72 FIP) in 27.2 innings with the Yankees as the primary shuttle reliever.

All this move does is upgrade the 40th spot on the 40-man roster. Mantiply is left-handed and healthy while Pinder is right-handed and hurt. Also, Mantiply has all three option years remaining — he was added to the 40-man roster for the first time in September — while Pinder has either one or two. That’s really all there is to it. Chances are Pinder is going to clear waivers and stay in the organization as a non-40-man roster player anyway. Injured fringe relievers aren’t exactly a hot commodity on waivers.

2017 Draft Order Tracker

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)
(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

Just a heads up: Our 2017 Draft Order Tracker page is now live. I put one of these together each offseason and use it to keep track of any changes to the draft order via free agent compensation. Seems to come in handy. The 2017 Draft Order Tracker is accessible at any time via the Resources tab in the nav bar at the top of the site.

Keep in mind the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement may change the draft order rules. It could change the way qualifying offers work, the way the 12 Competitive Balance Picks work, that sort of thing. In fact, MLB has not yet handed out those Competitive Balance Picks. Usually they’re issued at midseason. Instead, MLB is waiting until January because the new CBA is pending.

Ten players received qualifying offers prior to yesterday’s deadline and they have until next Monday to accept or reject. Neil Walker seems like the only serious candidate to accept, in my opinion. He had a nice season with the Mets, but it ended in late-August due to back surgery. I’m guessing Walker and his agent will spend the next few days gauging the market before decided whether to accept the qualifying offer.

The Yankees currently hold the 17th overall pick in next year’s draft. They could always surrender that to sign one of the qualified free agents, though I don’t think that’ll happen. The Yankees will move up in the first round if the Rockies, White Sox, Pirates, Marlins, Royals, and/or Astros sign a qualified free agent. Not sure how likely that is. Maybe the White Sox or Astros will splurge for someone. We’ll see.

So anyway, the 2017 Draft Order Tracker page is up and running. Check back often for updates.