New York Yankees: Clint Frazier has arrived

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 12: Joe Girardi
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 12: Joe Girardi /

The New York Yankees haven’t been shy about calling up young guns this season. The organization resolved to invest in player development last summer, transforming its farm system into one of the richest talent pools in the league. Nine players have made their MLB debut in pinstripes this year, and today, newly promoted outfielder Clint Frazier will make it ten.

It was crushing to watch Dustin Fowler hit the right-field railing on Thursday night. The No. 8 prospect in the Yankees’ system was forced off the field with an injury before his first at-bat in the major leagues, suffering a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee. He won’t get to swing the bat for New York until at least 2018. Fortunately, Fowler is expected to be healthy by next spring, when he can pick up where he left off.

It’s uncomfortable to discuss a potential silver lining to a player’s season-ending injury, but in Fowler’s case, there is one: After a ten-month wait, one of the prospects—part of the bounty that came in the Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller trades last year—is set to grace the big leagues.

Frazier was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2013 draft and commanded a franchise-record $3.5 million signing bonus from the Cleveland Indians, which convinced him to renege on his college commitment to Georgia. It’s obvious why the Indians ponied up the extra money—and why it took a reliever as elite as Miller to pry Frazier away from them: The 22-year-old is a true five-tool player who can impact the game in a multitude of ways.

Frazier has stuffed the stat sheet all the way through professional baseball to this point. He owns a career .272 batting average in the minors, though he’s been batting around .250 in Triple-A. More importantly, through 489 career minor-league games (around three 162-game seasons), he has tallied 62 home runs and 52 stolen bases. With 30/30 potential as he matures and the athleticism to field all three outfield positions effectively, Frazier could eventually develop into one of the most valuable weapons at Joe Girardi’s disposal.

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But what about today? There are many legitimate doubts about whether Frazier is big-league ready just yet. Again, his average dipped upon making the jump to Triple-A, and he’s also made six errors in the field this season, signaling that he may not be ready defensively, either. But there are also signs that Frazier has adjusted: He’s striking out at a career-low rate and walking at a career-high rate; his Isolated Power is currently at a career-best as well, and he’s tied for fourth in the International League in doubles.

The bigger concern is whether the Yankees can find any room for Frazier in their lineup. Even with Aaron Hicks on the shelf for a while, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, and Aaron Judge block out the outfield. But New York also wouldn’t call up its second-ranked prospect with the intention of letting him rot on the bench. In one way or another, Girardi will find a way to insert Frazier’s bat into the lineup with regularity, and once players get healthy and those opportunities dry up, Frazier will likely find himself headed back to Scranton.

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Yankee fans will clamor for a glimpse of their future in the meantime. The picture is beginning to come into focus. If things go according to plan, Frazier and Judge will be mainstays in the Yankee Stadium outfield for a long, long time. Maybe the new era even starts today—stranger things have happened this season. Remember when Cody Bellinger was supposed to enjoy a cup of coffee with the Dodgers?