New York Yankees: What to expect from Clint Frazier in 2021

TAMPA, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 24: Clint Frazier #77 of the New York Yankees in action during the spring training game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Steinbrenner Field on February 24, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 24: Clint Frazier #77 of the New York Yankees in action during the spring training game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Steinbrenner Field on February 24, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

For Clint Frazier, the road to the New York Yankees starting lineup was a long, and at times, frustrating journey. He first joined the Yankees in 2016 as one of the centerpieces of the Andrew Miller deal with the Cleveland Indians, and quickly established himself as one of the top prospects in the Yankees farm system.

He made his debut the following season in 2017, and quickly displayed his lightning-quick bat and plenty of pop. However, he has found himself the victim of circumstance on a deep Yankees roster. Frazier struggled to find consistent playing time in an outfield crowded with the likes of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, and plenty of others.

What to expect from Clint Frazier now that he is established with the New York Yankees

Frazier has been routinely sent up and down from Triple-A, forced to patiently wait for his opportunities to fill in for an injured star. Over the past few seasons, his name has been included in countless hypothetical trade packages given his spot on the depth chart. He also dealt with his fair share of defensive woes, as well as a freak concussion injury that happened by colliding into a wall in spring training.

More Yankees. Frazier has bat modeled after himself. light

Despite all the roadblocks, Frazier acted like a professional and kept working hard through all the trials and tribulations. Now, he has finally earned his opportunity to be an opening day starter for the New York Yankees. Manager Aaron Boone announced early in spring training that Clint Frazier will be the starting left fielder entering the 2021 season, despite re-signing long-time veteran Brett Gardner.

But if Frazier has learned anything during his time with the Yankees, it’s that nothing is ever guaranteed, so he must continue to prove himself to solidify his spot in the Yankees’ long-term plan. So what can the Yankees expect from Clint Frazier in 2021?

Believe it or not, Frazier’s major league experience spanning across four scattered years from 2017-2020 has equated to exactly one full season. In those 162 games, Frazier has slashed .258/.331/.475 with 24 home runs and 84 RBIs.

On paper, that is a pretty good season. Given the overall strength of the New York Yankees lineup, they would be very content with that type of production out of Frazier this season. However, both the Yankees and Frazier have much higher hopes, and recent trends suggest they have good reason to expect more.

Frazier was quietly one of the most impactful, consistent bats for the Yankees in the abbreviated 2020 campaign. He nicely filled the void left by Stanton and Judge, who spent significant time on the injured list. His .388 wOBA and 149 wRC+ were third on the team, only behind MLB batting champion DJ LeMahieu and MLB home run champion Luke Voit. That’s pretty good company to be in.

He also made noticeable improvements to all facets of his game. At the plate, he made major adjustments to his stance and approach. He now stays much more closed with less movement, allowing balls to get deeper so he can better utilize his prolific bat speed to spread the ball to all fields.

Furthermore, his patience off the field has rubbed off on the field. In 2020, he experienced a significant jump in his walk rate to 15.6% compared to his career rate of 6.5% entering that season. Combined with a career-low strikeout rate, Frazier developed into a much more complete, mature hitter last season. There is no reason to believe he won’t continue to improve his K/BB ratio in 2021 as he settles into an everyday role. A more patient approach will bode very well for Frazier and the power-hitting Yankees lineup.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly for Frazier, he drastically transformed his defensive abilities in 2020. In 2019, Frazier’s defensive struggles were well documented in New York. It was a large factor as to why Frazier fell on the depth chart to the likes of Cameron Maybin and Mike Tauchman. However, Frazier worked tirelessly to improve his defense, and his hard work paid off in a very big way.

Frazier improved his UZR from a terrible -5.2 mark in 2019 to an impressive 1.7 in 2020. His defense was good enough to earn him a gold glove nomination in right field, which factors in advanced SABR metrics into their nominations. With defense being a positive rather than a negative entering 2021, Frazier can be confident in his ability to become a key contributor for years to come.

Next. Previewing the 2021 New York Yankees. dark

Clint Frazier is poised to have a breakout season in 2021. He is hungry to prove himself as a part of the New York Yankees’ present and future, and he will get the chance to help his team compete for a championship. Frazier will be put in a similar situation to Gleyber Torres and Gio Urshela when they broke out, hitting towards the lower part of a powerful lineup with great protection. Look forward to big things from Red Thunder.

Clint Frazier 2021 Projections: .269/.373/.489, 28 HRs, 91 RBIs