New York Yankees: Can they trust Clint Frazier defensively in the outfield?

Clint Frazier’s defense last season was a major issue and one of the main reasons why he was stuck at Triple-A Scranton for the majority of the second half. This year he should get another opportunity with the Yankees to make an impact but it won’t last long if he doesn’t improve in the outfield. 

Opening Day for Major League Baseball was supposed to be six days away. The Yankees were to begin the season in Baltimore against the lowly Orioles. However, after MLB shutdown Spring Training on March 12 because of the coronavirus outbreak, there’s no telling when the season will actually begin. 

Right now the health and safety is the top priority for everybody and is more important than baseball or any other sport. When the pandemic ends and we are finally able to welcome baseball back, it’s going to take some time for the players to get ready for what could be a shortened 2020 season.

When and if baseball activities resume for the Yankees what will their roster look like in the outfield? Brett Gardner, Mike Tauchman, Miguel Andujar and Clint Frazier were the four outfielders expected to be on the Opening Day but plans could change now because of the delay. Will Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge be ready to begin the season? No one knows. One question, however, will always remain, and that’s can the Yankees trust Frazier defensively?

He certainly has the talent to have a successful long-term major league career, but at times it doesn’t always show. Frazier was acquired from the Cleveland Indians in 2016 as part of a deal that sent left-handed relief pitcher Andrew Miller to the Tribe. He made his MLB debut with the Bombers on July 1 in 2017.

Last season he was pressed into the lineup with the never-ending list of injuries in the Bronx early in the campaign. Frazier batted a career-best .267 with 12 home runs and 38 RBI in 69 games but before he was sent down in early June he hit .284 with 11 HR and 34 RBI. He finished the year with a .489 slugging percentage and a .806 on-base percentage. There’s no doubt his bat is legit, but he’ll continue to have his doubters defensively until he proves otherwise.

In limited stints with the Yanks over the span of the past three years, it has been somewhat of an adventure for Frazier in the outfield, to say the least. Last June in a game at Yankees Stadium against the Boston Red Sox, Frazier had a miserable night. In an 8-5 loss on Sunday night baseball, he whiffed badly on a groundball and misjudged two fly-balls that were ruled hits, but were terrible mental mistakes.

After the game, Frazier left the clubhouse before the media was allowed in and basically refused to speak to them. Not a great look, especially in New York. It was an immature look at the wrong time. He was sent down to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre a week later when the Yankees acquired Edwin Encarnacion from the Seattle Mariners.

In August when the Yankees were hit with outfield injuries again, they passed on calling up the 25-year-old and went with Tauchman instead. Was that a message that they didn’t trust his defense? Maybe. It was expected that Frazier would have been traded at last year’s deadline or over the winter to acquire pitching help, but that never happened.

Instead, Frazier showed up to Spring Training last month and was having a productive beginning to the exhibition season. He hit just over .300, and his defense seemed to improve. Although it was only a small sample size, things were moving in the right direction for him physically and mentally.

Next: Is there a spot on the roster for Rosell Herrera?

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The questions will always be there until proven otherwise with Frazier. He can definitely hit at the big league level, but can he play solid defense on a consistent basis? We’ll likely find out at some point this season. For Frazier’s sake he better if he wants to stick with the Yankees.

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