The New York Yankees brought back Brett Gardner for a reason. No, it wasn’t to displace Clint Frazier, but it was insurance in the event Frazier’s Gold Glove Finalist 2020 campaign wasn’t exactly genuine (sorry, it probably wasn’t) and if the rest of the outfield were to underperform or suffer injuries.
We’re 10 games into 2021 and we have all three of those instances occurring right before our eyes.
Frazier is struggling, both offensively and defensively. Aaron Hicks has the worst bat on the team right now. Aaron Judge is already dealing with early-season “soreness.”
Honestly, where would the team be without Gardy right now? He’s provided versatility in the lineup and tremendous defense in left field with efforts that have saved runs.
But perhaps the most glaring about manager Aaron Boone’s usage of Gardner is that it shows the team really doesn’t have that much faith in Frazier, despite the former top prospect being named the starting left fielder in spring training.
Frazier has only played in eight of the team’s first 10 games, has been removed late in the game for defensive purposes twice, and didn’t play after the ninth inning in the Bombers’ first two extra innings contests. If this is your “starting left fielder” who needs to see as much of the field as possible in order to grow as a player, then why are we doing this already?
Frazier has yet to be charged with an error, but he lost that ball in the sun in the opening series against the Blue Jays in what was a very skeptical defensive effort. On top of that, seemingly every time the ball is hit to him, he hardly looks comfortable, whether he’s taking the wrong first step at the crack of the bat or is getting his glove on the ball at the last possible second.
Let’s just say fans haven’t exactly felt relaxed when the ball is hit to left field — kind of like how everyone gasps when there’s a grounder headed Gleyber Torres’ way.
Frazier still has ways to go in his development on the defensive side of the ball. Though we’d rather have him work out the kinks by spending as many innings possible out there, it’s obvious the Yankees don’t want to take the risk right now.
And if we want to talk offense, Frazier is hitting a lowly .185 with a .549 OPS. He’s batting .125 with runners in scoring position (across nine plate appearances). He’s taking a ton of pitches and lacking aggression. His situational hitting isn’t quite there yet.
The offense will turn around. Frazier is simply too talented to have this last long. However, until he can get back on track and prove he’s a bit more steady on defense, expect to see a lot more Gardner in the outfield, whether he’s stealing starts or eating away at innings later in the game.