What is baseball if not a humbling sport?
High school superstar Clint Frazier experienced the humbling nature of the game last year when he spent his first professional season with the Lake County Captains. Frazier, who is best known for hitting 63 home runs while in high school in Loganville, Georgia, got off to a rocky start that knocked the highly-touted outfielder down a peg. Frazier hit .224 in April, .248 in May, and .247 in June.
Luckily for Frazier, his second half took quite a turn, and he improved to be one of the most valuable members of Lake County’s roster, if not the organization. He posted an impressive .349/.411/.761 triple slash and reacted to the bumps in his road with new-found grace and maturity.
“The biggest mental adjustment was ‘I’m not going to hit a home run every single time,’” Frazier said in April of adjusting to professional baseball. “I mean, I hit 63 home runs in four years in high school, so it’s very easy to go up to the plate with the mentality, ‘If I don’t hit a home run, I didn’t accomplish a good at bat.’ But I have to think to myself, ‘These guys got here for a reason, they’re good. I got here for a reason and I’m not going to hit a home run every single time.’ I have to tone down my approach a bit.”
“The players are a lot better here [compared to players faced in the Arizona League last season],” Frazier, who hit .297 in 44 games with the Arizona League in 2013, said. “Obviously, there’s a reason why they’re here … The performance level is a lot higher.”
Frazier’s vast turnaround mirrored that of the entire 2014 Lake County Captains team. After ending the first half of the season in last place, the Captains surged to finish the season as runners-up to the Midwest League Champions, the Kane County Cougars. Frazier’s home run in the bottom of third inning against the South Bend Silver Hawks on September 3 gave the Captains their first playoff victory in the 2014 postseason.
Frazier’s confidence continued to increase even during the late- and post-season games, as he said that realizing he could contribute to the Captains and still be known for his power bat at the minor league level erased his doubts that he was unable to perform up to high school standards.
“I didn’t have my numbers of home runs or usual pulls down the line,” Frazier said. “It was nice to see that I could finally do that here.”
Going in to 2015, Frazier is primed to have a strong season. He has found himself on a number of prospect lists, typically joined only by homegrown Tribe infielder Francisco Lindor. There is good chance Frazier will start the season with the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats after his powerful close to 2014, where he ended the season with 13 home runs, 50 RBI, and a .266 average.
While the Indians do have an abundance of outfielders at nearly all levels of the game, they are lacking in right-handed power bats, which secures Frazier’s spot in the organization. His potential to succeed at the Major League level will be tested as he continues his moves through the minor leagues but, as long as he maintains the power he showed fans he has, there is little doubt that Frazier could be the type of player for which fans are looking.
Frazier’s end-of-season resurgence and hopefully continued success should be reassuring to Cleveland fans who have struggled with watching other highly-touted draft picks fall flat on other Cleveland sports’ fields, especially since Frazier is well-known for being a superfan of Cleveland’s most recent drafting disappointment, Johnny Manziel.
Frazier was just as, if not more, excited than native Clevelanders when Manziel was drafted by the Browns in 2014, arriving at Classic Park in a #2 Manziel jersey the day after the draft. Frazier compares himself to Manziel on the field, citing similarities in size, ability, and dedication. However, this was prior to Manziel’s missteps during his inaugural professional season, which now makes Frazier’s words eerily ironic.
“I think it starts both with the body type. When he weighed in and measured in at the draft, we were almost identical,” Frazier said last April. “I think he goes out on the field with so much passion and he plays the game so hard that you can tell that he really wants his team to win. I think a lot of that translates to how I play.”
Fortunately, Frazier’s 2014 season ended on a much higher note than did Manziel’s, and fans should head into 2015 with nothing but support for the young redhead who is now joined by hometown Loganville native Brandon Moss in the Indians’ organization. Frazier is giving fans a lot to hope for when it comes to the future of the Tribe, and Frazier knows that, to achieve his dream of playing at the Major League level, he needs to maintain the high levels of dedication he showed last season.
“I go out there and I try to leave everything on the field,” Frazier said while with the Captains. “I try to give it my all all the time.”
Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer