Hillcats outfielder Clint Frazier is a player to watch. You will never have any difficulty in picking him out on the field when you go to see him play. This is because he is one of a small number of baseball players to have red hair. At some point in the future it is likely that Frazier will join pitchers Charles “Red” Embree (1941 – 1947) and current ESPN baseball broadcaster Rick Sutcliffe (1982 – 1984) as red-headed Cleveland Indian major leaguers, based upon his pedigree as the 5th overall pick in 2013.
Traditional baseball scouting is based upon five tools, while noted prospect analyst John Sickels prefers to about seven tools. By either measure current Frazier is an up and coming player. He features power, speed, running skills and a plus arm and is one of three first round picks by the Indians to be featured in the High-A Lynchburg outfield.
“[It is] a unique experience,” says Frazier, about sharing the outfield with Bradley Zimmer and Mike Papi. “It’s fun just to be out there, but it is more than just the three of us out there.”
In this case he’s referring to the well-stocked Hillcats roster that features top pitching prospects Adam Plutko and Mitch Brown, as well as power prospect Nellie Rodriguez at first base and former Rockies first round pick Casey Weathers holding down the closers role in recent games.
Frazier is working to improve on what might appear to be average numbers in his 2014 season. His line for the Low-A Lake County Captains featured a .266 batting average with 13 home runs, 12 stolen bases and 50 RBI’s. Not what one might expect for such a high pick.
Drafted out of high school in Loganville, GA, he is catching up with the speed of the professional game. Making the transition to more consistently challenging pitching in the professional ranks has been a particular focus.
“I was a free swinger in high school. Here I have to have a mindset of not trying to hit a homerun every pitch.”
What doesn’t show up in this stat line is the fact that Frazier only turned 20 in September 2014, placing him almost two and a half years younger than his average competition. In addition more subtle metrics place his overall production above the league average for last season and he finished the 2014 season strong and continues to work on the art of hitting.
“Taking good swings and having a good approach to the plate.” is what Frazier tries to accomplish with each at bat.
Coming into spring training for 2015 Frazier was poised to perform. He put his talent on display in his first Cactus league game with the big club. On March 13 Frazier along with a bunch of Indians prospects were used to fill out a split-squad road team heading to Goodyear, AZ to take on the Chicago Cubs. His first at-bat ended on a called strike, but his second trip to the plate resulted in a three-run home run that put the Tribe prospects ahead to stay.
It is this kind of performance that he is trying to continue in his time with the High-A Lynchburg club. For the first few games of the season he batted second in the order, but has since shifted to leading off. Through 15 games this season he is working on improving his focus as he learns to work with the speed of the game and the fact that every day he is facing quality pitching.
“I’m comfortable anywhere in the lineup. My approach is the same throughout the whole game.” says Frazier, “Whether I’m leadoff or fourth or the last batter of the game.”
On Tuesday night April 21 he showed the breadth of his baseball skills. Leading off in the sixth inning, shortstop Ivan Castillo laid down a text book bunt that Frederick 3rd-baseman Drew Dosch was unable to get over to first in time. To this point in the game Frederick starter David Hess, a 2014 fifth round pick, had been bringing the heat, with six strikeouts already in the ledger. Frazier stepped up to bat, and caught the Keys defense flat footed, dropping a bunt down into the grassy area in front of home plate and beating the throw from catcher Chance Sisco, putting Hillcats on first and second. This play catalyzed a three run inning for the home team and put the Hillcats ahead for good.
Though the Hillcats have initially struggled in the standings, with the team facing division rival Potomac in 12 of its first 18 games, Frazier has distinguished himself. Like the Hillcats he continues to work on all aspects of his game. Primarily a centerfielder when he was drafted, current teammate Zimmer is also a centerfielder. For 2015 they will alternate between center and right fields. This will improve his ability at each and increase his chances of moving up, eventually to the major league club.
“To go out there with a mindset of, I have played this position before.” he said, about alternating between centerfield and right field with Zimmer. “I’m not scared to go all out.”
As Frazier continues to build his professional resume to become the all-around player he has the potential to be it is appropriate to quote analyst John Sickels from his 2015 Baseball Prospect Book.
“I am reminded of Justin Upton, who disappointed people in the Midwest League back in 2006. Upton exploded in 2007 and ended up in the majors that year.”
Will Frazier follow suit? It is too early to tell, but at 20 years old Frazier has time on his side as he continues to master the skills needed to become a member of the Cleveland Indians.