The Indians have bolstered their depth in the minors over the last few drafts. Their drafting abilities have produced some exciting results over the last few seasons. Cleveland has seen that in some players that have been promoted over the last season in the likes of Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin. In 2013, the Indians drafted a young man straight out of high school, Clint Frazier, someone who has really bolstered his prospect value over the last two seasons.
Frazier, a Georgia native, was drafted by the Tribe in the first round of the 2013 draft. Drafted at the age of 18, Frazier brought a lot of promise with his fast bat speed and high power output. He broke into the Indians minor league system in 2014 when he spent 120 games with the Low-A Lake County Captains. In his season there, he hit .266/.349/.411 with 13 home runs, 18 doubles, six triples, 12 stolen bases, and knocked in 50 RBI.
He broke out in 2015 during his season with the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats. He was joined by another Indians top prospect, Bradley Zimmer, to create one of the most exciting teams in the Carolina League. In 133 games, Frazier hit .285/.377/.465 with 16 home runs, 36 doubles, three triples, 15 stolen base, and drove in 72 RBI. In the first half of the year, Frazier struggled at the plate. He only hit .248 in 67 games, and hammered seven of his homers during that time. In the second half, he figured things out for the better when he hit .325/.422/.539 and smacked nine more home runs, 19 doubles, and all three of his triples.
What can tend to hinder Frazier’s approach at the plate is a toe tap that he uses as a timing mechanism. If he doesn’t get that toe tap right on cue, then Frazier can really get on top of the ball, but if it’s not all timed up correctly then he has a hard time even putting the ball in play. During his second half surge in 2015, Frazier seemed to have figured out how to correctly time up his toe tap and really went on a tear. His ability to put a charge in a ball at any moment is what makes him one of the top prospects in MLB.
His season in 2015 warranted him a promotion to Double-A Akron to start the 2016 season. Through 46 games with the RubberDucks, Frazier is hitting .309/.404/.522 with six home runs, 18 doubles, one triple, six stolen bases, and 25 RBI. Recently, Frazier was placed on the disabled list due to a hamstring. While he was only placed on the disabled list as a precautionary move, Frazier had no reason to push his limits if it was really bothering him. For Frazier, on the other hand, it was almost like a nightmare just sitting on the bench for a week.
“It was terrible,” said Frazier upon his return. “It was a precautionary thing. I think that I could have played sooner than the DL allowed me. To sit there and wait to play is something I didn’t want to do, but it was probably best for me.”
When you’re at the level of talent that Frazier is at, you never want to chance it when it comes to an injury. He’s so important to this club that if he was ever majorly injured, the future for the Indians outfield could get a little bit more interesting. His mentality of wanting to be back on the field so bad really speaks to the kind of person Frazier is. He’s a gamer, and his mind never slows down.
“He’s not very good at sitting on the bench, which I love,” Akron manager Dave Wallace said about Frazier’s willingness to get back on the field. “I don’t want anybody to be very good at that. He’s worked hard to get back here, and he feels good.”
What has been extremely impressive with Frazier this season is how he has improved both his BB% and his K%. In 2014 and 2015, Frazier walked at a 10.3% and 11.6% rate, respectively, while striking out at a rate of 29.7% in 2014 and 19.4% in 2015. So far in 2016, Frazier has walked at a 13.3% rate and has brought his strikeout rate down to 19.4%.
It’s not easy to improve your BB/K rate when you’re at the Double-A level, especially when you’re such a free swinger like Frazier is. This really speaks to the type of player that Frazier is. He brings a high level of baseball IQ to the field. At one time, Frazier could have become a potential bust with how much swing and miss that was in his swing. Now it looks like he has been able to improve upon this at an extremely high rate, which is indicative to how he could perform at the Major League level.
Strikeout rates are something that tend to stick around, even into the majors. Frazier being able to improve upon this is overwhelmingly impressive.
The lineup in Akron currently consists of some of the Indians’ best prospects. The two big bats are in the hands of Frazier and top prospect Zimmer. The two of them together create a pretty deadly combo, and it’s good practice for when the two of them are inevitably in Cleveland together. When they’re both playing, this team can create a lot of runs, but even when one of them is in the lineup, the RubberDucks tend to play so much better. For Frazier, when Zimmer gets a day off, nothing changes at the plate.
“I feel comfortable knowing that if I don’t get the job done then he’ll get it done behind me,” said Frazier. “I don’t feel pressure, but overall top to bottom, we’ve got a lot of guys that can go out there and contribute to this game. Even when he’s not in the lineup we found a way to put eleven runs up on the board [on Tuesday, May 31].”
The future of the Indians outfield is exciting, and it is led by Frazier. Lots of fans have been asking for a right-handed power bat and Frazier could be that guy. It is not a question of if Frazier will make it Cleveland, it is really more of a question of when he will be there.
Photo: David Monseur/MiLB.com