Frazier, who triggered Yankees’ left-field problem, joins Atlantic League to revive career

Clint Frazier, who triggered Yankees' left-field problem, joins Atlantic League
John Allen
Sunday May 12, 2024

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Clint Frazier, the former Yankees outfielder and fifth overall pick in the 2013 draft, is making his return to professional baseball. After failing to secure a spot with a major league team during spring training, the 29-year-old signed with the Charleston Dirty Birds of the Atlantic League on Thursday, hoping to revive his career and make his way back to the big leagues.

Frazier’s journey in the majors has been marked by ups and downs. He was initially traded to the Yankees from the Cleveland Indians in 2016 as part of a deal that sent reliever Andrew Miller to Cleveland. Once a highly touted prospect, he made his debut with the Yankees in 2017 and spent the following years splitting time between the minors and the majors. His best season in pinstripes came during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign, where he hit .267/.394/.511 with eight home runs.

Building on that success, Frazier earned the Yankees‘ Opening Day left field job in 2021. However, a series of injuries, including multiple concussions, and lackluster performances on the field led to his release by the team in November 2021, ending his five-year stint with the organization.

The Yankees confronted issues in left field following the failure of Frazier, setting in motion a revolving door policy. In the span between his final appearance in left field and the first month of the 2024 season, the Yankees deployed a staggering 16 different players at the position, underscoring the instability and lack of consistent production. The list includes Joey Gallo (51 games), Giancarlo Stanton (7), Aaron Hicks (61), Tim Locastro (3), Miguel Andújar (18), Marwin Gonzalez (9), Matt Carpenter (3), Andrew Benintendi (31), Oswaldo Cabrera (42), Franchy Cordero (4), Jake Bauers (20), Isiah Kiner-Falefa (28), Greg Allen (3), Willie Calhoun (3), Billy McKinney (27), Everson Pereira (26), and Alex Verdugo (38).

Frazier’s Yankees dream failed to take off

When Yankees general manager Brian Cashman traded star reliever Andrew Miller to Cleveland in July 2016, he boasted about acquiring a player with legendary bat speed in Frazier, who was then in Double-A. The Yankees also received three other prospects in the deal.

Frazier made his highly anticipated MLB debut on July 1, 2017, reminiscent of Jasson Dominguez‘s recent debut. He went 2-for-4 with a homer and a double in Houston, showcasing his immense potential.

Clint-Frazier-new-york-yankees
AP

However, following that impressive start, Frazier’s career was marked by a mix of highs and numerous lows, highlighting the challenges of maintaining consistency and success in the major leagues.

Once a highly touted prospect, Clint Frazier’s journey in the big leagues has been a rollercoaster ride. He showed flashes of brilliance during his time with the Yankees, earning a spot in manager Aaron Boone’s playoff lineup in 2020 and starting on Opening Day in 2021. Frazier posted impressive offensive numbers in 2019, hitting .267 with 12 homers and 38 RBI in 69 games, and maintained that batting average in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, along with eight homers, 26 RBI, and a .905 OPS in 38 games. His defensive prowess was also recognized, as he was named a Gold Glove finalist in 2020.

However, Frazier’s career has been marred by various challenges, including a concussion, vertigo, extensive time on the injured list, hitting struggles, and off-field controversies surrounding his hair and other matters. The Yankees ultimately decided to move on from Frazier when he hit just .186 across 66 games in 2021, designating him for assignment in November and releasing him four days later.

Since leaving New York, Frazier has had brief stints with the Cubs, White Sox, and a minor league appearance with the Rangers, but has yet to find his footing as a consistent major league player. During his return to Yankee Stadium with the White Sox last June, Frazier reflected on his time in New York, describing it as “more good than bad.”

Frazier emphasized the importance of maintaining positive relationships with colleagues, acknowledging that conflicts can arise from time to time. He expressed that a change of scenery was necessary for him and possibly for others as well, clarifying that his comments were not meant to be malicious and recognizing that not everyone always gets along.

clint-frazier-new-york-yankees
AP Photo/Duane Burleson

Unfortunately, Frazier’s struggles continued during his 33 games with the White Sox last season, as he slashed .197/.303/.242 over 76 plate appearances before being demoted to Triple-A in July. Now, with the Charleston Dirty Birds, Frazier aims to rediscover his form and prove that he still has what it takes to compete at the highest level of the game.

Aaron Boone, the Yankees manager, reflected on Clint Frazier’s potential before Friday’s game, noting his impressive toolset that included good speed, power, and athleticism. As a high first-round pick, Frazier had a stellar minor-league career that earned him opportunities in the big leagues.

Boone acknowledged that Frazier had experienced some success in the majors with the Yankees, but also recognized the challenges of consistently performing at the highest level of the game.

Since he departed from the Yankees, Frazier has had stints with the Cubs, Rangers, and White Sox, hitting .204 in 54 big-league games without a home run. He also underwent two name changes, briefly going by Jackson before reverting to Clint. After opting for free agency last winter when the White Sox removed him from their 40-man roster, Frazier endured a lengthy wait for another opportunity.

Now, after more than six months, Frazier has secured a chance with the Charleston Dirty Birds of the Atlantic League. While the path from independent ball back to the major leagues is arduous, it is undoubtedly Frazier’s ultimate goal. At 29 years old, he may no longer be considered a young player, but he still has time to prove himself and resurrect his once-promising career.

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