WASHINGTON — Clint Frazier’s path to the big leagues in the Yankees organization was never going to be easy. The prospect with “lightning quick” bat speed and below average defense was blocked at both corners even before the Yankees converted Miguel Andujar to the outfield.
Frazier was once again the victim of numbers on Saturday night: Giancarlo Stanton is healthy, raking and likely to permanently occupy the designated hitter role; Aaron Judge is also healthy in right; Andujar can back up Brett Gardner in left; and Mike Tauchman is the obvious choice to back up a healthy Aaron Hicks in center. So, Frazier was optioned to the taxi squad.
“Clint’s ready to be an impact player in this league there’s no doubt in my mind,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Unfortunately for him, he is blocked right now with a lot of good outfielders and kind of needing to add a pitcher, obviously two pitchers in this case, to give us a little depth and, unfortunately with options and, our situation right now, Clint was the odd man out.
“But that doesn’t make it any easier because he’s done everything from a work standpoint, from a focus standpoint, and where I believe he’s right now as a player too,” Boone said. “It’s hard when you’re sending down a big player that you know is ready to produce, but it’s kind of the situation we’re in right now.”
Frazier’s place in the pecking order was obvious in Sunday’s lineup. Hicks and Gardner were off for the day game after playing the night before, so Boone opted to give Andujar his first big league start in the outfield. Andujar spent most of the spring playing left and has taken to it fairly easily. With his major-league proven, electric bat, Boone will use this to get Andujar into the lineup as much as he can. Tauchman has always been an excellent outfielder, who Boone clearly trusts defensively more than Frazier. Tauchman had a nice offensive season last year, so he’s made himself into a part of that outfield rotation.
Frazier was looking at a lot of playing time when spring training first convened. Judge was dealing with a fractured rib that he had suffered in September. Stanton was out with a right calf strain. Hicks was expected to miss the first few months of the season after Tommy John surgery.
But when the coronavirus pandemic shutdown baseball for four months, those players healed and Frazier’s chance shut. He knew it coming into the rebooted spring training and after a tumultuous 2019 season which included an angry meltdown with reporters, so he focused on showing he had matured in all aspects. The 25-year-old was thoughtful and reasonable when talking about his playing opportunities as well as his decision to wear a face mask on the field to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Last year when Frazier was sent down after the Yankees traded for Edwin Encarnacion, there was an edge in the clubhouse and Boone seemed irritated after the conversation. Saturday night apparently went much differently.
“I would say he was great and a pro,” Boone said. “And I’m really proud of who he is right now and where he’s at. It doesn’t make it any less difficult in every facet, because again it’s you’re sending down a player that you know is ready to be an impact player in the big leagues, that’s a hard thing to do. And especially just I feel like the work he’s put in and the strides he’s made in every aspect of his game, are real, and so that’s a difficult one.”
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