2016 Fantasy Baseball: Prospect Profile — Clint Frazier
The Cleveland Indians drafted outfielder Clint Frazier fifth overall in 2013 as the very first high school position player selected that year. Coming out of the same hometown as Pirate prospect Austin Meadows – another young outfielder I had written about recently – Frazier received a franchise-record $3.5MM signing bonus for the incredibly high ceiling he possessed over other comparable draft choices. Although scouts believe Frazier could have 30 homer potential at the big league level, there are areas of his game that make him an incredibly risky player as well. Frazier is generally listed anywhere from 5’11” to 6’1” and is roughly 190 lbs. His power comes from his exceptional bat speed which is probably the very best in all of the minor leagues. Frazier tends to be a little over-aggressive at the plate, and still swings and misses far too much in the zone for scouts liking; however, his other tools include above average speed, good baserunning skills, and enough defensive skills to make him solid in centerfield or a plus defender in right.
The notable red flags in Frazier’s game have caused some notable disparities with how he’s viewed by scouts and how he’s ranked on all the different MLB prospect lists. When the batting average dropped and the strikeout rate didn’t improve from 2013 to 2014, Frazier dropped from #36 to #89 on Baseball Prospectus’ rankings, and he fell completely off Baseball America’s list after being #46 prior to the 2014 season. Frazier improved the following year and found himself back on Baseball America’s rankings at #44 and is currently #27 for MLB.com as well. Frazier is also just one spot behind fellow Indians outfield prospect Bradley Zimmer for MLB.com despite being two years younger.
Frazier made it to High-A Lynchburg in 2015 and had a torrid finish to the season after having a bit of a sluggish start. In his last 60 games Frazier hit .332 with a .966 OPS, and finished the season as the Carolina League’s leader in hits with 143, doubles with 36, and total bases with 233. He was also second in home runs with 16 and runs scored with 88, and third for OPS at .842, RBIs with 72 and walks with 68. Frazier posted a career-best walk rate in 2015, and reduced his strikeout rate by quite a bit, going from 29.7% in his first full-season to 21.3% this past year.
Projection & Prediction
The KATOH projections only see Frazier being a 1.7 WAR player, citing his mechanical adjustments as a cause in the dip in his once exciting power. The 21 year-old has been cutting down and simplifying his swing and in an effort to stay shorter to the ball and limit his swing-and-misses. Frazier’s base is more balanced now, and his swing is a little more conducive to liners than fly balls as a result. He needs to be more selective at the plate as he’s still strikeout prone against breaking balls which was spotlighted in the Arizona Fall League this past year.
Even with these flaws in Frazier’s game, the 1.7 WAR mark still appears very low considering his skillset. KATOH may have jumped the gun downgrading Frazier’s power as he was likely spending 2015 refining his hit-tool. Frazier is better up in the zone at this point in his career, and the elite bat speed should result in more pop as he learns to turn those pitches into homers. His second half slashline was .325/.422/.539 last season, and in addition to his offensive game, Frazier also features a strong throwing arm, quick release, and solid range making him a valuable asset at any of the three outfield positions. There is no doubt that Frazier will need to improve on his contact ability immensely before getting called up to the show, but with the raw talent he posses, he still has the chance of become a dynamic 30 home run outfielder. The bat speed will always play which makes his floor a lot higher than he’s getting credit for.