According to multiple sources, the New York Yankees are shopping 24 year-old Clint Frazier this winter. With a new General Manager at the Winter Meetings this off-season, the Pittsburgh Pirates should target the corner outfielder.
Whether the Pittsburgh Pirates trade Startling Marte or not, the team must plan for his departure, unless they uncharacteristically resign him next winter. To plan for that void, the team should look at former first-round pick and current New York Yankee Clint Frazier.
Frazier is a strong hitting corner outfielder with a lot of pop in his bat, producing a .209 ISO over four seasons at the Triple-A level. During the 2019 season in the Majors he hit 12 home runs with a .222 ISO in 69 games. He crushes right handed pitching, hitting 8 of his 12 home runs for a .832 OPS, and can get hold of south paws with some power, evident by his .300+ ISO.
On the season, Frazier slashed .267/.317/.489, good for a .809 OPS and 111 OPS+ over 246 plate appearances. That would have put him at 5th on the Pirates list of OPS+ leaders last season (200 PA minimum).
While Frazier has a strong bat, he lacked the defensive skills to keep a spot in the Yankees’ roster. With a -8 DRS, Frazier offset his offensive production for just a .1 fWAR. However, most of that damage came in right field, where he only produced a -5.2 UZR. In left field Frazier put up a respectable 1.2 UZR over a small sample size.
Playing left field in Pittsburgh could be exactly what Frazier needs, following in the footsteps of Corey Dickerson. Frazier has a better arm than Dickerson as well, and any improvement in offense could certainly justify keeping Frazier’s bat in the lineup.
It wasn’t long ago that scouts were giving Frazier strong defensive ratings. Eric Longanhagen of Fangraphs once wrote “[Frazier’s] arm strength should allow him to play in either outfield corner, where I believe he’ll be an average defender at maturity.” Frazier also suffered through a concussion in 2018, which sidelined him for the beginning part of the season. There isn’t sufficient evidence to blame that for his defensive woes, but it could certainly hurt his play.
Either way, Frazier might just need time to settle into his natural build. The kid has a cannon arm and hardly makes any mistakes throwing the ball. Most of his mistakes come from misplaying bounces and fly-balls, which could be made easier in PNC Park’s left field (if you ignore the notch). Even Melky Cabrera played better in left field than right (don’t forget they played Colin Moran out there too).
Frazier is also under control until 2025, this being his final year before arbitration. That’s within the time-frame of my 2-part series on why the Pirates should rebuild this off-season. Imagine this lineup over the next few seasons:
- Kevin Newman 2B
- Bryan Reynolds CF
- Gregory Polanco RF (2023)
- Josh Bell 1B (2023)
- Clint Frazier LF
- Cole Tucker SS
- Ke’Bryan Hayes 3B
- Jacob Stallings C (2024)
That’s a solid 1-5 and Bell’s plate patience would compliment Frazier’s aggressive approach in the middle of the order. This lineup also assumes that the Pirates trade Marte, which brings the team’s outfield defense down at the expense of power; however, this could still be one of the best in the NL.
Along with the depth of outfielders waiting deep in the Pirates’ farm system, this outfield can be great for a number of years with the addition of Frazier. Whether the Pirates plan to use Reynolds in center or in a corner spot, pairing him with Frazier in the outfield would be a strong offensive outfield regardless of who else is involved.