Last season, the Yankees were very open about the fact that they were going to have Aaron Judge start the year at Triple-A Scranton if he didn’t win the starting right field job over Aaron Hicks out of spring training.
The thought was that the team would prefer the then strikeout-prone, 25-year-old rookie play every day in the minors in order to “finish off his development,” as Brian Cashman likes to say.
Obviously, that scenario didn’t transpire, with Judge winning the job and nearly winning AL MVP honors as well.
Based on the roster as it’s currently constituted with exactly two weeks until pitchers and catchers report to Tampa, Clint Frazier may find himself in that exact same situation this spring.
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The 23-year-old Frazier, who Cashman said has received a lot of interest from other teams and was frequently mentioned in trade talks involving Gerrit Cole before the righty starter wound up in Houston, is behind Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner on the depth chart.
And even if the Yankees somehow manage to deal Jacoby Ellsbury and some his remaining $68 million owed over the next three seasons, the best thing for Frazier and the Bombers might be to give him everyday at-bats in the minors, rather than having him play 2-3 times a week in The Bronx.
After all, getting inconsistent playing time can be tough for any player, especially a young kid who needs ABs. And even in 2019, when Gardner’s contract is up, you wonder if Stanton and Judge — who figure to get time at RF, LF and DH — will man the corner spots, perhaps depending on how they perform when not playing the field this season.
Frazier showed promise in his brief cameo with the Yankees last season – including that “legendary bat speed” Cashman raved about when the Yanks acquired him from Cleveland in 2016. He amassed 17 extra-base hits and scored 16 runs in 142 plate appearances.
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But Frazier also struck out 43 times while hitting just .231, and will need to make his own adjustments – much like Judge did – since teams now have a book on how to get him out.
Frazier has been working out hard in the offseason, and wants to remain in pinstripes, which he’s said numerous times on his social media pages. As it stands, though, Frazier may be the best chip for Cashman to acquire another starting pitcher.
If there isn’t some sort of injury scenario or trade, Frazier could very well be showcasing his skills to both the Bombers and other teams back in Scranton.
And it would be interesting to see how Frazier, who has had his maturity questioned in the past, responds to such a scenario, after getting a taste of The Show in 2017.
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“I’m looking forward to the challenge ahead of me,” Frazier tweeted last week.
WALKING TO THE BRONX?
If the Yankees decide to add another established veteran infielder, free agent Neil Walker could be a fit, much like Todd Frazier was last season.
Walker, 32, has both played in and had success in New York with the Mets. He’s got some left-handed pop while also possessing the ability to play first (as protection for Greg Bird), second and third, though most of his time has come at second.
MLB.com recently reported that the Yankees have $15 million to spend on free agents. The Bombers have highly-touted youngsters Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, and others like Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada, Ronald Torreyes, Jace Peterson and Danny Espinosa in their infield mix.
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