Indians prospect Clint Frazier continuing to develop into a star

Jason Miller

Clint Frazier may have a higher upside than anyone in the Cleveland minor league system, and when you dig into the numbers, there is a lot to be excited about.

Last week we reviewed Tyler Naquin's season in the context of his peers. The 2012 first round included nine outfielders, and Naquin looks likely to be the first or second to reach The Show - so far, the Indians have to be happy with what they are seeing from him.

After using their top pick on Naquin in 2012, the Tribe doubled up last year (before tripling up this year),  nabbing the pride of Loganville (GA) High School, Clint Frazier, with the #5 overall pick in the draft. (The true pride of Loganville right now is probably Oakland A's first baseman Brandon Moss, but we can dream about Frazier moving Moss to #2 on that list.)

Beyond being outfielders who were first-round picks for the Indians, Frazier and Naquin couldn't be much more different. Naquin was selected as a polished college player with a clear and quick path to the majors as an on-base-and-speed, top-of-the-order type. Frazier, on the other hand, was picked out of high school, meaning a longer, higher risk path, but also a much higher ceiling, much greater potential. Basically, Naquin could be a poor man's Michael Brantley (which is not a bad thing), while Frazier could be a poor man's Mike Trout (which is a very good thing).

Alright, so how does Frazier look a year into his pro career? After a slow start, he's been heating up with the weather. After a rough first two months, in June he's hitting.265/.306/.456. After hitting 0 home runs in April and only 1 in May, he has 3 in June. Here is his overall line, along with that of the other outfielders taken in the first round last year:

Player Org Draft Pick Age Level Avg OBP SLG HR SB
Clint Frazier CLE 5 19 A 0.248 0.327 0.366 4 7
Austin Meadows PIT 9 19 A --- --- --- --- ---
Hunter Renfroe SDP 13 22 A 0.295 0.370 0.565 16 0
Billy McKinney OAK 24 19 A 0.231 0.329 0.388 9 4
Phillip Ervin CIN 27 21 A 0.229 0.301 0.357 3 18
Aaron Judge NYA 32 22 A 0.333 0.428 0.530 9 1

A few notes on the other guys:

  • Meadows has been dealing with a hamstring injury since March and has yet to see the field this year. He destroyed rookie-ball pitching last year (.294/.399/.519).
  • Renfroe was just promoted to AA, where he's hitting just .111/.200/.278, but in only five games, making it hardly worth mentioning. in A-ball this year, Renfroe looked like a world beater, although there are some concerns about how a power-first bat will play at San Diego's PetCo Park when he makes it.
  • Last year it looked like Ervin would make a run towards the top of the class, as he hit 9 HR and stole 14 bases in just 46 games, but this year the power is failing him and while he is running like crazy, his overall line is not pretty.
  • Like Renfroe, Judge has been moved up a level, to High-A, but has also only played five games there, so the numbers you see above are from before the promotion.
  • The best lines belong to Judge and Renfroe, the oldest players in the group. They have both earned recent promotions, but Judge is 22, old for High-A, meaning he should be expected to post very good numbers.

Frazier's line doesn't look all that impressive, but age and level matter, and Frazier is the second youngest of this group (only the injured Meadows is younger). If the Indians could swap Clint for one of these other guys, my guess is they would pass, on account of his five-tool potential still being so high.

While Frazier's overall line is not as pretty as the .297/.362/.506 he cracked in his debut last year, there are some good signs. Last year's line came with a .418 BABIP. His .346 this year is still high, but looks more like a good prospect making hard contact than pure luck. His BB% is up from 8.7% to 10.4% and his K% is down from 31.1% to 28.6%, despite facing tougher competition. Last year, he was 3 of 5 on SB; this year he is 7 of 9.

With a player as young as Frazier, seeing numbers that suggest an improving process is extremely encouraging. Frazier needs to learn how to face and handle better pitching, and the improvements in his walk and strikeout rates suggest that he is. The physical tools are not going away. If he can continue to work on his plate discipline, I'd expect a breakout month very soon.

The Indians are a few months away from graduating their top prospect in Francisco Lindor. Frazier is the heir to that crown, and a very deserving one. We're all excited to see what Lindor can do when handed the reins at shortstop, and in a couple years, we should be just as excited to see Frazier take over somewhere in the outfield.

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