Every weekday for the next few weeks you'll find a look back at the 2014 season for one of the Indians or Indians prospects, as we sort out what happened and what it means for the franchise going forward.
- Position: OF
- Age: 20
- Acquired: 1st round of 2013 draft
Frazier spent 2014, his first full season in professional baseball, with Single-A Lake County. At 19 years of age, he was one of the younger players in the Midwest League, but as a prospect ranked in the top 50 by Baseball America, MLB.com, FanGraphs, and Baseball Prospectus, big things were expected.
Frazier got off to a slow start, which lasted for half the season. Through the end of June, his batting line was .243/.319/.365. At that point Frazier abandoned a leg kick he'd been using as a timing mechanism for his swing, and went back to a toe tap he'd used in high school. A couple weeks later he spoke with Tim Warsinskey of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
"I didn't feel comfortable at the plate... (The leg kick) was something I didn't do in high school. I told myself, 'This doesn't feel right. I'm going to go back to what I did in high school and what got me here.' Ever since I did that, I've played a lot different."
Indeed, Frazier hit safely in 14 of his next 15 games, with 25 hits in total during that time, for a line of .403/.464/.710, including 5 home runs. Either the timing of that hot streak was coincidental though, or the impact it had on his production was short lived, because over the final 40 games of the season, his numbers fell back off again, not quite to the level they were at through the end of June, but not much better.
The Captains had a strong second half as a team, and made a run to the MWL Championship Series, playing a total of seven postseason games. Frazier hit .296/.367/.592 in those games, with six extra-base hits, production which is not reflected in his .266/.349/.411 line for the season, a line which was good for a wRC+ of 122 in the Midwest League. That's a solid batting line for a player who didn't turn 20 until the second round of the playoffs.
Still, Frazier has a ways to go before he's ready to make good on his talent and help the Tribe. His 29.7% strikeout rate was a slight improvement on the 31.1% figure he put up in 2013, but it's still a very high rate, high enough to lead the Midwest League. His walk rate climbed above 10% this year, which strikes me as a pretty goof figure for a player his age, and scouts continue to praise his short, powerful swing, and he's young enough that I don't think the strikeouts are any sort of red flag really, but I would like to see his contact rate improve again in 2015.
Frazier played center field in almost every game he played, and while I don't hear anything that makes me think he's going to make anyone forget Willie Mays with his defense out there, he seems to play the position reasonably well. He also has a strong enough arm to be successful in right field, should the organization decide to move him over at some point.
2014 grade: B-
Given that he hit well above league average, it makes sense to think Frazier will be sent to the Tribe's new High-A affiliate in Lynchburg, Virginia next season. He'd be about three years younger than the average player there. If he gets to start there, it's conceivable that he'd play his way up to Double-A Akron before the end of the year, but I think he'd have to be playing really well.