Clint Frazier, who was the #5 overall pick in 2013, entered 2015 as the Tribe's #2 prospect, but his stock had dropped a bit from where it was a year earlier, due to a fairly lackluster year in Single-A with Lake County in 2014. He'd been promoted to High-A Lynchburg, in hopes that he could make adjustments against a higher level of competition.
Early on Frazier looked worse, not better. Known fro his tremendous bat speed and impressive power, the 20-year-old outfielder didn't homer until four weeks into the season. Entering play on July 4th, Frazier simply hadn't provided many fireworks. His batting line was just .248/.342/.395. If you were looking for a bright side, his strikeout rate was down to 24.3% from 29.7% in 2014, but that was about it in terms of good news.
On Independence Day though, Fraizer broke out from the tyranny of the
British Salem Red Sox, collecting four hits, and from that day forward, he seemed to be a different player. One thing Frazier later talked about was starting to think about his teammates more than thinking about himself, working to get on base however he could. He'd had weeks to watch teammate Bradley Zimmer, who was having a tremendous season.
"Being around Zimmer was good for me, seeing how much he succeeded. There were times when he struggled. He's an older player who got to play at a higher level than me for a while, and seeing him come out here and struggle at times made me feel like I am human, I am going to struggle, and just being able to have general conversations with him and just see how he went about his business was good for me."
Whatever combination of factors played a part, the effect was substantial, and from July 4 through the end of the Carolina League regular season, Frazier hit .335/.424/.558, with 29 extra-base hits in 215 at bats. His walk rate during that time was 13.1%, a nice climb from an already healthy level. Even better, his already improved strikeout rate got even better, dipping all the way to 17.1% in those final 251 plate appearances.
Even with the weak first half of the season, Frazier's overall batting line was .285/.377/.465, good for a wRC+ of 147. After getting a couple weeks off, Frazier got back on the field in the Arizona Fall League. He's only played in ten games there so far, but the early returns are good, as he's batting .357/.413/.548.
Frazier split time between center and and right field while Zimmer was still on the team, then played almost exclusively in center following Zimmer's promotion. Both players will likely be in Double-A Akron at the beginning of 2016, and it will be interesting to see if the team commits to one of them as the center fielder, or if they go back to sharing the two positions. Scouting reports are generally positive about Frazier's defense, but also tend to think he'll eventually end up in a corner spot. If he keeps hitting the way he has for the last four months, his bat will play plenty well enough for any spot on the field.
Zimmer's tremendous first four months of the season have moved him ahead of Frazier on most prospect lists, but given Clint's strong finish to the year (and strong early play in the AFL) and the fact that he's almost two full years younger than Zimmer, I think there's a reasonable case to be made that Frazier is now the team's top prospect. Either way, he looks ready for new challenges, and if he can avoid a slow start in 2016, Red Thunder could find himself in Cleveland as soon as 2017.