Clint Frazier, the Indians' 1st round pick (#5 overall) in 2013, was drafted as a potential power hitter who could also play solid outfield defense. He was known for tremendous bat speed, but there was concern about his potential for very high strikeout totals. In 196 plate appearances in rookie ball that year, Frazier struck out 61 times, which comes out to 31.1%. His power was on display too though, as he posted a .506 slugging percentage and a .209 ISO. (For context, the collective ISO for all MLB players this season is .144.)
Frazier was sent to Single-A Lake County in 2014, and he struck out in 29.7% of his plate appearances, hardly an improvement. Meanwhile, his ISO dropped to .146, which isn't bad for a 19-year-old in the Midwest League, but isn't good either. He was promoted again for the start of this season, to High-A Lynchburg, but his stock had taken a definite hit. Following 2013 he'd been ranked near #50 overall on a number of prospect lists, but during this most recent offseason he dropped to something a lot closer to #100 on many lists, and fell off some of them entirely.
Then, during the first few weeks of this season, Frazier failed to show any power; he was batting .247, with a 26.8% strikeout rate and an anemic ISO figure of .047. Frazier finally hit his first home run of the season on May 6, after more than 100 PA without one. And for the rest of May he hit pretty well, but June brought more frustration, as what had finally started going right reverted to going wrong again.
One day during a game against Potomoc a few days before the Carolina League's All-Star break, Frazier snapped his bat over his knee in frustration after another strikeout. His batting line at the end of that series was .251/.335/.399. He wasn't listed on either of the mid-season prospect lists I saw. Some here at Let's Go Tribe began mentioning him as a bust. Such a label wasn't fair, because Frazier was still only 20 years old, and would only have been finishing up his Sophomore year of college if he'd chosen not to sign, but fans can be fickle, and in a "What have you done for me lately?" world, the answer for Frazier was not much.
The day he broke that bat though,Frazier began looking around at his teammates more though, and talking with them about their own ups and downs. One player he spoke with a lot was Bradley Zimmer, drafted by the Tribe in the 1st round one year after Frazier, but a couple years older than him.
"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."
Frazier started worrying less about his power stroke and working harder to get on base through whatever opportunity presented itself.
The Hillcats' next series was a 4-game set in Myrtle Beach. Frazier reached base safely at least once in each of those games, a nice way to finish a difficult first half of the season. Since the break, Frazier has played in another 27 games, and has reached safely in every single one of them, running his streak to a very impressive 31 games. His overall batting line in those 27 games: .358/.457/.568. His strikeout rate during that time has been just 18.6%, which is lower than the collective MLB rate of 20.2%. His ISO has been a very impressive .210 and his walk rate has been a very impressive 16.1%. He was recently named Carolina League Player of the Week, and there's a good chance he could win their Player of the Month award when July ends next week.
Zimmer was promoted to Double-A a couple weeks ago, and Frazier was moved to center field and the #3 spot in the batting order. He's responded by hitting 3 home runs in 13 games since then, with an OPS of 1.230.
There will be speed bumps again at some point, but Frazier has been so good for the last month that his overall numbers for the season are the best he's put up since being drafted. If he finishes the season with another good month, he'll likely jump back into the top 50 of many prospect lists as he continues on a path that could have him in the Tribe lineup before his 23rd birthday.
Red Thunder is back.