Of course, Trout was the No. 25 selection in 2009, a high-schooler out of New Jersey. The 6-foot-1, 220-lb.-monster of an athlete is an absolute star and posted one of the most dominant rookie seasons in MLB history last year. There’s a reason why he was in the MVP discussion with a Triple Crown winner. He has plus-plus speed, elite overall hitting and plays a dominant center, one of the game’s most prized positions.
But enough talk about Trout. Let’s get chatting about the new most famous red-head in Cleveland. Frazier, the Indians’ pick at No. 5 in the 2013 MLB Draft, was the best raw power prospect this year. He’s not that big at 6-foot-1, 190 lbs. But he’s described as being an all-out, compact and lean athlete who has plus-plus bat speed – among the best scouts have seen in a long, long time.
This is a high-risk, high-reward pick that falls in line with some of the Tribe’s recent uber-athletic position player selections1. Yet before we line Frazier up as the No. 3 hitter of the future, it’s still worthwhile to detail some of the risks of this selection.
Where Frazier currently struggles – of course, “struggles” comes with a major caveat, as he doesn’t turn 19 until Sept. 6 and his high school stats are absolutely jaw-dropping2 – is with his aggressiveness at the plate.
While he has a sweet, sweet looking right-handed swing, he currently doesn’t own that much patience and is a bit too pull-oriented to be an elite contact hitter. He always tries to attack the ball. He even said yesterday that he just simply goes after the first strike. He’ll probably swing and miss a lot in the pros with better than high school-level pitching. But as we’ve covered before, strikeout rate alone doesn’t mean that much.
At a potentially generous 6-foot-1, the Loganville High School product doesn’t have that projectable of a body type. That’s usually a big deal for teams. It hasn’t been that big of one for the Indians in their drafting of late. Frazier might eventually grow a little bigger and stronger, but his body already seems fairly well-built. Many scouts worry that if he grows any more into his potential frame, then he’d likely out-grow the athletic but new-to-the-game center field that he currently plays.
Just recently, Frazier converted from the left side of the infield over to center. That would explain MLB’s confusion on Twitter and on TV as they initially announced that the Indians drafted a 3B. With his solid speed and raw right-handed arm strength3, Frazier could remain in center long-term, but that depends upon how well he continues to learn the position and remain at his currently nimble athletic state. If not, he’ll move to a corner outfield spot, which carries with it much less impact as a prospect. It’s awfully risky to take a potential left fielder at No. 5 overall.
What makes scouts happy about Frazier’s future fit in the pros is the fact that he always hustles. There’s a reason why his ginger-ness is so well-known in scouting circles – he plays with an all-out hustle that makes it easy to see that large mane under his cap. On MLB Network, former Indians GM John Hart said Frazier has Dustin Pedroia-esque makeup in terms of his non-stop motor that makes up for his lack of ideal size.
And of course, no report on this Georgia prep star is complete without again emphasizing that bat speed. Man, it’s pretty. Just look at some of the YouTube videos out there4. Scouts call it a “fast twitch” style in that he just wouldn’t seem that intimidating until his hands, wrists and forearms do the trick at the last minute. It’s sneaky power but the kind of unteachable swing that scouts dream about for years and years. That power swing is now a part of the Cleveland Indians organization. Let that soak in.
Thus, it’s true when Baseball America says that Clint Frazier should slot in only just behind Francisco Lindor and Trevor Bauer as the third-best prospect in the Tribe system. That’s saying a lot considering both of those two were consensus top-30 prospects in all of baseball before the season started. Lindor has likely catapulted into the clear top 10, while Bauer is still regarded as a high-end prospect since he has just seven MLB starts and should develop into a very projectable No. 2 starter.
In terms of pure upside, Frazier might actually rank better than both of them – and way, way ahead of last year’s top pick Tyler Naquin (No. 15 overall). In an absolute best-case scenario, Frazier will be a consistent All-Star displaying near five-tool production at a premium position in center5. Naquin’s power was always questionable and his current best-case scenario is likely as an average starter in the bigs. This is why Frazier was an undoubted top-10 pick this season in a much-maligned yet very intriguing draft class.
He was this year’s winner of the Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year. In the Gatorade press release, his 3.03 GPA was noted and the fact he volunteered often throughout the year. Those facts might not impact his play on the diamond, but they certainly were additionally attractive attributes for the Indians.
There was another nearby Georgia high school position player also taken in the first 10 picks, as well. Grayson High School’s Austin Meadows6 was taken by Pittsburgh at No. 9. Per the Pirates Twitter and most scouting reports, Meadows was rated as the better athlete and with better strike zone judgment.
At 6-foot-3, 200-lbs, the left-handed hitting Meadows is the more projectable physical specimen. He’s eight months younger. Yet his slugging ability and all-around profile are not as compact and impressive as Frazier’s. That’s why the latter ended up as the top Georgia prep player. ESPN’s Keith Law was one of very few analysts to say they actually preferred Meadows.
Frazier was committed to the University of Georgia7 but said emphatically in his post-draft teleconference that he wants to sign with Cleveland. Per the new draft rules, the signing deadline is only five weeks away on July 12.
The benefit of this change means we should likely see an early agreement, yet more likely than not, Frazier won’t play much in 2013 besides maybe Short-Season Mahoning Valley or rookie ball in Arizona. That might also be the case in 2014, too, with an outside chance for Single-A Lake County. His best-case MLB arrival is likely late 2016, so those salivating over a Lindor-Frazier two-three punch will still have several years to wait.
It was vital that the Indians select a high-upside player with the No. 5 pick. Because of the Nick Swisher free agent signing, the team lost its second-round pick. The next pick on deck for the team is No. 79 overall today. That’s a huge drop-off both in terms of potential upside and slotted pool money availability. Unlike last season, there was no need to get a safe and cost-effective pick in the first round – the whole 2013 draft for Cleveland was dependent on this one player’s potential.
Ultimately, I think this is exactly what Cleveland wanted at No. 5. Per comments from Indians Director of Amateur Scouting Brad Grant before the draft (via Indians Baseball Insider’s Tony Lastoria) and after the draft (via Akron Beacon Journal’s Stephanie Storm), it seems the team knew that if the first four picks went as expected, they’d take Frazier at No. 5. That was their hope. He was their guy and their confidence in him exudes optimism going forward.
Also, I give kudos to Jeff Ellis from Indians Baseball Insider for confidently seeing the signs that the Indians were leaning toward Frazier. Most mock drafts had the team going for North Carolina 3B Colin Moran at No. 5 – but he’s significantly less athletic and has less upside. So while many places thought the Indians would go the Naquin route with the safest college hitter, many of the team’s other recent picks (as Ellis noted) have been of the athletic high-upside and up-the-middle defensive variety. That’s what Frazier represents.
So I really like the pick. It fits right in line with what I was begging on Sunday when I wrote about the upcoming draft. Now all that matters is success rate, as the team has been awful at converting first-round talents into legitimate MLB starters for the last two decades. If Frazier can at all live up to the lofty hype, yesterday will be remembered as a great day for Cleveland baseball.
- the four biggest examples are 2012’s fourth-rounder D’Vone McClure and seventh-rounder Josh McAdams, along with 2010’s second-rounder LeVon Washington and third-rounder Tony Wolters [↩]
- 32 games, 97 at-bats, .485/.561/1.134 batting line, 17 home runs, 45 RBI, 56 runs scored, 20/21 steals — yes, he had 17 homers in just 97 at-bats [↩]
- which can tend to be a bit erratic at times, also leading to scouts’ worries [↩]
- you can disregard this Clint Frazier-Taylor Swift singing video, though [↩]
- a worst-case scenario for Frazier is that he doesn’t develop the consistent contact approach scouts worry about and he becomes a more athletic outfielder version of potentially over-hyped Lonnie Chisenhall [↩]
- oddly enough, Frazier, Meadows and recent No. 1 high school football prospect Robert Nkemdiche (a Grayson High School product and an Ole Miss recruit) all lived within five miles of each other about one hour NE of downtown Atlanta [↩]
- where former Kent State University head coach Scott Stricklin just became the new baseball program leader [↩]