Indians shoot for the stars with potential-laden Clint Frazier

clint frazier

clint frazierLet’s get this out of the way: Georgia high school outfielder Clint Frazier is not the next Mike Trout.

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.

___________________________________________________

Footnotes:

  1. 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 []
  2. 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 []
  3. which can tend to be a bit erratic at times, also leading to scouts’ worries []
  4. you can disregard this Clint Frazier-Taylor Swift singing video, though []
  5. 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 []
  6. 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 []
  7. where former Kent State University head coach Scott Stricklin just became the new baseball program leader []
  • Vindictive_Pat

    Sounds like a great pick for the Tribe. Now we just wait and hope that he doesn’t have too many holes in his swing against better pitching.

  • Natedawg86

    Well, I am excited….for what 2015 when get may come up. WHAT A LAME DRAFT! The first MLB draft that I watched (until after the tribe pick, I just wanted to see who we got and some tape on him). So monotone and boring.

  • mgbode

    not many redheads in the bigs, so he’ll be my wife and children’s favorite Indian once he makes it up.

  • Harv 21

    nice analysis and what’s not to like. But read these evaluations with a 10 lb.bag of salt. As I wrote on another thread, Mark Lewis, Trevor Crowe and Corey Smith are trivia questions, while Brian Giles was drafted in the 17th round and Richie Sexson in the 24th. And teams haven’t improved all that much in amateur player projection. There’s a long road ahead for him. We shall see.

  • mgbode

    Chris Perez reportedly reads all reports with a dimebag on hand.

  • JacobWFNY

    Very, very true Harv.

    That’s why I should correct mgbode: “if” he makes it up, not “once”. There is no such thing as a gimme prospect, especially in the Indians organization.

    In terms of Frazier’s skill set and upside pre-draft, he’s as talented of a position player prospect the Indians have drafted in a long time. Right up there with Lindor, with likely even better best-case scenario upside.

    As a right-handed bat, he’s the best in decades. Whether that means anything as it pertains to the big league club’s future, we shall see.

  • mgbode

    also, remember when reading those HS stats that Georgia has (rightfully) switched to the dampened composite bats. so the power numbers are more impressive than similar numbers in many other states (using the standard aluminum bats).

  • mgbode

    yes, I know it’s “if” but it’s the day after he was drafted, so I’m using my license to be overly positive on him :)

  • nj0

    “high risk”

    I wouldn’t characterize the pick that way. All MLB draft picks are high risk. On the spectrum of that high risk, this one is towards the safe side.

  • nj0

    At least you got to hear Selig dramatically say “on.. the.. clock..” dozens of time.

  • JacobWFNY

    He’s a higher risk than a player like Colin Moran at No. 5, for example. A high schooler carries more risk. A high schooler with less-than-ideal size adds to that.

    His swing is not complete — it has a lot of holes and could be exploited in the pros. His center field is not good yet — he could quite conceivably end up in a corner position.

    The Indians must love his intangibles. He hustles quite a bit. Those are items that would make it seem safer, with him hopefully being at least an average-ish and toolsy starter/platoon guy even if he’s not a star.

    But it’s still a gutsy, risky and overall bold move by the team.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I’m guessing Moran was one of the guys the Indians had hoped would be available at #5. Doesn’t it figure as bad as the Indians were last year it wasn’t bad enough to get them in a position to select either one of the top three?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    His hair matches the uni nicely!

  • JacobWFNY

    Yup, definitely figures. #Cleveland

    But after those top three, it definitely seems the Indians had their eyes on Frazier. As Jeff Ellis for days and others now are writing, Moran’s upside is relatively limited. Higher floor, lower ceiling.

    The Indians like themselves uber-athletic guys. Moran might not ever have been worthy of such a high selection in the team’s eyes.

  • The_Matt_Of_Akron

    Jacob, can you explain the “less-than-ideal size” comment? You listed Trout as 6’1″ 220 lbs and Frazier as 6’1″ 190 lbs. That doesn’t seem like a huge difference to me, especially given he’s a highschooler.

  • JacobWFNY

    Trout is a monster of an athlete. Those 30 pounds are pure muscle and he’s never lost a beat in terms of speed. His measurements are the same as Bo Jackson. Trout also was the No. 25 pick.

    Frazier is short. That’s usually a turn-off in terms of future potential. Trout of course is the same height, but has a bigger frame, bigger build and is faster despite having 30 pounds more on his frame.

    In the scouting world, a bigger body frame means more potential, in general. So all things being equal, a 6-foot-3 guy (like Meadows) might seem to be more intriguing.

    By less-than-ideal, I mean in terms of a usual top-five pick. Kris Bryant, the No. 3 pick, was 6-foot-5, 215 lbs. Byron Buxton, last year’s No. 2 pick and a Georgia high school outfielder, was 6-foot-1, 175 lbs, but had a much bigger frame and growth potential.

  • The_Matt_Of_Akron

    Ah, so it’s a “room to grow” consideration. Thanks for clearing that up. Great article.

  • JacobWFNY

    You’re welcome. One other points that I would make:

    Frazier is a generous 6-foot-1. Some places had him at 6-foot or 5-foot-11. He’s very compact and well-built now, so his growth potential isn’t that high. Stark contrast to Buxton, who might have been smaller on draft day, but is still growing into his enormous frame and potential.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    From what I saw and heard I don’t have a problem with the pick even if he’s still technically a HS player.

  • JacobWFNY

    Yup, agreed. This team desperately needed upside. I wrote that on Sunday. At No. 5, with the options available, Frazier had the most upside. From that perspective, it’s hard to dislike this pick. It’s encouraging and fun.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    We’ll get him PED up baby watch him blossom then!

  • Harv 21

    and in that spirit, watch the videos and listen to the sound of the ball off the bat – not the metallic bing but that explosion. That’s the Manny Sound, the end-of-swing buggy whip that should say to his hitting coaches “teach him patience and preach going with the pitch but don’t mess too much.” Because this kid looks like he can pull a bullet.

  • mgbode

    speaking of Manny:

    (1) watched that Puig HR last night and it was a pure Manny swing.

    (2) Manny Jr. is up to be drafted this year.

    http://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2013/06/04/draft-hopeful-manny-ramirez-just-trying-himself/AcnnQEPxeEjI6zXfCggEhK/story.html

    the best line:
    “We were parked at a red light,” says the now-17-year-old Manny Jr., “and this girl flashed him in the passenger seat, and he got out of the car and signed her [breast].”

  • JacobWFNY

    Yes.

  • Natedawg86

    Actually only 3 times. First for the Astros to open, second after the first pick was taken…pause to read kids bedtime story and put them to bed, get back with 1:30 left on the clock for tribe selection, and then putting the next team on the clock. If i had to listen more than that I would have went bonkers!

  • CB Everett

    He’s great and all–but he looks a little too much like Scott Farkus for my liking. I just imagine those beedy little yellow guys staring at me while he spits in my face.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Only fitting that Scott returns home then! ;-)

  • Jaker

    I love the pick, he’ll be coming into our system right as Bourn’s contract will be ending. I imagine him, Lindor and Kip being the future of this club.

    From what I hear the sky is the limit for this kid. Plus, he’s extremely marketable with the bright long red hair and a name like Clint Frazier. You’ll see plenty of creative t shirts or wigs when he makes it here. Not that that’s why we took him, just an added bonus.

  • JacobWFNY

    Agree with you in theory. Assuming all goes well, yup, he would be expected to likely compete for a starting gig in late 2016/early 2017.

    Only note: Kip can’t really be the future. While he’s good and producing now, most folks don’t realize he’s actually 26. He was a college pick (Arizona State) and so was quite old as a rookie.

    He’d likely be on the downswing by the time Frazier potentially arrives. Still certainly could be producing decently (a la Swisher this year at 32), but he should be at his athletic peak this season or next.