In the finale of the recent series against the Seattle Mariners, the New York Yankees employed a “different” outfield alignment. The outfield had Giancarlo Stanton in left field, Aaron Judge in right field and in center field was Clint Frazier.
Recapping the Path
This was the first time this alignment was used in any capacity this season (Spring Training included.) What made the moment the lineup card had Frazier listed leading off and playing centerfield so memorable? Well, think back to the start of Spring Training when the roster had some question as to who would make the cut.
We all knew Judge was the starting right fielder, even though Giancarlo Stanton was acquired. Brett Gardner had a place in the starting outfielder for his veteran leadership and gritty and gutty abilities at the dish. The newly acquired Giancarlo Stanton would get a majority of the time at DH and swap out in the corner outfield spots. We also know that Yankees management has a love affair with Aaron Hicks and that he would most certainly have a place on the Opening Day roster. That left Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier battling for that all unnecessary fifth outfielder spot.
Both Frazier and Ellsbury would be sidelined early in Spring with injuries and wouldn’t have a real opportunity to break camp with the Yanks.
26th Man of the Year
Clint Frazier has become a polarizing character amongst Yankee fan circles. Personally, I love the drive and confidence he has. I have stated this on multiple occasions but I feel that he is this generation’s, Paul O’Neill. The fire and intensity he plays with sometimes get mistaken for arrogance.
Reigning NL MVP
Giancarlo Stanton is the reigning defending undisputed Nation League Most Valuable Player. And many Yankee fans did not watch Stanton on a regular basis work his way to becoming NL MVP. Most fans only saw the highlights on TV. So when Stanton got off to his usual slow start they questioned the move. Fans questioned his “intestinal fortitude” for handling New York. Recently, however, the weather has been heating up and Giancarlo follows suit. When Stanton got his 18th home run this season it was on the same day as he did last season when he hit 59 home runs en route to winning the NL MVP.
If not for a 6-week slide after the All-Star break the Yankees would have both the NL and AL MVP’s on their roster. This season has quietly been even better for Judge. While he is not on the home run barrage pace he had last season Judge has been much more consistent this season. And hitting in the two-hole ahead of the rest of this squad he’s gotten a lot of pitches to hit.
Why So Significant?
Ok, so now that we explained who was manning the outfield on June 21st, let me tell you why it mattered. Clint Fraizer was considered a centerpiece in the 2016 Andrew Miller trade to Cleveland. Frazier was drafted by the Indians as a centerfielder but had never played even an inning in the Majors in centerfield. Frazier raised many eyebrows and caused quite a stir when he told Yankee manager Aaron Boone that he could play centerfield. Many fans and critics laughed and scorned at the possibility of that happening. Yet we got it.
Recently comments made by Yankee GM Brian Cashman surfaced about Clint Frazier. And to paraphrase Cashman, I like Clint and I want to keep him. No one has given me a real reason to not keep him. He’s a special talent who can help us going forward.
Another reason Clint playing centerfield means so much is because of Aaron Hicks. Unfortunately, for the Yankees and Hicks, he gets injured very often. This then leaves vacancies in the center of the outfield. And someone must man the position. Brett Gardner is more than capable and is actually a very good centerfielder. However, Brett is in his mid-thirties and isn’t guaranteed to be back with the Yankees next season. Having Frazier in the fold allows the Yankees the positional flexibility to make other moves. Clint also provides top prospect Estevan Florial time to develop without being rushed to the bigs.
Saving Big Money
Lastly, what starting Clint Frazier in centerfield meant for the Yankees is that they don’t need to chase after Bryce Harper. Harper and Manny Machado will be highly sought after as the diamond jewels of the 2018-2019 free agent class. Harper has been connected to the Yankees throughout his entire career leading up to this coming offseason. But having Stanton, Judge and now “Centerfielder” Clint Frazier already on the team. Harper drops even lower on the fantasy wishlist of the Yankees front office.
Best Statcast Outfield
Having an outfielder of Judge, Stanton, and Frazier means that the Yankees will be atop the Statcast leaderboards in terms of exit velocity and barrels. As all three men have “Lightning Bat Speed.” If you don’t believe Frazier has that just look at what he did to the speaker at Tropicana Field in St. Pete against the Tampa Bay Rays. Yankees have a bill for Frazier’s bat speed. And as Yankee fans, we will have the best Statcast outfield in baseball.