file.jpg
  • SSTN Admin

Weekly Mailbag: Clint Frazier, An Interesting Pitching Coach Idea, and the Luxury Tax!



mailbag.jpg
mailbag.jpg

I don’t know about all of you, but I feel a lot better about the season now that the Nationals finished as winners. I realize that has nothing to do with the Yankees, but I really don’t think that I would have happily stomached an Astros’ World Series win. When the Yankees lost in the ALCS, I told a few friends that I thought the Nationals’ starting pitching would be enough to neutralize the Astros, so I got a small consolation prize to finish the year.

Now, we get to the hard part: team building. The Yankees already have made some waves by firing Larry Rothschild and declining Edwin Encarnacion’s option. I liked both Rothschild and Eddy, but I understand the moves from the Yankees’ perspective, although I do wonder whether Eddy’s parrot is available on the Free Agent market…could be a package deal situation.

Anyway, this week, we’ll talk about Clint Frazier, weigh the merits of an off-the-wall candidate for pitching coach, and the luxury tax! Let’s get at it:

Morton says: Frazier – I think Yankees played with his head to much. He can become a good ball player if they would quit messing with him. Let him play left field on a constantly. He has talent to hit. He is diamond in the rough. Let him play he will do the job.

Morton is expressing an opinion with which a large segment of the Yankee fanbase agrees. Despite Frazier’s lofty prospect status, the Yankees have never shown that they really trust Frazier on an everyday basis. The Yankees’ reticence to play Frazier is why I glossed over his place on the roster last week in talking about replacing Hicks next season.

This season, Frazier certainly showed flashes of being a good hitter, swatting 12 HR and 14 2B in just 246 plate appearances. Frazier had very obvious defensive lapses this year, however there were multiple mitigating circumstances that could have come into play, namely Frazier’s lack of experience in RF and his lack of development time in the upper minors due to injuries in 2017 and 2018. Given Frazier’s relative athleticism and solid arm, it’s not hard to squint and see that Frazier could be playable in the outfield with more reps. I agree with Morton that playing LF exclusively would help smooth out many of Frazier’s rough defensive edges.

That said, I think the time has come to adjust expectations for Frazier moving forward. One key piece of evidence for this, besides the fact that the Yankees have been cautious about over-exposing Frazier, is that Cashman was unable to utilize Frazier as the centerpiece of a major trade during the 2018 and 2019 seasons. It was obvious that Frazier was an expendable part, and we know now that the Yankees were willing to center deals for Gerrit Cole and numerous others around Clint Frazier. Obviously, other teams do not view Frazier as a prospect that can carry a major trade on his own based on their own value projections. This is key: the Yankees seem hesitant to over-expose Frazier, and the rest of baseball seems to agree with the Yankees’ evaluation.

To further splash cold water on the Clint Frazier argument, his Statcast batted ball statistics this year do not point to a consistent, impact hitter, despite the elite bat speed we’ve been hearing about for years. Frazier’s exit velocity was just 88.4 MPH, in line with his previous numbers at the big league level. While this is not necessarily problematic, it is very average, particularly for someone who is supposed to be a major power threat. Frazier matches the current trend to launch the baseball up, and he does have an above-average launch angle, but he only barrels the ball up at an average rate. Add in the fact that his walk rate is well below-average, while is strikeout rate is high, and his XWOBA (expected WOBA based on contact quality) is slightly below league average. Much as I have stumped for Clint Frazier in the past, I am beginning to think that Frazier may not be a cornerstone piece of the next Yankee championship team.

That’s not to say that Frazier can’t be a solid Major League player – far from it. I do think that Frazier can approach an average everyday player if he cleans up his plate discipline, but I think the likely ceiling on his production is lower than what Yankee fans hoped it would be.

The likeliest scenario for Frazier this off-season is that he is traded as part of a larger deal. I wanted to see Frazier become an everyday outfielder for the Yankees, but I just don’t see it as a likelihood anymore.

Matt V. asks: What do you think of Pedro Martinez as the next pitching coach?

Interesting! With the current trend of pulling ex-players into the dugout without significant coaching experience, Pedro fits the mold of someone who might be interesting. While it seems strange to think of Pedro Martinez in a Yankee uniform (at least for those of us who witnessed his reign of terror in the late 90s and early 2000s with the Red Sox…seriously the most dominant stretch of pitching I’ve ever seen), there is at least a small connection.

Going back to the 2017-2018 off-season, there were significant questions surrounding Luis Severino’s ability to start given his struggles in that role in 2017. Severino went to work that off-season, and his success since has basically eliminated that conversation. Anecdotally, Luis Severino has publicly given a lot of credit to Pedro Martinez for working with him that off-season. I don’t doubt that Pedro was able to impart wisdom and strategies that helped Sevy turn the corner, particularly because Pedro was a similar pitcher in his youth.

Beyond anecdotal evidence however, we don’t have a lot of evidence for how Martinez would perform as a pitching coach. As much as I love him on the YES broadcasts, I’ll throw David Cone into the same bucket. Personally, if a former player were to become the next Yankee pitching coach, I’d give David Cone the inside track at the job, but my primary point stands: neither Cone or Martinez has any experience in an official capacity coaching. In Cone’s case, I respect his particular blend of modern analytical analysis with old school perspectives, but I’m not sure how it plays in the modern dugout in a coaching capacity.

There is also the matter of new Director of Pitching, Sam Briend, hired in June. Briend came from Driveline Baseball, a forward-thinking baseball camp/academy that uses Doppler radar in coordination with long toss and exercise methods that have been proven to increase velocity and spin rate, something the Yankees valued greatly even prior to Briend’s hiring. Given the Yankees’ current direction and Briend’s influence, I can’t help but think that the new pitching coach will be someone a much more modern mold.

We know that the Yankees have interviewed multiple coaches from the major college level for the position, and that makes sense. Many major college programs are utilizing Driveline-type regimens to improve their pitcher’s health and performance.

Pedro Martinez (and David Cone) is a fun idea, but I don’t think it’s likely to happen.

Chad asks: The Yankees are going to be tight against the luxury tax even without signing anyone this off season. Do they still care about the threshold after resetting their tax rate?

The Yankees are very tight against the luxury tax threshold if Chapman does not opt-out of his contract. If Chapman opts-out, then the Yankees have a little more flexibility. The short answer is yes, the threshold still matters to Yankee ownership. At the end of the day, the Yankees are a business, and they want to extract every dollar of profit possible out of their enterprise.

That said, I am not sure that the luxury tax threshold will be a hard cap. The Yankees have multiple holes heading into next season on the pitching staff and in the outfield, and that’s without discussing Didi’s impending Free Agency, major Free Agents, and finding creative ways to improve the roster without simply filling potholes.

I’ve been hard on the Yankees over the last year for treating the luxury tax threshold like a hard cap given their financial might. I don’t necessarily believe that the Yankees need to spend $300 million on the team, but I think that the Yankees can and should utilize every advantage they have if their goal is truly to win the World Series.

I’ll talk about it more on Start Spreading the News this off-season, but there are multiple Free Agents on the market who can drastically improve the Yankees’ chances of winning another title. While there will be a budget, I do think (hope) that the Yankees will at least be willing to tip-toe over the luxury tax threshold for guys that will clearly help the Yankees for next season and beyond.

**********

That’s all for this week! Thanks as always for the great questions, and keep ‘em coming! Good to see a couple of new faces in the inbox this week, so don’t be shy for next week. As always, send in your Mailbag questions to sstnreadermail@gmail.com. Thanks, and see you next week!

#DidiGregorius #SamBriend #AaronHicks #ClintFrazier #EdwinEncarnacion #LuisSeverino #DavidCone #GerritCole #PedroMartinez

Start Spreading the News is the place for some of the very best analysis and insight focusing primarily on the New York Yankees.

(Please note that we are not affiliated with the Yankees and that the news, perspectives, and ideas are entirely our own.)

SSTN is proudly affiliated with Wilson Sporting Goods! Check out our press release here, and support us by using the affiliate links below:

587611.jpg