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Weekly Mailbag: Clint Frazier, Home Runs, and a Potential Yankee Pick-up!

In this week’s mailbag, we’ll talk about Clint Frazier, home runs, and a potential Yankee pickup. Let’s get at it:

Rudy asks: Where do you see Clint Frazier in the near and long term future?

Rudy asked this question in the hours that followed the Edwin Encarnacion trade. Frazier certainly seems to be getting a raw deal now that the Yankees have a crowded offense. Frazier has proven that he is worthy of batting near the middle of a Major League batting order. I think that Frazier’s plate discipline still needs to develop further in order for him to be a consistent threat, but I don’t think he can improve that aspect of his game in the minors. Offensively, Frazier could be squeezed onto most rosters.

The elephant in the room is Frazier’s ability to play the outfield. Frazier’s bWAR this season is just 0.3, and that is directly due to the fact that his outfield defense is nearly the worst in the Majors. The Yankees deserve some blame here. Prior to this season, Frazier almost never played RF. Many people think that the corner outfield positions are nearly interchangeable, but that is a false assumption. The ball looks different coming off of the bat and spins differently between the two positions, so Frazier was learning on the fly in the Majors while fighting his instincts from his years in CF and LF. I feel for Frazier, because I don’t think that the Yanks put him in the best position to succeed. I wish we had more data for Frazier’s play in LF, as that would give us a better idea about what his true deficiencies and skills are in the outfield. All of this is to say that while Frazier may struggle defensively long-term, I don’t think he’s as bad as he has been so far this season defensively.

Logistically, a trade makes the most sense, but from a talent perspective, Frazier is a valuable piece and I don’t think the Yankees will trade him for 65 cents on the dollar. As of yesterday, the whispers coming from the Yankees were that they will not trade Frazier for a rental. In the short term, Frazier is going to bide his time at AAA Scranton, waiting for his next shot. Long term, I think that Frazier is a good big leaguer, I’m just not sure it’s with the Yankees. If a controllable starting pitcher hits the market, do not be surprised if Frazier is one of the primary pieces getting traded. Frazier is a good ballplayer, and he’s ready to play every day in the big leagues.

Mark asks: Just wondering what the percentage of left field vs right field home runs is this year. Seems there have been many to left this year. I know it’s not as short as right field, but these right handed hitters don’t seem to have an issue getting it over the fence.

The Yankees have a very righty heavy lineup right now. In fact, I can’t ever remember the team having a more righty-biased lineup (if anyone can come up with one, let me know!). According to Statcast, Yankee right-handed batters have pulled 48 homers over the LF fence so far this year. Yankee left-handed batters have pulled 20 homers to RF. The disparity actually is not as high as I expected.

The Yankees are an ultra pull-heavy lineup. For instance, check out Gary Sanchez’s spray chart this year:


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Spray Chart Courtesy of Baseball Savant.
Spray Chart Courtesy of Baseball Savant.


Spray Chart Courtesy of Baseball Savant.


That’s pretty pull-heavy. This is just one example, but the majority of the Yankees’ hitters pull the ball as a general rule. Pulling the ball leads to more power, so the Yankees hitters are selling out for power. That leads to homers and a few more pulled ground outs into the shift. So far, it’s working for the team.

To answer the last part of your question, yes, left field is bigger than right field at Yankee Stadium, but the Yankee lineup has enough raw power that the dimensions do not affect the Yankees’ pursuit of homers. It’s a lot of fun watching a lineup with this much power. Food for thought: how many homers will Encarnacion, Stanton, Judge, Sanchez, and Voit hit out to right field for the rest of the season? All I know is that I have a hard time finding a middle of the order that can hit more homers than that.

Jeff asks: Drew Smyly just got designated for assignment by the Rangers. Is he worth a pickup?

Drew Smyly was a very good pitcher for the Tigers and Rays from 2012-2015, striking out 8.8 batters per 9 innings with a 124 ERA+. The wheels started to come off in 2016, and he’s been hurt ever since. Smyly is not someone you can count on, and his numbers this year are atrocious: 8.42 ERA, 11.2 H/9, and 6.0 BB/9 in 51.1 innings. There is one number that gives me some hope, though: Smyly is striking out 9.1 batters per 9 innings, right in line with his best seasons. He’s missed so much time, he may just need a lot of innings to find his way again.

I wonder if the Yankees are even interested in depth pickups, though. They want a middle-of-the-rotation arm in the trade market, and they are waiting for Sevy and Monty to get healthy. That’s a lot of reinforcement, if everyone gets healthy. In that scenario, it gets tougher to fit everyone on the pitching staff. That’s a topic for another article, but I do wonder what the Yankees’ plan is for the pitching staff through the end of the year.

As a depth pickup, I don’t think it’s a bad idea. I would not claim him on waivers, as the Yankees have a roster crunch as it is, but a minor league deal would work if Smyly elects to become a free agent. The Yankees’ minor league staff has proven adept at helping guys add velocity (see: David Hale) and help them reach their potential. This might be a good match. Or maybe Smyly will never regain his form with all of the scary arm injuries he’s suffered. If that’s the case, it’s a shame, because Smyly was fun to watch.

That’s all for this week! Thanks for reading, keep sending in great questions, and we’ve got some great baseball to look forward to this weekend. Happy First Day of Summer!

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