Up And Coming: Clint Frazier Looks To Rise To The Top
The end of the holiday season means back-to-school for most 19 year-olds in America. Back to long nights of studying, partying and everything else that comes with being a freshman in college. Though this may be true for most 19 year-olds, it is not the case for Cleveland Indians prospect Clint Frazier. After all, Clint Frazier is no average 19 year-old.
Frazier, the fifth overall pick in the 2013 First Year Player draft, spent last season with the Indians’ Arizona League team hitting .297 with five home runs and 12 RBI’s in 44 games. Frazier may have experienced a great deal of success in his first season as a professional, but his baseball journey began years earlier in the backyard of his childhood home in Loganville, Georgia.
In an interview last year, Frazier told our own Jack McNeil that he started playing baseball at the age of 3 when his mom would throw plastic baseballs at him. Frazier’s first league experience was with a church league when he was too young to play Little League. “From that point on it’s been baseball ever since,” Frazier said. Indeed it has been.
During his days at Loganville High School, Frazier (15 at the time) was already attracting national attention for his quick hands and his ability to hit line drives all over the field. The right-handed hitting outfielder broke onto the scene in his freshman year hitting .430 with five home runs and 15 RBIs despite being limited to 40 at-bats due to injury. Frazier clearly had no trouble adjusting to high school ball and he was only getting started. As a sophomore, Frazier hit 17 home runs tying Brandon Moss’s single season home run record for 10th graders. Frazier continued punishing the ball during his junior year leading the Red Devils to the state Championship. By his senior year Frazier had already established himself as one of the best high school baseball players in the country. In what is undoubtedly the most important season for high school players, Frazier hit .485 with 17 home runs, 45 RBIs and 22 stolen bases despite suffering from tendinitis in his arm prior to the season.
Frazier received multiple awards for his phenomenal high school performance; including the Jackie Robinson Award as the 2012 Perfect Game Player of the Year and the Gatorade® National Baseball Player Of The Year. The kid who not too long ago had been hitting wiffle balls in his backyard was heading into the draft as one of the top five players.
There was much debate about where exactly Frazier would be picked in the draft and whether or not he would be picked before fellow high school phenom and Georgia native Austin Meadows. Though much was made of the apparent rivalry between the two players, Frazier insists that there really wasn’t much of a rivalry at all. In his most recent interview with The MLB Talk 101 on Monday, Frazier downplayed the situation with Meadows.
“I think the media blew it up a little more than what it was. They made it seem like it was a rivalry on who went first and who went after him,” Frazier said. “From a pride standpoint, I wanted to be selected before him, but if I wasn’t it wouldn’t have been the end of the world.”
Regardless of where he was drafted Frazier was without a doubt one of the top talents available in the 2013 draft despite the fact that some questioned whether his size would allow him to reach his power potential.
“I really do think people underestimate my power because I’m not a big kid,” said the 5 -foot-11 outfielder. “I like that because they come right at me at the plate and I can surprise them every now and then when I get a hold of the ball and hit it out.”
The speculation about his size did not seem to hurt Frazier on draft day. Frazier’s enormous offensive potential, coupled with the 98 m.p.h. bullets that he throws from center field, made drafting him with the team’s top pick a no brainer for the Indians. Frazier, who had previously committed to play collegiate ball for the University of Georgia, signed a contract with the Tribe and received a $3.5 million signing bonus.
In his first professional season, Frazier once again proved that no challenge is too difficult to overcome. The 19 year-old phenom adjusted seamlessly to the Arizona League; homering in his first at-bat. His 21 extra base-hits were fifth in the league. Baseball America named him the the league’s top prospect. An honor previously bestowed to many MLB greats including Mike Trout. The similarities between Trout and Frazier go beyond the award. Frazier’s five-tool makeup is very much comparable to that of Trout. The comparison is very interesting considering that Trout is a player that Frazier looks up to.
“I try to emulate what he does in the box sometimes,” said Frazier, mentioning that he has tried to implement a leg kick similar to Trout’s into his swing. “[Mike Trout] is someone who I want to be like. He’s the best player in the game and that’s what I’m striving to be.”
Frazier may very well be the best player in the game at some point, but there is still a lot for him to learn. For one, the center fielder’s defense needs to improve. Scouts have noted that despite only committing two errors in 2013, Frazier appeared to be fooled badly on several occasions by balls hit in the air. Frazier has at times missjudged the trajectory of fly balls causing him to get a late jump. Frazier must also cut down on his strikeouts. He struck out 61 times in 2013; a common problem for players who go pro right out of high school. These are issues that all Minor Leaguers face at one point or another. Fortunately for the 19 year-old Frazier, there’s still plenty of time to polish his game. Frazier will likely start the 2014 season with Single- A Lake County.
The Tribe’s prized prospect may still be a few years away from the Majors, but he is well on his way. In Frazier, scouts see a five-tool player that has the potential to be a superstar at the big league level. Fraziers bat-speed is as good as any in the Majors right now and his power will only increase over time. Once he develops into the elite outfielder that most expect him to become, the possibilities will be endless. Mike Trout may own the outfields of Major League Baseball right now, but the next big thing is coming right behind him… and he’s coming fast.