BRADENTON, Fla. — Clint Frazier knows what the numbers look like ahead of him in the Yankees’ outfield, and he says he’s not concerned about it in the least.
“My eyes are set on Opening Day. I’m here to win a spot,” the 23-year-old said good-naturedly Saturday after stinging two balls hard and having one hit to show for it in the Yankees’ 4-1 victory over the Pirates. “That’s going to be the same answer I give from here on out. In my head, I’m breaking [camp] with the team. That’s the goal and that’s the vision I have for myself.”
Frazier, who was acquired by the Yankees in the Andrew Miller deal at the trade deadline in 2016 after being picked fifth overall by the Indians in the 2013 draft, has quite a road ahead of him to make it back to the big leagues.
Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury are entrenched ahead of him on the depth chart. That means that barring injury, Frazier, who played in 39 games in the majors last season, will start the season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
“I’m not worried about what’s going to happen,” said Frazier, the subject of trade rumors all offseason as the Yankees looked to bring in another starting pitcher. “I’ve been up there [the majors] before and I know that people know I can play up there. It’s just a matter of getting the chances . . . I can only control what myself is doing. I don’t deserve to be in this room if I am rooting against other guys. This is a special group and I want to be a part of it with these guys.”
Frazier had quite the debut last July 1 in Houston, doubling in his second career at-bat and homering in his third. That was the start of a 20-game stretch in which he produced an .860 OPS and showed some of what general manager Brian Cashman described as “legendary bat speed.” But the righthanded-hitting Frazier went into a 5-for-33 skid before landing on the DL with a left oblique strain.
Frazier finished the season relatively quietly, then set about altering his swing in the offseason.
“It’s more controlled,” Frazier said of his new swing, which he patterned somewhat after Francisco Lindor, Cleveland’s switch-hitting All-Star shortstop. “It’s not that big hitch that I had last year, it’s not as much moving parts. It, in my opinion, gives me a better chance to square up the ball.”
Told of Frazier’s “eyes set on Opening Day” comments, manager Aaron Boone smiled.
“I love it,” Boone said. “I want him to expect a lot out of himself because he’s got a lot of ability. I know he’s worked really hard to put himself in a good spot to take advantage of opportunities. And so far for the most part, these first couple games, he’s been prepared, he’s been aggressive, he’s taken to heart the strike zone stuff [controlling the strike zone]. I’ve been really happy what I’ve seen the first couple days.”