Gary Sanchez and Clint Frazier share modest defensive skills and explosive bats. One is the Yankees “pet project”, the other is almost off the board. Why?
Gary Sanchez and Clint Frazier are both blessed with athletic builds that promise a torrent of line drives and home runs. They also share a decided bent as one-tool players. Neither is blessed with on-base speed, and both have experienced problems with catching a baseball.
Sanchez is one year older than Frazier, and both by standard baseball definition are entering what is termed a position player’s prime years (27-32).
Gary Sanchez was signed as a free agent by the Yankees in 2009, while Clint Frazier was the first-round draft choice of the Cleveland Indians and fifth overall in the 2013 Amateur Draft.
Sanchez spent five seasons laboring through the Yankees farm system until he broke through with a gargantuan September callup in 2016 when he hit 20 home runs while driving home 42 in only 53 games played for the Bombers.
Clint Frazier zipped through three levels of the Indians’ farm system in three years and then was abruptly traded by the Indians, who were in dire need of a closer to wrap up the AL Central, in mid-season to the Yankees for Andrew Miller.
Hiccups Along The Journey
From there, the two were separated by circumstance in that Gary Sanchez was seated with no one else on the horizon in the Yankees plan to replace the retiring Jorge Posada.
Meanwhile, Clint Frazier was just another outfielder among a plethora of capable Yankees that included Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Gardner, and later Aaron Hicks and Mike Tauchman.
But, the careers of Sanchez and Frazier did converge in matters of behavior both on and off the field. None of it delighted the Yankees, and all of it caught the attention of the media and fans.
On June 12th, 2014, Sanchez was benched by his minor league manager Tony Franklin for five games due to an undisclosed offense. Still, it was widely reported the suspension was directly related to his work ethic.
The pattern continued when Gary Sanchez joined the Yankees. In August 2017, then Yankees manager Joe Girardi called Sanchez out in the dugout in full view of YES TV cameras, saying later, “He is late getting down. That’s what I see sometimes.”
Translation – he’s freakin’ lazy, and I’ve had enough of it.
Ironically, many view this episode as the main reason Girardi was let go at the end of the season – he’s our boy, Joe, and you stepped over the line.
As fate would have it, though, the Yankees had their hands full with another young man who hadn’t entirely stepped up to the plate in figuring out what was necessary to have a long and lucrative career in the major leagues.
Clint Frazier: Born For The Back Page
Do you want a story? Clint Frazier was the man to see. First, understand that this young man did not dye his hair flaming red. He was born that way. And over the years, it grew and grew.
Back and forth, the “does he cut his hair or not” controversy brewed on the back pages. All the way to the before and after pictures of the eventual haircut.
Then during Spring Training in 2017, when Frazier saw nothing wrong with (allegedly) saying to Suzyn Waldman, he was interested in asking the Yankees for uniform number seven, long retired in honor of Mickey Mantle. Never verified, yet another back-page story Did not sit well with the Yankees.
Gary Sanchez Gets A Personal Coach – Clint Frazier Gets Furloughed
Despite claims and reports like the one that came from former Yankees hitting coach Alan Cockrell, in which he insisted, “Gary is just not a real high-energy guy, and the catching position is the heartbeat of the baseball field, and you want an energetic guy.” – coding for loafing on the job.
Nevertheless, the Yankees saw fit to hire Tanner Swanson from the Minnesota Twins organization to act as a personal coach for Gary Sanchez. His main goal is to get Sanchez in a better crouching positing to block balls.
But as we know in professional sports, preparation is not the same as the execution, so the jury is still out on Sanchez, and the Yankees are counting heavily on the 2020 season to measure any progress.
For Clint Frazier, despite making noticeable gains in maturity as seen in this recent story in the New York Post.
But if not for rosters expanding to 30 to meet the needs of playing baseball amid COVID-19, Clint Frazier would not start the season with the Yankees. He would again be furloughed to Triple-A Scranton to “refine” his skills as an outfielder.
The Yankees Have The Right To Make Choices – But This One Better Be Right
It should escape the attention of no one that the Yankees have no one in their farm system ready to make the jump to the majors. Kyle Higashioka, at best, is the back-up catcher the Yankees have assigned him to follow the loss of Austin Tomine to the Tigers.
Things can get interesting when J.T. Realmuto rolls out as a free agent in December or whenever the 2020 season concludes.
But the Yankees continue to cling to the hope that Gary Sanchez will prove their patience and dollar investment to be a wise choice. Front office reputations are on the line.
As for Frazier, the Yankees can be benevolent by offering him to a National League team as their DH for the 2020 season, a stipulation agreed to for this year only.
Otherwise, the rise from Yankee’s purgatory to limbo, and on the way to heaven, is on hold for Clint Frazier.
Mirror, mirror on the wall – who’s the fairest of them all? The choice of the Yankees is in plain sight.