Frazier adjusting well to first taste of pros
Most eighteen year olds across the country are currently enjoying their final summers of being a kid, eagerly preparing for what the next chapter of life will bring them. This is not the case for Clint Frazier.
The Indians’ most recent first round pick, unlike most of his peers, is getting used to the grind of the job and learning the ropes of playing professional baseball.
Frazier recently provided some perspective on how he is handling the whirlwind that has been his life over the past two months. The journey began on June 6th when the Cleveland Indians selected him with the fifth overall pick of the 2013 draft.
“I thought I was going to go to the Red Sox because my neighbor was the minor league hitting coordinator for the Red Sox and I knew that they were going to get me if I was there,” Frazier explained. “I didn’t know I was going to the Indians until about 30 seconds before they picked me when my agent texted me and said ‘Here you go.’”
Even with the unexpected twist on draft day, Frazier could not help but be overwhelmed with excitement, as he fulfilled a childhood dream. It was nearly impossible to not get excited just listening to the young man try to express all of the emotions he was feeling in this once in a lifetime experience.
“It was the best experience I think I’ve ever had," Frazier said. "I kind of just savored my last moments with my family and everything they did to get me to where I was. [It felt great] just to finally be able to put the biggest smile on their face. It also took a lot of pressure off me for finally knowing which team I was going to play for. I can’t put into words how exciting and overwhelming that was for me.”
After traveling to Cleveland and agreeing to a contract with the Indians, Frazier was assigned to the Arizona Summer League. Goodyear, Arizona, the site of the Indians’ spring training facility and rookie league affiliate, is a far cry from Frazier’s hometown of Loganville, Georgia, but the center fielder is finding a way to make it home.
“I’m really enjoying it out here just being around better talent, getting to play every single day, and getting a feel for what minor league and professional baseball will be like in the future," he said.
It was a very diplomatic answer, so when pushed to be a bit more honest about the transition from the humidity of Georgia to the dry heat of Arizona, he responded a little differently.
"It’s kind of taking a toll on my body because [the heat] is making it hard for me to want to eat, but overall I think I’m transitioning well though," Frazier said.
The change in scenery was probably a minor change, however, compared to the drastic change from being a prep athlete to a professional baseball player, and Frazier described how his first taste of being a professional was going.
“It’s different,” he said thoughtfully. “I think that the biggest transition has been not having my parents around to kind of pamper me through life. I’m off on my own now, having to pay for my own apartment and having to find my own food, which that’s the biggest struggle. So I think that’s been the biggest eye opener for me since I got out here, but I mean I have to do this on my own.”
With this response, Frazier impressed with his humbleness. He was very candid about the changes he has been adapting to being away from home for the first time in his life, which was interesting to hear from a high profile athlete. However, despite all of these transitions off the field, Frazier remains an honest, but tough critic about his play on the field.
“I’d say through the first eight games I was playing really well," Frazier noted. "Then I started struggling a bit and I ran into some problems mechanically with my swing, but I feel like it’s all coming back together now. It’s just part of being out here. It’s a grind and I think my body just started getting tired and things just started going wrong, but I kind of got my feet back under me now.”
This was a fair assessment. Even with the midseason slump, Frazier still boasts a slash line of .289/.343/.484 through 32 games. This includes a team high 37 hits in those games of which six have gone for doubles, five for triples, and three have left the yard. Additionally, he has scored 21 runs and has collected 21 runs batted in.
Clint clearly has decent pop, as approximately one third of his hits have gone for extra bases, and he has also reached base at a fairly decent clip. The one glaring statistical weakness has been his strikeout total, which has grown to 45 against only ten walks. Is this reason to worry? Maybe, but it probably has a lot to do with the on-field adjustments Frazier has been attempting to make to adapt to the higher skill level.
“On the field, I’m just trying not to do too much and not try to go out there and try to win the game on one swing like I tried to do in high school," he said. "I mean, these guys are a whole lot better so I’m having to make adjustments and have different approaches and a different plan every time I step in the box. I’m just trying to do a lot of things differently, not mechanically, but mentally with my approach at the plate and in the field.”
These adjustments may not be translating to the box score, but as one player mentioned, Frazier is nowhere near as star struck as he was in the beginning of the year. Amid all of these tweaks, he has also had to manage the expectations of being the number five overall pick of the draft, and it is interesting to hear how he has handled these expectations, especially now with the emergence of many young stars such as Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.
“Like I said earlier, I’m just trying to stick within myself," Frazier said confidently. "I’m not Mike Trout, I’m not Bryce Harper, I’m Clint Frazier. I have to do what God gave me the ability to do and not try to fill someone else’s shoes and just fill my shoes. The only pressure I feel is the pressure I put on myself. I mean, you all have expectations for me, but in the end you all aren’t the ones that are going to fill the expectations, I am. I’m not trying to go out there and please you all; I’m trying to please my team and do what’s best for them and put us in a good position.”
Frazier exuded confidence as he explained his mentality toward all of the talking heads who write articles (kind of like this one). Turning the focus from the media and fans to him, when asked what his personal goals were for the season his answer was exactly what any organization would want from their top draft pick.
“One of my biggest goals was getting out of here as quick as I could, but as I started struggling, I started realizing that staying out here was the better option for me because [at the next level] I’d be facing better players and I still need to refine my game a lot," he said. "[That being said], I think my biggest goal right now is to be the Indians’ number one prospect in the minor leagues and to try to outwork Francisco Lindor every single day and take his spot once he gets up to the major leagues. I’m just trying to prove why I was chosen number five and back it up every time I step on the field.”
In a span of two months jammed packed full of lasting memories including being a first round pick and attending the Espy's in Los Angeles, Frazier was asked what has been the most memorable thing so far. He answered almost before the question was asked.
“My first at bat when I hit a home run,” he stated with a smile that grew immediately on his face. “That was awesome and I needed that because one of my best friends is struggling right now in the minor leagues and I didn’t want to start my first game off struggling. I wanted to go out there and play well in that first game.”
It is hard to argue with that pick, as the monster line drive into the left field berm will surely be one of my defining memories of him going forward as well.
When asked if there was anything he wanted the fans to know about him or his relationship with baseball, he adamantly responded that fans can follow him on Twitter at @ClintFrazierr and that it is actually his account (@ClintFrazier was already taken and he says he’s not the kind of guy to get @RealClintFrazier). He does delete his tweets after he posts them, but it will likely be something you don’t want to miss as he works his way up the minor league ladder.
Even though it still might be a long ways away, it’s not too hard to imagine Clint wearing a big league uniform because he says all the right things and lets his play make most of the bold statements for him. And with that distinct red hair, hard nose, and ultra competitive style of play, it’s not hard to root for the kid. Who wouldn’t want to cheer for the kid with the red hair and sweet swing.
His unique characteristics could even garner quite a nickname like Red Rocket or Big Red. Maybe Country Red based on his southern ties. Or perhaps as he tracks down balls in the outfield he might remind you a bit of a Red Rover of sorts.
Nickname aside, it is an exciting time for Clint and his family, and Indians’ fans can only be excited about his potential and wish him the best going forward.