Q&A with Clint Frazier Part 1: The Draft and more
I recently had a chance to sit down for an hour for an in-person interview with Indians 2013 first round pick outfielder Clint Frazier. What was just going to be a short discussion with him for a feature story turned into a full blown conversation about many different topics.
Frazier, 19, is a guy you can’t miss on the baseball field with the red hair that flows freely from beneath his cap. But what really catches your attention is impressive power and natural bat speed he has, something I witnessed firsthand in my visit to Arizona a few months ago.
In sitting down and talking to him for the first time I found Frazier to be incredibly engaging and a great interview. He can talk baseball all day. He is not afraid to be upfront and honest, and even has a little fun poking fun at himself at times. He has a great sense of humor and at the same time is extremely dedicated to baseball. There is no doubt that, as he says in the interview, he is married to the game.
Due to the length of this Q&A, it has been broken up into two parts. In part one below, he discusses in detail his experiences leading up to the draft, how he was discovered, his interactions with several Indians personnel leading up to the draft, his poor performance in front of Chris Antonetti, his relationship with Austin Meadows, how it came down to the Red Sox and Indians, and more.
Onto the Q&A…
Q: How much traveling did you do as a high school baseball draft prospect? Did you go to many showcases?
CF: I didn’t start playing travel baseball until probably my junior year and it was all in Georgia. I didn’t want to play travel baseball. I didn’t think about how much it meant, but then I realized it was a pretty big deal to play so I went out there my senior year and that is how everything started. I did some stuff my sophomore year in Jupiter, Florida but that was it. I didn’t do much my junior year. We had a travel high school team in the summer. My high school coach was always [asking me if I] want to play with Team Elite, which was the travel team. I didn’t want to do it because I had played all the fall league games and 40 games in high school. I was 15-16 years old and did not want to play anymore. But now I don’t know if I will ever get burned out now.
Q: Without playing much travel baseball, how did you get seen? And was there a moment when you realized that being drafted as a top pick might actually be possible?
CF: What helped me the most is I had two guys on my high school that were juniors when I was a freshman and they were signed at the University of Georgia, and that is how I got seen so early. Once I established my college commitment, I didn’t even know what the draft was or know much about it. I remember looking at one of my dad’s emails and a scout wrote a report and it was on the 20-80 scale of everything in the present and future and then it said projected round and it said first round supplemental. I was a junior and I remember I was with my friend and I started freaking out because I was a first rounder. I did not know much about baseball and still don’t know much about many players right now because I don’t watch baseball.
Q: Wait a minute. Don’t you watch baseball on TV or follow the Major League players at all by reading about them online or in print?
CF: When I was compared to Mike Trout my senior year, I asked the scout “who is Mike Trout?” because I didn’t know who he was. I don’t follow other sports. I just don’t like watching sports unless I am in the game. It is my competitive nature. If I see someone out there doing something, I believe in myself that I can do it better or as good. So that is what always motivated me on the field.
Q: So without watching much if any TV, did you have any favorite players growing up?
CF: At like 16 I liked Ryan Howard because he won the Home Run Derby. He hit a lot of home runs and I hit a lot of home runs, but there is no comparison except maybe my strikeouts in the Arizona League (laughs). I just liked someone who can hit a lot of home runs, but now I like the more well-rounded player. That is what I want to be. I don’t want to be a guy that can just hit home runs. I did not realize that there is so much importance in every little facet of the game other than the offensive standpoint.
Q: Is that the biggest thing you have picked up since going pro, that it is not just about home runs but everything else like the approach, defense, baserunning, training, nutrition, and so on?
CF: I think the thing that helped me the most was going to a showcase and then they graded every little factor of your game. Your arm strength, how you run the bases, your 60 time, your defense, and your BP. Everything. All I saw before that was home runs. I started hearing people calling me a five tool guy, and I had to look up what the five tools were. Then I started saying to myself I have this, I have this and I can do that so I really can be a five tool guy, so I started taking more importance in my defense and I am fast so I can utilize my speed in the outfield and on the bases. So I started taking more initiative to want to drive myself to get better in every aspect and not just offensively.
Q: Some players might take offense to it when someone else points out a limitation in their game.
CF: I am the type of person where if someone knocks me for one thing, the next day I am going to be trying to work on what they knocked me for so they can’t come back in a few days and say that I can’t do it. I think that is what helps me being so competitive.
Q: Do you do a lot of weight lifting and strengthening exercises to help give you that power boost?
CF: I haven’t worked out in two years. That is the thing our strength coach is telling me is talent won’t get you there. But what I don’t think he realizes is I had surgery on my arm and that is what kept me out of the weight room. I had it on my tendon flexor going into my senior year. I did not swing a bat until two days before my first high school game. It was tendonitis and I could not get rid of it. I did rehab for three months and it was still there. I rehabbed with the best trainer in Georgia, the Atlanta Braves trainer. I came to him one day and I asked him to do something, even a needle in my arm, to make me feel better. He said the only option was called a PRP injection and it was the most painful thing I ever went through. But ever since I have not had an elbow problem anymore.
Q: Were there any other injuries you sustained during your draft year?
CF: Not many people know this, but I dislocated my shoulder during the fifth game of the high school season. I had personal doctors coming to my house popping my shoulder back in. So I am still trying to get my arm strength back. My shoulder is fine now and it doesn’t hurt anymore.
Q: Did those injuries scare you at all as you played and showcased yourself in front of numerous scouts and team executives leading up to the draft?
CF: It didn’t worry me until we played this one team and the Indians crosschecker was there and I couldn’t throw a ball. My shoulder was so messed up that I asked my coach to arrive late for the game so we didn’t have to throw before the game, but he said he couldn’t do that as there were too many people there. So I showed up and I probably threw 20 feet in my warm up and I was watching 30 guys behind the fence watching me throw. When I got done throwing after ten or so throws, like eight of them got on their phone and walked away. I was like “I’m not getting drafted now as that team is off the list.”
Q: So it was a pretty nerve-racking experience?
CF: It wasn’t nerve-racking until that point when I could not throw a baseball. I had a doctor come over and do it under the table because I couldn’t have a medical record because I already had the surgery on my elbow. It didn’t worry me because I knew in the end what is supposed to happen was going to happen. Luckily when Chris Antonetti came to my game I had had my shoulder popped in a couple of times so my arm was back. I was out there just throwing missiles in the infield and outfield and I got a chance to talk to him for like 30 minutes in between games. That is probably what got me was having that personal conversation with him.
Q: What did you think about the whole process and experience with the draft? It is a high pressure process, especially for high round guys. What did you take away from it?
CF: I think the biggest thing I took away from it is my life has forever changed. People treated me differently. It was like people put me on a pedestal and if I screwed up I was done. It was a bulls-eye on my back. A lot of people wanted to see me succeed and a lot of people wanted to see me fail. A lot of people came out of the woodwork. For instance, people in high school I never talked to, the worst being the girls. As bad as that sounds, [it is true as] they looked at me and saw dollar signs. That was my biggest thing as I did not want a girlfriend and I still do not want one. A girl is a distraction in my eyes and they come in the way of what my sights are set on. I think the biggest thing I took away from that is be careful who you trust. I trust the Indians with everything. They wouldn’t steer me in the wrong way, but back home it is a different story. I watch who I hang out with. I don’t go out. I just go play baseball. That’s my job.
Q: You were at the MLB Network studios for the draft and got to go out and get an Indians jersey and cap from Commissioner Bud Selig when your name was called. What was that whole experience like for you and how did you even get set up to go there?
CF: Before the draft going into my senior year I told my mom that if I get invited to the studio I am going. My junior year I watched two of my friends get drafted and the next thing I was doing was asking my dad to go to the cages and hit. It just pumped me up to see those guys walk on stage with Bud Selig and grab the jersey. I told my mom I am going to that studio. She was like “alright we will go” and it took her like two or three months to finally let me go. But that was the most nerve-racking experience I have ever went through.
Q: Why is that?
CF: Because I wanted to go in the top five picks badly and be the first high school player taken. That didn’t happen, but I was the first high school position player drafted. In order to go where I wanted to go the four people ahead of me had to get off the board before me. My agent was texting me saying it was looking good and then he called and texted me and said I am on the phone with Boston and Cleveland right now. It is looking really good. Boston was 7th. Seth and Sam Livingston are the owners of my agency. Seth was on the phone with one of them, Sam was on the phone with the other one. They were off in different rooms bargaining to see if they can get more money. It came down to Cleveland wanted me and were willing to give us what we wanted. I don’t know if you noticed, but when Cleveland picked it was a lot longer as they took like two or three extra minutes because they were on the phone with my agent. Cleveland wouldn’t budge and my agent wouldn’t budge. I remember my agent told me the phone was hung up like four or five times in like five minutes. He said that it was nerve-racking when Cleveland would hang up as he thought we lost them. Then he texted me and said “here you go” before the pick was announced. Bud Selig walked out and when Cleveland picked me I was like this is where I want to go.
Q: Did you have a good feeling about the Indians and Red Sox all along?
CF: The background on my phone was the Boston Red Sox as I thought I was going there. I knew I was a sure-fire with Brad Grant. He came to like six of my games and I think I hit five home runs. My agent told me that he thought Brad was impressed and that he liked me. It was easy to tell who liked me the most. When my season started I had like 70 scouts at games and it got bigger toward the middle, and toward the end there was like five or six at the games and you could tell who wanted you the most. It was the same teams and Brad Tyler, the Indians scout, was at every single one of my games. I thought that they liked me. Chris Antonetti came to see me play, but I cramped up in the game. I was like, “I am cramping up in front of this guy” and that was when my shoulder was just feeling better and they were not pitching to me. My last at bat they threw this 50 MPH submarine guy and I struck out on a ball that was like six feet outside. My agent was talking to me in the parking lot after the game and he was like, “I don’t know if this guy likes you or they want you anymore.” When they chose me, my agent told me “I knew they liked you but I didn’t know they liked you that much.”
Q: A funny moment during the draft coverage was when you saw “3B” next to your name on the card you had to put on the board. It was a surprise to myself that you were listed as a third baseman, and apparently to you too. Obviously, it turned out to just be an error by the MLB staff, but for a few moments did you really think you were moving to third base?
CF: They said “the Indians select third baseman Clint Frazier” and I looked at Tim Belcher and Johnny Goryl who were the ones at the table and I asked why I was selected as a third baseman as I had not played there in a year. Goryl goes, “You better get your infielder glove” and I was like “Oh my God!” My thought process was like “why didn’t they draft Colin Moran if they wanted a third baseman?” I went to Sam Ryan and asked if I was drafted as a third baseman and she said it was a mistake, and I was like “Thank God!” It was surprising and I don’t know how they messed that up. It wasn’t the Indians it was MLB. On my sheet it says third base slash outfield. I just wanted to play and it if it was third base I would have sucked it up, but I would have been an unorthodox third baseman at 5-foot-10. I don’t even know how tall I am anymore. I am listed at 6-foot-1 but I am not even six feet. I had to lie about that. I think I am 5-foot-10 and a half and 198 pounds.
Q: You and Austin Meadows have a very close relationship. You both were top draft prospects out of different high schools just a few miles apart. Have you kept in contact with him since the draft?
CF: We are working out at the same facility and hopefully I can get him away from his girlfriend and actually just hang out with him (laughs). Since we are so close to each other scouts would go to his house first and then go to mine. Or they would go to mine first and then go to his house. If they went to his first the first question I always got was “do you have a girlfriend?” because they would ask him and he would tell them their whole story and they would come to me and say “please tell me you don’t have a girlfriend” (laughs). They have been dating for two years and he is pretty serious about her. I don’t want a girlfriend, not until after my career. I say this now, but I might meet one that I want to slow down with. But I am married to the game of baseball right now. Maybe baseball can lead me to the right one as that is all I think about.
Q: You and Meadows are good friends, but was there any competition between the two of you going into the draft? Did he make you nervous that other teams might select him before you?
CF: Meadows was scary. He scared me the whole week leading up to the draft. He got flown down to Miami to hit in front of their general manager and I did not get that call. The Rockies liked him more than they liked me. I was bad at the Astros workout and he did really well, so I was like, this kid is going to get chosen before me. I was just glad he got chosen in the top 10 picks too. They made us go into a conference call directly after I was drafted, but I told the people in there I did not want to do any phone calls until he was picked because he was one of my best friends. He texted me as soon as I got drafted, and I wanted to text him the second he got drafted. It is great for the city of Loganville to have a couple of big leaguers and two kids drafted from the same area.
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Part two is very interesting as he shares some interesting things I did not know about Lindor and of course he goes into great detail about his first season and what he wants to achieve in the future.
Hopefully he doesn't develop more injuries like that, but at least now he won't have to hide them since he's got his money.
The exciting thing is that he's so focused on being a great player that he'll definitely go as far as his talent will take him. I love that he's not just fixated on hitting and wants to excel at every little phase of the game. He was even willing to switch to 3rd base if the Indians wanted him to.
A potential issue is that if he obesses on baseball and is constantly in the batting cage he could develop overuse injuries like the tendinitis, especially if he does no strengthening exercises. It seems like he should be doing some weight work to strengthen the support muscles in his throwing shoulder if nothing else.