Cleveland Indians 2016 Top Prospects: #1 Clint Frazier

Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Cleveland Indians 2016 Top Prospects: #1 Clint Frazier

Likely a surprise pick to some, toolsy outfielder Clint Frazier is the Number 1 prospect in our 2016 Cleveland Indians Top Prospect countdown.

Who is Clint Frazier?

Frazier was the Tribe’s first-round pick in 2013, taken fifth overall out of Loganville High School in Georgia (the same alma mater as former Indians slugger Brandon Moss).  The right-handed slugger signed for a franchise draft record of $3,500,000.  The 21-year-old outfielder stands 6’1” and weighs 190 pounds.  Frazier has played primarily center field though also has experience in right field and left field. He spent 2015 with the Advanced-A Lynchburg Hillcats before joining the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League.

Strengths and Weaknesses

While Bradley Zimmer gets most of the publicity for being a five-tool player, Frazier is rather quietly proving to be a bit of one himself. He can hit, run, throw, and field. He has some of the best bat speed in the minors, which helps him generate good power. He hit 16 home runs in 2015 for the Lynchburg Hillcats, which ranked second in the Carolina League (behind only teammate Nellie Rodriguez). He also added another three in the Arizona Fall League. He increased his ISO (isolated power) from .146 at Lake County in 2014 to .180 at Lynchburg in 2015. 

More from Away Back Gone

Even more impressive than his rise in power was the decline in strikeout rate that came along with it. Frazier will always have some swing-and-miss in his game; however, he saw his strikeout rate drop from 29.7% in 2014 to 21.3% in 2015. In fact, he actually had a lower strikeout rate at Lynchburg than Zimmer had at the level (23.0%).  In addition to a lower strikeout rate, Frazier also had a slightly better walk rate than Zimmer at Lynchburg in 2015 (11.6% vs 11.0%). Frazier did all this despite being two years younger than Zimmer as well…

Defensively many felt Frazier would eventually have to move from center field to a corner outfield spot; however, to this point he’s proving that he’s not only capable of handling center but play it at an above average level. He has above average speed as well and is able to cover good ground in center field. He also has the arm to more than handle the position. I’m in the minority in this regard, but I actually like what I’ve seen from Frazier in centerfield more than Zimmer and feel he has a better chance of sticking there.

Speaking of speed, he stole 15 in 2015 (though was caught seven times).  I wouldn’t go as far to say he’ll be a consistent 20 stolen base guy but the potential to be a double-digit guy at the next level is legit.  While almost everyone has dropped Frazier below Zimmer in terms of Indians top prospects, I still have Clint on top. I was very impressed with his how much he improved throughout 2015. You just don’t usually see a guy increase power and walks while cutting down on strikeouts. Putting Frazier on top is no knock on Zimmer but rather an indication of how great Frazier can be. Whether one feels Frazier or Zimmer is the top prospect, most will agree that both are studs, ranking among the top 50 in all of baseball according to both Baseball America and Minor League Baseball, among others.

Where Does He Go From Here?

Frazier has been moving steadily through the Tribe’s system and will open the 2016 season with the Double-A Akron Rubberducks as one of their three starting outfielders. He’ll once again split time with Zimmer in center field while also getting work in in the corners.  In 2015, he was one of the youngest players on the Lynchburg roster at only 20 years of age. 2016 will be much of the same as he’ll be one of the youngest members of the Akron Rubberducks and one of the younger members of the Eastern League.

Double-A is arguably the biggest challenge for a young hitter. He’ll be on the young side at just 21, and he can really cement himself as a top prospect if he’s able to handle himself. He’s worked hard on his swing the last year to work on making better contact and if that continues the sky is truly the limit for Frazier. He’s a legit “right-handed power bat”, something that should get most Tribe fans excited. While Frazier probably won’t be ready for the big leagues quite as fast as Zimmer, he may not be that far behind.

Next: Indians Top Prospects: #2 Bradley Zimmer

Frazier will spend most, if not all, of 2016 about Double-A but could see Triple-A Columbus with a great year and that would put him in line to make his Major League debut as early as 2017.  He may not have the high floor of a guy like Zimmer, but Frazier’s ceiling is the highest among all position players in the Tribe system, and that is what makes him our Cleveland Indians 2016 Top Prospect.