Clint Frazier Makes The Most Of His Opportunity
This week's installment of Three Up, Three Down
Clint Frazier, OF, Yankees
Frazier has demonstrated standout ability ever since he was BA’s 2013 High School Player of the Year, but injuries and a lack of opportunity meant he still hadn’t established himself in the majors as he entered his seventh professional season. With Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton and now Aaron Judge on the injured list, the 24-year-old outfielder has gotten his chance and taken advantage. Frazier has hit .324/.342/.632 with six home runs and 17 RBIs in 18 games for the Yankees this season while making starts in left field, right field and at designated hitter. He’s recorded a hit in 13 of 18 games, has converted every defensive chance and even notched his first career assist on a throw to the plate that registered 94.6 mph. His effort has been critical to keeping the Yankees afloat despite their barrage of injuries, although he may have fallen victim himself Monday night. Frazier jammed his ankle sliding into second base in the 12th inning of the Yankees’ extra-inning win over the Angels. He remained in the game, but his status moving forward remains to be seen.
Willians Astudillo, C, Twins
At first it was a bit of a gag, seeing a pudgy, 5-foot-9, 225-pound career minor leaguer fly around the bases and play every position—including pitcher—at the end of last season for a sub-.500 team. We’re past that stage now. Astudillo is showing he’s every bit someone taken seriously. The 27-year-old has been a big part of the Twins' early success this season and now owns a career .336/.352/.518 slash line. He has more home runs (5) than walks (3) or strikeouts (4), and his ability to consistently put the ball in play—his 90.4 percent contact rate is eighth-highest in the majors this year among players with at least 40 plate appearances—has been a boon for both himself and his club. He’s done it while playing catcher, first base, third base, left field and right field this season, cementing himself as a versatile, valuable weapon for a team with playoff aspirations.
The Pirates have taken flak for their pitching development in the past, and their inability to get the best from Gerrit Cole, Tyler Glasnow and Charlie Morton in recent years before trading them has lent credibility to that criticism. And yet, it’s the Pirates that have the best starter’s ERA in the National League (2.24) so far this season, nearly a full run better than the NL’s second-place team (Reds, 3.20). Trade acquisitions Joe Musgrove (1.59) and Chris Archer (2.74)—who were acquired in the Cole and Glasnow trades, respectively—have flourished in the early going and lessened the Pirates sting’ of losing the aforementioned righties. Trevor Williams, acquired from the Marlins in what was essentially a trade for a pitching coach, has quietly been an ace for the better part of the last calendar year, posting a 1.60 ERA over his last 17 starts dating back to last July. Add in Jameson Taillon (3.12) and Jordan Lyles (0.54), and the Pirates collection of righthanded starters is quietly outperforming the rest of the NL by a wide margin.
Yu Darvish, RHP, Cubs
Not much has gone right for Darvish since the 2017 World Series. After surrendering nine hits and eight runs in 3.1 innings and taking the loss in both Game 4 and Game 7, the one-time ace hasn’t been able to get on track. He logged a 4.95 ERA in eight starts last year before missing the rest of the season with a stress reaction in his elbow, and this year has gone even worse. Darvish is 1-3, 5.96 with a league-leading 18 walks in 22.2 innings, another significant jump in his walk rate after he experienced one last year. He has failed to finish six innings in any of his five starts. Darvish was better in his most recent outing—five innings, five hits, three runs, three walks and seven strikeouts in a loss to the D-backs on Sunday—but on the whole it’s been a far cry from his peak with the Rangers, and not what the Cubs hoped for when they signed him to a six-year, $126 million contract.
Brandon Drury, 3B, Blue Jays
Drury delivered when he received consistent playing time in Arizona, but he got pushed out of a job with the Yankees and is now off to a slow start in Toronto. The 26-year-old third baseman is batting .197 with a .602 OPS and 31 strikeouts against just four walks to start the year. Out of 195 qualified players, he ranks third in the majors in strikeouts, 166th in batting average and 170th in OPS. It’s still early, but with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. approaching fast behind him in Triple-A, Drury may not have long to turn it around.
The Orioles’ 5.18 ERA was the worst in baseball last year, and this year has been even worse. Baltimore owns a 6.37 ERA through its first 24 games, and the O’s righthanded starters bear the brunt of the responsibility. Righthanders Dan Straily (8.59 ERA), Alex Cobb (11.88), Dylan Bundy (6.56), Andrew Cashner (4.97) and David Hess (5.88 ERA) have all been knocked around, with all but Hess allowing more than one hit per inning. In a combined 20 starts, the quintet has completed six innings just three times. With their starters getting blasted, Orioles relievers have had to throw more innings (105) than any other team in baseball so far.