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Prospect Review: Clint Frazier

There was significant debate about who the top prospect in the Indians' minor leagues should be in our rankings, with Francisco Lindor only winning out just slightly despite being three levels ahead of Clint Frazier. When could we see Frazier, and how high is the upside?

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Viewed as one of the elite prospects in all of the minor leagues, Clint Frazier was debated between Brian Creagh and myself when we were preparing our Cleveland Indians top 10 fantasy prospects pretty heavily. There's a ton of value to the safety of Francisco Lindor as a shortstop prospect who profiles as a strong defender and a decent five category contributor with the potential for more. With that said though, let's look at a prospect whose floor isn't nearly as high, but whose upside could be game-changing in Clint Frazier.

Frazier was the first high school hitter drafted in the 2013 draft, going fifth overall to the Indians. He signed for a bonus of $3.5 million, and was kept in Arizona by the team for his professional debut. He appeared in 44 games that year, hitting a solid .297/.362/.506 with five home runs in the hitter-friendly league, and played center field primarily. He got started in 2014 a couple weeks late due in part to a hamstring injury, and struggled at the plate in April and May. He started hitting better in June, and finished the year strong with a .294/.385/.469 slash line from July 1st onward. Frazier moved up to High-A Lynchburg in the Carolina League this year, and through Monday's game is hitting .261/.325/.319 with no home runs and a stolen base.

Frazier came out of the draft viewed as a potentially elite hitter and while the results haven't been at that level yet, there's been very little to dissuade this notion. As a hitter, Frazier has the potential to be an elite fantasy contributor when he reaches the majors. His ability to hit for a high average will be determined in part on his ability to make adjustments (and specifically limit his strikeouts) as he continues to move up the minors. With elite bat speed, the potential is definitely there for a .280-.290 hitter. He has shown the ability to provide walks to match up somewhat with those strikeouts (10.3% in 2014), which will be helped as he continues to improve his pitch recognition.

What differentiates Frazier from a number of other prospects is the potential to post above-average production in all five categories. His power potential is considered above-average as well, and potentially capable of providing 20-30 home runs per year. Add in that he is considered an above-average runner, and it's not hard to see 15-20 stolen bases to go with it. He profiles as a middle-of-the-order hitter overall, and should also provide 80+ runs and 80+ RBI a season if he hits in those previously-mentioned ranges.

Defensively, Frazier has played center field primarily, although he has been splitting time this year between center and right field with another Indians' top prospect, Bradley Zimmer. Frazier could play either position long-term, as he also has a solid throwing arm as well. I think that he ends up in center field for now, and plays reasonably well there. His value to the Indians is higher in center, and in leagues where you play specific outfield positions, staying there could make him a perennial top 5 CF option.

In 2014, there were only five hitters who provided 20+ home runs and 20+ stolen bases. With their batting averages, they are:

Todd Frazier (.273/29/20)
Ian Desmond (.255/24/24)
Brian Dozier (.242/23/21)
Carlos Gomez (.283/23/34)
Michael Brantley (.327/20/23)

The Indians do not seem likely to try to rush Frazier through the minors, so I don't think we see him in Cleveland until sometime during the 2017 season at the soonest. That will still have him in the majors at the age of 22 or 23, and be ready to take over in center field just as Michael Bourn's contract will likely reach its' end. I still would have Lindor ahead of Frazier overall, but if you're rebuilding with an aim toward 2017 or even 2018, he's a name I'm absolutely targeting toward that end.