TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees were sold on Clint Frazier's potential in the summer of 2016, when general manager Brian Cashman lauded the recently acquired prospect for his "legendary bat speed." They had the opportunity to see it for themselves one year later, as the promising outfielder homered in his
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees were sold on Clint Frazier's potential in the summer of 2016, when general manager Brian Cashman lauded the recently acquired prospect for his "legendary bat speed." They had the opportunity to see it for themselves one year later, as the promising outfielder homered in his big league debut.
Frazier's path toward a bright future was altered last February, when he slammed the back of his head into an outfield fence in Bradenton, Fla. Eventually diagnosed with a vestibular concussion, Frazier endured frightening consequences, acknowledging that he had difficulty operating a vehicle and remembering the names of his two cats.
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Limited to 34 at-bats with the Yanks last season, the 24-year-old Frazier arrived in camp sporting a clean bill of health, announcing his intent to challenge incumbent veteran Brett Gardner for reps in left field. Frazier's bravado may have created a spring stir two years ago, but in this case, the club could not be more pleased to hear that his confidence is back.
"I think I want to continue to show what I did in 2017," Frazier said. "I showed some glimpses of being able to go up there and perform whenever I got some opportunities. Last year was different because I didn't get a chance to really get my feet wet as much as I wanted. I have to go up there and make the most of every opportunity that I have."
Though Frazier said he believes this represents his best opportunity so far to make an Opening Day roster, the Yankees' crowded outfield suggests he will have to light up Grapefruit League pitching to avoid a return to the Minors.
In December, Cashman scoffed at suggestions that his team might pursue superstar Bryce Harper, pointing out that the Yankees already had Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, Gardner, Frazier and Jacoby Ellsbury under contract.
Frazier tried to steer clear of the Hot Stove scuttlebutt, though he remained active on social media, frequently interacting with fans. At one point, Frazier announced that he wanted to replace his nickname, "Red Thunder," asking for suggestions. For the moment, he favors "Wildling," cribbed from HBO's 'Game of Thrones.'
He was busy off the field as well, making at least five trips to see Pittsburgh-based specialist Dr. Mickey Collins, who ultimately issued Frazier the green light to resume full baseball activities in January.
"Whenever I wasn't feeling right, I was trying not to talk too much about it," Frazier said. "I wanted to be able to voice how I felt whenever the concussion symptoms were gone. I've been doing some stuff for a few months."
Frazier has had to make some lifestyle changes: he cannot sleep past 9:30 a.m. or consume alcohol, and Collins has recommended exposure to loud noises, which is why Frazier has been attending concerts regularly. Most importantly, he expects to be prepared to take on a full workload this spring.
"I feel a difference in my quality of life, just the happiness whenever I wake up that I'm finally through the hard times that I was going through then," Frazier said. "Now it's just like, I feel like a new person on the field. You appreciate the things that are very simple tasks in life that get taken away from you whenever something happens."
His early batting-practice displays at the Minor League complex have not suggested the presence of rust. Frazier said he tuned his swing against a machine while working out in an Atlanta suburb, cranking the velocity into the triple digits while moving about eight feet in front of the batter's box.
"It's an exciting feeling. I'm ready to get out there," Frazier said. "I wish games started tomorrow. It's been a long road and I'm happy to be down here in Tampa with the rest of the guys right now."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.