New York Yankees: Zack Britton on no fans, Clint Frazier and prospect Canaan Smith

William Parlee
New York Yankees, Clint Frazier
Jun 23, 2018; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; New York Yankees left fielder Clint Frazier (77) works out prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The day in 2015 when a game was played without fans

The New York Yankees relief and setup pitcher Zack Britton knows what it’s like to play without fans in the stands.  Back in April of 2015, there was an MLB game played without fans in the stands.  There was race unrest in Baltimore at that time, caused by the death of Freddie Gray while in the care of the police.  The unrest was so bad that the Baltimore Orioles and MLB made the decision not to allow fans at the game between the Orioles and the Chicago White Sox due to the state of emergency issued by the city.

Zack Britton was the closer for the Baltimore Orioles in the game that the Orioles won 8-2.  Joe McEwing was at the game, he was a coach for the White Sox.  Both Britton and McEwing recently spoke about what it’s like to play without fans.  McEwing recalled, “My thoughts were with the people of Baltimore, first of all, just hoping and praying that people stayed safe during that time,’’ McEwing said of his lasting memories of that afternoon.

McEwing continued: “We’re in a major league stadium, playing a game with no fans, no sound, no energy. You could hear people talking from dugout to dugout, just normal conversations.’’  According to present New York Yankee Zack Britton it was eery nearly silent with as many as 20 scouts in the stands and the normal press.  The game was televised and both teams broadcast booths were working.

Britton said: “That was tough. Obviously, a completely different circumstance (than currently), but it wasn’t fun to not have your home crowd there,’’ “It’s not something that we would like to do,’’ while acknowledging that it may be necessary.  Both men emphasized that the crowds no matter how small provide the energy that drives the game forward.  They also said that the game hadcan an entirely different sound with empty stands, many sounds of the game are absorbed by the fans, without them you get rattling echos.

After four years Clint Frazier has yet to prove himself

Back in July of 2015, the Cleveland Indians were looking to shore up their bullpen as they were in contention for the postseason.  The New York Yankees were not, and they traded closer, Andrew Miller, to the tribe.  The Yankees got four players in return; one was Clint Frazier.  Frazier has spent the last four years on the Yankee shuttle between the Stadium and Scranton Wilkes/Barre.

Here are the stats: In 123 big league games (393 at-bats), the right-handed hitter, who GM Brian Cashman said had “legendary bat speed’’ following the trade, has a .254 average with 16 homers, 56 RBIs and a .771 OPS.  While the Yankees like his bat speed and offense, he has mightly failed on the defense side.  From a combination of missed plays and attitude problems, Frazier had been unable to make his mark and has often been mentioned as trade bait.

This year although a shortened season, Frazier may get to play more due to the expanded roster.  In 2019 Frazier made some headway on improving his defense with some different footwork, and the work that he had been doing with the Rail Riders was on display.

“I have always been impressed with his bat speed,’’ a scout said of Frazier’s biggest tool. “He has always been a very good low-ball hitter with legit power. There is offensive potential there but concerns about his defense. Can he become an above-average big leaguer? Yes. Let’s look back in 10 years and remember defense is an important part of the game.’’

In the halted spring training, criticism of Clint Frazier had seemed to lessen.  Frazier now 25, had an impressive 12 games with an OPS of 1.055.  He was also errorless in the outfield.  However, with a glut of outfielders including Giancarlo Stanton, Mike Tauchman, and now Miguel Andujar, there still is not a lock for Frazier to make starting day.  Much will depend on injuries and if he can best his 69 games in 2019.

A quick look at New York Yankee prospect Canaan Smith

The New York Yankees have plenty of outfields for the next few years, and this year there is a logjam in left field.  But looking down the road, the cupboard is pretty bare.  Back in the 2017 draft, the Yankees were looking for pitchers, but in the 11th round, they did pick up outfielder Canaan Smith from Rockwall-Heath high school in Texas.

Smith is really the only outfielder prospect playing in the minors.  Last year at Charleston for the River Dogs, he had an impressive season.  When he entered the Gulf League, he impressed initially but then struggled.  His defense was above average, but his struggles were at the plate.

With Charleston during 2019, he hit .312/.412/.459 on the year, which is good for a 153 wRC+. Smith’s approach seems sound, as he was back to walking 14.5% of the time while lowering his strikeout rate to an acceptable 21%.  The New York Yankees also like that he hits to all parts of the field. He had 23 doubles on the season, with 14 of them to the opposite field.  One big plus for Smith is that he is a lefty, although the 21-year-old needs more time in the minors, he may soon find himself in the outfield at Yankee Stadium.