Feature Photo: Tyler Wade, UTIL, Yankees
This week, I have reports on three top Yankees prospects after a recent Scranton/Wilkes-Barre – Pawtucket Red Sox Series May 8-10 in the International League. Read on for my thoughts on 22-year-old outfielders Clint Frazier and Dustin Fowler, and utilityman Tyler Wade, who spent time both at shortstop and in the outfield during the series.
Yankees fans shouldn’t forget to check out the great work of Dave DeFreitas, Mark Shreve, and Nick J. Faleris and their 2017 Yankees organizational review for additional in-depth prospect coverage, and Shreve’s recent report on righty Domingo Acevedo and first baseman Mike Ford, for additional Yankees coverage! I’ll be back next week with more reports after sitting on the Louisville/Pawtucket series that starts today in Pawtucket.
2080 Prospect Spotlights
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders – Pawtucket Red Sox Series
Triple-A International League
May 8-10, 2017
Clint Frazier, LF/RF, Yankees (Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, International League)
Ht/Wt: 6’0” / 215 lbs. B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1, 2017): 22y, 8m
Frazier has a well-proportioned, athletic frame with strength. He’s a true five-tool player with projectable plus to double-plus (30-plus home run) power and projectable overall plus hitting ability.
He has an open stance at the plate with wide base. His quick hands and wrists, and plus batspeed gets the barrel through the zone with authority, loft and leverage, and balls jump off his bat from his loose-swing approach. Frazier has good hand/eye coordination and the ability to use the entire field and hit balls hard. Overall he projects as a plus to double-plus dangerous hitter – an offensive threat both in hitting for average and for home-run power.
Frazier had some good at-bats in this series, going 5-for-14 with two walks and a home run, and made good consistent contact. He is on a mission to lighten his strikeout totals from last year (27.7% in 108 plate appearances with Scranton last year after his trade from Cleveland), getting that number down to 20.7% in 178 plate appearances this year) and from what I saw he is progressing in his plate discipline with 20 walks in 178 at-bats for a .337 OBP. Frazier is a plus runner (4.20, 4.25, 4.24 second times from home to first base) with good first-step acceleration and the instincts to be an average-or-better double-digit base stealer.
I saw Frazier play both left and right field, and he looks more comfortable in left than in right presently, although his plus arm would play in right field easily. He has an average glove with above-average fielding actions and good first-step quickness and lateral movements, and the ability to go to the line with plus range.
Overall, Frazier is an above-average left field defender, with the tools and profile for an above-average projection at a corner-outfield position, and he carries an overall ceiling of a Role 70 impact player of perennial all-star potential. He’s not far from the major leagues, and I’d expect him with the Yankees sometime this season.
Tyler Wade, UTIL, Yankees (Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, International League)
Ht/Wt: 6’1” / 185 lbs. B/T: L/R Age (as of April 1, 2017): 22y, 5m
I saw Wade play both shortstop and center field in this three-game look, and he has the athletic ability to play both with a solid-average defensive grade. The overall tools and profile reminded me Ben Zobrist (UTIL, Cubs). Wade has the tools and actions to be an everyday major league middle infielder, and he was a steady presence at shortstop, making all the plays with consistency. He has soft, sure hands with smooth fielding actions and quick hands, and overall displayed above-average fielding abilities. Good first-step quickness with solid footwork and above-average range at shortstop. He has good instincts around the bag as well, with the ability with pivot and no issues in turning the double play. His arm was above average as well, with good carry and a quick release, and with the ability to throw from angles and when on the run. The athletic actions and ability he showed at the six-spot left no doubt in my mind he can be a solid second baseman as well, should the need arise with the big league club, and he’s played 52 innings over there already this season, as well as 38 games at second with Double-A Trenton last year.
At the plate, he has a loose swing with a quick bat, who needs to develop a better trigger with more rhythm, though he makes consistent contact and shows the ability to square-up balls. He projects to be an above-average hitter, though with little over-the-fence pop. He has some strength to his swing with below-average power to the pull side, and shows a solid approach at the plate with a good eye with ability to draw a walk (.308/.383/.343 slash line to-date, with just two home runs and twelve other extra-base hits). On the basepaths, he is a solid-average runner whose speed is better underway, and he is a plus basestealer with 27 stolen bases last year in Trenton, and 12 steals in 15 attempts for Scranton so far this year.
I like the way he plays the game – with intensity and with a high baseball IQ. Wade will be a valuable major league piece for a 25-man roster, with multi-faceted ability to move around the diamond either as a middle infielder or any spot in the outfield, whose ultimate home on the diamond will be based on club need. He projects as a Role 50 regular, who should arrive in the Bronx at some point this year.
Dustin Fowler, OF, Yankees (Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, International League)
Ht/Wt: 6’0” / 195 lbs. B/T: L/L Age (as of April 1, 2017): 22y, 4m
Fowler is a plus athlete with a compact frame with strength. In my views from May 8-10 versus the PawSox I saw him play all three outfield positions, though he showed the feel, ability and instincts to be an everyday center fielder.
Fowler has quick hands at the plate with ability to make consistent hard contact and use the entire field. He is somewhat of a dead-start hitter who could benefit from a little more rhythm in his swing. He can barrel up balls and has strength, loft, and leverage to his swing, particularly to the pull side. He projects as a plus hitter with above-average power potential (20-plus home runs annually).
Thru his first 38 games has a slash line of .297/.341/.564, and importantly, he is beginning to show some more patience at the plate, with his OBP rising from .311 last year thanks to some extra walks, although the walk rate is still pretty anemic, with 11 through 165 at-bats this year. He’s a solid-average runner out of the box out and the speed transitions to plus when underway, which is also an asset when playing out on the grass. He can leg out extra-base hits, with nine doubles and seven triples thus far this season, but he also had 15 triples in 2016 (second-best in the minor leagues). Needs to work on base-stealing instincts and reads, but he has some feel, and with the plus speed he’ll be a base-stealing threat at the next level.
In the field, he shows above-average athletic actions that can make him look like he’s gliding to balls hit his way, and he has the ability to play center field on an everyday basis. He gets good reads, routes and jumps, though in my views he showed some trouble on balls hit directly at him, but he’s got the plus makeup speed to cover some mistakes. His arm is fringe-average, but not a concern.
Overall, Fowler projects as a Role 55, above-average corner outfielder, with average defensive ability. Improvement with his bat will determine his ultimate role in the big leagues, but he could handle an everyday role in center field, which is where I think he will ultimately land. He compares well to current Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner.