It Sure Sounds Like Clint Frazier is in a Much Better Place Now - Physically, Mentally, Mechanically

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It Sure Sounds Like Clint Frazier is in a Much Better Place Now – Physically, Mentally, Mechanically

Chicago Cubs

Man, it would be really fun to get to watch a Clint Frazier comeback season this year.

OK. It is self-evident that a Cubs fan would want to see Clint Frazier do really well, since, you know, he’s now on the Cubs. So when I say it would be really fun to see a Clint Frazier bounce back season this year, I’m not really dropping a bombshell. But I suppose what I mean is that getting to participate in these kinds of surprising comeback stories is one of the most satisfying parts of fandom, particularly in a year where the fun may largely be driven by the individual stories rather than the team success.

And, to be sure, a Frazier bounce back WOULD be a surprise. After multiple concussions and a serious degradation of performance, there is a reason the Yankees were ready to move on, and the “market” was not putting a huge price tag on a 27-year-old free agent with significant previous success. Even after seeing how good and healthy he looks in Spring Training, it would be a mistake for us to expect Frazier to become an everyday regular for the Cubs in 2022, much less 2023 and beyond.

Of course, that, too, is why it would be so much fun to see.

From a talent perspective, it certainly isn’t unthinkable.

From early July 2017 through mid-September 2020, a span of 550 games, Clint Frazier hit .269/.338/.493 (120 wRC+) in the big leagues. A former top prospect who was acquired in a pricey trade for Andrew Miller, Frazier was just 22 when that streak started, so the hopes and expectations for his long-term future were understandably very high. Sure, there was random New-York-driven drama, questions about the strikeout rate, and periodic defensive issues. But, overall, it was impossible not to see how the Yankees might have a superstar on their hands.

With a year’s distance from the concussion issues, and being out of New York, might Frazier now be in a better place to turn it back on?

“I feel like I’m playing baseball for the first time,” Frazier told Marquee. “I felt like I was in a reality TV show the last 5 years in New York with all the drama and how much news reporters were constantly following. It just feels good to come over here and focus on baseball for the first time. I learned that baseball is more than just baseball. There’s a lot to the business side that leaks into what happens every day on the field. So for me, I just wanted to get away from that and get over here and get a fresh start.”

And in that fresh start, Frazier says he is happy that he feels like he can finally truly be himself, and also feels like he’s getting more support now in a new organization about his concussion issues.

For his part on the performance side, Frazier told The Athletic that his mechanics at the plate got totally out of whack last year, probably for a lot of reasons. He was already prepared to get back to where he was in his very successful 2020 season, but he got an assist from new Cubs hitting coach Greg Brown, who rapidly worked with him on a plan for the lockout just before it kicked in on December 1.

“He’s done a great job of trying to be more centered,” Brown told The Athletic of how Frazier looks now, mechanically. “He found a posture in his stance that really allows him to control his forward and backward movement. Because he knows his swing so well, he understands where some of his misfires come from. His tendency was for his lead shoulder to come off the ball; that’s why you see the unorthodox style of his shoulder playing a little more closed. What that helps him do is keep his bat in the zone.”

It’s easy to point to mechanical changes in the Spring that are totally gonna fix a guy’s production, so I’ll proceed cautiously with that. But I do think it’s good to know that the efforts – by and for Frazier – are not solely about hoping health alone will turn him around. This is his first chance to play at the big league level in a new organization, and maybe there ARE things that the Cubs and Brown see that the Yankees and Frazier previously did not. You leave yourself open to that possibility.

Even if Frazier does succeed in bouncing back this year, it’s probably not going to be one of those linear things. There will be fits and spurts, ups and downs. The things you have to hope for are (1) health and (2) opportunity. The Cubs obviously have a number of competing interests right now in the outfield and at the DH spot, but I would think finding out whether you surprised your way into a star with Frazier would be one of the highest priorities.

Brown put that part best: “This is somebody that we’re really looking at to have the opportunity for a breakout year. He’s put in so much work in the offseason. He understands the various struggles he’s had in the past. He’s taken the information and he’s become his best hitting coach. When you see breakout players, it’s when the player takes ownership of those growth opportunities.”

And *IF* the comeback should happen, it’s going to be so much fun to watch.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.