If Gary Sanchez can rediscover his talent when all seemed lost, maybe Clint Frazier and Miguel Andujar can, too.
At least that’s Yankees general manager Brian Cashman’s thinking for now.
While acknowledging “our production in left field has been a problem,” Cashman is not on the cusp of turning to Trey Amburgey, Estevan Florial or Hoy Jun Park from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as a solution to the gaping hole in the Yankees’ lineup.
“We’ve had conversations like that … but we didn’t pull anything yet from Triple-A because we feel like this is our best troop right now,” Cashman said before Tuesday’s game against the Angels at Yankee Stadium. “Whether it’s good enough or not — and I am searching outside — we’ll let those others play out down there.”
The quintet of Frazier (37 starts), Andujar (32), Brett Gardner (22), the traded Mike Tauchman (six) and Tyler Wade (three) give the Yankees the American League’s third-worst OPS (.644) in left field. The position has produced just 16 extra-base hits (nine doubles, seven home runs), which is two fewer than any other AL team.
“I don’t feel like right now I have definitive obvious upgrades that I can promote from within. That’s why I haven’t done it,” Cashman said. “Obviously the players here are on notice that they have to get better or there are going to be changes that are going to come regardless.”
Once a prized prospect who the Yankees resisted trading, Frazier has been one of the biggest disappointments in a lineup full of them. As Frazier effortlessly drilled home runs into the right-center field bullpen during batting practice before opening Tuesday’s game on the bench, it was impossible not to think about his .154 average with runners in scoring position and two outs.
“One thing obviously he does is the walk is in there and the non-chase [outside the strike zone] is in there, but with that sometimes there has been a lack of aggression in the strike zone,” manager Aaron Boone said. “The lack of squaring up some pitches that in the past he has certainly driven with authority. There has been a little bit less of that.”
It sounds a little like the conversation a month ago surrounding Sanchez, though Frazier doesn’t have the high-end track record Sanchez had before his multiyear regression. He adjusted his swing and has re-emerged as MLB’s premier slugging catcher.
“Sanchez is now an All-Star-caliber player again,” Cashman said.
Sending Frazier and/or Andujar back to Triple-A to call up Amburgey, Florial or Park could be seen as a harmless swap that maybe sends a message to the clubhouse with a low-risk downside. Can the production be worse? Cashman isn’t ready to find out.
“There is no cavalry sitting at Triple-A to say, ‘Take this person out and pull this person in,’ ” Cashman said. “We have better than what has performed as a group, but it hasn’t done it yet.”
Cashman described the hot-hitting Amburgey as “a bigger threat against left-handed pitching than he is against right-handed pitching,” which sums up almost the entire Yankees’ lineup. Park leads Triple-A with a 1.134 OPS — is hitting .360 with seven home runs, 33 runs scored and 23 RBIs — but “there is no place to play him here right now” because the Yankees consider him a second baseman despite a recent experiment in the outfield.
So, the status quo remains. For now.
“I think [Frazier] has been frustrated at times,” Boone said. “He has worked his tail off through it all. We absolutely believe in talent. It’s on me — it’s on us — to, as best as we can, try to unlock him.”
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