The New York Yankees have, after days of speculation, traded their star reliever Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians. New York receives the Indians No. 2 and No. 6 prospects, Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield, respectively, as well as relievers J.P. Feyereisen and Brad Heller. What will these four players bring to the Yankees? When will they make a difference in the Big Apple? And who got the better end of this deal? We try to answer those questions as we analyze one of the biggest trades of the deadline.
Clint Frazier - OF
Frazier has all the skills to be a versatile All-Star outfielder for the Yankees. He has been remarkably consistent in the minors. His career slash line, .278/.360/.452, almost exactly matches of 2016, .273/.350/.46. He has good speed, having swiped thirteen bases this season and fifteen a year ago, but may have to move to right field, especially if he loses a step as he matures.
Strengths: The most exciting part of Frazier’s game is his lightning-quick bat. He packs a lot of power into his 6’1", 190 lb frame. He has a strong upper body and strong legs. He uses that strength to generate tremendous bat speed at the plate. As the pitcher delivers, Frazier first shifts his weight to his back side, then shifts it forward, keeping his bat at a 45 degree angle and hands in an excellent position. He waits a split second longer than most before beginning his swing. Then, he trusts his hands, sending them wherever the pitch goes and rapidly turning his hips. Frazier’s short, sweet swing should allow him to connect with upper 90s fastballs without a problem. His strength enables him to turn those hits into extra bases. Further, Frazier’s quick bat grants him a little extra time to see the ball in the batter’s box before committing. While he struggles to pick up off-speed as many young hitters do, that extra split second he has should improve his decision-making in the box as he matures. I could see him replicating his MiLB career .360 OBP in the bigs.
Weaknesses: One of the biggest red flags in Frazier’s game is his high strikeout percentage. This number should improve as Frazier refines his pitch recognition ability. But as we have seen from Kris Bryant and, to a lesser degree, Javier Baez, high strikeout numbers in the minors do not always derail a player’s major league prospects. Frazier posted a 22% K rate and 10.5% BB rate in Double-A this year. He only has to decrease the difference between those two numbers a small margin in order to turn his plate discipline into a positive.
Another related problem with Frazier’s game is an apparent hitch in his swing. Watch the video below. Right before Frazier takes a hack, he will quickly jerk his hands down and up again. This action makes it difficult to adjust to breaking pitches, which unsurprisingly is the youngster’s main problem.
Justus Sheffield - LHSP
Our own John Sickels pegged lefty Justus Sheffield as a "future number three starter, perhaps more" this winter in his top 20 organizational rankings. As a 20-year-old in High-A, Sheffield has held his own, posting a 3.59 ERA and striking out almost nine batters per nine. John’s projection still seems about right to me.
Strengths; Sheffield’s biggest strength is a deceptive delivery and feel for the game. Once he reaches the leg kick portion of his windup, he drops his raised right leg slowly, before quickly extending it as far as possible and delivering the pitch. This allows him to a) change up the timing of the hitter b) increase the apparent speed of his low-90s fastball and c) increase the deception of his breaking pitches, particularly his change-up.
Speaking of those pitches, Sheffield already has a strong arsenal of weapons he can use against minor league hitters. His slider is an effective offering against both lefties and righties due to its sharp, downward and left to right movement. His fastball velocity will likely remain in the low 90s, as there is not much projection left in his 5’10" 196 lb frame; however, Sheffield does a nice job locating the pitch on both sides of the plate and changing eye levels. His change-up has improved significantly this year and could be a neutralizer against right-handed hitting. His curveball is decent and can get better, right now primarily serving as a weapon versus lefties.
Weaknesses: Sheffield’s size and body limits his potential. He will always be a bit stocky, and thus will not be able to generate the leverage or velocity that taller pitchers can. That means he will be forced to change speeds and levels, work both sides of the plate, and get hitters off-balance in any way he can. Sheffield already does this, but can improve. Specifically, the southpaw needs to walk fewer batters and decrease his current 3.8 BB/9 closer to the 2.7 mark he posted last season. If he can limit his walks and keep hitters off-balance, Sheffield will find a home in the middle of a rotation, although I doubt he can outperform that potential due to his size.
J.P. Feyereisen - RHP
Drafted in 18th round out of University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, Feyereisen has a chance to become a Division III success story. The big 6’2" 215 lb righty has been dominant in relief as a pro. In his three year career, he owns a sparkling 1.80 ERA, 1.010 WHIP, and 11.7 K/9. This season with Double-A Akron he has continued this success, posting a 2.23 ERA and striking out 56 batters in just 40.1 innings.
On the scouting side, Feyereisen’s fastball can touch 94. He also has an impressive power slider. The 23-year-old could play a role in the Yankees’ pen as soon as this September.
Ben Heller - RHP
Heller is another reliever who has breezed through the pro ranks. The 6’3" 205 lb righty has split time between Double-A and Triple-A this season. Overall in 2016, the 24-year-old owns a 1.73 ERA, .840 WHIP, and 10.4 K/9 (actually below his 11.8 career K/9). He has been equally dominant at lower levels in his career, save for a poor showing in High-A in 2015.
Heller’s fastball sits 96-97, with running movement away from lefties and into righties. He slider is good enough right now to play off the heavy fastball, and sometimes flashes potential as an above-average offering. He looks like a future middle reliever who could bridge the gap to Dellin Betances, the only remaining member of "No Runs DMC." Like Feyereisen, expect to see Heller in the Bronx very soon.
Who won the trade?
This trade is a huge win for the Yankees. Frazier is a top prospect who should be ready by the Super 2 cutoff next year. Sheffield looks like a future No. 3 pitcher that has a very high chance of reaching his potential. Feyereisen and Heller can both serve as solid, controllable middle relievers, with the upside of seventh inning men. It is important to note that Andrew Miller is not a rental. His contract runs through the 2017 season. But a potential All-Star outfielder, left-handed starter, and two middle relievers is an enormous amount to pay for a one-inning guy. The Indians, though, are going all-in. We will know by October if this king’s ransom was worth the cost.