On this day, 28 years ago in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, a little baby boy by the name of Todd B. Frazier came out into the world, yelling and screaming. Fast forward to 2014, and he’s still yelling and screaming, just in a more contained manner, slightly.
Having stardom cast upon yourself at such a young age can be a difficult thing to temper, as society has produced endless numbers of people who could not handle the scrutiny and attention. The exact opposite may be true for Todd Frazier.
Playing as a young boy for Toms River, New Jersey in the Little League World Series in 1998, Frazier immediately gained fame. Now, certainly the fame was not to the extent that one would receive in the age of social media, but for more or less, a majority of the country knew his name and expected him to become a big leaguer.
Jersey born and breed through and through, Frazier opted not to go pro in 2004 after the Colorado Rockies drafted him in the 34th round of the 2004 Draft out of high school. He instead settled on Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Having an unconventional swing and playing on the East Coast certainly did not prove to be a disadvantage on draft day, when the Reds selected Frazier with the 34th overall pick of the 2007 Amateur Draft.
Fast forward less than four years later, and Frazier was making his Major League debut as a pinch-hitter in a game in Philadelphia, not too far from where he grew up. There has been no question that Frazier has been on a dream ride thus far in his baseball career, but 2014 may prove a different animal than any he’s ever faced before.
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Some call it a sophomore slump. By whatever name you want to describe what happened to the enigmatic third baseman last season, don’t attempt to justify it.
Frazier became nearly an overnight sensation during 2012, as the Reds made the decision it would be he, not Juan Francisco, taking the reins from Scott Rolen upon his impending retirement. With Rolen still assuming the everyday role down at the hot corner in 2012, Frazier was able to play sparingly, seemingly always ready to fill in at whatever position the club needed him to. He appeared in games at both corner infield and outfield positions.
Then, Joey Votto went down. This desperate sense of losing the team’s best player could have caved the roster, but Frazier proved to be the knight in shining armor, playing first base virtually every day and hammering the ball, as if Votto never even left.
Many believed the Rookie of the Year award was Frazier’s to win due to his contributions at a desperate hour, but the hype surrounding mega-phenom Bryce Harper was too big, and he ran away with the trophy. No matter to Frazier and his happy-go-lucky attitude, it was back to work for him in 2013, where he would be assuming the role of everyday third baseman.
A natural fact of baseball is the adjustments that the opposing team will make when seeing hitters on multiple occasions. Unfortunately, for Frazier, he has the type of swing that is easy to diagnosis where the holes are. Luckily, for him though, he now has his third season to buck those trends and develop back into the player many destined for him to be this time last year.
With 135 more plate appearances last season than his rookie campaign in 2012, Frazier managed the exact same amount of home runs, only nine more hits, six more RBI’s, watched his average drop by 39 points and saw his OPS plummet by over 100 points. By all accounts, Frazier had an abysmal year at the plate.
In his defense, he was never allotted a true spot in the batting order. When things went awry towards the end of the year, he found himself hitting in the second spot in the order, which is admittedly not the position he, nor the team wanted to be in. If Ryan Ludwick manages to stay healthy this season, the pressure on Frazier’s bat can be mildly relieved as he has some extra right-handed thump to help him out.
In the field, Frazier was masterful. In fact, it’s more likely than not that it’s the only reason Reds fans weren’t beckoning for someone new this past winter. Then again, maybe it is the fact that Frazier is one of the most likeable characters on the team. Brandon Phillips plays astounding defense, yet his head was on the chopping block from day one. Thankfully, the two friends are going to make up one of the best defensive infields in the game this season, when coupled with Zack Cozart and Joey Votto.
Our good ole’ buddy WAR pops its head into the conversation again. According to WAR, Frazier had a better season last year than he did in 2012, which is truly astonishing. Sure, Frazier made some fantastic plays down at third, and would be considered for the Gold Glove Award if there was not so much competition, but by no means did it outweigh his drastic offensive dips. Once again, WAR proves itself to be just another factor; not, the factor.
With the 2014 season nearly upon us, Frazier’s role will be asked to be increased. Not only is he the go-to man down at the hot corner this season; should anything go wrong up the middle with Zack Cozart, it will almost assuredly be the young Frazier sliding over to short to pick up the slack.
In many ways, a lot of the Reds success hinges on the bat of Todd Frazier. If he can provide some extra pop and reach base for the bottom of the order, the Reds offensive output will expand exponentially. As always, he will provide more than rock solid defense.
Most importantly, he will continue to be the constant positive presence in the clubhouse that keeps everyone loose and ready to play the game they all love.