Wednesday, August 22, 2012

New Jersey kid gunning for Rookie of the Year

You thought this post was going to be about Trout. Right? We all know now where Vineland, New Jersey is because of that Angels' outfielder. But this post is not about him. He already has the Rookie of the Year Award wrapped up in the American League. Even Darvish is miles behind in the rear-view mirror. No, this post is about a kid from Point Pleasant, New Jersey. His name is Todd Frazier. And Mr. Frazier has quietly been a big part of the new Big Red Machine in Cincinnati. Of course, this writer was born and raised in New Jersey so all of this is quite exciting.

Unlike Mr. Trout, Todd Frazier is not a babe on the baseball diamond. He is not nineteen or twenty. He is twenty-six. He was a first round draft pick back in 2007. Unlike Trout and Harper, the other big news-maker this season, Frazier did not have an immediate rise through the Reds' system. It took Frazier five years to get his cup of coffee in the 2011 season. Part of the problem was that Frazier was drafted as a shortstop. Like most kids drafted as shortstops, he was not very good at it.

So Frazier was bounced around the field. In the minors, he played short, third, second, first and left field. Third base seems to be his best position. And Frazier's bat did not mistake him for that other kid from New Jersey. His first year in 2007, he lit up Rookie ball pretty well, but with no power. The power came on in 2008 in A and A+ ball. Frazier started in Double-A in 2009 and he was promoted to Triple-A. Between the two of them, he put up an .832 OPS. That's good, but not spectacular.

He had a little bit of a dip in 2010, all in Triple-A as his OPS dipped to .781. It was his batting average that dipped the most. The average did not return in 2011 and his OPS rose only to .806. He did get a call up from the Reds and got his feet wet in the majors in 2011. The results were somewhat disappointing. In 41 games, he put up a .727 OPS for the Reds.

After making the Baseball America's Top 100 prospects before the 2009 and 2010 seasons, Frazier fell off the list before the 2011 season. It is hard to call a 26 year old without a set position a prospect, especially when his numbers were not setting the world on fire.

That makes what Todd Frazier is doing this season a pleasant surprise. He got some playing time with the health issues of Scott Rolen and because the other back up infielder was Miguel Cairo. With all due respect to Miguel Cairo...he IS Miguel Cairo. Frazier played a lot in Rolen's absences and now he is playing a lot with Joey Votto out with knee problems. While Frazier is no Joey Votto (who is?), he has performed well no matter whose place he is taking.

To date, Frazier has compiled a .913 OPS is good for an OPS+ of 137. has him at 2.3 rWAR while has him at 2.8. The Fangraphs' evaluation ranks him second among rookie offensive players behind only that other kid from New Jersey. Frazier's 18 homers exceeds expectations and is higher than any year total he had in the minors. He has added twenty doubles and five triples. Frazier's .383 wOBA places him only behind Trout among rookie position players.

You would think that some of those numbers have been because he plays his home games in that little bandbox of a Great American Park. But that is actually not the case. He has better numbers on the road than he does at home. He also had very similar splits against right-handed or left-handed pitchers. He walks more against right-handed pitchers but also strikes out more.

Frazier's line drive percentage has been fantastic but he needs better plate discipline and he needs to swing and miss a bit less often. But overall, his season has been dynamic and has filled two huge holes for the Reds this season with equal aplomb and has helped keep the Reds' offense rolling.

So who is Frazier's competition in the National League? For position players, both his teammate, Zach Cozart, and Harper are in the conversation. Neither is as good as Frazier with a bat but have better fielding scores. Among pitchers, Miley of Arizona has a good size lead on Frazier in the WAR department. Miley would have to be considered the front runner. Fiers of the Brewers, Lynn of the Cardinals and Harrell of the Astros are contenders.

But Todd Frazier has a chance and if he gets enough playing time and if Miley falters at all, both leagues could have an all-New Jersey podium for the Rookie of the Year Award. And that would be kind of cool for  this former Jersey kid.

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