Frazier Denied ROY

Frazier's Bat and Versatility Key to Reds Success

2012 was quite a roller coaster ride for Todd Frazier. It began with a strong spring training that appeared to have earned a spot on the Reds opening day roster before a late change sent him back to Louisville for the start of the season. However, he soon got his chance and took advantage of opportunities created from injuries to finish third in the balloting for NL Rookie of the Year.

A strong rookie campaign in his first full MLB season earned Todd Frazier a spot as a finalist in the selection of the N.L. Rookie of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association of America. He figured to be a strong contender for the first Red to win the award since Scott Williamson in 1999. It was not to be, as yesterday's announcement informed that he was third in the balloting behind Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper and Diamondbacks lefty pitcher Wade Miley. It was the highest finish for a Cincinnati rookie since Joey Votto was runner-up in 2008.

The final tally revealed the fourth closest margin in NL voting history with Harper receiving 112 vote points to Miley's 105. Frazier was a distant third with only 45, which was a bit surprising after he was voted the league's most outstanding rookie by his peers in the MLB's Players Association Player's Choice Award selection last week. His chances were compromised by a reduction of playing time after teammate Joey Votto returned to action from the DL on September 5. Before that day he led Harper in all major offensive stats despite getting around 80 fewer plate appearances (Frazier: .289 AVG/.347 OB%/.531 SLG/18 HR/62 RBI vs Harper: .256/.325/.433/15/45). After that date Howard finished strong by hitting 7 HR with a .333 AVG/.405 OB over the final month of the season while Frazier hit less than .200 in a reserve role. Their final slash lines for the season were comparable (Frazier: .273/.331/.498/19/67 in 465 PA vs Howard: .270/.340/.477/22/59 in 597 PA). Miley garnered all votes cast for pitching by winning sixteen games with a 3.33 ERA and 144 K/37 BB in 195 innings for the Diamondbacks who finished the season at 81-81.

There didn't figure to be much competition between the two back on opening day. Much hype surrounded the top overall selection of the 2010 draft, Howard, before he made his MLB debut before in late April. Meanwhile Frazier was nowhere on the radar after making a disappointing trip back to AAA Louisville before the season when it appeared that his strong spring training had secured a spot for him on the active roster. Two weeks later he rejoined the Reds to replace injured Miguel Cairo and remained for the rest of the season. The rookie sparked an offense that was struggling at the time after an injury to Scott Rolen opened up regular duty at third base. When Rolen returned he moved across the infield to replace Votto who was removed after the all-star break by a knee injury. Frazier also started seven games in the outfield and went 6-12 as a pinch hitter.

The Reds and Nationals finished similar campaigns, riding the strength of the pitching staffs that tied for the best ERA in the NL to nearly identical records and first round exits in the post season. Frazier was crucial to the Reds success by finishing third on the club in home runs with the fourth highest on-base percentage and filling in wherever needed. The Nationals were no strangers to injury as well and Harper was also in the top four of his squad in those two categories while manning center field.

The 26 year-old Frazier came into the Reds organization out of Rutgers from a supplemental first round pick in the 2007 draft. The former Little League World Series star from Toms River, NJ was the 34th overall selection and compensation for free agent departure Rich Aurelia. After being drafted as a shortstop there were multiple moves during his minor league career as the Reds tried to determine where his glove would fit best. That experience provided him with defensive versatility that the Reds needed. Looking forward it doesn't appear that he'll have to wait for playing time opportunities next season as many speculate he'll take over at the hot corner in 2013. 37 year-old Rolen is now a free agent and likely mulling retirement after multiple trips to the DL limited his productivity over the last two seasons of his distinguished career.

Rookie of the Year or not, manager Dusty Baker was glad to be able to pencil Frazier's name into the lineup frequently in 2012. Sabremetricians put stock in a stat "wins above replacement (WAR)" which is an estimate of the number of wins a player's performance contribute to a team over what could be expected from a replacement had they not been playing. Frazier's WAR was the fourth highest of all Reds hitters this season despite technically being a replacement himself. After spending parts of six different seasons in the minors Frazier has established himself as a solid major leaguer by playing wherever needed. As he looks to build on his MLB career in 2013 it's a safe bet that his skills will be needed again somewhere.

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