Reds infielder Todd Frazier turned heads in the fantasy realm with a promising rookie season as a fill-in for Scott Rolen and Joey Votto. Now that he has third base all to himself, he is poised to become a solid source of power in NL-only formats.
All the Rookie of the Year hype before the 2012 season centered around once-in-a-generation phenom Bryce Harper, but Harper almost had the hardware stolen from under his nose by a much less heralded rookie from Cincinnati. The Reds' Todd Frazier popped up on the major league scene last year as a sort of jack-of-all-trades player and became one of fantasy baseball's most pleasant surprises, hitting 19 home runs and slugging .498. Frazier rated as a decent prospect who was blocked by a strong Reds infield, but once injuries mounted and Frazier began to hit well, it was hard for even the traditionally ephebiphobic Dusty Baker to keep him out of the lineup.
Frazier started the season at AAA, where he had made himself quite comfortable every year since 2009. Frazier was drafted by the Reds in the first round of the 2007 draft and made his way up the minor league chain rather quickly before screeching to a halt at Louisville. Frazier produced well enough in the minors; he displayed decent pop to go with speed and the ability to play several different positions. His only problem was that he was blocked at pretty much all of these positions on the major league club. Joey Votto, Scott Rolen, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Phillips all stood in his path to a big league starting role, and the addition of Ryan Ludwick prevented him from stealing the left field job.
Then the inevitable injuries came. Scott Rolen turned into his usual injured mess of a self and went down in May, enabling Frazier to get regular time at third base. When Rolen came back, Frazier simply moved across the diamond to take over for Joey Votto, who missed six weeks in the middle of the summer due to a knee injury. When Votto came back from the DL, Frazier was hitting so well that the Reds had little choice but to keep playing him. With Rolen performing like a shell of his former self, it was easier to justify playing Frazier, and the two essentially split time at third base in the season's final month after Votto came back. Frazier's hot bat enabled the Reds to weather the injury to their star player and remain on course to the playoffs.
Frazier has clubbed 25 home runs in 586 major league at-bats, and that's what makes him most interesting to fantasy owners. He'd shown decent power in the minor leagues and that definitely translated to the Show last season. The homer-friendly environs of Great American Ballpark will only help his fantasy cause. While he (disappointingly) didn't display much of the stolen base ability he had in AAA (17 steals there in 2011), he still projects as a potential 25-homer third baseman, a nice down-draft option and sleeper candidate in NL-only leagues.
One major concern is his nightmarish month of September, where he hit a brutal .176/.235/.257 and lost his starting job. His month-long slump essentially relegated him to backup status as the playoffs neared, and he started just one of the Reds' five playoff games against the Giants. Frazier was hitting a shiny .295/.352/.549 going into that final month. The worry among fantasygoers is that pitchers may have figured him out.
I think I'll choose to focus more on Frazier's red-hot July and August, and chalk up his miserable final month to small sample size fooferah. He almost certainly isn't going to hit .300, but he doesn't strike out enough to hurt you and he should continue to slug enough to be useful. The end product is probably something like .260/25/85, with a strong lineup helping his run and RBI totals. That's a pretty good fantasy third baseman, especially for a relatively unheralded one.
He ranked eighth in our own NL-only third base rankings, and he might be a nice bargain if you wait a little bit and nab him after the top five or so have gone in drafts. He won't murder your team with strikeouts like Pedro Alvarez and he has more power potential than guys like Martin Prado or Chris Johnson. Take a long look at him as a cheaper option in auction NL-only drafts with the potential to have breakout impact.