Sunday, March 22, 2009

2009 Top Prospect List: #3 Todd Frazier, inf/of

Todd Frazier
Height 6-3, Weight 220, B/T: R/R, DOB: 2/12/1986
2008 Redlegs Baseball Prospect Ranking: #6

Todd Frazier is obviously one of the rising stars in the Reds farm system. He combines a tremendous baseball IQ with very strong baseball skills. He has an innate understanding of how to play the game. The beginning of his professional career has been impressive, but he seems poised to take a significant step forward in 2009.


The Reds continued their trend of advancing prospects rather slowly up the ladder. Frazier, a polished college product was sent back to low-A Dayton to start off 2008. In Dayton, Frazier wasted no time in proving that he was ready for more advanced competition. He posted a stellar slash line of .321/.402/.598/1.000 with 7 homeruns and a 28/15 K/BB ratio in 124 plate appearances. It was obvious for all to see that Frazier needed a promotion and the Reds responded by moving him up to high-A Sarasota.

At Sarasota, Frazier posted a solid .281/.357/.451/.808 slash line with 12 homers and an 84/41 K/BB ratio in 414 plate appearances. Not the most impressive line, but once again context goes a long way, as Frazer was better than his overall numbers. He posted an eye popping line drive rate of 26%, but suffered from the very pitcher-friendly environment in Sarasota. In addition, he was likely a bit unlucky, as his BABIP was "only" .337. Obviously, a .337 mark is ordinarily above average, but it actually seems a bit low in light of his 26% line drive rate. Frazier's overall numbers were dragged down by a bit of bad hit luck and a very unfriendly hitting environment. Even so, the Reds kept him in Sarasota to finish out the season.

As if to illustrate the point that his overall numbers weren't indicative of his true level of performance, Frazier played in the Hawaiian Winter Leagues and quickly took out his frustrations on the opposing pitchers. In Hawaii, he posted a line of .350/.364/.700/1.064 with 1 homer and a 3/0 K/BB ratio.

Oddly enough, the Reds still have yet to decide on a full-time position for Frazier, as during his three stops in 2008 he played shortstop, designated hitter, first base, third base, and leftfield.


Part of the debate on Todd Frazier in prospect circles centers on his unorthodox swing. So, we might as well take another look. The defining characteristic of Frazier's swing is the complete extension of his left arm before the pitch arrives. For comparison sake, below there is a photo of Frazier in between photos of two of the best right-handed hitters of the modern era.

Edgar Martinez and Albert Pujols are two of the best right-handed hitters of all-time and, not surprisingly, have swings that are very fundamentally sound. On the left, Edgar has just completed his stride and has begun to fire his hips. However, for our purposes, the important thing to look at is his left arm, which is bent at the elbow. On the right, Albert Pujols is in the middle of his stride, which is largely just picking up the front foot and placing it back down. However, as with Edgar, you can see some bend in Pujols' lead elbow. If you look at the photo in the middle, then you can see Todd Frazier in mid-stride with a completely extended lead arm. There is no bend in his lead elbow, as he is basically using an "arm bar" type swing. He's managed to reduce it a bit at the professional level, but it is still very pronounced in his swing.

The obvious question on this type of swing is whether it prevents the hitter from handling the inside pitches. If the hitter's arms are extended well before contact, then it becomes much more difficult to turn on inside pitches. This has been the concern with Frazier since his professional debut, but he continues to defy expectations. He obviously understands his swing and what he needs to do to make it work for him. At this point, there is yet to be any indication that Frazier cannot be successful with his current swing. Despite the "arm bar," Frazier gets himself into good hitting position in the contact zone, which is the most important consideration.

Again, comparing Frazier with Pujols (see: photos below), you can see a lot of similarities despite the differences in the early stages of their swings. In the contact zone, their lower bodies are in similar positions and they both keep their head down on the ball. In addition, their hips and shoulders have rotated similar amounts, though Frazier has opened up faster. The main difference between the two can be seen by comparing the position of the right arm. Pujols is effectively utilizing both arms in his swing, but the position of Frazier's right arm indicates that his swing is driven largely by strong shoulder rotation and pulling through with his lead arm. That's especially true on inside pitches, as his "arm bar" swing leaves him little option but to speed up the rotation of his shoulders and spin open to get the bat on the ball.

As of now, the concerns about Frazier's swing are being drastically outweighed by his non-stop production. It's undeniably unorthodox, but style always yields to substance. Frazier continues to get the job done. It's been that way since the Little League World Series all the way through to the professional level and there isn't any reason why it can't continue at the higher levels.


Over the past few years, the Reds player development philosophy seems to have changed, as they have become very deliberate in advancing prospects up the ladder. One would think an advanced college prospect like Frazier would have reached double-A by now, but the Reds have moved him slowly. In addition, another interesting aspect of the development philosophy is their hesitancy to lock players into a defensive position.

As the Reds have improved their farm system, they have added more talent at every position, which has created logjams at the less demanding defensive positions. Instead of being proactive, the Reds have chosen to keep players in positions where there are unlikely to play at the MLB level. Frazier is the clear example of that, as he is still playing primarily shortstop despite the fact that he simply doesn't project as an MLB shortstop.

Frazier lacks the first step quickness and good footwork needed to play shortstop at the higher levels. That said, he is very fundamentally sound. He has good hands and a strong arm, both of which play very well at third base. In addition, his skill set profiles well in leftfield. Ultimately, the Reds simply need to decide where they need him most and let him learn the nuances of that position. Versatility is great, but Frazier has the ability to be an every day player and it's time the Reds develop him accordingly.


Frazier is a very promising prospect. He's a very good athlete and his baseball IQ and overall makeup allow his skill set to play up a tick. His intangibles are very strong, which should make him a good addition on the field and off. Frazier is a heady player who makes his unorthodox swing work for him and once he is given a permanent position, he should be on the fast track to the majors. At this point, Edwin Encarnacion's glove may create an opening at third base and Frazier has the skills to fill that opening. For now, Frazier checks in at #3 on the list and it shouldn't be long before he's making an impact at the MLB level.


  1. lark don't you love our stockpile of third baseman?

    Obviously all of them arn't going to be able to find positions on the reds so there will be some sort of trade, it will be interesting to see how this plays out if we are in the wildcard race at the trade deadline

  2. Smitty,

    Yeah, I must say, it's fun to talk about the farm system when there is so much quality in it. As for third basemen, it is great to have so many different options. Over the years, my appreciation for top quality team defense has only increased, so it pains me to see Edwin Encarnacion play third base. He's just not capable. At all. So, I do think we need to find a replacement. Personally, I would have moved him off of third or traded him away a year or two ago. But, in a display of either extreme faith or sheer incompetence, we continue to run him out there. So, the replacement now will likely come from within the organization.

    Personally, I think Frazier is the best of the bunch at third. We currently have a lot of players playing third, but I'm not sure we have that many true MLB third basemen. I could be wrong, but I think Francisco will outgrow the position and need to be moved. Chris Valaika could see time there, but his bat profiles better in the middle infield. Adam Rosales can handle it, but he is looking like a utility infielder more than anything else. Alex Buchholz played quite a bit of third at Delaware, but ideally he'll be able to stick as a middle infielder. And, I'm not yet convinced that Neftali Soto has the footwork and reactions to play third.

    To me, Frazier is the best of the bunch and has the best well rounded skill set to play the position. Hopefully, the Reds lock him in at the position in 2009 and see what develops.

    Thanks for the comment!!


  3. Assuming your next two are Soto (2) and Alonso (1). How do you see the team next year?

    Would you have Votto in left, and Alonso at first. Who is at third and short? What could Encarnacion bring in a trade? Does Frazier profile to have as good as bat as Encarnacion?

    Good work, bro.

  4. Hey Anon,

    Thanks for the comment. As for #1 and #2 on the list, you'll just have to wait and see. Who knows, Sean Watson hasn't made an appearance yet. ;)

    Personally, I really value defense. So, I wouldn't agree with putting Votto in left to accommodate Alonso. Personally, I think it's an either/or decision with those two. I just don't think either can be league average at any position other than first base. So, I'd like to see us follow the path blazed by the Brewers with Matt LaPorta. Decide which one is more valuable to the team (i.e. production, cost, return in trade, etc) and trade the other.

    As for the outfield, I'd love to see a starting outfield of Chris Dickerson/Drew Stubbs/Jay Bruce. Of course, that depends on Dickerson and Stubbs continuing to develop at the plate. They'd cover the outfield from foul line to foul line and each could be a very valuable offensive player. To me, the Achilles heel of the Reds of late has been the defense.

    It's damn near impossible to win with Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn, and Edwin Encarnacion all in the starting lineup. They simply don't convert enough balls-in-play into outs. Too many outs are turned into hits and even extra base hits. Dunn and Griffey are gone, which leaves only Edwin, who if he's not the worst defensive 3b, then he's at least in the discussion.

    If it were up to me, I'd trade Edwin while some teams still view him as a third baseman. His bat simply won't play as well if he slides down the defensive spectrum. You could shift him to left, but we have better and cheaper options coming up through the farm system.

    In the future, I think you're looking at Valaika at short and probably Frazier at third. Personally, I'd like to see the Reds look for a better defensive option than Valaika, as I don't like to see the word "fringe" used as a descriptor of the defensive abilities of my shortstop. Still, he could surprise and be competent with the glove and he's the best option we have. To be honest, I haven't given up on Paul Janish yet. If he could hit .260 (with the corresponding ~.350 OBP) and provide plus defense, then I'd consider giving him a look. Still, the shortstop of the future may have to come from outside the organization and maybe from the Yonder/Votto trade.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment!


  5. Lark,

    Ok, what I also wanted to add was when do you see these trade/shifts happening? This year? This off season?

    Yet another question...

    How far off was Hildenbrandt and Horst from making your list?

  6. Anon,

    Well, I must say, your first question really got me thinking. Obviously, those are the moves that I think need to be made, but if I was in charge of those types of things, then for better or (more likely) worse the team would look a lot different. So, it got me to thinking about what the Reds would really do with this surplus talent. So, I'll try to read the tea leaves.

    First, I must say, I'm not a huge fan of the brain trust in this organization. Walt Jocketty was fired from the Cardinals in large part because he resisted the efforts underway to establish greater statistical analysis and modernize the front office. That's problematic because Edwin's defensive shortcomings are most evident through statistical analysis.

    If you don't use the new defensive metrics, then you might think that Edwin's defensive problems are limited to his poor throws. In actuality, he struggles with the balls he reaches AND gets to far fewer balls than he should. So, Jocketty might not see the true extent of the problem and he might have been serious when he declared Edwin to be "untouchable" in trade talks last year. In short, Jocketty may actually LIKE Edwin at third base.

    If that's the case, then it might explain why the Reds aren't playing Frazier at third in the minors. They may not feel that they actually NEED a long term solution at third. Following that line of reasoning, it's possible that the reason they haven't moved him to leftfield full-time is that they ARE planning on moving Votto to left to accommodate Yonder Alonso at first.

    Another piece of this particular puzzle may be that they don't seem to have much faith in Chris Dickerson. They brought in Willy Taveras to hold down center, when Dickerson is likely to be the better overall player.

    It's tough to read this front office, but the tea leaves point to the following lineup in 2010:

    c) R.Hernandez
    1b) Y.Alonso
    2b) B.Phillips
    3b) E.Encarnacion
    ss) C.Valaika
    lf) J.Votto
    cf) W.Taveras
    rf) J.Bruce

    That's not the way I would go, but that may be the direction we are heading. Maybe it would be for the best.


  7. As for Hildenbrant and Horst, I gave them each a look, but they didn't quite make the cut. I like Horst a bit better than Hildenbrandt. Horst is a southpaw with good size, good numbers, and better ground ball tendencies. Hildenbrandt was pretty good, too, but ultimately I want to see a larger sample size against a more advanced level of competition before I'd consider putting them in the top 25. I'll be watching Horst closely in 2009, as he could move quickly up the list with a good performance.

    For now, they just haven't shown enough to rate quite that high, but you're right in that each is worth knowing. Both have potential and the ability to move up the list in 2009. Horst is a pretty good sleeper and Hildenbrandt intrigues as well.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment!!


  8. Lark,

    How do I post my name on this thing?

    To add to my questions before? Does Sulbaran start in Dayton?

    Do you think Bailey can be effective out of the bullpen?

    Are you worried that the strong relievers (Roenicke, Fisher, Manuel) are wasting their time in AAA? I mean, they are all 25 plus.

    Where do you get all this information about players?

    Thanks man,


  9. Parker,

    I think there are a couple of different ways to post your name with your comment. If you have a google account (i.e. gmail, etc), then you can select that option in the "Comment as" drop down box. When you sign in under your account, that's how your comment will be listed.

    There are a couple of other options listed in the drop down as well, but if you want to keep it simple then you can just select the "Name/URL" option. This will allow you to comment under whatever name you like without having it be tied to some other account. You can just add "Parker" to the name field, which will change it from "Anonymous said..." to "Parker said..." You can leave the URL field blank or add one in if you want, it works either way.

    I think that's all you'll need.

    I'll get your baseball questions in the next comment.


  10. Now, on to the fun stuff.

    We seem to be on the same wavelength, because you've asked questions that I've been chewing on as of late. In your recent comment, it was the question about our relievers wasting away at triple-A.

    When I heard the news about Homer being an option out of the bullpen, that's exactly what I was thinking. I'm very high on Josh Roenicke, but as you mentioned he's already 26 years old. He was a late convert to pitching, but he seems ready for the majors. In 3.0 MLB innings, he has struck out 6 hitters. You also mention Fisher and Manuel, who have had very strong minor league seasons of late. So, I do worry that these guys are wasting away.

    To be fair, the Reds got rather unlucky when Weathers chose to return to Cincy. Not only did we miss out on draft pick compensation, but it complicated the make-up of the bullpen. We already have 6 slots filled (FC, DW, JB, BB, AR, ML), so we have only 1 slot left. To me, it makes very little sense to plug Homer into that slot when you have guys who have been groomed as relievers ready to step in.

    If Homer misses out on the 5th spot in the rotation, then he should be sent back to triple-A until he earns a starting slot. I know some people like the idea of breaking in young pitchers as relievers and then switching them to the rotation once they have their feet under them. To me, that's just not the way to go right now. Homer has no experience out of the bullpen and I'm not sure that carrying him as the 7th man in the bullpen would be putting him in the best position to succeed. If he's used as a reliever, then he wouldn't be able to get regular work in between starts, which can be important to learning and development. Does using him in low leverage, mop up innings really do anything to help Homer or the ball club?

    Add in the fact that you have a potentially dominant arm in Josh Roenicke just waiting for an opportunity to do what he has been groomed to do and I just don't see the logic of it. I'm not quite as high on Fisher or Manuel, but I'd rather see either get the finally spot in the bullpen than Bailey.

    At this point, I'm not sure where Bailey would be effective, but I think keeping him in the bullpen over Roenicke (and, to a lesser extent Fisher/Manuel) would be a mistake.

    As for Sulbaran, I think he absolutely starts off with Dayton. He's shown enough in international competition to warrant starting off in low-A. I don't think it makes sense to send him to a short-season rookie league at this point. He's demonstrated that he can handle tough international competition, so he should be fine in Dayton.

    As for the information on the players, I use just about every source I can get my hands on. I rely on professional publications like Baseball America, other baseball bloggers (John Sickels, etc), follow the games myself, study video clips, and, of course, analyze the statistics. There isn't any one source that I completely agree with, rather I just gather as much information/data as I can to formulate my own opinions on the players.

    Anyway, thanks for the comments!!


  11. Whatever happened to Stephen Smitherman?

  12. Parker,

    Last I heard about Smitherman was the 2006 season he spent in the Padre organization. As far as I know, he has retired. At the very least, he's not playing professional ball in the United States.

    Right or wrong, he was the flavor of the month for a while, but he never really got a shot. Who knows, maybe if the circumstances were different he would have gotten a longer look and parlayed it into a few years at the MLB level.

    It's interesting how much timing, opportunity, and luck play into the careers of the non-star players. Jack Cust, for instance, almost never got a legitimate shot at the big leagues, but he obviously belongs there. Still, if Billy Beane had not plucked him from obscurity, then Cust probably would have faded away without establishing himself as a big leaguer. Doubtful, but maybe it would have been the same with Smitherman.


  13. Really off topic here but im doing a school project on the legalization of marijuana. Who here agrees with me that it should be leagl?

  14. you know the Reds will not(and should not) put Bailey in long relief...long relief will go to the other guy in the competition for the #5 guy(who's name escapes me at the moment)...i also think that Herrera and to a lesser degree Viola should get a spot instead of bray...Bray still has options doesn't he? Do you think a short man like Viola be used in long relief? I would really have liked the Reds to not have signed Rhodes, Taveras or Weathers and went after somebody for Left Field and let Dickerson play center...I also hate the thought of moving Votto to left and would love to see the outfield of the future be Dickerson, Stubbs and Bruce

  15. Hey Anon,

    Thanks for the comment.

    I agree that the Reds should not put Homer in the bullpen. Personally, I think he should be starting in triple-A and the unofficial news is that Micah Owings has likely won the 5th spot. If true, then I'd much prefer to see Homer back in the minors earning his way up.

    As for Bray, his shoulder seems to be of perpetual concern. Once again he had soreness and seems to be behind everyone else. If he's healthy, then I think he's an asset and the Reds will absolutely give him a slot in the pen. If not, then I'm not sure to whom the Reds would turn to fill his slot. Personally, I think Josh Roenicke needs to be in our bullpen. He's a power arm who could be a shutdown late inning reliever in a hurry. I'd also like to see Herrera get a shot, especially in light of his heavy groundball tendencies. He doesn't look like an MLB player, but he has consistently gotten the job done wherever he has been. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to be in the organization's plans, but I like him.

    As for Viola, the Reds switched him over to a starting role mid-way through 2008, so I'm not sure how they intend to use him in 2009. Regardless of the role, I don't think he's quite ready. I'd like to see what he does in the early part of 2008, but I do think he's pretty close. He just needs a bit more polish before he hits the big leagues.

    I'm right there with you on the Rhodes, Taveras, and Weathers signings. I'm probably wrong, but the Rhodes signing keeps reminding me of the Mike Stanton signing. As for Taveras, only the Reds would sign a player like Willy T and move a player like Dickerson down the defensive spectrum to left field to accommodate him. Dickerson may not pan out, but he's obviously got the defensive skills to handle centerfield. And, if he develops into a 20/20 type threat with good on base skills, then he'd be incredibly valuable in center and slightly less so in left. As for Weathers, I just think the Reds got unlucky. I loved that they were trolling for a compensatory draft pick, unfortunately the economy chilled the free agent market and the Reds end up reeling in Weathers again. I think they played that one just about right, but just got unlucky. But, I agree, I'm not wild about having any of those three in the mix for 2009.

    Unfortunately, all signs seem to point to the Reds keeping both Votto and Alonso, which would force Votto to play left. If Dickerson, Stubbs, and Bruce all continue to progress towards their offensive ceilings, then I think the defense they provide will be much more valuable than any extra offense that might be provided by having Votto and Alonso in the same lineup. If Dickerson lights it up offensively in 2009, then maybe there's a chance, but right now I'd wager that both Votto and Alonso are in our 2010 lineup.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment!


  16. Anon,

    As for the legalization issue, I'm not a fan of legalization of drugs (performance enhancing or recreational) and don't think it would really solve any societal problems. It might lessen the strain on the judicial system and ease the overcrowding of jails/prisons in our country. But, that's probably more of an argument for different kind of judicial sentencing guidelines, rather than than an argument for legalization of marijuana. You could argue for the legalization of any crime on the basis of judicial economy and prison overcrowding, but that doesn't make it a good idea.

    Unfortunately, the use of illegal drugs is a challenging and multifaceted problem. To tie it back to baseball, you do hear some fans argue that steroid use should be permitted under the rules. However, that seems to be the same kind of argument that because it's so tough to enforce and police, it should just be permitted. And, with IPEDs, testers will ALWAYS be behind the users. Testers cannot test for an IPED until they know it exists, as they have to know specifically what to look/test for before they can find it. So, it's a difficult problem on a lot of levels, but to me, just because the battle is difficult, doesn't mean that it isn't worth suiting up for it.

    Anyway, it is way off topic, so I'm not sure if you are serious or not, but thought I'd throw it out there. Of course, I'm sure you'll have greater success if you raise the issue in a different forum.



  18. Hey Anon,

    Thanks for the link! Very interesting to see the Reds finally settle the defensive position issue for a number of different prospects.

    I'll admit that I'm a bit surprised to see Frazier go to left and Francisco stay at third. I'll be curious to see if Francisco outgrows the position. In addition, I'm not sure what this does to Frazier. If the Reds plan on shifting Votto to left to accommodate Alonso at 1b, then Frazier again becomes a man without a position.

    Also curious to see Valaika get shifted over to second. Are they just trying to increase his versatility? Possibly. Still, it seems like an indictment of his defensive abilities at short. So, perhaps our search for a longterm shortstop continues...

    Anyway, thanks for the update!! I appreciate it.


  19. What do you think the chances are if the Reds are still in the hunt later in the season trading some prospects, probably alonso as the highlight of the trade, for a bat like Matt Holliday. He plays left, an uncertainty for the Reds, is a free agent after this season and everyone knows the A's love prospects. Only reason I can find it wouldn't work is the Reds probably can't sign him long term.

  20. Hey Anon,

    If the Reds are in the hunt, then I think they'll try hard to add SOMEONE for a playoff push. When the owner, GM, and manager are all paying lip service to the concept of "winning now," then I'm not sure how they can NOT make a move. Of course, that all depends on the Reds being in contention.

    I'm sure the A's would LOVE to get their hands on a hitter like Yonder, who has the power and patience that Beane loves. And, Holliday would be just about ideal for the Reds, but you hit the nail on the head. How open would he be to signing with the Reds?

    Judging by the comments he has made, I'd say "not very." The quotes I see in the paper seem to be code for "I want to play for the Yankees." Maybe he won't end up in pinstripes, but I think he wants to be in a large market where they have the payroll to be a constant threat for the postseason.

    So, the question becomes, would it be worth it to the Reds to trade Yonder Alonso for 3 months of Matt Holliday and compensatory draft picks? I'd be curious to know what others think about that.

    Given how long it's been since the Reds sniffed the postseason, I'd be very tempted. But, of course, I'm not a fan of the idea of shifting Yonder or Votto to leftfield to get them both in the lineup, so I tend to think a trade is necessary. Of course, I'd rather trade a package of talent for a long-term solution instead of a rental.

    Still, a Matt LaPorta for C.C. type trade involving Yonder *could* be a reality if the Reds can hang in for the next month. If I had to guess, I'd say the Reds are much more likely to hang on to Yonder and package up some lesser prospects for a lesser return. Reading the tea leaves makes me think that the Reds are committed to shifting Votto to left and plugging Yonder in at first.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment!!