In today's game, fans are capable of tracking their favorite players through the minor league ranks in variety of mediums which generate significant amount of excitement when a young star is called up to the big leagues. Players in their early 20s are known and scrutinized by a large portion of the baseball community as fans can follow online via MiLB.TV, pick up the most recent Baseball America, or frequent the myriad of sites devoted entirely to player development. One player who seemed to fly mostly under the radar however is Reds third baseman Todd Frazier.
Frazier was chosen 34th overall in the 2007 draft as a sandwich round pick by the Cincinnati Reds. Per Baseball America, Frazier was the top of the Reds prospect class in 2009, at which time he was ranked 43 on the BA top 100 prospect list. He then stalled a bit, dropped to number nine in the Cincy system and did not appear on another top 100 list.
Frazier spent a total of nearly two full seasons with AAA Louisville Bats broken over three seasons (two partial seasons bookended by AA and the majors) and he did not get the call up to the show until 2011. Since then, per Fangraphs wins above replacement he has progressed from solid regular player to all star, progressing from 2.6 (2012), 3.2 (2013), and 4.8 (2014).
Compared to league average, Frazier has been above average at the plate most years (121 and 122 wRC+ in 2012 and 2014, respectively) but he is far ahead of where he has been previously so far in 2015. He is hitting 68 percent above league average and has mashed 23 home runs. He is hitting for average (.291 average) and power (.631 slugging), and has even stolen eight bases.
He is continuing to trend in the right direction and has already amassed nearly 4.0 fWAR this season and seems to have identified what was a clear weakness in his approach at the plate prior to 2015. Thus far this season, he seems to have successfully adjusted his approach at the plate by no longer chasing offspeed pitches. Take a look at the graph from Brooks Baseball:
2011 is a bit of a wash, as Frazier only came to the plate a total of 121 times, but there is a significant improvement against breaking balls compared to his previous career total. He has cut his whiff rate by 44 percent against breaking balls when compared to last season.
Frazier is swinging and missing at offspeed pitches far less often, which has contributed to a decrease in his strikeouts from a strikeout rate of about 21 percent to a bit over 17 percent. Though his walk rate remains mostly unchanged from his career average, his batting average is up significantly. It is also worth noting this increase cannot be explained away via an inflated batting average on balls in play, a common theme at this point in the season. Frazier's BABIP currently sits at .284.
Undoubtedly, Frazier is swinging and missing far less often on offspeed pitches and is supplemented with just fewer swings on the offspeed pitch in general, though at less of a percentage decrease. Again, per Brooks Baseball:
Although it took a while for Todd Frazier to find his groove, he has developed into a top player and is well on his way to his second all star game in a row. By adjusting his approach at the plate against offspeed pitches he has developed into a player who not only can harness 30+ home run power, but can also hit for average and be a complete player in the middle of the Reds lineup. The 2014 offseason seems to have done Frazier a significant bit of good, and he has made an impactful adjustment.