Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier finished third in the National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2012, as he hit .273 with 19 home runs and 67 RBI over 465 plate appearances (128 games). His home run and RBI totals were similar last season, 19 and 73 respectively, but his batting average fell to .234 and he had 600 plate appearances over 150 games played.
New Reds’ manager Bryan Price has said he wants the team to be more aggressive on the bases this season, and he has singled out Frazier as a player who could get more opportunities to run. With solid power numbers likely to already be coming, could Frazier emerge as an elite fantasy third baseman in 2014?
Frazier only has 10 stolen bases on 17 attempts so far in his major league career, but he did have 31 steals on 39 attempts as a minor leaguer in 2010 and 2011 and may have some untapped potential in that area if Price makes good on his promise to give players the green light more often.
A significant drop in his batting average on balls in play last season (.269; .316 in 2012) is the primary reason Frazier’s batting average fell 39 points, so better fortune should bring a better result this year. As a hitter who hits a lot of fly balls (39.7 percent last season) and ground balls (42.2 percent in 2013) Frazier will not hit .300 anytime soon, but last year’s .234 average may wind up standing as the low mark of his career.
A likely increase in his home run/fly ball rate (11.7 in 2013) makes Frazier a virtual lock to top 20 home runs in 2014, and 70-75 RBI is a reasonable projection as well. He has an excellent chance to outperform his draft position in mixed leagues regardless, but if Frazier can steal double-digit bases that will only enhance his value and potential upside. No third baseman had 20 home runs, 70 RBI and 10 stolen bases last season, though Kyle Seager of the Seattle Mariners did come very close (22 home runs, 69 RBI and nine stolen bases) and multiple others reached or topped two of those numbers.
Frazier will not help fantasy owners in batting average, but if he can settle in somewhere around .260 this year his value will not be diminished too much. If he can reach the aforementioned marks of 20 home runs, 70 RBI and 10 stolen bases, Frazier has an excellent chance to finish 2014 as a top-10 third baseman in mixed leagues and a top-five scorer at the position in NL-only leagues.
Brad Berreman is a Senior Writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.