White Sox Player Profile: Todd Frazier

Oct 3, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier (21) fields a ground ball against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fifth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 3, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier (21) fields a ground ball against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fifth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Todd Frazier will be playing third base for the Chicago White Sox this season. Let that sink in for a minute.

Todd Frazier. Yes, that Todd Frazier, The one who slashed .255/.309/.498 with 35 home runs and 43 doubles for the Cincinnati Reds last season.

The same All-Star who won Cincy fans over by winning 2015’s Home Run Derby in dramatic fashion, and on his home turf to boot.

Seeing Todd Frazier draped in White Sox apparel via photos from SoxFest feels almost surreal to me, considering that he was at the top of my wish list for quite some time.

Back in July, any conversations surrounding Frazier felt like a non-starter. There was a little chatter about the New York Mets dipping their toes into the fray, but the Reds were pretty adamant that he wasn’t going anywhere.

Remember that the trade deadline came just a couple weeks after Todd Frazier gave Cincinnati what might be its most thrilling baseball moment for the foreseeable future. As is the calculus with any franchise shifting move, in which a star is sent packing and a gaggle of prospects finds its way into the receiving team’s lap, it’s not a transaction that lies totally within the foul lines.

Frazier was the face of the Reds, the definition of a fan favorite, and that meant that his price tag was going to be near prohibitive.

This made any deal bringing Frazier to the South Side feel more like a pipe dream than anything that would warrant palpable conversation.

Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

Nonetheless, I put finger to keyboard in July and drew up the best package I could think of. Todd Frazier for shortstop Tim Anderson, right-handed pitcher Frankie Montas, and third-basemen Trey Michalczewski. Even that felt light at the time, considering that teams with much better trade currency (Like the aforementioned Mets) were also said to be in on him. Usually, that drives the equilibrium price well beyond what a team shooting for sustained success is willing to divvy out.

Then the offseason arrived and Frazier stood as one of the top positional targets once the Reds claimed they were open for business. The Frazier trade unfolded in a way that turned many heads in the industry. It appeared to be an AL Central showdown as the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians had their eye on the infielder as well.

Of course the smoke surrounding Chicago was that Tim Anderson was off the table in discussions, and when Brett Lawrie was acquired it appeared as though the White Sox were hedging against the possibility that they would in fact miss out on the offseason’s prize.

But on December 16th, Hahn pulled off arguably the offseason’s greatest coup, he brought Frazier to the Windy City.

Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

The cost: right-handed pitcher Frankie Montas, outfielder Trayce Thompson, and second-basemen Micah Johnson. The deal included the Los Angeles Dodgers who took home the above prospects, and then sent a consensus lesser trio in Jose Peraza, Brandon Dixon, and Scott Schebler to the Reds.

Again, how did Hahn pull this off? The how is difficult to answer as it was a move sewn out of creativity, a Hahn specialty. The why is a little easier to surmise.

Todd Frazier gives the White Sox some credibility going into 2016 and I think he’s set to have a monster year.

The New Jersey slugger’s first half line was .284/.337/.585 (.922 OPS) with 25 home runs, and 26 doubles.

For fun, we’ll compare this to a couple other statistics.

Here’s how the White Sox did at 3B (a power position)in 2015:

.226/.277/.345 (.622 OPS) with 13 home runs and 23 doubles

So Todd Frazier’s first half line and counting stats were better than the production the White Sox got from the position all last season.

Again, third base is usually a position where teams store their power.

White Sox third basemen home runs (2013-2015): 39

Todd Frazier home runs (2015): 35

So Todd Frazier in one season basically out hit the likes of what Conor Gillaspie, Tyler Saladino, Gordon Beckham, and Jeff Keppinger complied over an aggregate of three seasons.

So no, Todd Frazier is not a band-aid at the hot corner. He’s more of a heart transplant.

That’s why MLB.com dubbed him as this offseason’s biggest upgrade. Frazier was a 4.4 win player in 2015 per FanGraphs. That’s a 5.7 win improvement over the what the White Sox got from the position (-1.3 fWAR) last year.

Dan Szymborski’s ZiPs projections have Frazier pegged at 3.7 wins in 2016. There’s a little regression there, but that upgrade is still eye-popping. In fact, he’s projected to be Chicago’s most valuable position player, edging out the likes of Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton.

Of course, defensive metrics play a role in that. They’re not kind to Abreu and hate Eaton, but generally rate Todd Frazier as above average at the hot corner (7.2 UZR, 6 DRS).

Even the eye test says Frazier will be a significant defensive upgrade over incumbents Conor Gillaspie, or worse, Mike Olt.

Frazier was a Gold-Glove finalist in 2015, and with him the White Sox have truly acquired a player who is plus on both sides of the ball.

Of course, the elephant in the room with Frazier is his dreadful second half and whether or not that’s the beginning of a new baseline trend.

The second half saw Frazier post a .220/.274/.390 line with 10 home runs and 17 doubles. That still actually projects out to around 20 HR and 34 2B for a full season. It’s not a clean conversion, but to stem concerns a bit, Todd Frazier’s second half parlayed across a full season still would have been an upgrade production wise.

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Why Frazier fell off is hard to decipher. The K-rate jumped from 17.4% to 23.7% and his BABIP hung around .256. You could expect some positive regression there. Although, Frazier’s first half .282 BABIP was also extremely light considering his output.

The night and day difference is in the ISO. .301 for the first half compared to .170 for the second. His ground ball rate went up some, but the real difference seemed to be fueled by a lower HR/FB ratio. He had an 18.4% mark before the break and a 10.4% mark after.

So the easiest translation is that his fly balls just weren’t leaving the yard despite surprisingly harder contact.

Frazier’s line to the pull-side was .393/.391/.817 compared to a .186/.184/.324 opposite-field line, so it’s possible that pitchers made an adjustment.

The suppressed BABIP and the fact that his overall strength of contact was stable leads me to believe Frazier ran into some bad luck in the second half. He also rode an unsustainable .424 ISO to the pull-side all year, so the raking he did the first half is also somewhat overblown.

The overall take is that Frazier is highly unlikely to mirror his first half production over a full season, but it’s also a good bet that his second half is not the new normal. For someone who has averaged 28 home runs annually over roughly five seasons, I think between 30-40 home runs over an entire year is very possible for Frazier in 2016.

He should transition from hitter friendly Great American Ballpark to U.S. Cellular field without issue and if he can continue to mash from the pull-side and avoid the unusual cratering that occurred last year, a 40/100 season is certainly in the realm of possibility.

Then there are the intangibles as well. Frazier will immediately become a centerpiece, giving the White Sox three legit stars between him, Chris Sale and Jose Abreu. Although, Jose Quintana and Adam Eaton should make their own cases this season.

This comment via CBS Chicago’s Chris Emma stands out to me:

Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

"“You got to step your game up,” Frazier said in an interview at SoxFest. “You got to focus a little bit more — just a little bit more.”"

“Just a little bit more” is a message this team needs to take notice of. For whatever reason, the White Sox have been prone the last few seasons to seemingly check out. The fundamentals fall off and there just seems to be something missing. Maybe Frazier’s detected it and believes the remedy is an opportunity for a higher ceiling of focus.

Baseball is a game filled with nuances, and as cliche as it sounds, it rides on giving credence to the little things that add up to a greater whole. Maybe that means going from first to third. It could mean going over different contingencies on defense before a play actually happens.

If Frazier can instill a greater consciousness on the field, that could go a long way to cleaning up the sloppy play fans have seen lately.

The hope is that Frazier can be an accountability hub in the dugout and allow some of the fire in him to lead not only by example, but also by instruction.

In Frazier, the White Sox have acquired a legit clean-up hitter, solid glove, model clubhouse guy, and a media darling. Not bad for the price.

Rick Hahn may want to give himself a cameo on an extreme makeover show because he’s turned a dilapidated eyesore into a downright draw, and in 2016 Todd Frazier will be worth the price of admission.