By: Chris Larson
Over the last nine weeks of the offseason, a lot of attention was focused around the big named free agents on the market. For starters, there was right-handers Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg that headlined the pitching side of things complimented by a trio of left-handers in Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Over on the position player side of things, all of the attention was dedicated to third baseman, Anthony Rendon.
Since the signing of Anthony Rendon with the Los Angeles Angels, there has been plenty of attention given to the other options in the third base market including Josh Donaldson along with options on the trade market including Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs and Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies. Despite that and the fact of how many teams are still in the market for a third baseman, very little attention has been given to Todd Frazier.
Todd Frazier, otherwise known by some as The ToddFather, closed out last season as part of the New York Mets and put up a: .251/.329/.443 slash line over the span of 499 plate appearances with the team. Over that span, Frazier recorded (21) home runs, (67) RBI, (40) walks, and an OPS+ of (106). When you add up those offensive statistics together, it gave Frazier a Runs Above Average (RAA) value of (8) along with a (2.2) Wins Above Replacement (WAR) value. Nowhere near the level of impact of Anthony Rendon or Josh Donaldson from last season, but no where near terrible either.
Frazier, who turns 34 in February, will likely begin to receive more attention once Josh Donaldson comes off the board and the picture becomes clearer on the aforementioned Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado on the trade market. Some teams might be skeptical about Frazier's age and some of the analytical metrics that are used to determine a players worth in all thirty front offices across the league, but there's some promise still left in those metrics as well.
Many of the common metrics that teams analyze rated Todd Frazier closer to the poor end of the scale compared to the average part for 2019. Last season, Frazier concluded the year with an Average Exit Velocity of (88.2 MPH), which put him in the seventeenth percentile compared to the rest of the league in that category, and had an XWOBA (Expected Weighted On-Base Average) value of (.315), which put him in the thirty-first percentile in that category. Expected Weighted On-Base Average is important because it takes into account a player's cumulative exit velocity, launch angle, and batted ball sprint speed over the course of an entire season. Based on Expected Weighted On-Base Average, that put Todd Frazier at the same valuation as Clint Frazier of the New York Yankees, Chad Pinder of the Oakland Athletics, Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants, Willy Adames of the Tampa Bay Rays, and Adam Frazier of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Notice all of the Frazier names in there, it must be a trend for that last name! (Just kidding, jokes on me)!
Furthermore, another important statistic that teams take into account when trying to evaluate a potential player in free agency or on the trade market is Hard Hit Percentage. When it came to that, Frazier finished the season with a Hard Hit Percentage of (38.4%), which put him near league average, in the forty-seventh percentile. Along with the near league average Hard Hit Percentage for Frazier came a pretty high strikeout percentage at (21.2%) as well. Both of those stats were complimented with a cumulative walk rate of (8.0%) overall. According to data compiled by FanGraphs among 287 qualified batters, the league average strikeout percentage last year was right around (20.2%), while the league average walk rate sat at about (8.3%) respectively.
Now that we have discussed some of the overall metrics that a team's front office might use when evaluating Todd Frazier, let's take a look at some visuals and try to gather more information and data from those about the potential skill set that Frazier could bring to his new team. For starters, let's analyze where Todd Frazier does the most damage in relation to the strike zone when he's up to bat. For more on that, take a look at the graphic below courtesy of Baseball Savant, with data from the 2019 regular season.
As you can see from the graphic, when it came to total run value, Todd Frazier produced positive results in the Chase (+12) and Waste (+8) Zones. Based on the other data in the graphic, opposing team's pitchers threw (25%) of the total pitches, that Todd Frazier saw last season, in the heart of the strike zone, (42%) in the shadow portion which was the highest value of the four zones, (24%) in the chase portion, and (9%) in the waste part of the picture above on the left. Of the pitches that Todd Frazier saw in the heart of the strike zone, he swung a total of (66%) of the time with the league average being (73%) respectively.
Although both the Chase and Waste Zones had positive run values in the graphic above, those weren't the two areas in relation to the strike zone that Todd Frazier did the most offensive damage during the 2019 regular season. For instance, his overall offensive statistics in the heart of the strike zone, produced some promising numbers overall. Take a look at the graphics below for more on that, once again courtesy of data compiled by Baseball Savant.
Based on both of those graphics, it's easy to see that Todd Frazier was dished up quite an assortment of pitches in the heart of the strike zone. However, the most common pitch easily was the four-seamer (red dot in the graphic above) which Frazier had a (.345) batting average against with (9) home runs, an Average Exit Velocity of (95.7 MPH) and a Spin Rate of (2,270 RPM) in this part of the strike zone. In total, there were (180) four-seamers that Todd Frazier saw in this part of the strike zone. When you take into consideration all of the pitches that Frazier saw in this location, it comes out to a (.295) batting average with (14) home runs, a (93.1 MPH) Average Exit Velocity, and Spin Rate of (2,243 RPM). So you can start to see just how much damage Todd Frazier did on four-seamers in the heart of the strike zone and over the plate.
For this next portion of the discussion, we will continue the same exercise but move to the shadow portion of the strike zone instead. The shadow portion is the second most offensive laden area of home plate for Todd Frazier based on last year's pitch metrics. For more, here are two similar graphics to the ones above, again courtesy of Baseball Savant.
One of the most interesting nuggets about this part of the strike zone for Todd Frazier relates to his success against sinker balls. Yes, Frazier saw plenty of four-seamers once again in this area as illustrated by the first graphic above, but the sinker balls (shown as the maroon dots in the graphic above) did quite some damage. In total, Frazier saw (57) sinker balls in this part of the strike zone and put up a (.353) batting average, an Average Exit Velocity of (89.6 MPH), and a Spin Rate of (2,144 RPM). In addition, that pitch produced a Weighted On-Base Average of (.458) as well. Granted, it's an extremely small amount of pitches overall, but indicative of the type of success that Frazier has in relation to the shadow portion of the strike zone. (Pitchers, you might want to take note of this!)
In relation to this part of the strike zone overall, Frazier saw a total of (817) pitches. He put up (7) home runs, a (.244) batting average, an Average Exit Velocity of (85.4 MPH), and a Spin Rate of (2,235 RPM) on those pitches. When analyzing data from the shadow zone of the strike zone, it's important to realize that many times the pitches thrown in this area end up equaling out to be 50/50 (50% balls, 50% strikes). That mean's that a lot of swing and miss is generated in this area, but of course that is going to be dependent on the batter being studied, the type of pitches they see over the course of a season, and the overall amount of discipline they display.
As mentioned previously in this discussion, Todd Frazier had a near league average Hard Hit Percentage this past season at (38.4%). One thing to keep in mind when looking at data in relation to this part of the discussion is the idea of the overall makeup of the baseball from this past season. Some of the dynamics of the baseball certainly had an effect on where the ball traveled and how hard it was hit overall last year for many batters. However, with that being said, nearly all of the Hard Hit Percentages for the three pitch groupings (Fastball, Offspeed, and Breaking) were up with the exception of the Breaking pitches for Todd Frazier. Of those three, the one with the biggest gain occurred in the Fastball category where Todd Frazier had a Hard Hit Percentage of (47.6%) this year compared to (42.1%) last season. When it came to Offspeed pitches, Frazier had a Hard Hit Percentage of (25.9%) in 2019 compared to (23.1%) in 2018 and when it came to Breaking pitches, his Hard Hit Percentage last year was (22.2%) compared to (25.4%) during the 2018 regular season.
Another important consideration when it comes to analyzing Fastballs is the idea that the number of those types of pitches were up for virtually every pitcher last season. Some of that might have had to do with the makeup of the baseball as previously mentioned or the idea of pitchers trying to develop a game plan that would induce more strikeouts than contact overall. Over the next few seasons, it will be fascinating to see what the trends in the data valuations are when it comes to that and to see if batters continue to adjust or if the Hard Hit Percentages for batters around the league keep going up.
To end this portion of the discussion on the metrics for Todd Frazier, let's analyze the groundball and flyball data from this past season and compare it to the data for the 2018 regular season. Groundball and flyball metrics are important because team's take them into consideration when trying to determine what type of impact a position player will have on their overall lineup. For starters, here is a graphic courtesy of Baseball Savant again, that showcases the groundball percentages for Todd Frazier based on the three main pitching groups.
The results of this graphic show that the groundball rate was virtually the same between the 2018 and 2019 regular seasons on the Fastball and Breaking pitches that Todd Frazier saw at the plate. However, things were vastly different when it came to Offspeed pitches between the two seasons. Frazier's Offspeed groundball rate peaked during the 2018 regular season at (61.5%). That valuation sat at nearly half that percentage at (33.3%) this past season. So something that Todd Frazier did in his approach or it could have been the makeup of the baseball again, caused him to have much different results on Offspeed pitches. It very well could have been a simple adjustment in his swing, something that he noticed in the data trends before the regular season started, or even a simple change in location by the opposing teams pitchers. All of those are variables that are in play in regard to this discussion.
Now, that you have seen that data compare it to the flyball data for Todd Frazier, in the graphic below.
Remember how down Frazier's groundball rate was on Offspeed pitches in the graphic above? Well, now you know why! His flyball percentage on those pitches skyrocketed (!) in 2019 compared to the 2018 regular season. For 2019, Frazier had a flyball percentage of (40.7%) on those pitches compared to (15.4%) during the 2018 regular season. Furthermore, when it came to Fastballs and Breaking pitches, both of those trended downward last season compared to 2018. In regard to Fastballs, Todd Frazier had a flyball percentage of (30.6%) on those pitches in 2018 compared to (26.7%) last season. When it came to Breaking pitches, Frazier had a flyball percentage of (32.8%) in 2018 versus (22.2%) last season. So, if you are a pitcher and you are reading this for knowledge purposes, remember to not throw Todd Frazier any Offspeed pitches particularly in the heart or shadow portion of the strike zone, otherwise it will result in some damage!
Now, that we have built our portfolio on the metrics surrounding free agent third baseman, Todd Frazier based on the data and information that all thirty teams will use to determine his value this offseason, it's time to try to nail down some potential fits. As mentioned previously, there are a number of teams that have a need at the hot corner (third base) and Todd Frazier could fit in nicely for a team that loses out in the Josh Donaldson sweepstakes or the derby for Kris Bryant or Nolan Arenado, should one or both of them be traded at some point over the next six weeks leading up to Spring Training.
Given the fact that there has been such little chatter surrounding Todd Frazier overall because of those bigger names, it's hard to find the perfect fit but one team in particular that has been linked to him publicly just recently are the Texas Rangers. Texas has a clear need at third base now that Adrian Beltre has retired and since they are going to start the coming season in their new ballpark, they will want to bring in as many household names as possible. Todd Frazier could fit the bill for them and although he won't put up the same offensive numbers as Anthony Rendon or Josh Donaldson, he's still a nice option and a great veteran to have on and off the field for leadership purposes.
Outside of the Texas Rangers, other potential fits include the: Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies, and potentially one of Frazier's former teams - the New York Mets. Any of those teams could use an upgrade at third base and Todd Frazier could be a viable option. For example, the Minnesota Twins are in the derby for Josh Donaldson and reportedly have a four-year offer on the table for him, but if they lose out Todd Frazier could be Plan B. The same goes for the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals. As it stands right now, the Milwaukee Brewers have Ryon Healy slated as their Opening Day third baseman so they might be looking for an upgrade. Furthermore, the Philadelphia Phillies might want to insert Todd Frazier at the hot corner until their number one overall prospect, Alec Bohm is ready to be called up to the big league team. Lastly, the New York Mets could be a potential fit because they might feel as though Jeff McNeil is better suited to fill a utility role and don't have confidence that Jed Lowrie will be healthy enough to start the season there. Regardless, there are still quite a handful of teams around baseball that could target Todd Frazier in free agency.
Although Todd Frazier otherwise known as The ToddFather might not be the player he once was or have the offensive impact that he once did, he is still valuable in many regards and can provide plenty of veteran leadership on and off the field. For any of those teams, it makes a lot of sense to sign Todd Frazier to a two or even a three-year deal and solidify that position for the next handful of seasons. For now, everyone including Todd Frazier has to play the waiting game until the third base market works itself out.