Todd Frazier Blew His Opportunity
With the way the Mets built their team, someone was going to be squeezed out of playing time. This meant players were going to have to take their opportunity and prove why they should play everyday. That is exactly what Jeff McNeil did. So far, he has been the Mets most consistent player, and he has firmly established himself as the everyday left fielder.
Todd Frazier had the same chance. With J.D. Davis utterly incapable of fielding his position, and Jed Lowrie‘s injury, Frazier had a clear path to show the Mets why he should be the team’s everyday third baseman.
There was every reason to believe he could do it. He’s easily the best defensive infielder on the team. In fact, you may be surprised to find out his 18 DRS since 2015 is the best out of any infielder on the roster, and it is seventh best among all Major League third basemen.
At the plate, Frazier would frustrate people with his low batting average and high strike out numbers. However, in the seven years prior to this year, his only year as a below league average hitter was last year. Overall, he had entered this season with a career 109 OPS+, and that includes his being a 107 OPS+ from 2016 – 2017.
One positive trend is his career was his improving his walk rate. He had gone from a 6.5 percent in 2015 to 9.6 percent in 2016 and 14.4 percent in 2017. His HR/FB rate is characterized by Fangraphs as great.
In total, Frazier had his flaws, but he was a good player. In fact, he was a player who averaged a 3.3 WAR over 2016-2017. The reason is because this was a good defender who provided a decent bat in the lineup. No, Frazier wasn’t the guy you wanted in the middle of the lineup, but you could do much worse than him in that sixth or seventh spot in the lineup.
Even with last year’s down year, there were positive signs for Frazier. In every way, it was a career worst year for him as he landed on the Disabled List twice, and by his own admission, he would rush back from the injuries. Still, Frazier had a 1.9 WAR because he was still good in the field. While it was a career worst year for him, there were some positive signs like his hard hit rate and his hitting well in April, which was just about the only time he was healthy all last year.
Unfortunately, Frazier was injured in Spring Training, and it would be a lengthy rehab assignment before he would return. So far this year, Frazier has been excellent defensively. Among players who have played 100 innings, Frazier’s 2 DRS is fourth best in the National League. His 1.8 UZR is second best in the National League.
Without him, the Mets pitching staff had a 5.66 ERA and a .325BABIP. Since his return, Mets pitchers have a 3.50 ERA and a 2.83 BABIP. This wasn’t all Frazier, but his playing well at third stopped the bleeding with all the base hits going through the left side of the infield unchallenged.
However, as good as Frazier has been defensively, he has been that bad at the plate. So far this year, he has not drawn a walk, and he has struck out 32.7 percent of the time. He has a career worst ground ball rate (a pattern developing among Mets hitters under Chili Davis‘ tutelage) with a career worst hard hit rate. This is all a long winded way of saying what everyone can see. Frazier is lost at the plate.
Depending upon your perspective, there are reasons to believe Frazier will or will not rebound. Normally, a team could give him time to figure things out and get back to being the hitter the Mets know he is. However, the Mets also have Lowrie coming off the Injured List on Friday.
While Lowrie may not be the fielder Frazier he, he is far from the butcher Davis is. Lowrie has also been a much better hitter than Frazier. When Lowrie comes off the Injured List, there is no doubt he should take over as the every day third baseman.
As for Frazier, who knows where he goes from here. Perhaps, going to the bench will light a fire under him, and he will rebound. Certainly, his glove and late inning defense will be a positive. With the way Mickey Callaway double switches, Frazier will get his opportunities. In the end, you never know how things shake out on the injury front, and perhaps Frazier will get another opportunity to prove himself.
Unfortunately for him, he didn’t do it now, and now he is going to find himself on the bench fighting for playing time.