Fantasy Baseball: Is Todd Frazier Being Overlooked?
Last year, only eight players hit at least 40 home runs.
Reaching 40 home runs is a feat in and of itself, let alone adding any semblance of speed along with it. Before last year, the most recent player to reach the 40-15 club was Ryan Braun in 2012, with 41 bombs and a whopping 30 swiped bags.
And yet, in National Fantasy Baseball Championship drafts, Dozier is a coming off the board on average around 36th overall, while Frazier lags behind at 76th. In some drafts Frazier has dropped outside the top 100.
The trouble lies in the batting average. Dozier hit .268 last year, hardly an exciting number, but it wasn't the sinkhole that was Frazier's .225 average -- the fifth-worst mark among qualified hitters. However, if we take a step back, Frazier actually has the edge in career batting average (.250) over Dozier (.246).
Is recency bias causing fantasy owners to overlook Frazier this season?
It's no secret Frazier has sold out for power the last few years.
Never much of a batting-average guy to begin with (his high water mark is .273), for better or for worse, Frazier is now a fly-ball hitting machine. Last year, among qualified hitters he tied Chris Carter for the league lead in fly-ball rate (48.7%). The year prior he was third (47.7%).
This is, of course, great for home runs, as evidenced by 75 dingers over the past two seasons.
The difference is in 2015 Frazier put up a very manageable .255 average. Nothing special, but at least it didn't make you cringe. What changed in 2016?
At first glance, last year's .225 average could be attributed to some bad luck in the BABIP department (.236). In fact, among qualified hitters it was the league's worst BABIP. Getting that dubious honor likely requires Lady Luck turning her back on you, but Frazier's increasingly extreme fly-ball tendencies did him no favors.
His fly-ball rate (FB%) and pull rate (Pull%) continued to rise, but his line-drive rate (LD%) completely fell off the table. Worse yet, his infield fly-ball rate (IFFB%) hit its highest mark since his debut major league season (2011). And that's not even mentioning the rise in soft-hit rate (Soft%) and drop in hard-hit rate (Hard%).
Remember that league-low BABIP? Well, guess where his LD% and IFFB% ranked? Among qualified hitters, both were also league-worsts. Add that to a rising strikeout rate, and you have a recipe for a plummeting batting average.
The one good sign in all of this is Frazier did manage a career high 9.6% walk rate, so at least his plate discipline didn't suddenly go out the window. He even swung at fewer pitches (46.7%) compared to 2015 (52.9%). Furthermore, his 12.5% swinging-strike rate didn't stray far from his 12.2% career average, so perhaps his strikeouts will regress back to his career levels. We don't have a Chris Carter or Chris Davis on our hands just yet.
Still, given where his batted-ball profile is trending, he will continue to be at the mercy of a potentially low BABIP moving forward.
Run, Frazier, Run
Frazier's counting stats are what has made him a solid fantasy asset in recent seasons. Although it's fair to question if Frazier's 2016 home-run-to-fly-ball rate is sustainable (19%) -- it's well above his career rate (15.6%) -- the sheer number of fly balls he hits should allow him to pretty much sustain his power numbers. Maybe he won't hit 40 home runs again, but 30-plus is a reasonable expectation.
But what about the steals? At 31 years old, Frazier isn't getting any younger, and his power-hungry approach has left him with a paltry .306 on-base percentage across the last two seasons. In that span, he's managed 28 steals, so he's the made the most of his limited opportunities.
The Chicago White Sox are rebuilding, though, dealing away Chris Sale and Adam Eaton this offseason. Frazier is in the last year of his contract, which makes him a prime candidate to get traded at the deadline this season.
If he's dealt to a pitcher's ballpark, it could negatively affect his power, but a trade would potentially affect his stealing output even more. Outside of the fastest ballplayers like Billy Hamilton, stolen bases are generally a byproduct of manager philosophy and team makeup more than anything else. On a middling offensive team like the White Sox, they're content to let Frazier run, but if he's traded to a contender, they may ask him to pump the brakes.
Frazier should still reach double-digit stolen bases, but the uncertainty makes his floor lower this time around.
It's All About Balance
Our projections give Frazier a .242 average with 86 runs, 32 home runs, 90 RBI's, and 15 stolen bases. That's a pretty fair assessment of what to expect from Frazier this season, keeping in mind that the batting average could sway in either direction, and the stolen bases are more ceiling than floor.
Overall, though, that's a solid four-category contributor, and it's similar to the output we can expect from Dozier, who, as mentioned before, is going several rounds earlier.
Does that make Frazier a good deal then? In truth, this is more a case of roster construction than anything else.
Frazier's BABIP was absurdly low in 2016, so some positive regression in batting average may be coming his way. But his batted-ball profile indicates that we also shouldn't be expecting any miracles, either. Still, a .250 average remains a possibility, and 30-homer, 15-steal upside is nothing to sneeze at, particularly at the typically slow-footed hot corner. It really comes down to whether you can construct your roster with enough of a batting average cushion to take a chance on that upside or whether you're punting average entirely.
Many will pass on Frazier because third base is fairly deep, and they don't want to deal with a potentially crippling average. That may be the safer approach, but don't write off Frazier on draft day. Ultimately, that average may not be as bad as you think, and if you're willing to work a little bit to more, snagging Frazier could be a great value in 2017.