When a player puts together a year that includes 40 home runs and 15 stolen bases, typically, that player would have first or second round buzz especially when the player’s two previous seasons included homer/steal totals of 29/20 and a 35/13, respectively. Yet, Todd Frazier is being selected at an ADP of 76.54 in NFBC leagues. In a twelve team league, Frazier’s ADP would put him right in the middle of the seventh round.
There are two reasons why Frazier is being selected this late despite an excellent power-speed track record along with good counting production in runs and RBI – he has been over 80 in both categories in each of the last three seasons. The first reason is that Frazier only managed to hit for a .225 batting average last season. Second, Frazier is being hit with a hefty “bad team discount” for being a player on the White Sox.
With respect to the first point, Frazier has never been a plus batting average player with a career .250 average and seasonal batting averages fluctuating between .273 and last year’s .225. His batting average history of mediocre and poor averages is well-deserved. Frazier has a flyball-heavy batted ball profile and in the last two seasons, he has also struggled with infield flyball issues (16.8% in 2015, 18.5% in 2016). Last year’s 18.5% IFFB% was at the heart of Frazier’s .236 BABIP, which was the largest driver far and away of Frazier’s .225 batting average.
Frazier’s strikeout rate also rose 4.3% in 2016 to reach a career high 24.5%. Although this is not an insignificant development, the BABIP is the real story here. The batting average could have been much worse. In theory, if you shave ten homers off Frazier’s total, leaving Frazier with 30 homers on the season, his batting average would have been .208. This is why Frazier is going so low. Last year’s batting average wasn’t the floor, it actually could have been worse if the power output was at a normal level.
The question becomes whether Frazier will be able to rebound on his BABIP and thereby, carry a respectable average. The good news is that Frazier’s BABIP normalized in the second half to .276, which is close to his career average of .278. Frazier’s improved results on balls in play resulted in a .240 batting average in the second half. His first half BABIP was an incredibly low .202 on the back of an awful 21.4% IFFB%. Remember that Frazier was an offseason acquisition last year, may have been trying to do too much or simply got power happy and that resulted in a really poor batted ball profile.
Of course, the rationale is conjecture – attempting to fit a narrative to suit a result, but whatever the reason, Frazier was able to correct his BABIP issue in the second half and there is little reason to think he will be that bad on balls in play again this year. Perhaps, the best news is that Frazier was able to normalize the BABIP without a major reduction in his power output. Frazier still popped 15 homers in the second half – a 36 home run full season paces. If Frazier hits .240 with 35 homers and 15 stolen bases, he will almost certainly turn a profit at his current ADP.
Now, I will also acknowledge that at the age of 31, there is no guarantee that Frazier continues to run, but this is where the bad team setting works in his favor. The White Sox have nothing to play for, nothing to lose, they will allow Frazier to run. Thus, I feel comfortable for projecting Frazier for 10-15 stolen bases despite his advanced age.
This creates the perfect segue-way into the bad-team discount discussion. Good players on bad teams are often perceived as having less opportunity to provide their owners with fantasy production. In Frazier’s case, this position is somewhat short-sighted. Last year, the White Sox ranked 20th in MLB in runs. In 2014 and 2015, when Frazier was with the Reds, Cincinnati ranked 21st and 26th in runs, respectively. Frazier has never been on a good or even league average run-producing lineup despite having three straight seasons of 80+ runs and RBI. Thus, there is little reason to believe that a bad supporting cast will drag Frazier down. The volume of games will keep him safe in terms of Rs and RBI and the team’s struggles will keep him aggressive on the basepaths.
Now that we’ve discredited both of those issues, let’s consider that 2016 Todd Frazier was a top 70 player last year. With an improved average and comparable home run totals, Frazier could be a ton 40 asset for fantasy baseball owners this year.