Lately there has been much talk about Todd Frazier’s chances of winning the National League Rookie of the Year (ROY) award. Two of his most often cited competitors are Zack Cozart and Mike Fiers. All three players have turned in solid performances throughout the season thus far, making statistical comparisons (especially between Cozart/Frazier and Fiers, due to the hitter versus pitcher complication) less informative. Therefore, for the purpose of this analysis Fiers will be dropped from the discussion, though his chances at ROY are very much legitimate. The element that breaks the tie may be how well each player has responded to the task at hand. Shortstop is often cited as one of the most difficult fielding positions in baseball and Cozart has played the position with well above average results. However, in recent years the SS for the Reds has not been a bright spot on the field. Injuries and under-performance have resulted in multiple players filling in the 6 spot on the field in recent seasons. Cozart has essentially been asked to replace light hitting, injury -prone, early promotions from the minors. To be an improvement over recent iterations of Reds shortstops required staying healthy, hitting over .200 and playing solid, but not necessarily stellar defense. Cozart has clearly exceeded these criteria in ways that have been integral to the Reds success, but the job laid before him has not been as monumental as the one Frazier was handed.
From the beginning of Spring Training, Zack Cozart knew his role on the Reds team: play shortstop everyday between Scott Rolen and Brandon Phillips, who are two of the best defenders at their respective positions to have ever taken the field. To lose this job, Cozart would have to experience a near catastrophic failure. What better confidence booster can a young player have than knowing that the management is willing to give them the opportunity to learn on the job. At shortstop, Cozart is surrounded by enough Gold Gloves to to make one think King Midas started a sporting goods company. Frazier, on the other hand, has not had these advantages.
Starting the season at AAA Louisville could not have made Frazier happy, despite his constantly upbeat demeanor. When he was called up, he was asked to do something that would overwhelm most young players: fill in for an injured, multiple Gold Glove winning, Hall of Fame bound third basemen. Rather then crumple under the pressure, Frazier rose to the occasion. Then Frazier was asked to perform a similarly Herculean task in replacing Joey Votto while the MVP , Gold Glove first basemen recovered from knee surgery. This time Frazier did not rise to the occasion. He was already there, playing like a seasoned veteran. However, on the field performance is not the only test professional baseball players face; they must handle the media spotlight as well. Again Todd Frazier has been a star. Every interview he gives is positive, always filled with a smile. He clearly understands his situation and how to handle it. Frazier’s value to the Reds has been immense this season and looks to remain that way for the foreseeable future. For now, Rookie of the Year seems within his grasp, but do not be surprised if you hear his name every year around awards time.