Frazier focused on consistency in bounce-back year
Reds third baseman is determined to return to form after rough '13 at the plate
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds third baseman Todd Frazier knows his batting stance and swing are viewed as unorthodox, and that's fine with him. This is the guy who, as a rookie two seasons ago, hit a home run without his hands on the bat.
Now there's another word Frazier would like to have associated with his offensive approach -- consistency. The search for it comes following an uneven 2013 season at the plate. Although he had 19 home runs and 73 RBIs in 150 games, he batted .234 after he had hit .273 as a rookie.
"Am I a .234 hitter? No. I know that for sure," Frazier said. "I know when a certain situation arises, you have to be prepared. I'm prepared all the time. You have to have that balance to get into the right spot to hit. I can hit any pitch. I understand that of myself. You have to find it in Spring Training to be very consistent with your approach in that at-bat."
Reds manager Bryan Price believes that the key to Frazier finding improvement, and consistency, is to go after better pitches.
"He has a plan. He's a bright kid and he's an aggressive kid," Price said. "He wants so badly to do well. He gives us everything he's got, every day. I love that about him and you can live with that. But there's definitely a better player in there."
The nadir of Frazier's 2013 came from July 26-Aug. 7 when Frazier endured an 0-for-31 stretch. As frustrating as it was, the generally positive 28-year-old did not let the hitting famine consume him.
Price liked the fact that the eternally confident Frazier didn't fall prey to the self-doubt that often plagues players during a hitting funk.
"That's what gives everyone optimism -- that his ceiling is so much higher," Price said. "He doesn't have the ebb and flow of emotion. That's the one constant to his game. He always shows up optimistically aggressive."
"It was tough, but my college coach used to tell me, 'You're not in a slump.' I didn't think of it as a slump," Frazier said. "I thought of it as I was swinging at bad pitches. I never have been in a slump -- I don't like talking about things like that. It's me figuring out that I was swinging at pitches I can't hit. I got out of my realm."
This spring, Frazier has been talking with Reds great and front-office member Eric Davis about hitting. Davis didn't have a textbook swing when he played, but at least he often had the same swing every time.
This is what Frazier is trying to achieve.
"I can be unorthodox, but is my path to the ball the same?" Frazier said. "Are my eyes the same? Am I in a good position to hit? I have to be in a good position. For the first couple of years of playing, sometimes I got away from that."
Frazier would particularly like to improve his hitting when there are two strikes. He batted .162 in two-strike counts last season.
"Last year, I kind of figured that out a little bit -- understanding I'm not going to get a pitch to hit with two strikes," he said. "I'm not going to get a pitch I want. When we talk about selection, it's those pitches you lay off or you're in a good position to hit. Positioning is very important for me."
One very large positive for Frazier came on the other side of his game. He exceeded all expectations defensively as he replaced an eight-time Gold Glove winner in Scott Rolen.
It was the first time as a professional that Frazier had one spot to play. Drafted as a shortstop in 2007, he played every infield spot and both corner-outfield spots on his way up and moved around a lot as a rookie. To get ready, he spent extra time with his footwork, and it showed last season. He had a 42-game errorless streak at one point and his 9.7 ultimate zone rating -- an advance metric that puts run values on defense -- was sixth best in the Majors.
"That was awesome," Frazier said of his play. "My defense is a great skill. I understand that by having one position now, there's not much to really worry about -- just third base. It doesn't have to be pretty. Just get it done."
The Reds did not make the offensive upgrades they wanted in the offseason. At the same time, they expect increased contribution from younger hitters like Frazier, Zack Cozart and Devin Mesoraco and pick up some of the slack.
More established now as a Major Leaguer, Frazier is ready for the challenge of stepping up.
"I think there's a lot more to learn, but a lot to be proud about," Frazier said. "This is something you've always dreamed of doing and something you worked your tail off to get here. That process wasn't easy. Now that you are here, let's see how consistent you can be. That's going to be a big word for me this year -- consistency."