He was referred to by Dayton Daily News columnist Tom Archdeacon as a "natural born leader." He affectionately called veteran DDN writer Marc Katz, "Katzy." Those who know his unique blend of down-to-earth personality and outgoing friendliness would not be surprised to learn that his first job in life was as a carnival barker at a basketball stand on the boardwalk at Jersey Shore. As a 12-year old, he hit a home run on national television to lift his team to the Little League World Series title. As a National League rookie seated in a Pittsburgh restaurant, he saved a stranger from choking by performing the Heimlich Maneuver. He has helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund. And he enjoyed playing in front of the big crowds at Fifth Third Field so much that he once made the statement that he could have played his whole career in Dayton.
Who is this guy?
He is Reds third baseman Todd Frazier, the 47th Dragons player to reach the Major Leagues.
By the time Frazier signed his first professional baseball contract, he had already garnered more attention than many players ever receive. In 1998, the then 12-year-old Frazier led his Toms River, New Jersey team to the Little League World Series. In the championship game against a team from Japan, Frazier went 4 for 4 with a home run to carry his team to the championship.
Frazier was an outstanding athlete in high school, once collecting 27 rebounds in a basketball game to set a school record. He went on to Rutgers University and was the Big East Conference Player of the Year before being drafted by the Reds in the supplemental first round of the 2007 draft. He was taken with the 34th overall selection, a pick the Reds received for losing infielder Rich Aurilia in free agency. Frazier was drafted as a shortstop, although at 6'3", 220 lbs., there was immediate talk of a move to another position.
Frazier opened his professional career that summer at Billings and hit .319 with five home runs in 41 games for the Mustangs. He was promoted to Dayton for the final week of the 2007 season and played in six games, batting .318 with two more home runs.
Frazier returned to the Dragons for the 2008 season and immediately made an impact. In just the second home game of the season, Frazier, who had homered earlier that same night, stepped to the plate against Fort Wayne with the score tied in the bottom of the ninth inning and drilled the first pitch he saw over the left field fence to win the game for the Dragons. The next night, Frazier homered again, collecting three hits in a Dragons win. Frazier reached base in his first seven games with the Dragons, batting .476 with three home runs and eight RBI.
On April 22, Frazier belted a first inning home runs off future big league pitcher Jordan Walden as the Dragons topped Cedar Rapids 3-1. The previous day, Frazier had made his first start at a position other than shortstop when he was in the lineup as the first baseman. Over 12 consecutive days, Frazier never played the same position two days in a row. He moved around the field from shortstop to first base to third base and to left field. His move away from shortstop had begun.
With Frazier leading the way, the Dragons got hot in late-April and moved into first place. On May 6, Frazier collected three hits in a Dragons 11-1 win over Quad Cities that improved their record to 18-12. Frazier was batting .321 with seven home runs and 20 RBI, appearing in all 30 of the Dragons games. After the May 6 game, he was promoted to Sarasota for the remainder of the season.
The following spring, Frazier returned to Dayton to play in the Reds Futures Game, a contest that featured the big league Reds, in their final exhibition game of the year, against a collection of their top prospects from Single-A, Double-A, and Triple-A. Frazier connected on a titanic home run to left field in the game. As he walked off the diamond at the end of the contest, Frazier looked to the sell-out crowd and commented that he could play in Dayton forever.
Frazier split the 2009 season between Double-A and Triple-A, batting a combined .292 with 16 home runs and 77 RBI. He also added 45 doubles to rank third in all of Minor League Baseball. At the end of the season, he was rated by Baseball America as the #1 prospect in the Reds organization.
Frazier spent the entire 2010 in Triple-A with Louisville, and started the 2011 season there too. On May 23, he was called up to the Reds and made one pinch hitting appearance before being sent back to Louisville. He returned to the Reds in July and played in 40 more games with them in 2011. On July 31, he hit his first career home run off the Giants' Barry Zito. He finished the year at .232 with six home runs. His limited big league time in 2011 allowed his rookie status to carry over to 2012.
The 2012 season had an awkward start for Frazier. He led the Reds in home runs and RBI during spring training and appeared to make the opening day roster. But the day before the first game, the Reds claimed relief pitcher Alfredo Simon off waivers and optioned Frazier to Louisville. He was there only 10 games before being summoned back to Cincinnati.
With Scott Rolen battling injuries, Frazier got considerable playing time at third base and performed well. On May 16, he belted two home runs in the same game in a Reds win over the Mets. Seven days later, Frazier connected on a game-winning walk-off homer against the Braves. When Joey Votto went on the disabled list with a knee injury, Frazier filled in at first base. His performance was consistent over the season. He finished at .273 with 19 home runs and 67 RBI in 128 games. His slugging percentage was an outstanding .498. He committed just seven errors.
Frazier was selected as the National League's Most Outstanding Rookie in a vote by players. In the writers' vote, the official process for selecting the Rookie of the Year award, Frazier finished third and received three first place votes from among the 32 voters.
Frazier has already become a fan favorite in Cincinnati, just as he was in Dayton. His leadership qualities, game instincts, and overall intangibles are rare for any athlete. While his numbers in 2012 were strong, he will always be the type of player who offers far more than the numbers imply. In simple terms, Frazier is a winner. He will be at third base at Great American Ball Park when the Reds open the 2013 season.
Click here for Todd Frazier's Major League statistics, photos, and highlight clips.
Click here for Todd Frazier's Minor League statistics.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.