For some, 2016 Spring Training marks the start of a brand new Major League Baseball season. For others, this time of year marks the height of the presidential primary elections. While many pontificate over who is best suited to lead the country, The Sports Fan Journal fam decided to take a look at which player, manager, or front office member is the best candidate to lead their team to the top of the baseball mountain.
The Chicago White Sox.
The American League Central’s son that lives in the basement and perpetually assures everyone that the thing they are currently working on at the moment is going to be the big break that leads him to fame and fortune.
This year’s big break will hopefully be coming thanks to shiny new third baseman, Todd Frazier.
Frazier enjoyed arguably his best season as a pro in 2015, as he clobbered a career high 35 home runs while hitting .255, posting a .309 on-base percentage and slugging .498 amid a lost season in Cincinnati. He was the All-Star Game poster boy; a the host city hero that pulled off one of the most dramatic Home Run Derby victories in years. But that was easily the high point of his year, as shortly thereafter he was at the heart of a gutted roster, awaiting his number to be called for a ticket to ride as well.
The White Sox, too are coming off an underwhelming campaign, in which they fell short of the lofty expectations set for them following a busy offseason. Not to be deterred, general manager Kenny Williams went back to work this winter and filled a pretty gaping hole in their lineup by pulling off a three-way trade that the Los Angeles Dodgers help facilitate to land Frazier.
When they got Frazier, the White Sox acquired an exceptionally durable and consistent third baseman to slot into the lineup every day. Frazier has played 150, 157 and 157 games in each of the last three seasons. While playing every day for those years, Frazier has developed into an exceptionally consistent hitter. His walk rate has never climbed much above eight percent, and his strikeout rate never higher than 21. His average and on-base percentages have risen and fallen some, but overall they each hover in the mid 200s, low 300s respectively.
What makes Frazier invaluable to Chicago’s success this year is his penchant for hitting the ball over the fence. Since 2013, Frazier has increased his slugging percentage from .407 to .459 to .498. He’s also increased his home run totals from 19 to 29 to 35. And this is no fluke. Frazier’s hard contact rate has increased every year over that same time period. In short, he’s found his power stroke and his offensive production is showing it. The prevailing thought is that Frazier, who just turned 30 in February, will continue to launch baseballs over out of the park, as he calls another hitter friendly ballpark (as he had in Cincinnati) in U.S. Cellular Field his new home.
Regardless of what Frazier does, he’s going to be a significant upgrade at third base after the hot corner was occupied by Tyler Saladino, Gordon Beckham or Conor Gillaspie for over 1,000 innings last year.
However, Chicago didn’t execute the trade for Frazier in order to provide a minor upgrade to their lineup. They went out and got him with the expectation that he will be the piece that turns them into contenders this season.
Unfortunately for the White Sox, they need Frazier to put up consistent, superstar type numbers if he’s going to have the type of impact they’ll need to stay in the mix in what’s shaping up to be an excellent American League Central. Given his track record in the majors, it isn’t likely he’s going to provide that.
Last season, 25 of Frazier’s 35 home runs came in the first half. He hit .284 in the first half and .220 in the second half. That kind of regression has to be worrisome for the White Sox who are looking for a star to compliment Jose Abreu. If Frazier is going to be effectively absent for months at a time it puts them right where they were last year.
That regression is sort of the rub with Frazier and the reason Chicago likely doesn’t sniff the playoffs again this year. Frazier, while exceptionally consistent, is not a superstar. He’s pop in the middle of the lineup, but not the guy that’s going to put the team on his back for a month or two. He isn’t likely to suddenly have a breakout year where he hits 40 homers and hits .290. He is what he is at this point of his career.
The offensive production Todd Frazier provides isn’t going to make them, but his lack of production can certainly break them.
Experiment 626. Coffee drinker and cat enthusiast. Pro-avocado. Anti-sac bunt. Habitual bat flipper. Alex Smith apologist. Yoenis Cespedes fanboy.