This week’s subject was mentioned in Grey’s buy/sell column, and while I typically try to avoid doubling up on a Grey recommendation for my Creeper post, Grey only gave him a two sentence blurb. Consider the following several paragraphs positive reinforcement, a reminder, or an admonition. Let’s get to it!
If the title of the post or the clues in my intro didn’t tip you off, Week 17′s Creeper is Todd Frazier. The 3B is filling in as the every day 1B with Votto on the DL, and he’s available in 95% of ESPN leagues and 92% of Yahoo leagues. Frazier and the Reds open the week with a 3-game set against the Astros in Minute Maid Park, a pretty generous HR park for right-handed hitters. StatCorner gives Minute Maid Park a 117 HR factor for righties, and a 2% boost to offense overall. The Reds close the week with a 3-game set
on the Moon in Colorado, which is the best park in baseball for offense. Not only is Coors Field a haven for HR (120 HR factor), but thanks to its large dimensions, it gives up tons of doubles and triples, too. In all, the park gives a 12% boost over a neutral environment — Nationals Park is a pretty good example of a neutral park.
The Reds are currently scheduled to face 3 lefties this week, against whom Frazier has hit 4 HR and compiled a .919 OPS in his brief MLB career, spanning 88 plate appearances. He’ll face Wandy Rodriguez in Houston Monday night, and while Wandy has a lower ERA against RHB (3.61) than against LHB (4.32) in 2012, his K% is much lower versus righties (14.4%) than lefties (20.3%), and he’s allowed 11 of his 13 HR to righties. Calculated differently, a HR/9 of 1.02. Wandy’s career HR/9 mark against RHB is 1.09, consider him a target. Friday brings Christian Friedrich, rookie left-hander for the Rockies. Friedrich has allowed 7 HR in 35 home innings, and he’s got a lower home K% (18.6%) than a road K% (22.1%). His 8 HR in 61.2 innings versus RHB also work in Frazier’s favor. Jonathan Sanchez is Saturday’s scheduled starter, and while pitching for the Royals he was a mess. His B/KK ratio of 31/23, 7 HR allowed in 37.1 IP, and 6.97 FIP against opposite-handed bats this season are testament to his struggles. While his career splits against righties are less unsightly (4.46 FIP, 1.66 K/BB, 1.00 HR/9), Sanchez struggled against RHB in 2011 as well, walking 7.19 per 9 IP and allowing 9 HR in 72.2 IP. Pitching in the thin air of Coors and facing a Reds lineup that has hit lefties as well as the Blue Jays, Rangers, and Red Sox may expose him further. Drew Pomeranz has been scratched from his Tuesday start against Arizona, and it remains to be seen if he’ll make his Sunday start against the Reds. If he does, his xFIP against RHB is a hitter-friendly 5.07. If he doesn’t, whoever starts Tuesday will probably take the hill on Sunday. Let’s hope that Josh Outman and his 1.74 HR/9 are called up to take Pomeranz’s spot in the rotation.
Frazier hasn’t hit for a great average against RHP in 263 career PA, but a .245 clip isn’t terrible, either, especially when it’s paired with a .236 ISO. He’ll face two starting right-handers against the Astros — Lucas Harrell and Bud Norris. Harrell is a pitch-to-contact groundball artist, owner of a 6.1% swinging strike rate and 56% GB rate. He’s induced groundballs at a 58% clip against RHB in his career, and keeping the ball on the ground has led to him allowing only 5 HR in 88.1 innings. Even with a mediocre 5.40 K/9, his peripherals are solid (3.55 FIP, 3.89 xFIP). Norris has traditionally performed better against same-handed bats than opposite-handed bats (career 4.01 FIP vs R, 4.42 FIP vs L), thanks mostly to walking two fewer righties (2.87) per 9 IP than he does lefties (4.99). He’s carrying a 4.90 K/BB against RHB in 2012, but he’s also allowed right-handers to launch 9 HR in 40.2 IP, a per 9 rate of 1.99. He’s the more exploitable matchup of the two Astros righties.
Frazier’s .260 ISO ranks third amongst all third basemen with at least 200 PA in 2012, and while a fluky 5 triples are propping up that stat some, his new approach this season will lend itself to a high level of power moving forward. After a 47.6% GB/31.0% FB batted ball profile in 2011, Frazier has flipped the script in 2012, lofting flyballs at a 48.3% clip. He’s cut his infield flyball rate in half, and a 25.2% line drive rate has buoyed a .338 BABIP. His new flyball-heavy approach may drive down that BABIP some, but even if his 13.7% HR/FB doesn’t improve (career rate is 16.2%), he’s hitting a home run every 20 at-bats. A full season pace of a .260 average and 25-30 HR is a pretty nice find on the wire at this point in the season.
Jose Bautista owners looking for a fill-in at 3B could do far worse than picking up Todd Frazier, and Votto owners searching the wire for a warm body could plug in his real-life stand-in. If you aren’t in the business for an injury replacement, he’s still worth a CI or U spot this week. Even after this week, Frazier plays in one of the friendliest HR parks for RHB in baseball, right up there with US Cellular and Coors Field. As long as Votto is out, he should provide some useful power for your lineup.