The Cincinnati Reds welcomed former NL MVP Joey Votto back into their starting lineup on Wednesday after he missed nearly two months whilst recovering from a knee injury. While he was away, the Reds did anything but struggle. In fact, Cincinnati went 33-16 without their all-star first baseman; the best record in baseball over that stretch.
One of the biggest reasons the Reds were able to extend their lead in the NL Central sans Votto was the play of Todd Frazier. Frazier burst onto the scene earlier in the year and filled in admirably for Scott Rolen at third base. With Rolen healthy (always a relative term with him) and Votto out, Frazier simply slid across the diamond and the Reds didn’t miss a beat.
Frazier is one of the top two or three candidates for National League Rookie of the Year and aside from maybe Jay Bruce, is probably the most valuable member of the 2012 Reds. Through 400 plate appearances this year, Frazier is sporting a robust .882 OPS. Rolen, meanwhile, has played at a considerably lower level; posting a .721 OPS this season.
Rolen is 37 years old and is still an above average defender at third. But his shoulder is more troublesome than ever, it seems, and Frazier has been just about league-average at third base with the glove. It’s pretty obvious that Frazier is the better player this season and at this point in their careers, that’s unlikely to change going forward. The only question is whether manager Dusty Baker will have the courage to move away from the veteran Rolen in favor of giving at bats to Frazier.
Votto will likely get some extra days off going forward, as he’d like to be as close to 100 percent by the playoffs as possible. It is on those days that Votto rests that Rolen should be seeing the field. Frazier has proven so far this season that he’s superior to every rookie hitter not named Mike Trout. He’s proven this year that he’s superior to a broken-down version of Rolen. He deserves full-time at bats down the stretch and into October.
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