I don't recall seeing this on here yet, as it's a few days old now.
Interesting notes about his swing. I think we've (or perhaps Doug has) discussed the hitch in his swing and if he'll get exposed as he advances each level. Seems to work for him though. I like the mention of the "It" factor by one of his coaches.
From Toms River to Carolina, former Rutgers star Todd Frazier continues to swing for the fences
by M.A. Mehta/The Star-Ledger
Sunday July 12, 2009, 12:21 AM
Along the main drag on the eastern side of Billings, Mont., the Beer Batter delivered.
Raised on a steady diet of Wendy's, chicken parm and pizza, he stepped up to the plate for the first time and sent hundreds of thirsty strangers into a discount-induced frenzy with one unconventional swing.
Organized chaos swept across the crumbling old ballpark. A horn sounded. A special light was lit.
The Beer Batter's first hit as a professional - an RBI single - was pretty cool, but an event of much greater significance had taken place for fans of the Billings Mustangs of the rookie Pioneer League that summer night in 2007: Dollar Beers for everyone for the rest of the inning!
Todd Frazier, designated the Beer Batter as part of a popular in-game promotion, was just happy to give the folks some cheap Yellowstone Grizzly Wulff.
Less than three years into a pro career that began with fans sprinting for some suds, the former Rutgers All-America is climbing the ranks in the Cincinnati Reds farm system. Frazier, currently playing for the Double-A Carolina Mudcats, will be the starting left fielder for the North Division in the Southern League All-Star Game Monday in Birmingham, Ala.
"It's been a crazy road," the Toms River native said. "Who knows where I'll be next?"
From Big Sky country to Dayton, Ohio, to Sarasota, Fla., to Hawaii to Zebulon, N.C., Frazier - the second-rated prospect in the organization, according to Baseball America - has inched closer to the ultimate destination.
"He has the 'IT' factor," said Carolina hitting coach Ryan Jackson. "There's no question in my mind that he's going to be a major league ballplayer. The pure determination and character of this guy is going to get him to the big leagues."
Frazier hasn't surprised anyone. After all, he was born to play the game.
In many ways, 23-year-old Todd Frazier is the same freckle-faced kid with a mouthful of braces, who stole the show in Williamsport, Pa., in 1998.
He was 12 (and 110 pounds soaking wet) when Toms River East stunned the Little League universe by beating Japan to become unlikely champions. The Japanese team shouted, "Hello, Mr. Home Run hitter!" when they passed the skinny boy in the cafeteria after a grand slam earlier in the tournament. Frazier, who recorded the final out on the mound, hit .600 with four home runs during the magical run 11 years ago. Then, he hit the beach for some well-deserved R&R.
While Frazier doesn't spend his free time crashing into waves at the Jersey shore anymore, the memories are fresh in his mind.
"If I don't hear something about Jersey every day, it's out of the ordinary," Jackson laughed. "I would think something was wrong."
Frazier's pedigree, of course, helped shape his success.
His oldest brother, Charlie, was drafted out of Toms River South by the Florida Marlins in 1999. His brother, Jeff, the Star-Ledger's Player of the Year in 2001, starred at Rutgers before the Detroit Tigers selected him in the third-round in 2004. He's currently playing at Triple-A in Toledo.
"Baseball was the family's love," said Rutgers coach Fred Hill. "His dad was also baseball player. You got baseball talk all the time. That pushed him forward."
Frazier, the 2007 Big East Player of the Year, landed an $850,000 signing bonus for being the 34th overall selection in the 2007 draft. He's taken pieces of advice from his father and brothers through the years.
Charlie emphasized pitch selection. Jeff urged fun. His father, Charlie, Sr., preached selective amnesia: Good or bad day, the sun will surely rise the next morning.
"All great advice," Frazier said. "You got to be positive in this game no matter what happens. You just got to know you're going to succeed."
Frazier rattled off the dizzying number of position changes with speed and accuracy.
"Played shortstop all season in Montana," he said. "Shortstop in Dayton. The last four or five days, I played a little left field, first base and third base. In Sarasota, they bounced me around a couple games in left, a couple games at third, a couple games at short, a couple games at first. This year, mainly left field. A little bit of first. And only a couple games at third. No games at shortstop anymore."
Frazier may have been an All-America college shortstop, but the Reds decided his size (6-3, 220 pounds) and limited range were enough to move him. Frazier, hardly a complainer, accepted his fate, bent on perfecting the position du jour.
"It's crazy," Frazier said. "You don't know what's going to happen. I'm having fun in left field now, but if they want to move me somewhere else, I'll start from scratch. Whatever they say goes. I understand that fully and know it's all for the best."
The organization has maintained that Frazier's versatility will only bolster his credentials at the next level.
"He's going to do anything and everything he can to get to where he wants to get," said Reds minor league hitting coordinator Ronnie Ortegon. "He's so strong mentally. It also gives him another bit of ammunition."
The defensive migrations haven't affected the right-handed hitting Frazier's offensive production. Frazier, the Scarlet Knights' all-time leader in home runs, has excelled at the plate despite a "high maintenance swing with some funkiness to it," according to Ortegon.
Or, as Hill put it, "I don't think you like most hitters to do that. On the other hand, he can hit."
Despite Frazier's tendency to straighten his left arm on his swing, he's produced at every stop. He leads the Southern League in doubles (31) and ranks in the Top 6 in batting average (.314), slugging percentage (.498), hits (102) and total bases (162).
Frazier, who will participate in the Home Run Derby Sunday as part of the All-Star festivities, has focused on timing rather than dwelling on unconventional swing mechanics.
"He makes adjustments from one at-bat to the next," Jackson said. "That's the sign of a major league hitter. It becomes more of a mind game as you move up the ladder."
BIG LEAGUE BOUND
When his mind presses the fast forward button, Frazier quickly puts on the brakes.
He'd love to be a September call-up when major league rosters expand to 40 players. But
"When the time is right," he said. "I'll get my opportunity. Maybe it'll happen. Maybe it won't. I just have to keep producing."
It's a philosophy preached throughout the organization. Growing numbers of top-flight prospects may be making the leap from Double-A to the majors, but the Reds have taken a more conservative approach.
"Anything is possible," Jackson said of Frazier reaching the big leagues this season. "He wants to get there as soon as he can. But I just want to make sure that when the time comes -¬ boom! - he's there to stay."
The Reds have made little secret that they want to Frazier to hit the ground running when he reaches the majors.
"I think he'll determine that on how he continues to progress," Ortegon said. "You do what you're supposed to be doing and you'll force the issue. You'll make us have to make a decision. He's well aware of that."
So, Frazier continues to impress, learning every day and even tweaking his dietary staple of fast food that served him well for so long.
"You can't get used to that any more," Frazier said. "Your body's just going to fail. You got to get some healthy food in there now."
A long pause.
"But," he said, breaking into a laugh, "some chicken parm and buffalo wings can't hurt you every once in a while, you know what I mean?"
M.A. Mehta may be reached at email@example.com. For more Rutgers and baseball news, follow him on his twitter page.