CHICAGO -- Despite some key injuries to veteran regulars, including Joey Votto's knee keeping him out since July 17, the Reds still find themselves in first place of the National League Central.
They also own the best record in the Major Leagues since the All-Star break. Consistent starting pitching, plus a dominant closer in Aroldis Chapman, are big reasons why, but the contributions of rookies can't be overlooked.
Shortstop Zack Cozart and versatile infielder/outfielder Todd Frazier have become everyday regulars, and neither gets hidden near the bottom of the order. In fact, Cozart holds down the leadoff role, while Frazier is being slotted into the middle of the order with Votto and veteran Scott Rolen out.
A third rookie, catcher Devin Mesoraco, is also getting more opportunities lately.
"They've come here and they've performed well," Reds manager Dusty Baker said prior to Saturday afternoon's game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. "They've performed well in the absence of [Rolen] and the absence of [Votto]. Frazier plays both [first and third], Cozart plays an excellent shortstop, and Mesoraco is getting better every day."
Cozart and Frazier are both candidates for the NL Rookie of the Year Award for their efforts thus far.
Cozart leads or is tied for first among NL rookies in multihit games (tied with 30), runs (60), hits (106), total bases (175) and extra-base hits (40), while his 13 home runs are the most ever hit by a Reds rookie shortstop. Frazier leads NL rookies in RBIs (47) and slugging percentage (.527), and is tied in triples (5), while he ranks second in home runs (14) and third in total bases (145).
Frazier has started 16 of the 25 games Votto has missed at first base.
"We're going to need these guys to perform if we're going to go to the championship," Baker said. "It's rare that you go as far as a championship with so many rookies in the lineup, but we've got to commend our veterans and commend [the rookies] as well, knowing the job they've had to do, and performing well."