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MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Frazier's versatility sets him apart from NL rookies

Ringolsby: Frazier's versatility sets him apart

Frazier's versatility sets him apart from NL rookies
Todd Frazier opened the 2012 season in the Minor Leagues again after being the final cut from Cincinnati's Spring Training roster.

This time, however, it was different than the five previous seasons of his pro career career.

This time, Frazier was back in the big leagues within two weeks -- to stay.

2012 Rookie of the Year finalists
American League National League
Mike Trout, LAA Todd Frazier, CIN
Strong AL field Bryce Harper, WAS
  Wade Miley, ARI

And by season's end, Frazier had become a critical part of Cincinnati team that won the National League Central for the second time in three years.

Frazier, a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, capitalized on his "handyman" role to the point that he could become the eighth Reds player to claim the NL Rookie of the Year Award since its creation in 1947, and the first since reliever Scott Williamson in '99.

Frazier joined left-hander Wade Miley of Arizona and outfielder Bryce Harper of Washington as the finalists for the NL Award, which will be announced by the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Monday.

Frazier is the least-hyped of the trio.

Harper has been a media focal point ever since he received his General Education Development following his sophomore year in high school so he could attend junior college and become eligible for 2010 Draft at the age of 17 -- a year earlier than if he had completed his high school education in the normal mode. This past season, Harper, at 19, became the youngest position player selected to an All-Star team.

Miley earned early season attention, going into the final week of June with a 9-3 record and a 2.19 ERA.

Frazier? He was the 34th player drafted in 2007, and he'd been solid but not spectacular in five Minor League seasons. He spent two full years and parts of two others at the Triple-A level, where he hit .261 with 35 home runs and 128 RBIs in 246 games.

In the big leagues, though, Frazier responded to the challenge. He may not have been a regular in the Cincinnati lineup, but Frazier certainly claimed regular playing time by filling in for injured third baseman Scott Rolen and first baseman Joey Votto, helping the Reds to maintain their stature atop the NL Central.

It got Frazier the attention of his peers. He was voted NL's Outstanding Rookie in the Players Choice Awards earlier this month.

Now, he waits to find out if the baseball writers will endorse the vote of the players.

Frazier does have the resume.

He started 28 of the 34 games the injured Rolen missed at third base from May 12 through June 18, and then moved across the infield to start 35 of the 48 games the injured Votto missed from July 16 through Sept. 3.

At season's end, Frazier had started 36 games at first, 66 at third and seven in the outfield, and he played a key role in keeping the Reds' machine running smoothly.

The irregular-regular, Frazier ranked fifth on the Reds in games (128) and at-bats (422), led the team with six triples, ranked third with 19 home runs (equaling his pro career high), fourth with 67 RBIs, and sixth with 55 runs scored and 26 doubles.

Frazier reached base safely in 30 consecutive games from Aug. 8 through Sept. 8 -- the longest streak for a Cincinnati player in 2012 -- and became a folk lore hero with a May 27 home run off Colorado lefty Jamie Moyer when he let go of his bad in mid-swing. His walk-off home run against Atlanta on May 23 was only the third by a Cincinnati rookie since 1984. Jay Bruce had one on May 31, 2008, and Drew Stubbs on Aug. 20, 2009.

Frazier responded to demands off the bench. He was 10-for-21 in a non-starting role, including going 6-for-12 with a walk as a pinch-hitter. Scratched from the lineup on June 8 against Detroit because of back spasms, he delivered the eighth-inning, pinch-hit double that tied the score in what became a 6-5, 10-inning Cincinnati victory.

And Frazier was more than a creation of hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park, hitting .286 with nine home runs and 33 RBIs on the road compared to .258 with 10 home runs and 34s RBI at home.

Oh, and in late May in Pittsburgh, while he was out to dinner, Frazier performed the Heimlich maneuver on a fellow diner. He also was the Reds' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award for contributions to the game on and off the field.

"Put him in the lineup, wind him up, and he's gone," Rolen said of Frazier.

Monday, Frazier finds out if he went far enough to claim the BBWAA NL Rookie of the Year Award.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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