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Todd Frazier brings stability to third base

The hot corner has been a tumultuous position for the Mets in the David Wright spinal stenosis era.

MLB: New York Mets at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

1508 games. 230 home runs. 939 RBI. A slash line of .298/.337/.494, good for a 133 wRC+, and a 50.5 fWAR. That is what David Wright provided the Mets in his decade of consistent production at the hot corner, from his rookie season in 2004 to his last full season in 2014.

Spinal Stenosis robbed Wright of the latter half of his career, and the Mets seemingly had little interest in providing a legitimate replacement for their captain, hoping that he would be able to return to the team in an everyday player capacity. When it became clear when the dream of David Wright being the everyday third baseman again was just that, the Mets addressed the position by signing Todd Frazier to a two-year, $17m contract that looks like a bargain.

Frazier provides them with stability at a position where they have had anything but.

Frazier has hit .237/.357/.412 so far this season, good for a 119 wRC+ — which is the third highest mark on the team, trailing only Brandon Nimmo and Asdrubal Cabrera. His 0.9 fWAR is second among Mets hitters. He and Cabrera have been the two most consistent of the Mets starters, even as the Mets offense has gone through peaks and valleys so far in this young season.

He has also been one of the better third basemen in all of baseball, as his wRC+ is tenth and his fWAR is ninth among all major league third basemen. The Mets will certainly take top ten production from the position, especially considering how in flux the position has been for the past few years.

Frazier rates very well when you compare him to the hodgepodge of third basemen the Mets have trotted out there since 2015. In terms of offense, his 119 wRC+ only sits behind one player — David Wright, whose 125 wRC+ tops the list of Mets third basemen from 2015-2018. While Wright was productive (on offense, his defense was a different story) when he played, he still only managed to play 75 games over the last three years.

Daniel Murphy (109 wRC+), TJ Rivera (108 wRC+), Juan Uribe (103 wRC+), and Wilmer Flores (103 wRC+) have provided the best wRC+’s behind Wright’s and Frazier’s, though they are hardly anything to write home about. Jose Reyes and Eric Campbell have also played a ton of third base in this time frame, and have provided little offense to no offense (95 wRC+, and 67 wRC+ respectively).

The defensive side of the game is where Frazier’s impact can really set him apart. He has been a good defender at the position his whole career (+28 DRS, +24.6 UZR), which is something the Mets sorely lacked since 2015.

Flores’ 810.2 innings at the position lead the Mets since 2015, and he has been a sub-par defender there (-17 DRS, -3.6 UZR). Reyes’ 719.1 innings are second, and he has also been a poor defender (-11 DRS, -4.4 UZR). Even Wright, who still could hit during his cameos in 2015 and 2016 as his wRC+ siggests, became a shell of himself defensively, putting up a -16 DRS and a -5.5 UZR in his 655 innings at the position, third most since 2015. Campbell (411.2 innings) and Murphy (352 innings) both saw good chunks of time there, but both saw struggles defensively (-3 DRS, -2.4 UZR, and -1 DRS, -1.9 UZR, respectively).

Rivera has played 256 innings at third, but has a -5 DRS and -3.2 UZR there already, clearly showing he was out of position.

While Frazier has had a slow defensive start to the season (-2 DRS, -0.5 UZR), he certainly has the track record to buck the trend of terrible defense at the position that has plagued the Mets in recent times.

Frazier has been a significant upgrade to the other options at the position for the Mets, but it also is important to try and project what the rest of the season could hold for Frazier. And it looks rather promising.

His 2016 wRC+ (104) and 2017 wRC+ (108) look rather pedestrian, and they hovered around league average for the position (106 and 102, respectively), but a lot of that had to do with his BABIP. His BABIP was well below his career number of .271 in both seasons, coming in at .236 in 2016 and .226 in 2017. That has seemingly corrected itself in 2018, as it is up to .278. That is certainly a pleasant sight, and it is particularly interesting when you pair it with a trend he picked up last season.

Frazier was never much of a walker, as his career-high walk rate before 2017 was just 9.6%, set in 2016. However, that ballooned up to 14.4% last season, which helped alleviate some of his issues getting on base due to his low BABIP. Instead of falling back into his pre-2017 ways, Frazier has doubled down on being a more patient hitter, and currently has a 15% walk rate. It looks like it can continue, as well.

His 2017 swinging strike rate was 9.3%, which was the first time it ever sat below 11%, and only the second time it sat below 12%. This year, it is at 8.7%. He is chasing the ball less as well over the past two years,as well as swinging and missing — and the two likely go hand in hand. He has swung at balls out of the zone 32.1% of the time for his career, but he cut it down to 25% last season, and 22.2% this season. It looks like he made some legitimate changes to turn himself into a more patient hitter, and that can only help sustain his walk rate moving forward.

His rather newfound patience, coupled with a BABIP close to his normal number, make for an exciting combination.

He is also hitting the ball very well, as he has a 44% hard-hit rate this season, well above his career average of 33.4%, and well above the league average of 34.6%.

These three things in conjunction are very promising, and certainly make Frazier someone to keep an eye on for the rest of the season.

While he probably will not fill the shoes of David Wright completely in the eyes of Mets fans — that is nigh impossible — Frazier looks like he will easily be the best player at the hot corner since spinal stenosis put Wright’s career in limbo, not only in terms of stability, but in terms of talent.