Bryce Harper vs. Todd Frazier: Comparing Top NL Rookie of the Year Candidates
There is certainly a tight race for the 2012 National League Rookie of the Year award. A number of outstanding performances have been put in by young stars and no one has really run away in the race.
Wade Miley has been outstanding for the Arizona Diamondbacks. It is certainly possible that he manages to win the award this season.
There are two hitters that will challenge each other and Miley for the award. Todd Frazier has put together a solid season and his numbers make him one of the favorites to win the National League Rookie of the Year award.
Bryce Harper is not making it that easy for Frazier to be the top positional player in the National League. The young phenom has put up an impressive year himself.
Let's take a look to see which rookie hitter has the best chance of winning the National League Rookie of the Year award this season.
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This is one area where Bryce Harper has a clear edge over Todd Frazier, but it is not clear how much of an impact that it will have on the National League Rookie of the Year voting.
Most players that are Harper's age, 19, are either still in college or are somewhere in the low minors. This is part of what makes Harper's numbers this year so impressive.
Frazier, on the other hand, is 26 years old, and he had some experience in the majors last year.
Harper is putting together one of the best seasons ever by a teenager. His performance should be one of the top three ever by a player under the age of 20 (h/t Baseball-Reference.com). This should be enough to win Harper a few votes, fair or not.
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The hype machine was up and running well before Bryce Harper reached the major leagues. He was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2009 when he was just 16 years old. Harper came into the season ranked as the No. 1 prospect according to Baseball America, ahead of Mike Trout even after the decent numbers he put up last year during his short time in the majors.
There has been some hype around Todd Frazier as well. Baseball America considered him to be the 60th best prospect in the game prior to the 2009 season and the 43rd best before the 2010 season (via Baseball-Reference.com).
Don't underestimate the value that hype has when it comes to the Rookie of the Year voting. Harper earned his All-Star appearance due in some part to the hype surrounding him, so it could have an impact on the Rookie of the Year voting as well.
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When it comes down to it, production should be the most important factor when it comes to determining who should win the Rookie of the Year award. Both Bryce Harper and Todd Frazier have had good seasons, but it is possible to separate them.
Through September 18, Harper has a .263/.335/.458 line with 84 runs scored, 19 home runs, 50 RBI and 13 stolen bases. His numbers have been good enough for a 112 OPS+ and a 114 wRC+. Additionally, Harper has posted a fWAR of 4.0 this season.
Frazier's offensive numbers are better. He has hit .284/.345/.517 with 53 runs scored, 18 home runs, 62 RBI and three stolen bases. Those numbers equate to a 124 OPS+ and a 128 wRC+. Frazier's fWAR this season is 2.8.
One of the reasons that Harper's fWAR is higher than Frazier's despite his slightly lower offensive production is because of his defensive performance. However, Frazier still gets the edge here because offense reigns supreme when it comes to an award like this.
Value to Their Team
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The Washington Nationals and the Cincinnati Reds have been two of the best teams in the majors this season. It is clear that both Bryce Harper and Todd Frazier have been an integral part of their respective team's success this year.
Washington's lineup has a number of run producers, but they were without Mike Morse and Jayson Werth for a decent amount of time this season. Harper did a fairly good job at replacing part of their production, filling the need that the Nationals had in their outfield.
Cincinnati was without star first baseman Joey Votto for an extended period of time this season. During his absence, the Reds needed someone to pick up the slack and Frazier did an outstanding job. He has also clearly demonstrated that he has the bat to take over full time at third base next season.
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While Bryce Harper leads in two categories to Todd Frazier's one, the decision is not that simple. The production category should carry the most weight in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.
Both have arguably been equally valuable to their teams this year. The voters will have a very difficult decision to make between these two and it is almost certain that they each will appear first on more than one ballot.
Harper may end up with a very slight edge over Frazier because of the fact that he is still a teenager. The level of production that he is putting up at his age can be described as nothing short of impressive. If enough writers feel that way, Harper will come out ahead of Frazier.
That does not mean that Harper will be the National League Rookie of the Year award winner though. Wade Miley certainly has a good chance in the race as well.
Miley has a 15-10 record and a 3.10 ERA this season. His 137 ERA+ is impressive as is the fact that he ranks fourth in the National League in wins and ninth in ERA. Miley's 4.3 fWAR compares favorable to Harper's 4.0 fWAR.
The National League Rookie of the Year award should be a very close race this year and whichever player wins it will certainly have made the case during the year that he deserves the honor.