Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier may not be the flashiest player on the planet (his @FlavaFraz21 Twitter handle not withstanding), but his consistent play and timely hitting have helped the team stay near the top of the standings this season. Those same qualities were on display Monday night as Frazier worked his way to the final round of the 2014 Gillette Home Run Derby at Target Field in Minneapolis before losing to defending champion Yoenis Cespedes of the Oakland A’s.
After a lengthy rain delay, Frazier got the festivities started in the first round with a meager two home runs that immediately put him on the bubble. A surprising 0-fer by the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig gave Frazier as the final National League batter, Colorado Rockies first baseman and longtime Minnesota Twin Justin Morneau, took the field. Morneau struggled through his cuts but managed to tie Frazier with two homers, which meant the two would stage a swing-off to see who would face Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki in Round 2.
In the head-to-head, each batter got three swings, and Frazier connected on one of his. When Morneau took the collar, @FlavaFraz21 moved on.
Toward the end of Round 2, Frazier finally started to get loose and hit his groove, smashing 6 dingers in 7 outs. Tulo, who had nailed 4 homers in the opening session, couldn’t keep pace and hit only 2 in the second round, allowing Frazier to advance to the semifinals.
In Round 3, facing the intimidating Giancarlo Stanton, Frazier managed just one home run and it looked like his night was over. Stanton, though, followed the Puig plan from Round 1 and didn’t hit a single tater in his last appearance, sending Frazier into the finals against Cespedes.
Meanwhile, Cespedes himself barely squeaked by in the first round, tying for third in the American League with three homers, and then swinging off against A’s teammate Josh Donaldson for the right to advance. By a 2-1 margin, Cespedes landed in Round 3 against the Baltimore Orioles’ Adam Jones. The defending champ found his mojo and crushed Jones by a tally of 9-3 to set up the finale against the Reds’ third baseman.
Frazier led off the finals and managed just one home run, but given how the night had progressed to that point, a single dinger didn’t necessarily mean the contest was over. As it turns out, though, Cespedes was just hitting his stride, and the Oakland leftfielder slammed nine homers to take the easy win.
Before the Home Run Derby, I had pegged Frazier to best Morneau but ultimately not make it out of the first round. Not many pundits had him advancing to the far reaches of the contest, so Frazier’s performance on Monday might have been considered a surprise. For Reds fans who have been paying attention, though, maybe we should have seen this coming.
Frazier has helped keep Cincinnati’s offense afloat all season, and he did the same for the National Leaugue’s Home Run Derby hopes on Monday.