Waring Them Out

Dayton duo are punishing pitchers

DAYTON—Ten days into the new season, Dayton Dragons teammates Todd Frazier and Brandon Waring were not just hitting opponents, they were clobbering them.

Frazier, the shortstop out of Rutgers in his home state of New Jersey, failed to get a hit in one official at-bat in the opener, then connected in eight straight games to lift his batting average to .394. At one point, he was hitting .476.

Waring, the third baseman out of Wofford College in his home state of South Carolina, was right behind, with a nine-game hitting streak to begin the season, lifting his average to .472.

Finally, on April 13, both went 0-for-3, and have compiled more realistic batting averages ever since. They are realistic for a couple of guys the parent Reds think are headed their way.

Certainly, Dragons manager Donnie Scott thinks so.

"This guy has a chance to be a leader right away in the major leagues," Scott said of Frazier, who was still hitting .313/.415/.638 with less than a month gone in the season. "And Waring (.289/.345/.526) . . . I shouldn't say this, but he reminds me of Mike Schmidt. Mike struck out a lot early in his career, like Brandon. But this guy has a lot of pop (just like Schmidt)."

Finding a Place

Suddenly with prospects in their system, the Reds began taking notice early of Frazier and Waring. Worried they might play one position so long they wouldn't be able to learn others—or their position might not be available in the majors—word came down just three weeks into the season to begin moving the two around the diamond.

Frazier would get some time at first and third, while Waring would also play some first base. Both might eventually end up in the outfield.

"I've always been a shortstop," said Frazier, who was the leader of his 1998 Little League World Series champion Toms River, N.J., team, "but I'll play anywhere to get to the big leagues. For the most part, I just pay attention to what I'm doing. If you hit, you'll move up, and if they feel I'll make the big leagues at a different position, that's okay."

Scott thinks Frazier can play any position and will flourish.

"The good thing is he's not going to be on that emotional roller coaster," Scott said. "He's the same guy going 0-for-4 or 4-for-4. He's a true professional."

After an early game Frazier won with a late-inning homer, he smiled and told a reporter, "That's the way we roll."

Scott said that's exactly what Frazier told him when he rounded third and was greeted by his manager in the third-base coaching box.

"This guy walks up to the plate and thinks he's going to get a hit every time," Scott said. "If he doesn't, it won't affect him. He's not going to have a long slump."

Frazier won't even talk about slumps. If someone outside the organization wants to talk to him about why he isn't hitting, he just walks away.

"I always loved to set my goals high," Frazier said. "If I set my goal at hitting .460, maybe I'll hit .320. That's an exceptional year."

He had an exceptional year last summer after being taken with a supplemental first-round pick. Sent to Rookie-level Billings of the Pioneer League, posted a .319/.409/.513 season with five homers and 25 RBIs in 41 games.

Promoted to the Dragons with a week to go in the season, he hardly slowed down, going .318/.375/.727 with two more homers and five RBIs in six games.

Frazier might have made the high Class A Sarasota roster out of spring training, but the Reds are currently overrun with shortstops and third basemen in their system. He was sent back to Dayton, but at his current pace could easily expect to be promoted at some point, especially if he flourishes at other positions.

"This guy could easily handle another position," Scott said. "I think he is going to be an impact guy right off the get.

"I had two pitchers in the minors, Scott Sanderson and Scott Williamson (both of whom had long major league careers). They had the ability to turn it up a notch if needed. You don't see that as much in a position player because they are out there every day, but with Frazier, if you give him a challenge, he turns it up. He doesn't like getting beat. That's something that takes years to learn, and he's already got that. He might get angry, but he does it in the right way."

Home Run Machine

Scott also can be as effusive about Waring, who slugged 47 homers last season, 27 at Wofford, then 20 more at Billings. "I just try to make solid contact," Waring said. "I guess I have a home run swing. I elevate a lot of balls."

Waring also says he was a late bloomer, a guy who grew six inches entering the 10th grade and wasn't much of a hitter until his senior year of high school in Columbia, S.C., when he hit "about .560 with 12 homers."

The 21-year old stands 6-foot-4 now, weighing a solid 195 pounds. After three years at Wofford, he was selected last summer in the seventh round by the Reds.

He didn't stop hitting homers, either, and finally was promoted to Dayton for the final game of the regular season. He arrived at the park in time to pinch hit, knocking in two runs with a single. Then he played in the playoffs.

"Pro ball was an adjustment," said Waring. "I never really used a wooden bat until last year, but if you hit the ball square, it will go just as far as with an aluminum bat.

"I'd like to be more consistent this year. I had some down times. I know a little more what it takes to play so many games."

The Dragons know what it means to have Frazier and Waring in the lineup, as well.

Marc Katz covers the Dragons for the Dayton Daily News.