Conventional wisdom on Todd Frazier is that he's a pretty good athlete but he doesn't have what it takes to play shortstop. In John Sickels's outstanding Baseball Prospect Book (which you should go buy now), he says (on page 163):
The main question for Frazier is defense. He is a reliable shortstop in terms of avoiding mistakes, posting a solid .981 fielding percentage at the position last year, but scouts say his range is below average and that he's better suited for third base or the outfield at higher levels.
And this isn't too surprising of an assessment given his size. In 2008, only Troy Tulowitzki (6'3", 205 lb.) regularly played shortstop while being close to Frazier's build at 6'3", 215 lb. Only four shortstops played 100 games at the position while being at least 6'3" last year (Tulowitzki, Jeter, Hanley Ramirez, Bobby Crosby) and all topped out at exactly that height. I can see how it might be easy for scouts to look at his size and assume that it doesn't project to play well at SS, but that doesn't necessarily mean that he can't play the position, does it?
Minor league fielding stats are still in the embryonic stages, but thanks to Jeff Sackman and Sean Smith, we have more reliable ones today than we had two days ago. Using Smith's TotalZone metric, which is based on play-by-play data, but is not necessarily as precise as the true zone metrics like UZR, RZR, and Zone Rating, we now have something better to go by for minor leaguers other than fielding percentage.
This is how Frazier stacks up against other shortstops in the Reds system:
I've put in fielding percentage and range factor because I want to use some terms that people are more familiar with so you can compare, but suffice to say that TotalZone gives us a much better picture than either of those numbers, though it still is not perfect by any means.
When I look at these numbers, the one question that pops up is, have the Reds given up on Frazier at shortstop too quickly? I'm not saying these numbers should trump what the scouts say, but they sure seem to conflict with it. It seems odd to me that Chris Valaika has never played anywhere but shortstop, even though scouts have doubts about him there as well, but Frazier was tried out in a variety of positions last year. Since it looks like Frazier has the better bat and potentially the better glove at short, doesn't it stand to reason that he would be the one getting the reps at short and Valaika would be trying to find a position?
With Juan Francisco and Neftali Soto also playing third base, and one of Yonder Alonso and Joey Votto as the likely long-term solution in LF, would it really hurt the Reds to keep trying Frazier at shortstop? Wouldn't his bat look even better at short than on a corner? He wouldn't have to play great defense even, as long as he is hitting.
I'm sure the Reds have probably already made up their mind about this, but I hope they take a chance to look at some numbers before going strictly by the word of the scouts. It appears that, despite the perception of lack of range, Frazier does have some decent range at the position. At least enough, it seems, to let his bat play there for a few years, don't you think?