The Cincinnati Reds bench has three utility players on it: Arismendy Alcantara, Scooter Gennett, and Patrick Kivlehan. Gennett has hit very well this year and has been roughly league average at the plate in the past. Kivlehan has been solid off of the bench, posting a .299 on-base percentage and a .409 slugging percentage. Alcantara, however, has really struggled. The 25-year-old has one walk and 29 strikeouts in just 81 plate appearances to go along with a .535 OPS. Perhaps it’s time to consider replacing him, or at least thinking about replacing him in the future. The guy that could be that replacement may be Zach Vincej.
Spending all of the 2017 season in Triple-A with Louisville, Zach Vincej hasn’t exactly jumped off of the stat sheet. He’s hitting .281/.338/.347 on the season. Good average, gets on base a little bit, not much pop. He’s walked 16 times and he’s struck out 22 times. His strikeout rate is only 10%, which is a stark contrast from what a guy like Alcantara is bringing to the table. Vincej has also been swinging a very hot bat lately. Since the start of June he’s hit .351 with 10 walks and 12 strikeouts.
Zach Vincej is actually five months older than Alcantara is, and while Alcantara is playing in part of his 4th Major League season, Vincej has yet to see the big leagues. When it comes to a straight tools-to-tools comparison, Vincej is a little bit behind. He’s not quite as fast, his power doesn’t profile as well. However, it’s the offensive side of things where Alcantara simply hasn’t been able to get it done. Over his last 100 big league plate appearances, spanning the 2016 and 2017 seasons, he has one walk and 37 strikeouts and an OPS of .523. He has four stolen bases and has been caught stealing three times. The tools simply aren’t playing and with that kind of plate discipline it’s hard to see how they will.
For Zach Vincej, he has essentially only played second base and shortstop in the minor leagues. He’s played parts of two innings at third base and never any outfield in the minor leagues since being drafted in 2012. Ideally you would prefer to see a utility guy get a little more experience at other spots, but he can play up the middle on the infield and I’d imagine he could handle third base defensively if asked.
It’s not so much the defense, though, where this could be an upgrade for the Reds. While Zach Vincej isn’t ever going to show you the kind of raw power that Arismendy Alcantara will, he has a far better understanding of the strikezone and is going to give you a quality at-bat. He’s going to make plenty of contact. Vincej isn’t going to be confused with Billy Hamilton when it comes to his speed, but he’s not slow and can be used as a pinch runner, too.
The role of utility player isn’t something that everyone is cut out for. Some guys can play once or twice a week and maintain their approach and ability at the plate. Some guys simply can’t. It would appear that Arismendy Alcantara is one of the guys that simply can’t. He does provide the ability to play around the field. But, if he’s unable to provide any sort of value with the bat, it’s probably time to consider other options. Zach Vincej may be one of those options who can back you up around the infield and give you a better chance of doing anything at the plate.