Second base for the Cincinnati Reds is a little bit murky when we look into the future. After a decade-plus of former All-Star Brandon Phillips manning second base, the 2017 season was supposed to be the one where Jose Peraza took over the spot. And that did happen, briefly, but his struggles combined with the breakout of waiver pick up Scooter Gennett led to a switch in plans. Despite a big season from Gennett, the Reds have their top prospect, a third baseman as a professiona, Nick Senzel, working at second base. They also have another of their Top 10 prospects at second base in Shed Long. And none of that includes another second baseman that the team has in Dilson Herrera, who they traded for in the 2016 season when they moved Jay Bruce to the New York Mets. To put it bluntly, they have a lot of options at second.
In Triple-A last season there were three guys who saw 29+ games at second base. The previously mentioned Dilson Herrera, Darnell Sweeney, and Alex Blandino. For the purposes of this series, we are only looking at players that qualify as prospects, which eliminates Dilson Herrera as he has too much big league time. Darnell Sweeney can play a little bit of everywhere, but I will look at him more as an outfielder in a few weeks.
That leaves Alex Blandino. The former 1st round pick began the year in Double-A Pensacola. After a cold stretch of a few weeks to start the season he started to put things together and earned a promotion to Louisville midseason after hitting .259/.374/.462 for the Blue Wahoos. Once in Louisville he picked up where he left off in Pensacola. Blandino would .270/.390/.444 in the second half. While he plays multiple positions, defensively it’s second base where he’s the best. Offensively he’s got a good understanding of the strikezone and there’s a little bit of pop in his bat.
When Alex Blandino moved up to Triple-A it was Shed Long who jumped up to take over in Pensacola. But, in the first half Long was in Daytona terrorizing pitchers to the tune of a .312 average with a .380 on-base percentage to go with a .543 slugging percentage. The power showed up in a big way for the infielder in the first half. With his promotion to Double-A he saw some initial struggles. His wrist began to act up and he would miss out on most of the month of August before returning for the final week of the regular season. With the Blue Wahoos he lowered his strikeout rate, and he also drew more walks, but the hits just didn’t find the grass as often as they did at his previous stop. He would post a .227/.319/.362 line in the second half. The power is there, he’s got more speed than his nine steals in 2017 would suggest and he’s a much better hitter than the .227 average in the second half says.
Brantley Bell began the year in Dayton at second base. It was his second year with the Dragons. His power stepped forward in 2017 with Dayton, with 13 doubles, a triple and two home runs in 63 games. He also stole 15 bases in the first half. However, he did hit just .240 with 21 walks and 72 strikeouts in 63 games played. When he moved up to Daytona the power dropped off, with just six doubles and a single home run in 62 games. He did cut his strikeout rate significantly (it was 25% lower, going from 28.1% to 21.1%), but his walk rate was also down significantly. Like in Dayton, he was successful on the bases, stealing 14 of 16 bases, giving him 29 total between his two stops.
After Brantley Bell was promoted the second base spot in Dayton was manned by several players. No one else on the team spent more than 23 games at the spot other than Bell, though. Jumping down to Billings the majority of the playing time went to Alejo Lopez. The switch hitter was making a return to the Mustangs. The season went much better in 2017 for the 21-year-old, posting a .300/.388/.455 line. In each of his three years since being drafted, Lopez has walked more than he’s struck out. The big difference in 2017 was that he started showing more extra-base pop. In 2016 he managed just eight extra-base hits in 57 games. During 2017 he had 20, including four home runs. He only had one home run through 69 games in his career entering the season. There’s not a bunch of power to tap into for Lopez, but he makes tons of contact and walk more than he strikes out. He’s also got some speed to work with.
In Arizona most of the playing time went to 4th round draft pick Cash Case, who started 29 games. The 18-year-old struggled at the plate and in the field in his professional debut. He hit just .180/.273/.241. He had a good walk rate and his strikeout rate was solid, but the hits just didn’t come in his 34 games played (he made five starts at designated hitter). In the field he made 10 errors and posted an .865 fielding percentage. While the debut wasn’t what you wanted to see, he’s got some tools to work with, particularly at the plate.
You may notice that I didn’t write up Nick Senzel here despite mentioning him near the top of the article. For the grading portion below, I’m going to consider him partially here, which will boost the grade some. But, I still think it’s worth considering him more as a third baseman until he actually goes out and plays some second base on the field as a professional. But, even behind that, there’s plenty of depth at the position. Shed Long gives you a Top 10 prospect in the organization. Alex Blandino gives you a second top 25 guy and one who has found success in Triple-A and could be on the verge of the Majors. In the lower levels you’ve got some potential, too. From the absolute top at the Major League level to the bottom, it could be the deepest position in the organization.
With the overall depth, a top end prospect and a half, and a solid spread of the depth throughout the system, second base is a solid B+. If we were fully counting Senzel it would bump the grade up a little more.
Hit Tool | Shed Long
Power | Shed Long
Running | Shed Long / Brantley Bell
Arm | Alex Blandino
Fielding | Alex Blandino
With regards to the fielding, there are a few different opinions on who could claim the top spot there. Blandino’s arm stands out at the position though, which led to me giving him the edge.