The Cincinnati Reds lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers this afternoon 3-2. They managed three hits in the game and just one walk. Offensively, the team has been about as bad as a team could be. They have scored a grand total of 58 runs in 17 games. 14 of those runs came in one game. That means they’ve scored 44 runs in the other 16 games they’ve played. That’s 2.5 runs per game. You won’t win many baseball games like they, and they haven’t. The loss on Wednesday dropped them to 5-12. That’s the second worst record in the Major Leagues – better than the Miami Marlins by a game as I type this.
So the big question is, what the heck is going on? The offense was supposed to be the part of the team that no one was worried about. The pitching had questions, both in the bullpen and in the rotation. The defense had plenty of questions, too. The defense and bullpen haven’t exactly answered all of the questions – it’s been hit-and-miss. The rotation has done a pretty good job, led by Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray. Hitting, however, has largely been non-existent.
Joey Votto has a .323 on-base percentage. Jesse Winker has a .250 on-base percentage. Matt Kemp and Jose Peraza have combined to walk zero times in over 100 plate appearances. Yasiel Puig has a .211 on-base percentage. Scott Schebler has a .250 on-base percentage. You’ve watched. It’s been U-G-L-Y, ugly. And really, aside from understanding that there’s no possible way this will last because these guys are more talented than this, there hasn’t been a sign to suggest they will come out of this early season funk.
When looking down on the farm, there doesn’t really seem to be an immediate answer. Part of that is because of how the roster shapes up. The Reds bench has four players on it. That includes the backup catcher, who is not going to the minors. That leaves three spots. It’s tough to see how they would send a starting player to the minors, but maybe the start that Jose Peraza is out to could be what’s needed. He’s been moved off of shortstop and slid over to second base in the absence of Scooter Gennett. Peraza, after breaking out a bit last year, is hitting .154/.170/.231 with no walks and 14 strikeouts. With Derek Dietrich being capable of handling second base you could possibly slide him into the every day gig.
The other options could be to make a move that would send Kyle Farmer or Scott Schbler to Triple-A. With Farmer that would limit the ability to use either Tucker Barnhart or Curt Casali as a pinch-hitting option as he works as a 3rd catcher. With Schebler you would need to replace him with someone who can handle center field because there’s absolutely no way the Reds can play Jesse Winker there every day. It’s shocking that they play him there at all given that he’s literally the slowest runner of all qualified outfielders in Major League Baseball this season. And frankly, it’s not even remotely close. He is significantly behind every single other outfielder.
Until the Reds decide that an 8-man bullpen isn’t great, they are going to be rather limited in what they can do. If they send down Jose Peraza to try and get his bat going, they would need to bring up someone who can play shortstop – at least as a back up. On the 40-man roster that would mean Blake Trahan. In his Triple-A career, spanning 2018-2019 he’s hit .242/.324/.295 in 565 plate appearances. But with Scooter Gennett still looking like he’s going to be out until early June at the soonest, they could put him on the 60-day injured list to open up a 40-man spot. At that point you could look at someone like Christian Colon, who is currently hitting .333/.409/.426 with 9 walks and 6 strikeouts. He’s also got big league experience.
But the other option could be far more interesting: Josh VanMeter. He’s not a shortstop, really, but he’s played there as recently as 2018 in the minor leagues. And if he’s going to be the backup option, he can probably handle that. Toss in that he actually can play second base, third base, left field, and right field – and now you’re looking at a very interesting piece for the bench. Defensively he brings all kinds of things to like. But he’s also swinging a hotter bat than just about anyone around. In 14 games this season with Louisville he’s hitting .327/.379/.692 with an organizational best 5 home runs to go along with 4 doubles.
Neither player would likely step into an every day kind of role. But it’s possible that they could provide something, anything, to an offense that could use something. Anything. Right now, until Nick Senzel is healthy – and fortunately it seems that he’s getting closer to being just that – the guy who can step in every day and help the offense probably isn’t going to be there just yet. At this point, though, any little thing could help.
An earlier version of this story had a reference to Brian O’Grady, but he was placed on the 7-day injured list and thus would be ineligible to be called up currently.