Last Monday we took a look at who was the most likely non-roster pitcher that could make the Cincinnati Reds roster with a good spring training. There wasn’t an easy answer, as the rotation is locked in and the bullpen has so much competition. Today we’re going to take a look at the position player pool, and it’s a lot more of the same.
This season the Major League Baseball roster limit has been upped to 26. There’s also a limit on how many pitchers a team can have – 13. I’m working on the assumption that the Reds will go with 13 pitches on the staff and 13 position players. It feels safe to assume that the following players, assuming health, are on the roster to begin the year:
- Tucker Barnhart (Catcher)
- Curt Casali (Catcher)
- Joey Votto (First Base)
- Mike Moustakas (Second Base)
- Eugenio Suarez (Third Base)
- Freddy Galvis (Shortstop)
- Shogo Akiyama (Outfield)
- Nick Castellanos (Outfield)
- Nick Senzel (Outfield)
- Jesse Winker (Outfield)
That’s ten players. That leaves three spots open – possibly four depending on if Eugenio Suarez is ready to begin the year or not. But we’re going to work on the assumption that he is for the purposes of this article. Now, looking at that list above you’re going to notice several players missing who played a good role on the 2019 team. Aristides Aquino isn’t on the list. Phillip Ervin isn’t on the list. Josh VanMeter isn’t on the list. Kyle Farmer isn’t on the list.
Phillip Ervin is out of options. As are fellow outfielders Travis Jankowski and Scott Schebler. Outfielder Mark Payton, the Reds Rule 5 draft pick, technically has options but he can’t be sent to the minor leagues or he is placed on waivers where another team can claim him, and if he does clear waivers, his previous team is able to buy his contract back for half of what the Reds paid for it.
Before we even get to the non-roster players, Cincinnati is at a 26-man roster crunch. The Reds invited nine players to spring training as non-roster positional players. With four catchers already on the 40-man roster in Barnhart, Casali, Farmer, and Tyler Stephenson, it seems that there’s almost no way Chris Okey or Francisco Pena break onto the roster out of the spring. The outfield is even more packed, so that likely leaves Boog Powell and top 10 prospect Stuart Fairchild without much of a chance of claiming a spot.
The infield, however, could have a spot available. Maybe. While several players on the 40-man roster have experience at shortstop – including some guys with experience there in the big leagues in Kyle Farmer and Alex Blandino – but only Freddy Galvis has the reputation as a guy who can handle shortstop every single day among players on the 40-man. Perhaps this is where the best opportunity lies for a non-roster player to grab a spot.
Or maybe not. The only true shortstops that were invited to spring training on a non-roster invite was Alfredo Rodriguez and Jose Garcia. One of those guys is a top prospect, and the other one isn’t exactly a prospect. Garcia, the Reds #4 overall prospect has not played above Advanced-A ball. He’s not going to make the roster. The team wants to develop him for the future and stashing him on the bench simply isn’t going to do that.
Alfredo Rodriguez spent last season mostly in Double-A where he hit for a solid average, but had no power at all – hitting just one home run and slugging .347 despite hitting .286. He spent the final month in Triple-A where he hit just .168 with a .482 OPS. The glove is there for shortstop, but the bat leaves a lot to be desired, too. It would make more sense to keep him in the minors and only call him up if you needed an every day shortstop if something were to happen to Freddy Galvis. Otherwise, if and when Galvis needs a day or two off, slide someone else to the spot – whether that’s Blandino, Farmer, Suarez perhaps for a day, maybe VanMeter who has played there some in the minors – there are options for a 1-day kind of fill in.
Perhaps you can make the argument for a guy like Matt Davidson. He has big league experience, though all of his 2019 playing time came in the minors at the Triple-A level where he posted an .866 OPS with 33 home runs. By-and-large he’s been a corner infielder, spending most of his time at third base, but plenty at first base as well. With Joey Votto getting older, and as much as it hurts to say, less productive, perhaps a right-handed bat could be used to give him a few extra days off here and there against left-handed pitching. Davidson has always hit lefties better than righties. In Triple-A during 2019 he hit .322/.407/.534 in 135 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers with 16 walks and 30 strikeouts. In the Majors in 2018 he hit .289/.382/.500 against lefties in 131 plate appearances.
There is also an argument that could be made for Christian Colon. He’s not like Davidson at all. He is a right-handed hitter and he can play first and third, so I guess that is similar so they are sort-of-alike in that sense. At the plate, though, they are just about nothing alike. Colon doesn’t have much power. He’s only hit double-digit home runs twice in his career, and he’s been a professional since 2010. What he does do is bring a good plate approach and make plenty of contact. In the last two seasons he’s walked 97 times and struck out just 96 times – combined. He has also seen some limited action at shortstop in Triple-A over the last few years. Like Davidson, he did handle lefties better – hitting .333/.414/.493 with 19 walks and just 12 strikeouts against them in 170 plate appearances last season.
As was noted at the top of the article – it’s going to be tough to break through and win a spot for a non-roster player if everyone is healthy. The options, or lack there of on several players on the 40-man are looming large. But if there’s someone that makes the most sense from the non-roster guys, it’s likely Matt Davidson, who has some pop, can play two spots on the field, and seems to mash left-handed pitching. If the Reds are looking to perhaps add more contact instead of more power, then Christian Colon could be a real option for the organization.