On Monday night Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell announced that on Tuesday the team was going to start Eugenio Suárez at shortstop against Colorado. It wasn’t an announcement of a permanent move. But it also sounded like it was something that they wanted to look at more than just one time, too. Along with Suárez sliding to shortstop, Mike Moustakas is going to move from second base to third base. That would seem to open up second base for Jonathan India, who has been the talk of the organization over the last year.
Last summer there were a few players who were being talked about with high praise for their improvements at Prasco Park – the Reds alternative site. None of the players were getting more praise, though, than Jonathan India. Cincinnati’s 1st round pick in 2018 out of Florida had battled injuries in the 2019 season, and while he held his own at the plate, he didn’t stand out, either. Healthy in 2020, but hidden away from the public eye at the alternate site, India was hitting the ball, and he was hitting the ball well. But it wasn’t just the hitting that was turning the corner, he was also working on his defense. Coming up he had spent a majority of his time at third base, but Cincinnati also had him spending time at second base in 2020 and the transition there has gone relatively smoothly.
In the offseason, the Reds stated goal was to acquire a shortstop for the 2021 season. Their plan still had Jose Garcia as the potential future shortstop, but they believed that he still needed time in the minor leagues to develop his bat a little bit more. The organization failed to bring in anyone to fill that spot. Kyle Holder has never played a game in the big leagues and is a trade acquisition and Rule 5 pick from the Phillies. The team picked up Dee Strange-Gordon on a minor league deal.
The failure to find a shortstop, plus Eugenio Suárez dropping some weight and getting into better shape over the offseason has given manager David Bell the opportunity to perhaps salvage something with his infield…. if Suárez can play even a bad defensive shortstop. There is a limit on how bad you can accept, and the math for that is beyond what I think we can really guesstimate right now.
But, let’s pretend that Eugenio Suárez can play shortstop better than “so bad we can’t keep playing him there”. Let’s accept for arguments sake that between the high rate of strikeouts in the game, and the advanced defensive positioning, that he’s someone you can live with at the position for the time being. That opens up a world of possibilities for the Cincinnati Reds. Moustakas can slide to third base, where he has spent a majority of his professional career. And then you can put Jonathan India at second base, where he’s likely an upgrade defensively over Moustakas, and he’s likely an upgrade offensively from whatever you were going to get from the shortstop position when it wasn’t Suárez.
Now, what about Jose Garcia? That’s a fair question. And it’s also one that we may have an answer for. Garcia needs time in the minor leagues to continue developing his bat. Good offspeed pitches are his biggest struggle and he’ll often chase them out of the zone. He simply needs to see more of them. How long that will take, no one really knows. But let’s say that he could be ready to go to start the 2022 season. What then?
Well, that could come down to how the upcoming collective bargaining agreement goes. Both the players and the owners want the designated hitter in both leagues. They couldn’t agree to make it happen this year. Perhaps with more time, and a lot more on the table, they can implement it moving forward. If so, that could help unclog some of the position battles happening in Cincinnati. Whether that’s getting more time for Joey Votto at the designated hitter position while sliding Moustakas to first, Suárez back to third, and playing Garcia at shortstop – it gives the Reds opportunities moving forward to try and maximize both offensive and defensive values at multiple spots on the infield.
That plan, that timeline, it likely gets Jonathan India to the Major Leagues a year sooner. If Suárez can’t handle shortstop, then it’s tough to see the Reds keeping India on the bench in Cincinnati when he won’t be playing hardly ever given that the team would have to choose to sit either Suárez or Moustakas in order to get him on the field aside from pinch hitting opportunities, or an occasional start when the team is playing in an American League park and can utilize the designated hitter – but even then he probably doesn’t get all of those starts with an attempt to get the outfielders some at-bats, too.
For Cincinnati, this move with Suárez to shortstop could be what they need to truly fix their offensive questions. It’s going to likely come at the cost of some defense – even a slimmed down, in better shape version of Suárez probably isn’t as good of a defender as the Kyle’s (TM), Strange-Gordon, and definitely not Garcia. The balance between offense and defense is real. Where that line is…. well, that’s a bit tougher of an answer. Hopefully over the next two weeks the Reds take all of the time that they can to figure it out. The move not only would solve a short-term “shortstop problem”, but it would also open up a spot for a fast rising Jonathan India to get into the big leagues.
Odds are that one of votto, moose, Suarez or India will be hurt and this will work itself out
With the shift and analytics, how good of a defensive shortstop do you need these days? Serious question. Do you need the Ozzie smith’s and Rey ordonez’s anymore?
A refinement on this theme is which pitchers need a better defensive SS, and which can make do with Suarez. If they’ve done that analysis and determine that enough of the staff can make do with Suarez, and it gets India to 250+ PAs, he’s on the roster.
Range is still range. Positioning certainly helps, but every ball that’s one step beyond Suarez, or just past his glove, or a runner that beats the throw to the bag (because he got to the ball half of a second later) – a normal shortstop makes that play. How many of those are worth the trade off? Not only do you have to factor in the value of that hit/out, but that’s also taxing your pitchers who now have to throw more to get an additional out.
It’s a complex question. I’m not really sure the answer is all that easy to figure out.
All true. Multiple variables. Too pick up in your roster clearing theme, if they go this path, who is the preferred late game defensive replacement? Blandino, ARod, Garcia if 2 months in MiLB succeeds?
I guess that’s mostly what I’m asking. How important is range in today’s game? Has analytics and positioning surpassed it? How many hits are just a step away from even an average defender? As a pitcher I’d love to have Billy Hamilton (going 0-4) in cf, but MLB front offices don’t feel the same. way.
It’s an interesting thought…. thanks to better positioning, more strikeouts – the total defensive value is lower than ever, probably. But that also means that every play made/not made is worth more by comparison to the peers at the position. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot over the last year or two when it comes to defensive values as we’ve seen shifts go from “often” to “on every single play”.
Hopefully the Reds carry a defensive SS on the bench, Rodriguez or Holder. It would be prudent for late game switches when the defense outweighs the offense needs.
I will pushback on it being a difficult question – at least in the Reds’ situation. If they flatline like they did last year, it will be awful.
I believe Geno showing up “healthy “ made this decision easier; this coupled with the fact Farmer/Holder/whomever cannot hit.
I mean, at some point there’s a “negative defense is so much it isn’t cancelled out by positive offense”. I don’t know where that line is, specifically, but it most certainly exists.
You’re certainly correct about negative defense. We aren’t talking about Adam Dunn playing short. Geno is passable for the vacuum the Reds are in, correctly.
I honestly believe they hedged their shortstop plan on Geno. I believed they hoped those other gents would have came out better, but, reality was they weren’t.
You guys referenced Choo. This is same thing, IMO.
The most important part of the redleg nation. I’ve been a fan for almost 60 years.
I could play SS when 2/3 of the outs are strikeouts
Very difficult to figure out, so, give it a try. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t, but the decision should be made based on performance on the playing field once it has been considered as a possibility.
This is all great discussion and all, but it’s not applicable if Geno can fall onto a grounder every now and again. The Reds understand their hitting is bad. This is their attempt to get some ROI (wins) from last year’s extravaganza.
*this is all my opinion, please don’t ban me*
What about the potential to play India at SS if he can play there? Especially due to Suarez’s string of errors over the past week playing short. I’d say if Suarez can’t play there anymore, then I’d believe India could (at least for this year).
While they also said it about Suarez this spring, they’ve said there are no current plans to play India at shortstop.
The Reds really do need to explore this option. I’m getting more and more concerned by the day that Votto will miss opening day.
If that’s the case, Reds infield could be:
SS: Farmer/Gordon platoon
Perhaps India plays Suarez into a SS.