Reds Ruminations: 2012, A (Roster) Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey, Warner Bros. (1968)

As the 2011 season draws closer to conclusion we continue our in-depth look towards the 2012 Reds’ roster. Last week we asked for your help deciding off-season moves. This week, we predict the 2012 opening day roster. This will be a two part series: today we look at position players (pitchers will come later).

When looking at the potential 2012 roster, it appears the Reds only have a few questions to answer. For this piece, we are making a few assumptions: 1) none of the starting players will be traded and 2) the Reds will bring Brandon Phillips back (option or extension). If you’ll grant us those assumptions, the following players are already penciled in for 2012: Joey Votto (starting first base), Brandon Phillips (starting second base), Scott Rolen (starting/part-time third base), Ryan Hanigan (part-time catcher), Devin Mesoraco (part-time catcher), Drew Stubbs (starting centerfield) Jay Bruce (starting right field), and Miguel Cairo (utility/bench). If the Reds keep with tradition and allow for 13 position players on the active roster, this leaves the organization with 5 spots up for grabs. This includes the starting short stop, a back-up infielder, and three outfielders.

Short Stop

Zack Cozart is the favorite to start at short on opening day, 2012. However, the promising youngster recently underwent Tommy John surgery, leaving some questions about his availability. The Reds say he’ll be fully recovered by spring training. While Dusty Baker stopped short of naming Cozart the 2012 starter, he made it clear that Cozart will have every opportunity to earn the job. With few options at the position, we predict that Cozart will win the job.

Back-up Infielder

The last infield spot will likely go to Paul Janish. While Yonder Alonso, Todd Frazier, Chris Valaika, and Juan Francisco all represent better bats than Janish, the Reds need a 2nd short stop on the roster. Janish’s defensive versatility also allows for some flexibility. Due to these factors, we have Paul Janish as the last infielder to make the 2012 roster.

Remaining Outfielders

The starting left-fielder for 2012 remains the biggest question facing the team. The Reds may explore free agents, but the list of potential free agent outfielders is less than overwhelming. Upgrading the position from outside the organization would likely require a trade. With several MLB-ready prospects (cough… Alonso) unable to crack the MLB roster, an off-season trade seems likely. If the Reds decided to go with players in-house, Chris Heisey, Todd Frazier, and Dave Sappelt will likely fill out the roster.

That would mean the 25-man, active roster will look like this on opening day:

- 12 pitchers (breakdown coming later this week)

- Infield: Votto, Phillips, Rolen, Cozart, Janish, Cairo

- Outfield: Bruce, Stubbs, Heisey, Sappelt, Frazier

- Catcher: Mesoraco, Hanigan

This would mean the “most common” 2012 lineup would probably look like this:

Heisey/Sappelt LF
Phillips 2B
Votto 1B
Bruce RF
Rolen 3B
Stubbs CF
Mesoraco C
Cozart SS

Very similar to 2011, but better. If Cozart can play a full season, he will most definitely be an upgrade at short. It seems likely that Rolen will be given more time off next years, which means Frazier could see some time at third along with left-field. Mesoraco could be moved up in the order once he “proves” to Dusty he can handle MLB pitching.

Unfortunately, this leaves Yonder Alonso off the team. Alonso’s only hope to crack the roster is at third base. If he is able to convince the decision makers that he is capable of playing adequate defense at third, the Reds could opt to release Cairo and give Alonso a spot on the bench, spelling Rolen occasionally. However, an off-season trade involving Alonso seems more likely.

What are your thoughts? Anyone I am forgetting?


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  • beeker

    With this team’s need for a good bat, it is absolutely insane that the team cannot find a place for Alonso. I know that he had a brutally ugly missed catch in Chicago–right before Dusty declared the experiment “over”–but the way this team has handled him is nothing short of stupid. Honestly, I feel bad for the guy. They might as well package him with someone like Valaika and go after a solid starter in the offseason, because the Reds have no idea what they are doing with him.

    In all, that lineup doesn’t look bad. Look how young it is. I see Frazier as a solid pick as a hybrid 3B/LF, because I think they would be silly to count on Rolen for more than 80 games, leaving more games than Cairo should cover. If Rolen does play more then great, but don’t just assume it.

  • Steven Engbloom

    If I remember correctly, Rolen said now has more range of motion in his shoulder, the most since the first operation. Good sign.

    Thing is, the Reds have more pieces that are considered ready than they do places for them to play. Alonso may have a bat, but until he can show he can play a little defense, he won’t be on the Reds roster. I don’t necessarily think it’s a reflection of the Reds not knowing what to do with him, it’s more of a manner of Alonso only being able to play the one position in which Votto mans. The experiment in LF and 3B could be ongoing through spring next season.

  • JohnHeitz

    I become more firmly of the belief that there is no place for Yonder Alonso on the Cincinnati Reds. His defense is a liability at any position, even first base if what I have read is accurate. He is a two tool player. He hits for contact and occasionally for power. That is all. The closest player the Reds have ever had to Alonso is Hal McRae who they traded in the early 70s because as good as he was he had no where to play. There is a market for players who can hit. The entire American League and according to all accounts, the St. Louis Cardinals as TLR places no weight on defense, are always in the market for a strong bat, so the Reds should trade him while he is young and holds the maximum trade value. I like Yonder, he seems a great teammate, I just don’t think it is with the Reds.