Mar 25, 2012; Salt River Pima-Maricopa, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) during an at bat against the Colorado Rockies at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

2012 Reds Roster Ramble: The Infield


You’ve undoubtedly read numerous posts, articles, etc., about what could be the Reds Opening Day roster and those that author such. I won’t hone in on a particular position, but an “area”: infield, outfield, starting staff, bullpen.

Over the next few days, we’ll look at the potential roster locks and the remaining slots up for grabs. No question most of the spots have been claimed, but there are still questions that continue to evolve in looking at what might be the final 25.

Always remember that the comments section is open for discussion regarding any and all thoughts you may have. I know there are some fans that will believe that one player should be taken over another. It’s, shall we say, inevitable.

To begin, let’s look at the infield…

The Locks

Joey Votto, First Base

No question the 2010 NL MVP has his spot secure. In his years in a Reds uniform, Votto has built a substantial resume’ (.313/.405/.550 with 119 HR and 401 RBI in 4+ seasons). Last season, Votto led the NL in doubles (40), walks (110) and OBP (.416). He also earned his first Gold Glove

Brandon Phillips, Second Base

2011 began on a somewhat peculiar note for BP. He was slotted into a couple of different lineup spots (2nd and cleanup) until settling into the leadoff spot later in the season. And he took off as the top guy in the lineup (.350/.417/.573 with 7 HR, 19 RBI and 30 runs scored). For the year, Phillips notched career highs in batting average (.300) and OBP (.353). HE also was awarded his 3rd Gold Glove and first Silver Slugger.

Zack Cozart, Shortstop

I’ve already stated that Cozart will have to be a valuable member of the 2012 squad. Including his 11 games from 2011, Reds shortstops combined for a slash of .238 (14th)/.281 (13th)/.317 (14th). Those numbers must show no less than a modest increase for the 2012 season.

You could look at it as the Reds still maintained a strong offense in spite of these numbers. Kind of a “glass half full” view. Improving these will only enhance a potent offense.

Scott Rolen, Third Base

Obviously, the concern for Rolen is his health. A healthy Rolen leads to a winning team, a more offensively productive squad, a better defensive unit. Numerous reports have Rolen feeling better than he has in five years. Let’s hope that results in seeing the eight-time Gold Glover on the field and not in the dugout.

Again, an uptick in production from the position would aid the offense. Last year, Reds 3B compiled a slash of .243 (12th)/.294 (13th)/.397 (6th) with 16 HR (5th) and 84 RBI (6th). Considering NL 3B production was not what it once was, improvement on the slash (especially BA and OBP) will add to the Reds overall production…and propel the offense into another realm.

Ryan Hanigan, Catcher

It’s possible that Hanigan’s days as being Bronson Arroyo‘s personal caddie are over…somewhat. I’m sure Bronson will want Hani behind the plate on days where Arroyo toes the slab. With the ever persistent stat of the overall staff ERA when Hani is behind the plate (3.97) versus former Red Ramon Hernandez (4.24) drawing ire from some, it does deserve a look…and some consideration.

Then again, the bat will need to recover from 2011…and there’s this guy, Mesoraco. He’ll get time as well.

Devin Mesoraco, Catcher

Over the past year, it seemed like any trade talk that materialized had the name “Mesoraco” attached to it. Eventually, Reds GM Walt Jocketty let a catcher go in a deal, but it wasn’t Mes. It was Yasmani Grandal. That alone should tell all Reds fans how high the Reds brass is on their 2007 first-round selection (15th overall).

For this spring, his defense has looked good, but that bat, overall, has lacked a little. That shouldn’t be the top concern. That will be continuing feeling comfy with the pitching staff. The bat should eventually come around. If the defense remains as good as it’s been, there aren’t as many worries.

Miguel Cairo, Utility

Over the past two seasons, whenever there was an “absence” at either third or first, Cairo has usually been tabbed as the one manning the fort. Even though his batting average fell from .290 in 2010 to .267 in 2011, Cairo did manage to set a career high in HR (8), his 16th season. His two seasons as a Red both show an OPS+ over 100 (104 in ’10, 101 in ’11). Pretty good bench player to have, don’t you think?

His veteran leadership also plays a key role on this team.

The Battles

Before I delve too far into the players here, I want take a second here to divulge what generally might be the makeup of a 25-man roster: 5 starters, 7 relievers, 8 starting position players, 5 bench players. Of those 5 bench players, what I have seen in the past is…an extra outfielder, a corner infielder, a middle infielder, a catcher and an extra bat (preferably, a lefty for match up purposes)…but this is me.

We already have the catcher (Mesoraco) and seemingly corner infielder (Cairo) covered. That would leave middle infield and possibly an extra bat for this (Yes, the extra outfielder will be examined in a later post).

For the middle infield, the two legitimate candidates are Paul Janish and Wilson Valdez. There are glaring differences.

Better fielder: Janish…make no mistake about this.
Better bat: Valdez, but maybe not as much as you think (.243 lifetime BA to Janish’s .221).
Options remaining: Valdez has none while Janish does.

And that might be the end game here: Valdez, acquired in the a deal from the Phillies for Jeremy Horst, would have the inside track due to have no options for the Reds to use.

Both have hit decently in Goodyear (Janish: .294; Valdez: .278) and neither has struck out more than walked (Janish: 6 BB, 5 SO; Valdez: 3 BB, 3 SO).

The extra bat could be “given/awarded” to Juan Francisco. He also has no options…and he is a lefty bat Reds skipper Dusty Baker could utilize. The negative in making this move would be lack of defensive flexibility. Although Francisco has been used at other positions in Winter Leagues, thrid base is his “home”.

However, Francisco has done himself no favors this spring. He was reported to be overweight and still had a nagging issue with his calf. Add the fact he’s whiffed 13 times, drawing 0 BB, in 41 spring ABs while hitting .171 hasn’t exactly helped.

That calf…maybe a DL stint to start the season? Just wondering.

So you may now be asking yourself, what about Todd Frazier? He has made a statement this spring with his bat. He has the ability to play all four infield positions, plus the corner outfield positions. He’s definitely put himself ahead of Francisco as far as spring production goes. Again, with Francisco having no options, Frazier could be destined for Louisville.

Plus, Frazier is a righty bat and if he goes with the team to Cincinnati, the bench would most likely be comprised of all right-handed hitters. That takes away any pinch-hitting match-up issues within a game.

In looking at this portion of the Reds roster, the only “position” that needs settled is the extra middle infielder. Valdez may be the guy come Opening Day, but he must perform in order to keep his spot. Janish and his smooth defense would only be a phone call away.

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Tags: 2012 Reds Preview 2012 Reds Roster Baseball Brandon Phillips Cincinnati Reds Devin Mesoraco Joey Votto Juan Francisco Miguel Cairo MLB Paul Janish Ryan Hanigan Scott Rolen Wilson Valdez Zack Cozart

  • beeker

    Nice write-up, Steve. My totally non-binding, mostly-worthless (to all but me) opinion is that Janish goes to Louisville, Francisco goes into hiding on the DL, Valdez gets the final infield spot, and Frazier also starts the season in Louisville, even though he deserves the last outfield spot, but gets the call-up in June or so when either Heisey or Ludwick has proven ineffective.
    You make an interesting note that without Francisco, all of the utility guys are righties. But when it comes to bunt situations, Francisco is absolutely the LAST guy I want being asked to do that.

  • Steven Engbloom

     @beeker I got it! Can we refer to Francisco as Baby Panda? He’s built a little like Pablo Sandoval.