Wrapping up the final set of positions after looking at the starting rotation, the starting infielder, the starting outfield and bullpen earlier this week, we are going to look at the projections for the bench today.
Last year the bench for the Cincinnati Reds was very weak as Xavier Paul was the only Red who had more than 50 plate appearances with an OPS over .645. The Reds won’t have Paul, Ryan Hanigan, Derrick Robinson or Cesar Izturis returning to the bench, so the group will be full of mostly new guys.
As things stand right now the bench appears to include Chris Heisey, Skip Schumaker, Brayan Pena and Jack Hannahan. With Jack Hannahan being injured there could be an opening for the time being and then a fifth guy to fill out the bench. How do these guys project in 2014? We can head over to Fangraphs.com and look at their various projection systems to try and get the answer.
Heisey has been as hot as anyone this spring for the Reds. He is hitting .333 and slugging .810 with a team best five doubles and five home runs. ZiPS has the best outlook for Heisey as it projects him for a .250/.299/.424 line in 314 plate appearances. The average of the four systems projects a .259/.299/.408 line with 16 doubles and 12 home runs in 385 plate appearances. That line is perfectly in tune with the last two seasons for Heisey.
A newcomer who looks to play in both the infield and the outfield for Cincinnati. The Fans didn’t project Schumaker, so there are only three projections for him. The Steamer projections are the sunniest for Schumaker as they project a .259/.324/.345 with 20 doubles and four homers. The average of the three systems project a .256/.321/.333 is 467 plate appearances with 20 doubles and four home runs. The systems see a decline for Schumaker as that projection is lower than his last three seasons.
Like Schumaker, Pena is a newcomer, though he is going to be the backup to Devin Mesoraco. The ZiPS projections have the best outlook for Pena with a .264/.289/.368 line over 209 plate appearances. The average projection was for a .257/.289/.362 line with 15 doubles and six home runs over 345 plate appearances. The systems all see a regression from the 2013 season and have him more in line with his last three seasons.
While Hannahan is still recovering from shoulder surgery and hasn’t played yet, he is likely to play for the Reds during the 2014 season. The Fans projections are the friendliest look for Hannahan with a projected .241/.326/.311 line in 273 plate appearances. The overall average of the four systems has a projection of .229/.311/.329 line with 13 doubles and 5 home runs. That line is pretty much in line with his last two seasons.
The rest of the Reds bench is still up for grabs. Chris Nelson, Neftali Soto and Roger Bernadina seem to be the favorites among the rest of the guys looking for a spot on the bench. Chris Nelson has an average projection of .247/.293/.394. Neftali Soto has an average projection of .236/.276/.396 where two systems project him with 20 home runs if given full playing time. Roger Bernadina has an average projection of .229/.303/.359. Offensively, the three players have a similar projection, so at least from this perspective the difference between the three is negligible.
There is some potential upside with the Reds bench. Chris Heisey could carry his power forward and that would really boost his offensive value. Skip Schumaker and Brayan Pena don’t seem to be given any boost at all by moving to power friendly Great American Ballpark, so if they see a benefit, even a small one, from making that move they could see their offensive projections go up. Roger Bernadina is a player who scouts have always seemed to like more than his production has suggested. Neftali Soto is showing far better contact rates this spring than he has shown in the past and if he can continue to make contact at a better rate than his past, his offensive profile looks quite a bit better.
There are still questions about the Cincinnati Reds bench, but it almost has to be improved from an offensive perspective over the 2013 squad that had several non-factor bats on it.