2011 Cincinnati Reds Team Preview: Infielders


Containing the NL MVP and Gold Glovers at second and third, the 2010 Reds infield provided the bedrock for the successful run of last season. The 2011 iteration of the group should be no different. Returning all but one starter around the horn, the infield should pick up where it left off last season with Joey Votto anchoring a dangerous offensive lineup and Scott Rolen and Brandon Phillips turning stellar defensive plays.

I will do this preview by position, starting at the first base spot and working around to catcher. Any and all players who could potentially play on the big league roster will be covered so as to be thorough and positions will be listed depth chart style. The mantra for the Reds in building the bench in recent years has been versatility and the preview will show that. Most of the backups at each position will show up multiple times across the infield but they will only be previewed in-depth at their main positions. So now with all that out of the way, let’s bring on the infielders.

First Base

Joey Votto

Votto comes into 2011 with the mantle of MVP and a boatload more focus and attention on him because of it. He has said publically that the added weight of notoriety doesn’t bother him and I believe it. Votto has shown to be a professional with otherworldly dedication to his craft and some more spotlight shouldn’t change that.  And he needs to be just what he was last season for the Reds to continue to improve.  That rock in the middle of the lineup makes it easier for everyone else in the lineup and makes the offense run.

Yonder Alonso

Alonso overcame a slow start in the minors last season to become a top 100 prospect and probably has little else to prove in the minors. His position as main backup to Votto might be a little speculative as Miguel Cairo and Ramon Hernandez could also see time here but Alonso will definitely be able to come off the bench and provide quality at bats as a pinch hitter. It really is a shame that his path is blocked as I believe he could be a very productive part of the big league team. Makes me wish the outfield experiment with Alonso would work out so he could get some time.

Miguel Cairo/Ramon Hernandez

Second Base

Brandon Phillips

As entrenched as Votto is, so is BP. While his offensive numbers dipped just slightly last season (mainly only in the RBI category registering only 59 but that was mainly due to batting near the top of the order), his defense was as sterling as usual. The 2010 NL Gold Glove winner has great range and makes plays that nearly no other second baseman can make. Phillips is a complete joy to watch in the field as he made a dozen or more plays last season that just made me shake my head. This has been quantified actually, as ESPN kept a Web Gem scoreboard last season, with Phillips ending last season at 3rd overall.  For 2011, Phillips just has to maintain and continue to be a leader. He will almost assuredly be called upon to bat leadoff again for some length which he done capably last season and keep up the same stellar defense. Though you wouldn’t hear any Reds fan complain if Phillips resurged to his 2007 offensive numbers.

Chris Valaika

After spending the most of the 2009 and 2010 seasons in AAA, Valaika got his call up to Cincy in August last season. Playing in 19 games, Valaika played a solid second base and swung an average bat to close out the season. Now Valaika looks to potentially be a backup to BP at second full-time. With a career slash line of .293/.337/.434 in the minors, Valaika has proven to be an above average hitter and could definitely be a solid bench addition at second. The roster situation could dictate the Valaika begins the season in Louisville however with the team going with Paul Janish or Miguel Cairo should there prove to be a need for a backup at second.


Paul Janish

Janish is the only new starter across the infield for the Reds in 2011. Following the decline of the option of Orlando Cabrera, Janish was installed and heralded as the starting shortstop for the Reds during the offseason. Janish will provide great glove work at short which has always been his calling card since entering the bigs in 2008. And if his progression as a hitter last season is an indication, he could prove to be an offensive upgrade as well. He posted a .260 BA which is far higher than the .206 he posted in the two years prior. He also showed a glimpse of being a good on-base threat with a OBP of .338 and a 22 BB/30 SO ratio. A long-term injury could dictate that Janish slide over and fill in at either second or third however as he has the ability to play both.

Edgar Renteria

The 2010 World Series MVP proved to be the biggest acquisition the Reds made this offseason. While many (well maybe only me) feared this was another move to acquire a trusty yet potentially past-his-prime veteran to take over at a spot where an in house option would suffice, it seems that Renteria will fill a bench role primarily at short and potentially third. This is a good spot for Renteria since he will not be counted on to play even close to a full season and he provides even more flexibility for the Reds bench.

Miguel Cairo

Third Base

Scott Rolen

I have to say that I have some crow to eat regarding the acquisition of Rolen. I was decidedly against it when the Reds dealt for Rolen from the Jays in 2009. I just saw nothing but the Rolen with the bad back playing on turf at the Rogers Centre and being a shell of his former self. But the change to Cincy brought Rolen some rejuvenation as well as his first All-Star appearance and Gold Glove in 4 years. In 2011, Rolen might not be expected to play the 133 games he played in 2010 but still factors as a major part of the Reds infield. I look for Rolen to get spelled fairly frequently and play around 110-120 games to maximize his effectiveness and keep him fresh. That said, I think Rolen can provide just as much in 2011 as we saw in 2010.

Miguel Cairo

The Reds “supersub” for 2010, Cairo was resigned in the offseason to provide the same versatility and leadership yet again. The 36 year old had an effective year in 2010, providing extended fill-ins at both first and third and hitting effectively. Cairo will be doubly important this season as the Reds look to provide Scott Rolen with most rest. Cairo could also conceivably provide depth at first, second, short, and outfield if needed as well, allowing Dusty Baker some flexibility on the bench.


Ramon Hernandez

Hernandez teamed with Ryan Hanigan in 2010 to provide excellent play at the catcher spot for the Reds. Playing 97 games, Hernandez posted a slash line of .297/.364/.428 and proved to be a timely RBI hitter as well as being effective defensively and on the opponents’ basepaths. All signs point to Hernandez splitting time with Hanigan once again in 2011 and it may prove the Hanigan begins to get more time behind the plate especially if Hernandez’s 10+ years of catching begin to catch up to him.

Ryan Hanigan

Hanigan was honestly my favorite player to watch from last season.  He had a knack for always making contact and seemed to come through every time I watched one of his at bats. That bias aside, Hanigan had a terrific season in 2010 sharing the catching duties with Ramon Hernandez. He posted a line of .305/.405/.429 which even eclipses Hernandez’s sterling numbers.  His defense was solid and he threw out about a third of his base runners. Hanigan should see about 75-85 starts at catcher in 2011 and should still be the main catcher for Bronson Arroyo as has been the usual.

Devin Mesoraco

The former first round pick of the Reds in ’07 was on the verge of being viewed as a bust until he broke out and roared across three levels last season, ending up in Louisville to end the year. Mesoraco ended up with a final line of .302/377/.587 while going for 26 HRs and 75 RBI. Though he did tail off a bit once he hit Louisville, Mesoraco could put the higher-ups in a bind if he has a good start to the year in AAA. He could be the first call for a fill in the event of an injury to either Hernandez or Hanigan.


I called this section longshots deservedly. The players listed here could potentially see a spot on the bench for the Reds in 2011 but will more than likely keep their places developing in the minors barring multiple injuries. Thoroughness is the key however, and there is a chance they could factor into the Reds 2011 infield situation.

Juan Francisco

I mention Francisco as a longshot due to his intriguing, yet maddening abilities less than his chances at the big leagues. Francisco has had short stints with the big league club the prior two seasons and has shown prodigious power his entire time with the organization. You just yearn for him to settle in and be the heir to Scott Rolen at third soon and for things to begin to click. Unfortunately however, Francisco has a couple flaws that are holding him back. He shows, along with plus power, the tendency to strike out…a lot. He has struck out 523 times in 5 minor league seasons and had 20 strikeouts in just 55 ABs with the big league club last season. But the major hitch keeping Francisco off the field is the lack of polish on defense. Posting a flat .910 career fielding percentage, Francisco has not looked comfortable at all manning the hot corner. Until he can correct some of the problems in his game, Francisco may not be able to hold a spot on the bench in Cincy and a trip to Louisville may await him in 2011.

Todd Frazier

Frazier is rated as the 9th best Reds prospect according to Baseball America and has played all over the diamond at first, third, and the outfield mainly. He probably projects at third and would play a utility role for the Reds this season if called up though chances are slim as he regressed slightly at the plate last season in Louisville.

Zack Cozart

Cozart is rated as the 8th best Reds prospect according to Baseball America and has played exclusively shortstop with the Reds organization. The 24 year old reached AAA last season and showed pop from the SS position with 17 HRs though he had a fairly average slash line (.255/.310./416). If Cozart has a great start and a need arises, we could see him in the Reds uniform at some point but the odds are slim.

So overall, the fairly unchanged 2011 Reds infield will look to provide the same offensive and defensive consistency that rolled the team to the NL Central crown in 2010. While there are no real battles for starting positions around the horn, the Spring Training shakedown will be interesting to watch to see which players play well enough to inherit the all-important bench spots. Given the bevy of youthful options, I wouldn’t want to hazard a guess as to who may ultimately be with the team on Opening Day. I do know however that the stage is most definitely set for another contending season for the Reds.