Cincinnati Reds in Review: The Bench

There may not be a more complex role in baseball than being a bench player. The Cincinnati Reds bench in 2014 did not exactly resemble an All-Star cast and their weakness was exposed.

The Bench:


Players that make up a bench on any club are there for a reason. It’s the paradox of being great at the game of baseball, but not so great that you warrant playing everyday. It has been said hitting a baseball is one of the more difficult tasks a human being can perform, so after all, it come as no shock that not everyone is Pete Rose reincarnated.

Quite simply, the assertion that any team has “great” players on its bench is foolish. Positional blocks are extremely rare, and in the case it does actually occur, the old saying of the bat finding its way into the lineup will shine through.

There is an argument that can be made about Chris Heisey being one of the best bench players in all of baseball. With legitimate pop, quickness, and Gold Glove defense, Heisey personifies what it means to be a Major League bench player. Although he has proven inconsistent in a starting role, he has thrived as a pinch-hitter for a team that has employed him as their best bat off the bench for the past five seasons.

The most common misconception around the Reds in 2014 was the effectiveness of Brayan Pena. Look, I love his upbeat attitude, ability to catch Johnny Cueto, and his all-around good persona, but his numbers don’t represent a savior kind of season. There is no doubt that when Joey Votto initially went down, Pena saved their skin. Never having appeared in more than 72 games in his career, it’s quite clear the Cuban wore down. With first base prospects Neftali Soto and Donald Lutz down on the farm ready to seize their opportunity, it was curious as to why a back-up catcher got 372 plate appearances—especially in September.

The seemingly never-ending roulette of back-up shortstops continued on strong in 2014 with Ramon Santiago joining the fray. Leading the Redlegs in on-base percentage for a portion of the season, Santiago proved valuable in a multitude of roles.

A late season joy was the addition of Kristopher Negron. Arguably the most exciting player for the Reds in the season’s final month, Negron all but assured himself a spot on the 2015 roster due to his all out hustle and versatility.

Supposedly in charge of handling the left-handed pop off the bench was the tandem of Skip Schumaker and Jack Hannahan, who both missed significant time with shoulder injuries. Both are recipients of the dreaded two-year contract—Hannahan has reached his end in Cincinnati—while the club can hope Schumaker not only recovers in time for Opening Day 2015, but is effective as well.

Final Grade: C


The fact of the matter remains thus: when injuries struck, the bench performed admirably. If the grade factored in logical expectations, it may be a shade higher, but the production was simply not there. In order to become serious contenders in 2015, GM Walt Jocketty will have to work his magic in re-tooling a bench that was less than impressive in 2014.