Who Will Make Up the Cincinnati Reds Bench in 2015?


It’s no secret that the Cincinnati Reds’ bench last season was a weakness and unfortunately, the bench was forced to play a lot due to a multitude of injuries. During this offseason, Walt Jocketty hasn’t done much to improve the bench so far, but there is still hope that improvement will be seen from the group in 2015. At the very least, there’s hope that the starters can stay healthy and bench players won’t have to be used as everyday players. So who might we see on the bench on Opening Day? Let’s take a look:

Locks to make the roster:

Brayan Pena

2014 Stats: 115 G, .253/.291/.353, 5 HR, 26 RBI, 2 SB

Signed as a backup catcher to Devin Mesoraco last offseason, Pena was thrust into a bigger role than he’s ever had in the major leagues due to a plethora of injuries. Pena filled in admirably at catcher and first base when Mesoraco and Joey Votto went down and his constant smile and positive attitude made him one of the most popular players on the team among fans. Pena will serve as the backup catcher again in 2015 and hopefully will not see as much time at first base, as reports on Votto’s health look promising heading into Spring Training.

Skip Schumaker

2014 Stats: 83 G, .235/.287/.308, 2 HR, 22 RBI, 2 SB

Schumaker struggled mightily in the 2014 season and was a frequent target of frustration for fans. The 34-year-old is scheduled to make $2.5 million this season, so to the chagrin of many Reds fans, there’s almost no way he won’t be in the dugout on Opening Day. There is some optimism that Schumaker can bounce back in the upcoming season, as he suffered a shoulder injury in Spring Training last year and was not playing at 100 percent, ultimately undergoing surgery for a torn labrum in September. His .235 average was by far the lowest of his career by nearly 30 points. If he can get closer to his career .281 average in 2015, he could be a valuable asset on the bench as a backup outfielder (assuming Kris Negron and/or Eugenio Suarez make the 25-man roster, I’m guessing Schumaker won’t see much time at second).

Kristopher Negron

2014 Stats: 49 G, .271/.331/.476, 6 HR, 17 RBI, 5 SB

Brought up to the majors after Brandon Phillips’ thumb injury, Negron served a role similar to that of the late Ryan Freel during his days in Cincinnati. Negron thrived in the utility role, playing second base, third base, shortstop, and left field and made a habit out of making Freel-like plays in the field. He quickly became known for his all-out style of play and touted the fastest home run trot in baseball last season. With the injuries and underperformance plaguing the Reds, Negron got plenty of opportunities and put up an impressive 2.0 rWAR in just 49 games. The 28-year-old’s performance last season has almost certainly earned him a spot on the Opening Day roster for the Reds.

Players with the inside track to make the roster:

Eugenio Suarez

2014 Stats (Detroit Tigers): 85 G, .242/.316/.336, 4 HR, 23 RBI, 3 SB

Of the remaining candidates, Suarez is the most likely to find a spot on the Reds’ bench to fill the role of backup shortstop that Ramon Santiago held last season. Walt Jocketty has gone on record saying that current starting shortstop Zack Cozart must get better with the bat if he wants to keep his everyday role, meaning Suarez could challenge him for the job. While I think it’s unlikely that Suarez replaces Cozart right away, I’d be surprised if he isn’t in Cincinnati to start the season as the backup shortstop. The main reason I could see him not making the roster (other than injury) is if Walt Jocketty and Bryan Price feel they already have adequate backup infielders in Negron and Schumaker and want to fill the bench with guys who play other positions.

Candidates for the final bench spot:

Brennan Boesch

2014 Stats (Los Angeles Angels): 27 G, .187/.203/.293, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 3 SB

(AAA Salt Lake: .332/.381/.636, 25 HR, 85 RBI, 10 SB)

Boesch was signed to a minor-league deal in November and can play all three outfield positions, though he primarily plays left and right field. After finishing fifth in American League Rookie of the Year voting in 2010 with the Tigers and serving as a solid player for them for several more years, he fell out of favor in Detroit, getting released in 2013. Since his release, the 29-year-old has bounced around the league the last couple of years and the Reds will be his third team in three years. As you can see above, Boesch had a monster season in Triple-A, leaving optimism that he can still play at the major league level. For a team that needs a power bat on the bench after the trade of Chris Heisey, the Reds will likely give Boesch, a non-roster invitee, every opportunity to earn his way onto the roster.

Jason Bourgeois

2014 Stats: 18 G, .242/.265/.303, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 SB

(AAA Louisville: 136 G, .278/.328/.363, 4 HR, 43 RBI, 24 SB)

Playing for his sixth team in seven seasons, Bourgeois was a September call-up for the Reds last season and saw quite a bit of action, as the team was well out of the playoff picture by the time he arrived. He’s not the greatest hitter in the world (he’s a .258/.303/.324 career hitter), but he can play all three outfield positions and has good speed. Bourgeois’ chances of making the team are probably hurt by the fact that he doesn’t hit for any power. If Pena, Schumaker, Negron, and Suarez take the first four spots, the Reds will probably want the fifth bench spot to go to someone who has some pop.

Donald Lutz

2014 Stats: 28 G, .176/.222/.255, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 SB

(AAA Louisville: 52 G, .236/.307/.395, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 4 SB)

(AA Pensacola: 23 G, .360/.412/.685, 6 HR, 16 RBI, 1 SB)

Lutz has had a couple of brief opportunities in Cincinnati, but his playing time was sporadic at best. The German first baseman/left fielder has struggled a bit in the upper levels of the organization, but his 70 career minor league home runs still give the organization and fans hope that he can turn into a solid major league player. Lutz, who turns 26 next week, played well in the Mexican Winter League during the offseason, batting .280/.363/.473 with six home runs and 26 runs batted in. If I had to guess, I’d say the last roster spot will come down to Boesch and Lutz, as both players can provide some pop off the bench that the Reds desperately need. It could all come down to who performs better in Spring Training.

Felix Perez

2014 Stats (AAA Louisville): 122 G, .280/.325/.450, 12 HR, 74 RBI, 0 SB

A career minor leaguer, Perez, primarily a right fielder, put up arguably the best numbers of his minor league career and I was a bit surprised to not see him called up in September. The 30-year-old has been in the Reds organization since 2010 and is still waiting on his first shot in the big leagues. After a strong 2014 season in Louisville and an even stronger showing in the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason (.360/.393/.572, 9 HR, 38 RBI in 222 ABs during the regular season and in the midst of leading his team to a Championship Series win), he’ll get his first real chance to earn his way to Cincinnati. Perez has been invited to Spring Training as a non-roster invitee and could grab a spot as a fifth outfielder.

Yorman Rodriguez

2014 Stats: 11 G, .222/.276/.222, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 0 SB

(AA Pensacola: 119 G, .262/.331/.389, 9 HR, 40 RBI, 12 SB)

Rodriguez has been a top prospect in the Reds’ organization for the past few years (ranked #10 by Baseball America this year) and has even been called a five-tool player. The 22-year-old got his first cup of coffee in the majors last September and impressed manager Bryan Price. The thing working against Rodriguez and his chance of making the 25-man roster is his inexperience. Despite impressing Price, he didn’t exactly light up big-league pitching and could probably use some time in Louisville to continue developing his game. However, if Rodriguez has a big Spring Training, he could sneak up on everyone and grab the fifth and final bench spot.

2015 Bench Prediction: Brayan Pena, Skip Schumaker, Kristopher Negron, Eugenio Suarez, Donald Lutz

Now it’s your turn: who do you think will grab the last two bench spots?