Cincinnati Reds 2015 Grades: Ivan De Jesus Jr.

It’s been well-documented that the Cincinnati Reds have had an abysmal bench for the last few seasons, but a viable option did emerge during the 2015 season in utility-man Ivan De Jesus Jr.

When De Jesus was signed by the Reds last November, he was little more than a career minor league journeyman. At one point, he was regarded as a top-10 prospect in the Los Angeles’ Dodgers farm system by Baseball America, but never panned out in Hollywood. He had brief stints in the majors with the Dodgers in 2011 and 2012 (40 games) and Boston Red Sox in 2012 (8 games), but that was the extent of his experience in the big leagues despite putting up above-average hitting numbers in the minors.

The 28-year-old was invited to spring training with the Reds and turned a lot of heads with his play in March. In 41 plate appearances, De Jesus hit .400/.475/.600 with five doubles and five runs batted in, while walking more than he struck out. He was ultimately one of the final cuts from the spring roster, but continued to sting the ball in Triple-A Louisville.

In 50 games with the Bats, De Jesus hit .303/.378/.384, earning a call-up when left fielder Marlon Byrd went down with a wrist fracture in early June. He made his presence known right off the bat, hitting key home runs in two of his first three starts with the Reds. When shortstop Zack Cozart went down with his knee injury, De Jesus’ spot in Cincinnati was virtually locked up for the remainder of the season.

He hit .281/.354/.461 with four homers and 14 runs batted in over his first two months with the club, making him one of the go-to options on a thin bench. De Jesus struggled down the stretch, however, hitting just .214/.276/.304 with 36 strikeouts in 123 plate appearances during the months of August, September and October.

De Jesus’ second-half skid hurt his overall numbers, as he finished with a slash line of .244/.311/.373 to go along with 16 extra-base hits (four homers), 28 runs batted in, an 86 wRC+ and a 0.1 fWAR. He walked 8.6 percent of the time, a healthy rate, but struck out in 24.8 percent of his plate appearances, a number he’ll need to reduce.

Defensively, De Jesus ended up playing all over the field, filling the role that Kristopher Negron held in the second half of the 2014 season. He saw time at first base (4 games), second base (20 games), shortstop (10 games), third base (13 games) and left field (18 games). De Jesus made five errors in 181 chances and was rated as a below average fielder by most advanced defensive metrics everywhere except second, but it’s hard to read much into those with such a small sample size at each position.

All in all, it’s hard to be displeased with De Jesus’ 2015 contributions. Of the many players brought in on minor-league contracts by general manager Walt Jocketty to round out the bench, he was one of the few who worked out and stands a great chance to make the 2016 roster based on his versatility alone.

Grade: C

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