The Cincinnati Reds already have perennial MVP candidate Joey Votto’s replacement in house.
The Cincinnati Reds have a plan in place to transition Joey Votto from an everyday first baseman to a back-up player. Entering 2017 Votto is already 33. His last two seasons have been his first and fourth best offensively in his ten year MLB career as he has chased the MVP, but it is still time to talk about his future.
In 2017 and 2018 Votto will probably remain viable as a 150 game per year player. His defense and baserunning took a hit last year, but it appears to be part aberration and part age taking its toll. HIs offense hasn’t seen a matching drop, yet.
In 2019 at age 35 Votto will likely need someone to help him carry the load at first. Looking down into the minors, none of the current first base prospects look inviting as potential replacements. The Reds, though, have someone in house that matches up well for the task.
Current Reds’ third baseman Eugenio Suarez will likely be without a position by the end of 2018 with top prospect Nick Senzel looking like a possible September tryout candidate already for 2017. He made some ugly errors at third base in his first year as a starter there. On balance, though, he was about an average MLB third baseman defensively. It’s just not clear where he fits in long term.
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Looking at the prospects coming up the pipeline on the corner outfield positions, Suarez looks like a slim shot to beat out incumbents Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler and a prospect such as Jesse Winker. He likely would need to hold onto to as many at-bats as a back-up as possible. This is assuming that he continues to have issues with strikeouts.
The combination of Suarez and Votto could work for a couple of years as Votto’s career slows.
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It’s impossible to know if Senzel, Jose Peraza, and Dilson Herrera will all make it as everyday MLB players. If they do, they are each a step ahead of Suarez on the projected depth chart. Suarez could step in for any if the projections are wrong.
If the projections are right, Suarez will be age 27 in the first year that Votto needs help to take care of first base. That is usually the peak age of the offensive player. Suarez would be in his second year of arbitration, too.
Suarez should be worth about 20 home runs and have his strikeout numbers down to 120. Those are decent numbers. He should be able to raise his OBP to .330 by that time.
If he is hitting well enough, it may be tough for the Reds to move Senzel into the everyday third base role, but Suarez will likely get only bigger and slower as he ages. As it is, Suarez is already one of the slowest non-catchers on the team. That would suggest that he is best away from a position like third that takes charges and dives to play adequately.
This scenario would give the Reds a season or two to assess Suarez. They need to figure out whether Suarez could be a long term answer at first. They have a history of great first basemen in Cincinnati. Suarez may the next in line to the throne.