The Cincinnati Reds have plenty of good options for the bench, if they want their starters to be versatile.
The Cincinnati Reds have three outfielders that could be their entire bench, if they are willing to let their starters play other positions. Outfielders Desmond Jennings, Ryan Raburn, and top prospect Jesse Winker all have the lead for the bench spots heading into the spring training games. Winker is the only left-handed hitter of the three.
The initial issue with using these three as the core of the bench is that none of them can play shortstop. Raburn can play first and third well enough, and even second in a pinch, but none of them can play shortstop. Winker and Jennings are true outfielders, through and through.
The means that if Cozart needs a day off then Eugenio Suarez needs to shift to short and Raburn or left fielder Adam Duvall needs to play third base. It isn’t a bad option. This sort of flexibility would allow Winker to get to seven starts every two weeks and Jennings and Raburn playing time whenever it made the most sense.
This would require the most effort for Suarez as he would become the de facto back-up middle infielder. It is where he cut his teeth as a professional baseball player, but he only played a handful of games there in 2016. This situation would likely last the whole season.
The Cincinnati Reds are forced to be more creative in their bench plans due to Devin Mesoraco’s uncertainty.
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With the injury history of Mesoraco, the Reds plan on carrying three catchers to start the season. Mesoraco is expected to be unlimited offensively. However, he is only expected to be able to catch every other day for a while. That means the Reds need a back-up catcher and a starting catcher for the day after Mesoraco catches.
That’s why the Reds need to decide about versatility vs. depth. The Reds need to have Duvall and Suarez be versatile. Then they can keep the best three offensive players for the bench. Otherwise, there will be another Ivan DeJesus situation, a player with little offense getting too much playing time.
In the first spring training game Rule 5 draftee Stephen Turner looked good, but it was reminiscent of last season. He looked confident behind the plate and at bat. On the other hand it was his pitch calling that may have lost the Reds the game.
The Reds may need to keep Jennings and Winker for their offense. They will need all the offense they can get. That’s how they’ll overcome the unreliable pitching and pitch calling that the Reds demonstrated in 2016.