Cincinnati Reds: The Opening Day roster is beginning to take shape

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 16: Scooter Gennett #3 of the Cincinnati Reds is congratulated by teammates Tucker Barnhart #16 and Wandy Peralta #53 after Gennett hit a solo home run against the San Francisco Giants in the top of the seventh inning at AT&T Park on May 16, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 16: Scooter Gennett #3 of the Cincinnati Reds is congratulated by teammates Tucker Barnhart #16 and Wandy Peralta #53 after Gennett hit a solo home run against the San Francisco Giants in the top of the seventh inning at AT&T Park on May 16, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

With Opening Day about two weeks away, the Cincinnati Reds 25-man roster is beginning to take shape. Just a few questions remain.

The Cincinnati Reds will soon be wrapping up Spring Training in Goodyear and headed back to the Queen City. The team has been whittled down over the past few days and only a few questions surrounding the Opening Day roster remain.

Several players have been reassigned to minor league camp, including Tony Santillan, Taylor Trammell, and TJ Friedl. A few others who are still with the club in Arizona have been given more defined roles. Both Sal Romano and Cody Reed have been classified as relief pitchers and not starters.

The Cincinnati Reds roster now stands at 45. There are 25 spots up for grabs, but it’s more like 2-3. The players we all know and love like Joey Votto, Scooter Gennett, Eugenio Suárez, and Jared Hughes will be on the Opening Day roster.

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Some of the Reds newest acquisitions are sure to make the 25-man roster as well. Yasiel Puig will be the team’s starting right fielder when the season kicks off in two weeks. Derek Dietrich has carved out a niche for himself and appears to be a lock for the squad as well. While some fans want the Reds to trade Matt Kemp and his $21M salary, the veteran will most likely be on the team when they take the field on March 28th.

The few question marks remaining pertain to the starting center field job, a few bullpen pieces, and the last player off the bench for the Cincinnati Reds. With the roster now condensed to 45, several players will receive more playing time over the next couple weeks to showcase their talents.

Though Jose Siri is ready for the big leagues from a defensive standpoint, his bat leaves a lot to be desired at the major league level. The starting center field job comes down to Nick Senzel and Scott Schebler. Phillip Ervin, like Siri, appears to be on the outside looking in.

This essentially boils down to two questions. Is Nick Senzel ready, from a defensive standpoint, to take on the every day job in center field? Most reports out of Goodyear would suggest that he is. The second, more polarizing question is, do the Reds forego an additional year of team control and start Senzel on Opening Day?

We’ve discussed this ad nauseam, but if the Cincinnati Reds keep Senzel off the 25-roster for the first couple weeks of the 2019 season, they’ll gain an additional year of team control due to Major League Baseball’s service time rules. The answer to this question will not be easy and will likely come down to the wire.

Now, onto the bullpen. Raisel Iglesias, Jared Hughes, David Hernandez, Michael Lorenzen, and Zach Duke are locks to make the roster. I’ve kept Amir Garrett in that mix all offseason, but a shaky spring makes me hesitant to consider him a lock, though I still think he makes the Opening Day roster. The Reds need another lefty in the pen, and two of the Reds’ other options (Brandon Finnegan and Cody Reed), have not been overly impressive either.

Look for Reed and Finnegan to head down to Triple-A Louisville to begin the season, but either could be recalled to the major league roster fairly quickly. Though David Bell has said he’d like to keep 13 pitchers on the roster most of the season, the Reds are unlikely to carry that many out of the gates with so many off days early in the season.

That final bullpen spot is likely to come down to three players; Sal Romano, Wandy Peralta and Matt Wisler. Wisler has pitched 7 innings this spring to the tune of a 2.57 ERA and is out of minor league options. Big Sally has thrown 6 innings of work and is carrying an ERA of 10.50, while Peralta has been impressive in his 3 innings of work and not allowed a single run.

Wisler makes the most since because he’s out of options, but Peralta has been lights out in his limited action this spring. This could come down to the final week of Spring Training. I still think Wisler squeaks past Peralta, but this is a position battle worth keeping an eye on.

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Tyler Mahle seemed destined to start the season in Triple-A Louisville, however, an injury to Alex Wood may shelve the left-hander to begin the season. If Wood is healthy, Mahle will be with the Bats. If not, look for Tyler to get the ball every fifth day for the Reds.

The last spot on the team’s bench is an intriguing one. Curt Casali looks healthy and will be the backup to Tucker Barnhart. As we mentioned earlier, Derek Dietrich has carved out a nice role for himself. Whichever way you slice the Reds’ outfield, Yasiel Puig, Jesse Winker, Scott Schebler, and Matt Kemp will make the team.

José Iglesias has not been overly impressive offensively, but that’s par for the course for him. His glove makes up for his lack of offensive production and he’ll likely join Dietrich as a utility infielder. Oddly enough, the final spot on the team may come back to the club’s decision regarding Nick Senzel.

If Senzel starts the season in the big leagues, the bench will consist of Schebler and Kemp in the outfield, Dietrich and Iglesias in the infield, and Casali behind the plate. However, if Senzel begins the 2019 season in Triple-A, the Reds have a few different options for that last spot.

Should Senzel begin 2019 in the minors, I’d look for Connor Joe to grab that last spot. Joe has a lot of versatility, as he can play the corner outfield and infield spots as well as catcher. He’s also a Rule 5 Draft pick, so if the Cincinnati Reds want to keep him in the organization, the only way to assure that is to keep him on the 25-man roster.

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The Reds brass have a lot of interesting decisions ahead of them heading into the final stretch before Opening Day. Fans haven’t been this excited in years and it’s good to see the team have this many difficult decisions as Opening Day approaches. It means they’ve put together a very competitive roster.