The Cincinnati Reds Opening Day roster is far from set, but a few players can lay claim to spot on next year’s squad. Kyle Farmer will be the team’s most valuable bench player.
There’s still plenty of time for Dick Williams and Nick Krall to make more additions and subtractions to the Cincinnati Reds squad before spring training begins, but the Opening Day roster is starting to take shape. While most fans focus on the “everyday” players, every team needs a good bench. Kyle Farmer will be Cincinnati’s best bench player in 2020.
The expectations were very low for Kyle Farmer last season. After all, he was viewed as just a small piece of the trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers that brought stars like Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to the Queen City. In addition to Farmer and the two outfielders, Cincinnati also gained left-handed starter Alex Wood who was thought to be a key cog in the Reds rotation.
As it turned out, Kemp barely made it a month, Wood started just seven games, and Puig was dealt to Cleveland in July. The only remaining player from that trade is Farmer. The Georgia native brought a versatility to the Reds that fans hadn’t seen in quite some time. Farmer played every single infield position, including catcher, and also pitched 1.1 innings without allowing a hit.
In short, Kyle Farmer is a ballplayer. He’s the type of guy that every major league team wants on their roster. No matter the situation, Farmer can be counted upon to step in and do his job. Is he a superstar? No, not even close. However, in limited playing, the 29-year-old put up adequate offensive numbers, hitting .230 with a .410 slugging percentage and 27 RBIs in 183 at-bats.
Coming in through the Dodgers minor league system, Farmer, a four-year starting shortstop for the University of Georgia Bulldogs was moved behind the plate. Though he also saw time at third base, Los Angeles attempted to transition Farmer into a catcher. He only found himself as the Dodgers backstop for four games between 2017 to 2018, but saw nine starts behind the dish for the Reds.
Given Cincinnati’s current crop of catchers, it’ll be interesting to see where Farmer fits. The duo of Tucker Barnhart and Curt Casali seem to have a stranglehold on the position heading into spring training, and we’re likely to see David Bell platoon the two backstops based on the pitching matchups.
That’s where Farmer’s versatility comes in. Don’t be shocked to see Farmer take over for Mike Moustakas late in the game when the Reds have a lead and then perhaps take over behind the plate. Moustakas was brought to Cincinnati for his bat, not his defense. Farmer played 41 games at second base last season and he was, arguably, the team’s best defender at the position.
While second base was a revolving door throughout most of the 2019 season, Farmer put up 1 defensive run saved (DRS) in 170.2 innings at the position. José Peraza and Derek Dietrich put up the same number in at least double the amount of innings, while Scooter Gennett put up -1 DRS.
Cincinnati will have several other options off the bench in 2020 as well. Josh VanMeter is likely to be a prominent bat off the bench. The Reds liked his hitting approach, and VanMeter is also a versatile fielder who gives Cincinnati a left-handed option. That said, VanMeter’s defense is suspect, especially in the outfield and first base.
Depending on what the Reds do at shortstop, Freddy Galvis may or may not be a bench player in 2020. Galvis offers some pop in his bat and solid defense up the middle of the infield, but his on-base percentage is questionable and last year’s late-season pickup doesn’t offer the same positional versatility as Farmer or even VanMeter.
The only other player on the Cincinnati Reds roster that I could see pushing Kyle Farmer as the first player off the bench would be Phillip Ervin. Ervin opened some eyes last season after finally receiving an increase in playing time. The right-handed hitter had a lot of success against left-handed pitching, slashing .349/.411/.628.
With the depth in thee outfield, however, I’m thinking we might see Ervin relegated to more of pinch hitter when a southpaw is on the mound. Though he’s likely to receive a few starts here and there, Shogo Akiyama, Aristides Aquino, and Nick Senzel are unlikely to be benched in favor of the 27-year-old.
Again, we’re a long way away from the Cincinnati Reds roster being set in stone, but one would can assume that Kyle Farmer will play a big role on next year’s team. Bell has gone as record as saying he’ll give pitcher Michael Lorenzen more opportunities after holding him back last year. I think his opinion towards Farmer will follow along the same line.