Prior to the start of spring training, and honestly even after the Cincinnati Reds made a series of trades, I'd have told you that Max Schrock's chances of making the Opening Day roster were slim. Now, I don't know how David Bell will keep him out of the starting lineup on April 7th against the Atlanta Braves.
All Schrock seems to do is hit. The 27-year-old is 7-for-10 during Cactus League play with an OPS of 1.692. Schrock has a double and a triple to his credit this spring and three RBIs. The left-handed hitting utility player has two walks and just one strikeout. Is there any way that Schrock is left off the Reds Opening Day roster? At this rate, I don't think so.
How will Max Schrock become an everyday player in the Reds lineup?
Max Schrock appeared in 53 games for the Cincinnati Reds in 2021. Schrock hit .288/.328/.448 and posted a wRC+ of 100. With Kyle Farmer transitioning from utility infielder to starting shortstop, Reds manager David Bell needed to find a new Swiss Army knife to plug into the Cincinnati lineup.
Schrock has one minor league option remaining, so if the Reds decide not to include the former 13th-round pick on the Opening Day roster, he'll still be retained and likely sent down to Triple-A Louisville to begin the 2021 season. However, that seems more and more unlikely every day.
As it stands, the Cincinnati infield is set with Farmer, Joey Votto, Jonathan India, and Mike Moustakas. Tyler Stephenson will obviously be the Reds everyday catcher, and the trio of Tyler Naquin, Nick Senzel, and the recently signed Tommy Pham will start a majority of games on the outfield grass.
But, the addition universal DH might be Schrock's best friend. While I don't think we'll see Schrock occupy the role of designated hitter on a regular basis, its implementation adds another bat into the lineup. Schrock's versatility as a defender could see the former St. Louis Cardinals farmhand involved in a number of different roles.
Schrock spent time at first, second, and third base in 2021, and saw 23 games in left field as well. The Washington native played seven innings in right field, but Schrock's lack of arm strength should make that a last-ditch option.
However, one could easily envision Max Schrock landing a start in left field while Tommy Pham is occupying the designated hitter for a game. Perhaps, if Jonathan India needs a day off in the field, Schrock could fill in there as well. Mike Moustakas could take two days off per week, become the Reds DH, and allow Schrock to take over at the hot corner.
If Schrock continues to punish the baseball like we've seen him do during the early-going of Cactus League play, David Bell will have to find a regular role for one of the team's better hitters. Schrock isn't going to get you 20-plus homers, but he'll put the ball in play and get on base.