During spring training, even teams that figure to be quite bad usually have most of their starters set. Such is the case with the Reds this year (though I think they’ll be decent – but that’s not today’s topic). This means that, often, the most interesting thing to watch is who fills out the bench.

With a 12-man pitching staff and eight everyday players, the bench generally consists of five non-regulars (though sometimes platooning is involved). Given that, versatility is highly prized. In recent years, the Reds’ bench selection has left many of us puzzled, especially since it doesn’t seem to be rocket science. Bench guys, in general, should possess the following qualities in order to be considered:

  1. Cheap
  2. Not a top prospect/future contributor (you want these guys playing regularly at AAA to avoid stunting their development).
  3. Not a jerk (if you can hit 40 homers, you can be hard to get along with. If you’re just hoping for a roster spot, you’d better be nice).
  4. Not good enough to start, but also not likely to embarrass the team.
  5. Versatile. Benches are small. If you can play multiple positions, all the better.

Given those qualifiers, who are the best candidates to make the bench? (These aren’t guys I necessarily think WILL make the bench, mind you.)

1. Tucker Barnhart – This is obvious. It looks like Devin Mesoraco is going to make some kind of comeback (knock on wood) and that means Barnhart is the second catcher, though he’ll probably get more action than a typical second catcher. The organization is very thin at catcher in the upper-levels right now, but you have to have one and as long as Mes is playing, that’s Tucker.

2. Hernan Iribarren – He’s been getting at least a little bit of talk after acquitting himself very well in a call-up at the end of last season. At 33, he’s old for a bench guy, but his lack of MLB time also means he’s cheap. In Louisville, he was considered a great clubhouse guy and he has a reputation in the organizations he’s been with for mentoring young players, especially Latin guys. He also plays EVERYWHERE. I saw him play every position except catcher in Louisville and he generally acquitted himself well. His defense up the middle is especially nice because, while not spectacular, it is solid and reliable. He’s a reasonable spot starter pretty much anywhere. Plus, if Jose Peraza and Dilson Herrera end up on the roster, he may be a good guy to keep around.

3. Tony Renda – Renda is probably destined to be a starter in Louisville this year, but at 26, it may be time to ease him into the utility role. Like Iribarren, he’s well thought of in the organization. He’s also capable of playing second, third, and the outfield. He’s probably a better option than Herrera to be in a utility role simply because he isn’t as highly touted. He is also someone who you can imagine getting a good chunk of playing time should the need arise. Both analytics guys and old school guys in Louisville were fans of his game when I talked to them.

4. The Three-Headed Monster of Jesse Winker/Scott Schebler/Adam Duvall – The more I think about having all of these guys on the roster, the more it makes sense. Consider that, just in the corner OF spots, there are 1400 plate appearances to be distributed. But then factor in that Duvall can also sub at 3rd and 1st and that Schebler can play center and it’s easy to imagine all of these guys getting 500+ plate appearances, while also almost always having a REALLY solid bat on the bench – something the Reds have missed in recent years. I don’t think the Reds will do this, but I very much think they should do it.

5. The last spot depends a lot on how you feel about Arismendy Alcantara. If he’s still a prospect, he goes to Louisville and plays every day and you give this spot to Desmond Jennings. If not, you maybe cut Jennings and let Alcantara have this last spot. In any case, the fifth outfielder is probably the least important spot on the bench and these two are similar(ish) players at different points in their careers.

I suppose this all amounts to little more than speculation and I’d be shocked if this was the bench that headed north with the Reds, but it’s how I’d shape the bench. The Reds could certainly do a lot worse.

22 Responses

  1. jazzmanbbfan

    I’m rooting for Iribarren to make the team. Liked what I saw after his call-up last year and as you noted, well thought of by organizations he has played for. .

  2. Badfish

    If it were me, and no one was offering anything of value for Cozart, then I would start the season with Peraza, Cozart, and Herrera on the roster. Give Dilson 4 starts a week at second, Cozart 4 starts a week at short, and Peraza 2 starts a week at second and 2 starts at short. On weeks with no off days, 2 of those guys get an extra start. Peraza could get an extra start per week in center to spell Billy.

    Doing it this way would have all 3 guys on pace for over 400 pa. And if Cozart gets traded at the deadline, the 2 young guys would get over 500 pa, assuming health. And it hopefully keeps Cozart fresh and productive to make him more attractive for a contender.

    It doesn’t make any sense to me to give a veteran journeyman like Irabarren 200+ pa while Herrera spends significant time in AAA for the 3rd consecutive year.

  3. Jason Linden

    I would think Duvall is the back up for Votto. But barring injury, Joey figures to play something close to 160 games this year.

  4. Jason Linden

    To re-emphasize something I say above, I don’t think this will be the bench, but I think it would be a good bench.

  5. w_c_hughes

    Off topic question:
    I was selected to buy Opening Day tickets. Does anyone have any idea how much they usually cost through the Reds? Is it typically standard pricing? If they jack them up, by how much?

  6. Andy

    In an ideal world with no injuries, I’d have another 3 headed monster at middle infield: Cozart/Peraza/Herrera.That would give Reds a second solid bench bat. This group could cover third, and, with maybe addition of Duvall, cover first sometimes too.
    Because of service time issues with Winker and the likelihood of a Cozart trade later in year, one spot will be on opening day roster, be sent down for Winker later, then called back for either injury or Cozart trade. I’ll give that spot to Irbarren.
    Tucker is a lock. That leaves 2 players that should never take starts from either of the 2 three-headed monsters. My hunch is Desmond Jennings gets one and give Billy H some days off. That leaves Renda and Alcantara, and my hunch is Renda wins it. Final answer:
    2. Irbarren (then Winker in 2 weeks)
    3. Barnhart
    4. Jennings
    5. Renda

    • Redsfan48

      I think the edge on the last spot has to be to Alcantara since he’s on the 40-man and out of options. Renda isn’t on the 40-man.

  7. ohiojimw

    Can a person be a healthy scratch when the reason for the scratch is to protect his health???

    Thus the first thing that came to my mind when I saw the tweet that Cozart was a “healthy scratch” was that this was today’s Reds contribution to the world of doublespeak. 😉

    And you are a regular here; so, you know, I’ve been on board with your last sentence all off season.

  8. ohiojimw

    I think in Jason’s scheme either Duvall or Schebler would be the bench power around two days out of three.

    Alcantara and Renda are both off to a good start of providing an answer of “NO” to the elite defense question.

  9. Steve

    Barnhart, Hererra, Iribarren, Jennings and Kivlehan or Raburn if Mes is healthy. Turner back to Twins and Alcantara and Ogando DFAd. Barnhart, Turner, Herrera, Iribarren and Jennings if Mes is not healthy. Alcantara and Ogando DFAd. I can’t see the Reds putting 3 NRIs on the 25 man roster unless they DFA another reliever. Maybe Jumbo. I think Bonilla has moved ahead of Jumbo because he can be a starter or reliever.

  10. Nick

    I think Winker would need to stay in Louisville longer than a few weeks to avoid Super-Two status, thus losing a year of team control. Correct me if Im wrong.

    That being said, I also think we shouldnt be overly concerned with his control 5 years from now, given we have entered the era of “Positive Trajectory.” Lets put the best team out there and start competing now!

    • Mark from NC


      Super Two status doesn’t make you a free agent any earlier, it allows a player to go to arbitration a year before they otherwise would.

      So keeping Winker in AAA for a couple weeks does, in fact, allow for that “extra” year of control. Any notion that Winker or Garrett should start the season in Cincinnati ignores the financial realities of the modern game. Plus it ain’t gonna happen, so why bother with the conjecture?

    • Chuck Schick

      Wasting a year of service time so he can play 3 extra weeks for what will likely be a 75ish win team is actually insane. There is no way that can be justified. If Cueto makes 27 starts in 2008 instead of 31 then they would’ve had him an extra year. Those 4 extra starts for a 90 loss team we’re life changing.

      Super 2 mitigation is trickier. It would be nice if it could be avoided, but it’s not a sign of utter incompetence if it happens.

    • Nick

      In that case, it seems like a no brainer to start him in AAA.

  11. JoshG

    I predict and would be ok with …… Barnhart, Iribarren, Jennings, Raburn, Alcantara
    Hererra and Winker at least start the year in AAA along with Renda
    I wouldn’t mind Hererra winning the 2B job outright with a great spring pushing Peraza to a very heavily used super utility guy (until Cozart is gone) and Pushing Alcantara off the roster.

    and on a side note… I know Duvall was great in LF last year… and there is the lefty/righty thing…. but I’d still flip Duvall to RF and have Winker( everyday in AAA to start)/Schebler in LF

  12. Satchmo

    It’s interesting that baseball is becoming more like basketball when it comes to playing time. Once upon a time, a baseball team had nine guys with “set” positions, and five guys on the bench that had one or two quality traits that could be used in a pinch. If any of them went down you saw a severe drop off in skill and talent if a bench guy had to replace them.

    Now, we talk about “total at bats” (like total minutes in basketball). The idea is to get a nucleus of eleven talented guys with flexibility so you can mix and match lineups based on matchups, keeping players fresh, and developing talent. In this universe, guys like Peraza have value beyond their mere numbers. The fact that you can move him all over the place without a severed dip in production from that position is a huge (dare I say “yuuuge”?) Plus for his team. I’d like to see the team take that same approach with Suarez and Duvall. Winker is here, and Senzel is on the way; it would behoove Suarez and Duvall to get use to moving around right now.

    • ohiojimw

      Senzel could also fit into the multi position mode. To date the Reds have seemed focused on pushing him through as a 3B; however when he was drafted there was talk he could end up at 2B or LF instead of 3B.

      My personal preference is to be as set as possible up the middle, at least at C, SS, and 2B. If a team has two guys who excel at covering the gaps and throwi well then perhaps continuity is less important in CF. Also a catcher with a strong bat (i.e. like Posey) who can also play 1B when taking the required breaks from the physical rigors of catching.

      Of course if a team has a regular who can move around, that can make it easier to rely on just one strong player off the bench to cover off days at several positions.

      It will be interesting to see what transpires with the Cubs this season with a healthy Schwarber back in the mix.

  13. ohiojimw

    The only guy on the early crash and burn list I would have any concern about looking forward is Alcantara. I’d guess he probably figures prominently in their pencilled in preseason bench plans.

    Winker is an everyday player. The question is whether he starts the year in AAA or with the MLB team. His record and the scouts say he will get on base at a very good rate wherever he plays. His possible issue is the health of his previously injured wrist and whether that has robbed him of the power he showed at the lower and mid levels of the minor leagues. If he would incredibly turn out to be a MLB level bust at even maintaining an above MLB average OBP, that would be as big of a negative story as any of the debilitating individual injuries the Reds have endured over the last two season.

    • ohiojimw

      If I read Cot’s correctly, Alcantara is out of options. They haven’t tried to send him back though waivers to get him safely off the 40 man, so, somebody must feel he is good for something.

  14. Redsfan48

    You are correct, Alcantara is out of options. I agree that he is very likely to make the team unless there is a huge difference between his performance this spring and one of the non-roster guys.

  15. Redsfan48

    Clearly Alcantara’s defense (at least at SS) needs some serious work. But I think he could bring some power off the bench. Perhaps the overlooked Ryan Raburn could also bring power off the bench.

  16. Redsfan48

    I have changed my mind on this every couple days but here’s my bench prediction.


    and then 2 of the following 3