Ian Happ was the 9th overall pick in 2015. The Cubs had Happ play 2B and all three OF positions in his time in the minor leagues. This season, Happ has 355 PA without having more than 36 starts at a single position.

Kris Bryant was the 2nd overall pick in 2013. Bryant made 75 starts at 3B and 32 starts in the OF during the Cubs 2016 championship season.

When is the last time the Reds had a good position player play multiple positions regularly? The Cubs routinely do this. They’ve had their catcher, Wilson Contreras play in the outfield, Javier Baez start at every infield position, and they of course signed the position flexibility wizard, Ben Zobrist.

The Reds meanwhile can’t find a way to get Dilson Herrera at-bats when they are missing two starting outfielders and are 15 games under .500. The Reds lack of roster flexibility handcuffs them when injuries happen, and they will happen.

The Reds have 8 positions players that most would feel happy with getting everyday playing time in 2019: Winker, Schebler, Suarez, Peraza, Gennett, Senzel, Votto, and Barnhart. That is a lineup that would score a lot of runs, and from an offensive standpoint could hold their own in a playoff chase. There are many options to put that lineup on the field; for this exercise we are assuming Winker (LF), Votto (1B), and Barnhart (C) are unmovable from their positions:

Option #1

CF Senzel
RF Schebler
3B Suarez
SS Peraza
2B Gennett

Option #2

CF Peraza
RF Schebler
3B Suarez
SS Senzel
2B Gennett

Option #3

CF Schebler
RF Gennett
3B Suarez
SS Peraza
2B Senzel

Option #4

CF Schebler
RF Senzel
3B Suarez
SS Peraza
2B Gennett

Option #5

CF Peraza
RF Schebler
3B Senzel
SS Suarez
2B Gennett

There are certainly some caveats to this. Gennett should not start vs LHP, so you potentially put Phillip Ervin in CF on those nights (he has a 1.090 OPS through his first 35 AB in the majors vs LHP), and you have a great bat off the bench. Billy Hamilton could have so much value as a late inning pinch-runner and defensive replacement (think back to September 2013). Injuries are going to happen, which is a reason that I believe the Reds shouldn’t move Gennett or Senzel unless offered a major haul. The Reds major focus this off-season has to be acquiring at least one, possibly two good starting pitchers. If they can sure up centerfield internally, that would leave more dollars and prospects to acquire the needed starting pitching. The Reds also look like they have some solid options on the bench with Phillip Ervin, Preston Tucker, Mason Williams, Alex Blandino, and Dilson Herrera. The more flexible those players are position wise, the more playing time they can get. I believe that should be an organizational wide philosophy.

There are so many different creative ways the Reds can get a good lineup on the field. I can already see the wheels turning in your head that the Reds will never go with an outside of the box starting 8. That is where the Reds front-office has to be very careful in who they select to manage the 2019 team. They need a manager that can stick to the script, and wouldn’t bolt from this lineup the first time someone doesn’t make a catch that Billy Hamilton would have.

The time is now to begin looking at the different options. When/if Gennett’s arm is good enough to try RF, it should happen. When Schebler comes back, he should play some CF. The Reds should try Peraza in CF and Suarez at SS. Phillip Ervin should see time in CF. The time has passed for Senzel to get starts at SS, CF, and RF in the minors, and that was a missed opportunity for the Reds. The Reds aren’t out of options to get both Gennett and Senzel in the lineup together in 2019, they just have to be creative.

28 Responses

  1. Dewey Roberts

    Great article, Nick. There are some players who are locked into certain positions by their skill set. But others should be allowed to play other positions. Pete Rose came up as a second baseman and then played RF, CF, LF, 3rd base, and first base. He never played short, catcher, or pitched.,
    The Reds need to get their best bats in the lineup without compromising their defense.

  2. Andrew

    Problem is Billy Hamilton will continue to be seen as your everyday CF by front offi– I mean Castellini. So you have to sit or move one of those other 5 you mention.

  3. Sliotar

    1) Zobrist arrvied as a designated utliity guy. The other 4 Cubs are all less 27 years old, most minimally paid.

    Three of the 5 Reds are 27 or older and already more established at certain positions.

    2) The Cubs can pay to replace an injured out-of-position player, the Reds can’t/won’t.

    We saw in April what the loss of Suarez meant. Can you imagine the uproar if he is hurt on a diving play at SS or turning a double play, as part of a grand shuffle of position guys?

    3) Bryant has played virtually all of his innings in 2018 at 3B, and has suffered injury problems this season. He is at $11M this season, and working towards a free agent payday. His days of moving around might be over.

    The Reds need more talent, period, to get up the win curve.

    Fine to try this, but there are potential hidden costs and it likely adds a win or two to the total. It isn’t the impactful solution this club needs to compete in the NL Central.

    • Mike Adams

      “The Reds need more talent, period, to get up the win curve.”

      THIS THIS THIS THIS

      I agree. You are right. Correctomundo. Uh-huh. Especially starting pitching.

  4. Nick Kirby

    I read somewhere that the Brewers GM said with all of the shifts that positions don’t matter as much anymore. That is why they have two starting third baseman. 3B has to play SS all the time when a LHB is up, and 2B plays SS (or close to it) with certain RHB up. Infielders have to learn at least two position anyway.

  5. Nick Kirby

    I certainly do not think all of the options are rock solid, but they are just that: options. Now is the time to be figuring out if any of those are possible.

  6. Bill

    The Cubs approached the rebuild completely different from the Reds. From what I can tell their strategy was trade everyone, draft best bat available, put 8 best bats on the field regardless of defensive capability, sign pitching as needed, and trade away surplus players at deadline to improve playoff rosters. The Reds on the other hand traded away some people (often too late), held onto others, tried to stockpile pitching talent, wanted “near MLB ready prospects, are hesitant to change positions, and hesitant to trade any surplus. This led to a prolonged rebuild for the Reds and the poor results on the pitching development and limited resources in spending have put them in a bad situation. I think recently they have altered the approach and focused on drafting guys like Senzel and India. The trade of Duvall was a start to trade away excess, but the Senzel, Herrera, Gennett situation has been handled poorly and does not seem to have clear resolution.

    I would guess any of Suarez, Herrera, Senzel could play the RF position with a little practice. Senzel could possibly play CF based on the reports on how athletic he is. Schebler while not the best CF can handle it until there is a better player available. Herrera has now played OF and all infield positions at some point in his career and could be the guy to plug in wherever needed.The Reds need to find a way to get the best bats in the lineup.

  7. Old-school

    Interesting and enjoyable read. Assuming health, blandino in the infield and Ervin in the outfield give you roster flexibility, not to mention the occassional Lorenzen hitting.

    The Reds are 9 games behind the 4th place Pirates. Very very difficult to see them passing 3-4 teams in the NL Central to win 90 games and make the playoffs . They are better- but modestly better. Go young and use 2019 to purge what will be $45 million in 2019 contracts to Hamilton/ Gennett/ and Bailey.

    Plant Winker/ Schebler as Corner OF, give Peraza another 155 games to see if can be the long term answer at SS and put Senzel at 2b.
    Sort the pitching more and go all in for 2020.

  8. Keith

    So we need some positional flexibility for Homer Bailey, is that what you’re saying? Perhaps the bullpen catcher?

    • roger garrett

      Amen but why is it so hard for this front office to do that.I know they have players ego and all that stuff to deal with but I feel most all want to win so can we just say to whomever we are going to see what this guy can do and just do it.

  9. eric3287

    These are fun what-if scenarios to play around with, but the Reds won’t even experiment in the middle of August during a 4th consecutive 90 loss season with two starting OFs on the DL, a top 5 prospect out for the season, an All-Star first baseman who can’t run, and a 2B that can’t throw.

    Preston freaking Tucker, a 28 year old journeyman OF who is basically a poor man’s left handed Adam Duvall is taking starts away from Phil Ervin and Dilson Herrera. I truly cannot stress just how crazy that is. Preston Tucker, an Atlanta Brave until August 1, who then got hit by a pitch in the foot causing him to miss a few days with injury, has 23 PA with the Reds. Dilson Herrera has 33. Preston Tucker is sitting at -.3 WAR in his 23 PA, almost matching Cliff Pennington’s memorable -.4 WAR in 34 PA.

    Joey Votto is basically starting every other day and coming out early every time he does because he is injured; not hurt, but actually injured. Put him on the DL, let him actually heal, let Dixon play 1B for a couple weeks, start Ervin/Williams/Herrera in the OF for at the very least 3 days in a row. Do something for crying out loud. If you aren’t willing to experiment NOW, with all the injury luck they’re having, what makes you think Bob is going to let them experiment on Opening Day when he can pretend the team can still make the playoffs?

  10. big5ed

    Here are the NL Central standings since June 9:

    Cincinnati 30-24
    Chicago 31-25
    Pittsburgh 30-25
    St. Louis 29-28
    Mill Water 28-29

    This team is not as bad as popularly supposed, even with the warts identified above. The team you describe is still too left-handed, with 4 LH starters and Barnhart. I think in the cold light of the winter meetings, the left-handedness will result in their trading Gennett. Or maybe Schebler, who I think would fetch more than Gennett.

    Personally, I don’t think moving positions is that big of a deal. Good baseball players can learn how to play anywhere, although you may not like where Phillip Ervin decides to throw the ball. They all know how to catch fly balls, they all know how to field grounders, and they all pretty much can throw. I would focus on getting the best 12-13 players on the roster, and go over the fundamentals (footwork, cut-offs, etc.), in spring training. It just isn’t that hard to be passable at a new position.

    Joey Votto needs to start 140 games, not 155-162, so they need somebody better than Brandon Dixon as back-up first baseman. Schebler? Winker? Blandino? Bueller? Gennett needs plenty of rest, and to sit against a lot of lefties. I could see Ervin as a semi-regular 4th outfielder, giving both Schebler and Winker some days off against lefties.

    Suarez would be one grim defensive shortstop.

      • David

        And finish at the end of September. Every team has a period of time when they are playing well. We have seen the Reds do that this season, during that period on the calendar. They will stink it up for the rest of the year.

        Playing musical chairs with position players is a fun excercise, but this team is already poor defensively. This could make it worse. Positional flexibility is fine to get young players At Bats, but this is not and has not been the Reds strategy over the years. They do what they do, and are in last place, largely because their pitching stinks. It will continue to stink and the Reds will stay in Last Place. They are a Last Place team. Period. Shuffling players around could get them At Bats and perhaps improve their trade value, but then the front office would have to wake up and find the phone and make a deal. And that’s not going to happen either.

      • eric3287

        I agree completely. The Reds first and foremost need more talent before they worry about anything else. Moving Peraza from SS to CF just seems asinine to me. The guy has a 90 wRC+ on the season, why are we trying to have him switch positions, can’t afford to lose that bat? Come on. The goal should be to replace Peraza with someone better, not shuffle him around just for the hell of it.

    • Jim Walker

      They need to get Senzel (and as of now) Ervin in the line up together as regulars to solve the RH/LH problem. The other option is sign or acquire a RH power bat; but, why do that when they look to have two viable options in house.

      • roger garrett

        That’s it in a nutshell.Stock piling players but they are always two or three years away yet here we are in year whatever it is and we know little because so few have been given a chance.Ervin and Herrera should play every day.

      • David

        Well, that’s just crazy talk. What the Reds need to win is more veteran presence. See, it sez that right here in the Reds manual of losing operations.

  11. Reaganspad

    When the Reds needed a LF, probably the easiest position to fill on the planet (Adam Dunn played there) they did not try Mesoraco.

    Talk about a stiff necked organization, we might have gotten a few more all star years out of Devin if the Reds Braintrust (can we really call them that somedays) had done what the Cubs were doing.

    And shoot, it was not a new invention as Yeager and Ferguson used to platoon at catcher and Right Field to keep both bats in the lineup.

    Dilson not playing every day in LF or against LH pitchers at 2nd is the same kind of crime.

    Criminal, Criminal I say…

  12. eric3287

    Just for fun, from July 17, 2016 – August 20, 2016:
    Cubs: 23-9
    Reds: 20-11
    Cards: 18-14
    Pirates: 16-13
    Brewers: 13-20

    All of those organizations have remained head and shoulders above the Reds.

    For as much as I love the sentiment in this post, and as much as I would love to see this organization show one iota of creativity more than pitching Brandon Dixon in a blowout, what the Reds really need is more talent.

    The Cubs weren’t going out of their way to play Junior Lake and Emilio Bonifacio and Mike Olt and Arismendy Alcantara in a ton of different positions. They went out and got better. The Reds seem unwilling or unable to take this basic step.

  13. roger garrett

    I am all for the offense especially when we play at home.Our outfield can play all in because most of the time if it goes over their head its over the wall.Boys that can hit can be taught to be better fielders and sometimes its just positioning or angles to the ball but if you can’t hit well.

  14. roger garrett

    The best hitters need to be on the field.Gone are the days of low scoring one run games.You have to score to win and in our case and in our park we will have to outslug the other team.Their isn’t a Max or a Clayton anywhere on the planet that would not struggle to keep the ball in the park at GABP.I can live with any of the options but prefer#1

  15. Jim Walker

    Need to see Ervin at CF to see how he does there. He looks to me to be a little smoother on his routes and deceptively quick and fast. Guessing he probably has the stronger arm too if he can figure out where to throw it and do so with better accuracy.

  16. Brian

    I don’t know if Herrera or Senzel would be so bad transitioning to the outfield. Duvall was a 3rd basemen that became a gold glove quality left fielder. Senzel is much more athletic than Duvall so I think he could at least be above average eventually in right. I like the idea of schebler in CF, Winker in LF, Senzel in RF, and Scooter still at second. I’m more confused why people want to try Scooter in the outfield (older, slower, worse arm etc.) that defense wouldn’t be great but you could hope schebler exceeds Choo defensively in 2013 and just hope to outscore people. Plus you have Billy pinch running/defensive replacement late. Obviously you still need pitching but this alignment has always made the most since to me

    • Nick Kirby

      Brian, I like your comment a lot. This seems to make the most sense. It’s not like if the Reds decide not extend Scooter after next season that Senzel couldn’t move back to 2B. This seems like the best lineup and defense combo. Scooter also shouldn’t play vs LHP, so Senzel can play 2B those days and you put Ervin in RF.

  17. Dave Roemerman

    Good article. I think this highlights, more than anything, the need to complete a really quality managerial search and come away with someone who can creatively get the bats in the lineup. And, with the record-setting K% across the league (gonna be the first year with more whiffs than hits), defense is less important than ever This is especially true in a ballpark where hits with <5% hit probability leave the yard, which has happened at least twice this past week.

  18. abado

    I’m not sure what the Reds should do in 2019 yet. But this year, as Nick pointed out, it’s crazy that they haven’t found more time for Dilson Herrera and even Phillip Ervin.

    I could not care any less about Mason Williams, except that some guy named Tucker Preston (or is it Preston Tucker) is on the Reds and getting significant playing time. Phillip Ervin was a first round pick, has been with the organization since 2013, and was having perhaps his best season in the minors this year. Play him in RF (or CF when Billy gets a breather) everyday. Mason Williams was acquired this year and hasn’t hit nearly as well as Ervin in AAA or the majors. The best thing he has going for him is a rumor that he was once a top prospect (btw, he was briefly on MLB.com top 100 prospect list in 2013, but quickly fell off). He’s getting more playing time than Ervin.

    Clearly the Reds just don’t value Ervin very highly. Last year, Patrick Kivlehan was getting equal playing time at the end of the year, and now Williams and Tucker are pulling ABs away from him. Ervin won’t be a great player, but he could be a really good 4th outfielder with some pop, on-base skills, and speed. He can cut it in CF even if he’s not a great outfielder. Put some trust in the kid already.

    Dilson Herrera. Maybe his shoulder can’t handle playing in the outfield. In that case, play Scooter in LF. See how he plays out there (neither can be any worse than Winker). If Gennett can play passably, maybe Senzel and Gennett can co-exist in the same lineup next year. And, more urgently, it would get Dilson Herrera more at bats. Why have the Reds not found playing time for a 24 year old that was raking in AAA this year (and has always raked when healthy)? Riggleman made some comment about experimenting with Dilson in LF, but qualified it with balancing trying to win ballgames. It’s the middle of August, the Reds are 14 games back of the wild card, and they’re trying to “win ballgames” in order to prove to the front office that they should spend more money next year. Here’s an idea: focus on what will best help you win ballgames in 2019/2020. And a hint: it’s not Preston Tucker or Mason Williams or Patrick Kivlehan or Phil Gosselin or Cliff Pennington.

    As with the past few years around this time, I’m getting tired of this. SMH.