The Cincinnati Reds have a lot of options for how their lineup could play out. The outfield, in particular, has Nick Senzel, Nick Castellanos, Jesse Winker, and Shogo Akiyama all vying for starters at-bats – though the designated hitter will help with that one a little bit. But even beyond those four, there are guys like Mark Payton and Phillip Ervin, not to mention Josh VanMeter or even Aristides Aquino. It’s never a bad things to have too much talent, but the outfield is rather crowded. The infield is a bit more settled, with Joey Votto, Mike Moustakas, Freddy Galvis, and Eugenio Suarez on the dirt to go with whoever is catching that day.
Even before there were 30-man rosters to begin the season, the Reds had a lot of different ways that they could utilize the players on the roster on a given night to best match up with the opposing starting pitcher. Cincinnati’s manager David Bell spoke a little bit about how things may look a little different depending on the opposing starter.
“It’ll be slightly different if we’re facing a left hander or a right hander,” said Bell of the lineup. “There are players on our team that are going to play every day and it’s not going to matter, right or left, and when we do switch it up it’s not at all about not believing in our guys to be able to play that particular night, it’s more about getting the other guys in the lineup to do the best to maximize our roster – which we feel great about, the depth, and we’re going to utilize everyone. Maybe even more so this year than last year, there are several guys that will play each day as long as everyone stays healthy – they’ll be in there every day.”
The players that will be in there every day, assuming health, are likely Joey Votto, Mike Moustakas, Eugenio Suarez, Freddy Galvis, and Nick Castellanos. You could, and I probably would, argue that Nick Senzel falls into that category, too, given how it has sounded like he’s the guy in center field according to David Bell. That’s six of the nine spots in the lineup that are accounted for, leaving just three others. One of those spots is going to be taken by either Tucker Barnhart or Curt Casali – it just depends which one is catching that day. So really, it’s likely going to be just two spots.
The players that could fill those spots all seem to be left-handed hitters. In the outfield, or at the designated hitter spot, we could be looking at Jesse Winker or Shogo Akiyama (or both of them in the roles). You could insert Josh VanMeter into left or as the designated hitter. Mark Payton can play any of the three outfield spots or designated hitter. But Phillip Ervin can crush left-handed pitching, so if there’s a tough lefty on the mound he’s a guy you probably want to try to get into the lineup somewhere that night. Perhaps Aristides Aquino makes his way onto the roster and he, like Ervin, could get into the lineup against left-handed pitching for sure, and maybe be the designated hitter on some nights against right-handers.
It’s certainly going to be interesting to see how the lineup looks from night to night. The starting lineup might not be the same one that is on the field by the 6th inning, either. While there will be a designated hitter this year, which will eliminate pinch hitting for pitchers – with the new 3-batter rule for relievers, teams may take advantage of match ups against relievers more often than in the past – something that David Bell mentioned on Monday as a possibility.
2020 is going to be weird no matter how it goes. With the designated hitter in the National League, there were cries that “the strategy is gone” – and we can argue that one all day and night if we wanted to (let’s not). But with the 3-batter rule, some strategy that was taken away is put back on the table in a way that we haven’t seen in quite a while. Teams can no longer bring in the specialist for just one hitter, unless that is to end the inning, and it works.
There will still be a little mental battle back-and-forth between the dugouts over whether or not it makes sense to bring in this or that reliever knowing that if the move doesn’t work they’ll be in there for several batters. Bringing in a tough righty reliever to face some lefties against the Reds may not work if they can bring Jesse Winker, Shogo Akiyama, Josh VanMeter, and Mark Payton off of the bench as a counter move. Likewise, bringing in a lefty to face those guys if they are starting may not work if David Bell can bring in Phillip Ervin or maybe Nick Senzel or Aristides Aquino off of the bench.
Embrace the weird. Get creative. Win baseball games.