The Cincinnati Reds went into the offseason last year looking for a shortstop. It was one of their few stated goals for the winter and they came up as empty as possible. Their solutions wound up being guys that weren’t shortstops or haven’t been shortstops, or a guy who has never been a starting shortstop as a professional who was going to turn 31 this year. Fast forward four-and-a-half months of the season and now it seems the Reds have more shortstops than they know what to do with. Out of nowhere Kyle Farmer turned into Barry Bonds at the plate in July. And down in the minors Jose Barrero continues to just get better and better each passing month.
While Kyle Farmer has cooled down a bit in August – he’s hitting .255/.271/.404 through 11 games – Jose Barrero has not. He was likely one of the reasons that Cincinnati may have been a little bit gun shy at going all out for a shortstop this offseason. The team believed that he was the future at the position, but that he wasn’t quite ready to take over the job full time in 2021 but could be there soon.
It turns out they knew what they were talking about. Barrero, who spent a little over a month in the big leagues last year with the Reds (as Jose Garcia, but he changed his last name to honor his mother after she passed away this spring), began the year in Double-A Chattanooga. He hit .300/.367/.481 with the Lookouts in 40 games before he was promoted to Triple-A Louisville. Despite moving up he’s hit significantly better since joining the Bats and last night was the topper on the cake.
Last night saw Jose Barrero go 3-4 with a walk, a double, and two home runs. In his 37 games since joining the Bats in Louisville he’s hit .312/.398/.610. On the year he’s racked up 18 doubles, a triple, 17 home runs, and 15 steals in 77 games played. He’s also the best defensive shortstop in the organization.
Kyle Farmer had an incredible month of July. On the season he’s still been a well below-average hitter. He’s hitting .262/.322/.413. That does give him the best OPS+ of his career, 86, but it’s still significantly below-average. How much rope does one incredibly month give a guy who turns 31-years-old this week? How much does it give that guy when the player expected to be the future is in Triple-A obliterating the baseball?
The Reds are in second place in the division. They are also chasing down the wild card. With six weeks remaining in the season every little improvement that the team makes matters. Is now the time to take the gamble that Jose Barrero can come up and be an improvement over Kyle Farmer? If so, that not only makes the every day lineup better, but it also improves the bench as Farmer would then be moved to more of a sub/pinch-hitting role. It would be a gamble, but there’s not much left to prove in Triple-A for Barrero, and it feels a bit crazy to keep the future shortstop in the minors because a soon to be 31-year-old who has 744 career plate appearances in the big leagues had a hot month, doesn’t it?