2012 Post-season / 2012 Reds

Roster Questions, Part 5: The Scrum on the Bench

To wrap up our little series, it’s time to take a look at who will be the last man on the bench. Right now, the Reds have three bench spots locked up. They’ll go to Todd Frazier, Chris Heisey, and the second catcher (probably Dioner Navarro). After that, it gets a little murky. There are only three spots left and at least five players with some kind of reasonable claim on a spot. Let’s take a look at what your friendly RN editors have to say about each one. Remember, only three of these players can make the team.

Third Catcher (Devin Mesoraco) by Richard Fitch

Keeping 3 catchers on the post-season roster provides more bench flexibility. Oddly enough, the emergence of Navarro as a hitter has made adding Mesoraco a necessity. Navarro can be used as a pinch hitter without removing Hanigan, who probably should be catching as many innings as possible, while not compromising options down the road during the game. Should an injury at catcher happen that demands a change during a game, having a third catcher will prove a blessing. And finally, the cost of adding a third catcher is not prohibitive. It means leaving Miguel Cairo off the roster. Not the end of the world. It would need to be Cairo, not Valdez, simply because Valdez can cover at more infield positions in a pinch.

Miguel Cairo by Greg Dafler

After posting a surprising .751 OPS, 102 OPS+, and 2.9 WAR with Cincinnati over 502 plate appearances the previous two seasons, Miguel Cairo has not followed up with a good year at the plate in 2012. Not a good year is actually quite an understatement. He’s batting .177 with a .474 OPS, a 24 OPS+, and a negative WAR. You look at that stat line and automatically dismiss him as an option for the playoff roster. However, like Rolen in the first half of the year, Cairo has an extraordinarily low BABIP at .198, almost 100 points below his career average. Some reversion to his career average is to be expected, and that indicates a potential for contributions more in line with what he’s provided in Cincinnati the prior two seasons.

The Reds other bench options are thin. He is essentially competing for the two final roster spots with Wilson Valdez, Devin Mesoraco, and theoretically AAA players who are getting very limited September playing time. (I’m assuming Xavier Paul is a given for one of the other bench roles.) Valdez probably gets the nod just because he can play shortstop, though it is worth noting the Cairo (as well as Frazier) could fill-in if an emergency replacement at shortstop was necessary mid-game. Cairo has been a better hitter than Valdez throughout their respective careers, and that includes this season. Valdez’s OPS is actually worse than Cairo at .444, while Valdez actually has a decent .240 BABIP. If Mesoraco is on the roster, he would be completely unused. Devin Mesoraco is getting absolutely no playing time in September regular season games. You want guys on the playoff roster that the manager might actually need and use in a game.

Wilson Valdez by Chad Dotson

What’s the case for Wilson Valdez being on the post-season roster? Well, he’s been on the major league roster all season long. That’s a pretty good indicator of someone who has a great chance to make the playoff squad.

Valdez is what he is. He can’t hit (an OPS+ of 18 in nearly 200 plate appearances, which is historically bad), but he plays a number of positions and gives manager Dusty Baker some flexibility. This season, Valdez has played 2B, SS, 3B, and CF. He’s played a little LF during his career, too… and, memorably, he even pitched once.

Perhaps his defense isn’t Gold Glove-quality at any of those positions, but it’s adequate at all of them. Having a player on the roster who can play all over the diamond can certainly be of some utility (if you’ll pardon the expression) to a club. In addition, we all know how much Dusty likes to sacrifice bunt; well, Valdez has more sac bunts this year than any other bench option available to the Reds.

Finally, Valdez has postseason experience, playing in two series for the Phillies in 2010. Other than Scott Rolen and Miguel Cairo, Valdez is the only “hitter” on the Cincinnati roster who has played in an NLCS. The Reds need that veteranny goodness, that playoff experience, to help lead the young guys, right? Right?

Didi Gregorius by Yours Truly

When this series was initially conceived, this space was reserved for, essentially, “some random young player.” I thought, for instance, I might end up making the case to use Billy Hamilton as a pinch runner. But, if one thing has become clear, it’s that Didi Gregorius would be the young player. And he should be.

We haven’t seen much from Gregorius, and all signs point to him being just barely playable as a backup infielder. And you know what? That’s fine because Valdez and Cairo Aren’t playable at all. Or, at least, they shouldn’t be.

Valdez has the “advantage” of being able to play 15 different positions. So what? Todd Frazier can reasonably man every infield position besides shortstop and the Reds figure to have plenty of outfielders who can handle center in a pinch. What that means is, they only really need a backup, break-glass-in-case-of-emergency shortstop. It could be Valdez, but why bother? Defensively, he doesn’t give you anything Gregorius can’t (to state the obvious) and he couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat. He’s terrible. Gregorius is probably not very good, but that’s still better than Valdez.

Xavier Paul by Chris Garber

This is the easiest argument in the entire series. OF COURSE Xavier Paul should be on the Reds post-season roster. He’s the team’s best – and to Dusty’s credit, most frequently used pinch hitter. Off the bench, Paul is hitting a stunning .333/.389/.485. He’s been good as a spot starter, too: .293/.383/.415. He plays good defense and runs well.

For a team that struggled half the year to come up with a viable left-handed bench bat, there’s zero chance the Reds voluntarily leave a weapon like X.Paul behind. What we should be talking about is whether Paul gets a start in LF if there’s a right-handed starter who gives Ryan Ludwick particular trouble.

As a side note: X.Paul is the first guy to join the Reds who I could see being a “Dusty guy” for some other club 6-7 years from now.

And that does it. I hope you all have enjoyed the series. We’ll, of course, have the playoffs covered like tattoos on Latos.

23 thoughts on “Roster Questions, Part 5: The Scrum on the Bench

  1. I think I’d go: XP, Mes (somehow, I just like the idea of him running into one in a pinch… that’s one thing most of the other options don’t offer), and Cairo.

    Didi’s time will come, but this just isn’t it. Between Valdez and Cairo, I go Cairo if nothing else than out of loyalty. Let him be a bench coach/player if you will. I would say though, if Cozart were to get hurt and be unable to play out a series rather than just one game, that puts Didi back in the mix. It’s just hard to make a case for a guy getting a Sept call up, playing ho-hum, and then being put on the post-season roster. Just doesn’t seem to fit. But Valdez’s performance all season doesn’t fit and he’s still there, so there’s that.

  2. Well good thing we didn’t bring up Billy Hamilton, this would be a ten times bigger mess to decide the 25 man with him as an option.

  3. If I were filling the bench, I would go Frazier, Heisey, Navarro, XP, Didi, and Mesoraco. The first 4 all provide good bats off the bench. A lefty, two righties, and a switch hitter. The latter two provide defensive back-ups at two positions that absolutely need back ups. Didi also provides another lefty “bat” off the bench if it were necessary.

    The only downside I can see is that Valdez is a better bunter than any of the aforementioned. But Heisey seems to be able to bunt decently enough, or there is Cueto/Arroyo off the bench to bunt as well. Both have shown a good ability to sacrifice.

    I know it’s unlikely that both Valdez/Cairo get left off…but if I filled out the lineup that is what I’d go with.

    • Between Didi and Valdez/Cairo, I think you have to look at it from the perspective of who would be the better pinch hitter. I am not saying that Didi is not the answer, but Cozart should play the entire game of every game.

      If the Reds view Valdez as a better pinch hitter, he will get the nod over Didi.

      If I were filling the bench, I would go Frazier, Heisey, Navarro, XP, Didi, and Mesoraco.The first 4 all provide good bats off the bench.A lefty, two righties, and a switch hitter.The latter two provide defensive back-ups at two positions that absolutely need back ups.Didi also provides another lefty “bat” off the bench if it were necessary.

      The only downside I can see is that Valdez is a better bunter than any of the aforementioned.But Heisey seems to be able to bunt decently enough, or there is Cueto/Arroyo off the bench to bunt as well.Both have shown a good ability to sacrifice.

      I know it’s unlikely that both Valdez/Cairo get left off…but if I filled out the lineup that is what I’d go with.

      • Between Didi and Valdez/Cairo, I think you have to look at it from the perspective of who would be the better pinch hitter. I am not saying that Didi is not the answer, but Cozart should play the entire game of every game.

        I think that’s a realistic way to look at it. Didi’s best asset is his defense, but it’s not like Cozart doesn’t bring that.

  4. How many guys do you sit on the bench “in case of emergency”? Leake, in case a starter goes down. Valdez, in case Cozart gets hurt. Mesoraco, in case Hanigan takes one in the adam’s apple. If the Reds were on the fence about 3 catchers, Hanigan’s late-inning fluke injury last night may have swayed them to carry 3 catchers.

    • How many guys do you sit on the bench “in case of emergency”? Leake, in case a starter goes down. Valdez, in case Cozart gets hurt. Mesoraco, in case Hanigan takes one in the adam’s apple. If the Reds were on the fence about 3 catchers, Hanigan’s late-inning fluke injury last night may have swayed them to carry 3 catchers.

      Unfortunately, you may be right. I just don’t think there is any way Mesoraco is on any post-season roster. He has been very under-used since his callup. I believe there are some things that we fans just aren’t privy to about this Mesoraco situation.
      Anyway, say if Hanigan or Navarro, or any other player for that matter, gets injured in a playoff series, don’t the Reds have the ability to add on another player at the same position that the injured player had??? That would mean the injured player is removed from the roster for the rest of that series. If this is correct, then I don’t see a need for a 3rd catcher scenario. And with that, both Valdez and Cairo will be on the NLDS roster. I think that will be a pretty mute point. The real question is going to surround what they decide to do with Leake.

      • Anyway, say if Hanigan or Navarro, or any other player for that matter, gets injured in a playoff series, don’t the Reds have the ability to add on another player at the same position that the injured player had??? That would mean the injured player is removed from the roster for the rest of that series. If this is correct, then I don’t see a need for a 3rd catcher scenario.

        I believe that the rule is that you can replace an injured player mid series only with a player of the same position, but that injured player is then also required to miss the next series.

  5. If you have only 1 backup catcher, that catcher is not available as a PH, except under unusual or extraordinary circumstances. If you have only 1 backup SS, that SS is not available as a PH, except under unusual or extraordinary circumstances. Adding Meso to the roster frees up Navarro as a PH. Frazier/Rolen, Stubbs/Heisey and XP will be the primary PH available with Navarro included if Meso is on the roster. This provides the most effective PH opportunities on the bench.

    With Meso & XP included on the roster, only 1 more spot is available between Cairo, Valdez & Didi. Since this position must provide a backup SS, Cairo is the odd man out. Since this position will be the designated backup SS rather than a primary PH, I want the best defensive SS available and that’s Didi, hands down.

    Unfortunately, I can’t envision the Reds with a post season roster that omits both Cairo and Valdez.

    • If you have only 1 backup catcher, that catcher is not available as a PH, except under unusual or extraordinary circumstances. If you have only 1 backup SS, that SS is not available as a PH, except under unusual or extraordinary circumstances. Adding Meso to the roster frees up Navarro as a PH.

      I agreee wholeheartedly here. That’s what makes the non-use of Mez so puzzling. Heck, even if you weren’t going to put him on the postseason roster, it makes no sense to not play him at least a little just in case (like Hanigan last night) someone goes down with injury.

  6. Boy, that final series in St. Louis could be very interesting. I would think the WLB’s will be battling to clinch the last wild card spot while the Reds are battling for the best record in the NL. You know we’ll be playing all our starters to get them tuned up for the NLDS. Playoff baseball, indeed. Those games could be very telling as far as who makes the roster and how they’re used.

  7. Who it should be: Heisey, Navarro, XP, Meso, and Didi

    Who it will probably be: Heisey, Navarro, XP, Valdez and Cairo.

    I think Didi has no realistic shot at it, so it’s going to come down if they value Navarro as a pinch hitter more than they value Cairo’s (ahem) defensive prowess at several positions.

  8. Supposedly Cairo is a “leader” (whatever that means to grown men) in the clubhouse & relates well to the Latin players. Great – then don’t have him active, but have him in the dugout & clubhouse providing his leadership & guidance. Unfortunately he’s one of the proverbial Dusty guys, and despite his a)inability to hit major league pitching in 2012 and b)inability to field major league hitting in 2012, he’ll be on the roster.

    I will never understand the whole “he’s a veteran and he’s been to the playoffs before, so that makes him valuable despite the fact he’s been a non-factor all season” argument. The same goes for Valdez. The only skill he seems to bring to the table in 2012 is the ability to bunt. Heisey, Leake, Arroyo or Cueto can bunt if needed, and Didi is a much better fielder.

    Having said that, I won’t be a bit surprised to see both Valdez & Cairo on the playoff roster. Disappointed but not surprised.

  9. We haven’t seen much from Gregorius, and all signs point to him being just barely playable as a backup infielder.

    …really?! Are we watching the same guy? I think he looks incredible out there. Count me in on the Gregorius bandwagon… That said, there’s probably more to managing people than always just taking the “best” guys. Might be some hurt feelings about that knife sticking in the backs of Cairo and Valdez.

  10. Part of the reason Cairo and Valdez are with the team is veteran experience and playoff experience, and I doubt the Reds will abandon that/them in the playoffs. The Reds value team chemistry and seem to view Cairo as a key piece to their successful chemistry, and that’s enough for me.

    I think Xavier Paul, Devin Mesoraco (reserved as a emergency catcher so Navarro can pinch hit), Miguel Cairo, and Wilson Valdez will all make the postseason roster with the Reds taking one fewer pitcher than many fans expect.

    I’d be surprised to see Leake, Cingrani, Arredondo, or Ondrusek on the postseason roster – the first two haven’t pitched out of the bullpen much and the later two have struggled. What role do any of those pitchers fill if we can’t expect them to get outs? In what situation would anyone ask them to pitch? Just keep Chapman, Broxton, Marshall, Hoover, LeCure, and Simon.

    Tony Cingrani and Didi Gregorius, maybe their day will come eventually but I don’t think it’s here yet.

    • – I fail to understand this obsession with keeping an emergency catcher under glass.The discussion/occurrence ratio for “two catcher

      Also

      – Cairo can’t be on the bench if he’s not on the roster.
      – Cairo was left off the Phillies post-season rosters in 2009, despite being on the roster as of Aug. 29.

      Alright, don’t call Dioner Navarro a catcher. Call him a pinch hitter. Like Xavier Paul his bat has assured him of a roster spot but he’s unlikely to see time in the field. Hanigan, Mesoraco, and Navarro provides 2 catchers and a pinch hitter.

      @redsfanman: …and they could always have Valdez pitch in an emergency…yikes!

      If the Reds get to a point when Chapman, Broxton, Marshall, Hoover, LeCure, and Simon are all knocked out of a game they must already be in a position where they might as well allow Valdez to pitch. Makes more sense to me than carrying Arredondo, Ondrusek, or Leake while being terrified about allowing them into the game.

  11. At the ballpark Saturday night, during the on-field celebration interviews, much was made of CHEMISTRY ‘, particularly by WJocketty. I’d be more surprised if Valdez and/or Cairo were left off the PS roster than Mesorosco, but I’ll be surprised if Mes is not on the roster, too.

    As Gene Autrey used to say: Ya dance with the one that brung ya!

  12. I go with Hanigan as the catcher for every game. I’d use Navarro as a pitch hitter in every game. I’d use Mes as the backup catcher in every game.

    X? Because it is silly not to include him.

    Didi, because I want him to take the postseason experience back with him to the lower ranks and tell them what its like to win the World Series.

  13. - I fail to understand this obsession with keeping an emergency catcher under glass. The discussion/occurrence ratio for “two catcher

    Also

    – Cairo can’t be on the bench if he’s not on the roster.
    – Cairo was left off the Phillies post-season rosters in 2009, despite being on the roster as of Aug. 29.

  14. @Chris Garber: Cairo had 3 plate appearances in the NLDS and 2 in the NLCS in 2009, but none in the World Series. Was he initially left off the roster, but appearaed as a mid-series replacement? Or do you mean that he was left off the world series roster?

  15. I could be wrong. I hope I’m wrong. But I will be shocked and stunned if either Valdez or Cairo are left off the postseason roster.

    Shocked. And stunned.

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