Season Preview

2014 Season Preview: The Bench

By now the bench has been a source of strife among Reds fans for several years. In a way, that’s nice. If you’re arguing about the bench players, it means a lot of other things are going wrong. Still, I know I’m not the only wondering what Skip Schumaker gives that (for instance) the recently released Henry Rodriguez doesn’t. Anyway, here’s what I think from the bench:

2013 WAR: 1.1 (FanGraphs)
2014 Best Guess WAR: 1.5
Projected Difference: +0.4 WAR
2014 Floor: -2.0 WAR
2014 Ceiling: 2.0 WAR

First, note that this includes players with 100+ PAs. Second, I have included Hanigan from last year and Pena from this year in the totals. In 2013, pretty much all of the bench value is Chris Heisey, who was basically league-average in limited playing time. Second note that there’s a lot of crappiness on the bench. Schumaker and Bernadina both read as replacement-level (or worse) to the projection system. Various backup infielders rate just a tic above that and Heisey looks to be pretty decent, especially for a fourth outfielder.

The end result is that there isn’t really anything to get excited about here. It’s the bench, and it’s not a very good bench despite costing a little bit of money. If any of these guys (except, maybe, Heisey) plays a lot, it’s a big problem. Let’s all hope the starting eight stay healthy and perform.

53 thoughts on “2014 Season Preview: The Bench

  1. I have been down on the bench as a whole, mainly because I believe more could have been done in the offseason to upgrade the options. But at the end of the day I believe the bench can be better than it has been in the past 2-3 years. Heisey will hopefully be what we have expected him to be, and he’s having a nice spring so far. Schumaker will be a slight upgrade over Paul based on his ability to get on base (.344 OBP-career), play adequate defense, and positional flexibility. Pena should be an offensive upgrade over what we got from Hanigan last year. His ability to switch hit comes in handy, and it sounds like he’ll be used more effectively (based on match ups) rather than being tied to certain pitchers.

    After that is where it looks to be more of the same. I personally wish the Reds would eat Hannahan’s salary and go with either Soto or Nelson. Nelson has had a pretty good spring, and is younger, offers more upside. Hannahan still can’t throw yet in ST, and is just now starting to hit in games. He wasn’t very good last year and I don’t expect much from a recovering Hannahan this year. I guess the only bright side is if he is healthy (after reportedly playing injured last year) that he likely won’t be any worse, I hope.

    Then we will have our token non-hitting back up SS. I really don’t know why we have to have this guy on the team. He offers nothing off the bench as far as a bat, which he’ll be called upon to use more often than his glove, because we already have a great defensive SS in Cozart. All we need is someone to man SS once every two weeks or so, and have injury insurance in AAA.

    Based on everything we have seen in ST and the options we have at our disposal, I would keep Nelson over Hannahan until Hannahan proves he can do everything he will be need to do on the field. Let him rehab for a bit in AAA or stay in extended spring training until them. Nelson has played SS in the big leagues as recently as 2012 (albeit only 1 inning). I would have he and Hamilton and even Frazier taking extra fielding practice at SS. Figure out who can handle it best, and give Cozart a day off when a fly ball pitcher (Leake) is starting, to limit the opportunities. Then take keep one of Soto, Bernadina, or Borgeois instead of Santiago. If you keep Soto, he can be the emergency C which will allow Pena to PH. Soto can also fill in at 3rd/1st.

  2. What people need to remember, we are talking about “the bench”. Benches consist of players who are, for example, missing a tool. For instance, they may be a defensive replacement but have no bat. Or, they may have been signed for their pinch hitting ability but have little defense. If “bench players” could do it all, they would probably be elsewhere challenging for a starting position and/or making a lot more money.

    From what I have seen, before last season, we haven’t had much in the realm of offensive ability from the bench for a while. Last season, we had some more, probably because the OF’s were getting more playing time with Ludwick out, being able to get into a better rhythm and routine, etc.

    With what I have seen so far, I have no problem with who’s going to be on the bench, as far as the talent goes. My only concern is going to be the money, how much we are putting into the bench. Schumacher I could see somewhat, maybe a little more of a leader type I guess. The thing to remember is, we are talking about “the bench”. These aren’t All-Stars; they aren’t even meant to be starters.

  3. Happy to hear Bryan Price’s thoughts about bullpen use. Bailey got scratched for his start for a sore groin. I’m glad they have chosen caution this spring regarding player health.

  4. Frazier started todays game at 3’rd and in the bottom of the 5’th he was moved over to short.
    Could this be a sign that he will be the emergency shortstop?

  5. Well, Well, Well…

    Perhaps this was in Bryan’s game plan going into the game, but this is an interesting sequence of events.

    5th Inning…

    Defensive switch from shortstop to third base for Ramon Santiago.
    Defensive switch from third base to shortstop for Todd Frazier.

    This after Santiago goes 0-3 and Soto goes 3-3 with a HR. Sure makes a Reds fan wonder about the final cuts for the 25 man roster now.

    • @Shchi Cossack: It certainly helps that Soto already has a spot on the 40-man. And their aren’t so many obvious “cut” guys on the 40-man right now. If anything, some of the relief pitchers may need to take those spots depending on how fast Broxton and Marshall heal up.

  6. Boy, Heisey is really making an argument to get a little more playing time this year. Yeah, granted it is still only ST. But, you can’t discount how well he is doing. And, the biggest thing I was worried about was his K rate. Comparing to ST, last season, he K’ed once in over 5 AB. This ST, once in over 7 AB. There’s no Joke-oby about it.

  7. Chris Heisey is a decent 4th outfielder. Heisey can field all three positions, can pitch hit, can bunt and run a bit.

  8. I understand it’s a) a small sample size and b) spring training, but what is the basis for expecting that Ludwick will be more productive in left than Heisey would be?

    • @Chris DeBlois:

      There is no basis. A couple years ago Heisey led the league in pinch hit home runs. Then when given the chance to get more playing time he was battling his own injuries. He is finally healthy this season and in his prime! Shall we start the chant now? Free Heisey!

      • @Latos_intollerant: The only basis there is would be when Baker finally made LF a “playoff” between Heisey and Ludwick, Ludwick won it. But, it wasn’t because Heisey did poor. Heisey went first, started something like 32 of 42 games, batted something like 288/324, decent for a starting OF. Then, when Ludwick took his turn, he got his bat going and simply couldn’t be taken out of the lineup, the one time Baker didn’t bench a batter with a hot bat. Then, like you said, last season, Heisey battling his own injuries, also.

        This season, I am going to be interested in seeing just how much different, if any, the Reds bat with the new coaching. Especially Heisey. So far, his K rate is way down. ST I know, but it’s down even from last ST. And, that was one thing that always kept him out of the starting lineup I believe.

        • @steveschoen: People keep referring to Heisey as a 4th OF. I believe he is a very good 4th OF. As well as, I believe he would be a very serviceable 3rd OF, aka starting. I believe he and Devin are players who can excel when given the opportunity to be able to get into a routine of playing regularly, not play 1-2 games then sit for a week. Now, for those haters out there, I never said Heisey would hit 300 and hit 30 HR’s. I specified “serviceable”, as in he’s not as good as the best, but he’s better than many (if not most).

        • @steveschoen: Agree with you, mostly. Heisey has, so far, proven to be a better pinch hitter than starter, but he does bring speed, defense, versatility and tough attitude to the table, and those attributes make him, certainly, serviceable. I would suppose that if Ludwick stumbles, Heisey will get another opportunity to show that he can play full-time.

        • @greenmtred: Actually, last season, Ludwick as a starter 230/279/317. Heisey as a starter 261/306/444. Heisey was the better starter last season than Ludwick.

          If you mean Heisey is a better sub than starter, last season Heisey as a sub 136/170/295, as a starter 261/306/444. Heisey was a better starter last season than a sub.

          If you mean a career, Heisey as a sub, 257/309/465. As a starter, 253/307/426. Not that much of a difference there besides a slight lack of power as a starter.

          Apparently, very possibly with these numbers, Heisey is getting better as a starter and is the better player as a starter. He apparently isn’t just a pinch hitter anymore.

        • @steveschoen: Steve: I’m not saying that I believe that Ludwick is, at this point in their careers, a better candidate for starter than Heisey, but Ludwick’s numbers from last season, when he played part of one game before getting injured and returned late season while rehabbing the injury hardly support the case. Neither, on the face of it, looks like a major offensive threat (though Heisey is having a great spring), but given that Heisey is probably better in the other facets of the game, I’d probably start him if I were manager (and all of you should be earnestly grateful that I’m not). I suppose Ludwick’s salary may have something to do with the decision if he starts, but that would be irrational: The Reds are paying him whether he starts or not, and their concern should be putting the best possible players on the field, even if it means having a highly paid guy on the bench.

        • @greenmtred: So, you’re basing Ludwick starting on the one good season he’s had since 2008? That’s irrational as well. You didn’t mention “major offensive threat”. Given that, then yes, neither Ludwick nor Heisey would be that. But, then, neither would probably 2/3 of all the starting OF’s out there. You mentioned “starter”, like I did. Not every starter is a major offensive threat.

        • @steveschoen: Whoa, Steve! I was agreeing with you, after all, and not calling your opinion irrational. Ludwick gets some credit for a reasonably solid career as a starter, but he clearly has as much to prove now as does Heisey.

  9. Heisey
    Schumaker
    Pena
    Bernadina
    Soto

    Santiago and Nelson in AAA. Hannahan on the DL

    A new coaching staff is going to really help Chris Heisey, breakout season coming in 2014. Reds do not want to lose Bernadina, he has a March 28th opt out date. I want to keep Nelson as well. Both players could have a bounce back campaign. Santiago and Hannahan are useful as well.

  10. So it’s just spring training…
    WJ signed players to minor league contracts with invites to the big league camp for the possibility of making the 25 man roster, knowing that most of the players signed would not make the 25 man roster.
    The fact remains that the players brought into camp signed a minor league contract because a major league contract wasn’t available. Now with final cuts approaching, the competition for the final roster spots continues to be non-competitive based on the play of the players involved.

    The backup catcher is signed and sealed with no competition.

    Brayan Pena
    30 PA, .231/.333/.308, 2-2B, 3-BB/2-SO

    There are 2 utility roles also locked up with signed contracts and no competition.

    Skip Schmaker
    32 PA, .429/.469/.607, 1-HR, 2-2B, 3-BB/2-SO

    Chris Heisey
    34 PA, .412/.412/1.000, 5-HR, 5-2B, 0-BB/4-SO

    Then we have the ‘competition’ for the two remaining utility positions.

    Roger Bernadina
    29 PA, .476/.621/.905, 1-HR, 2-3B, 2-2B, 6-BB/3-SO

    Neftali Soto
    32 PA, .438/.438/.781, 2-HR, 5-2B, 0-BB/1-SO

    Ramon Santiago
    31 PA, .179/.258/.250, 2-2B, 3-BB/4-SO

    Argenis Diaz
    20 PA, .150/.150/.300, 1-3B, 1-2B, 0-BB/3-SO

    Please, there’s simply no competition among those players. Diaz is no better defensive SS than Kris Negron and also no better hitter than Kris Negron. Santiago is the best defensive SS in camp beside Cozart, but Santiago is an offensive liability. Every other position except SS is covered with multiple levels of redundancy on the 25 man roster. Frazier was as good a defensive SS as Diaz in his minor league career, except Frazier could hit and neither was a superior defensive SS. As an emergency, in-game replacement SS, Frazier will provide adequate defense at SS.

    Soto has options available and if Cozart needs a rest, Soto can be optioned to AAA for 10 days while Santiago or Negron are added to the 25 man roster to let Cozart get a couple days off around some scheduled off days. The only factor would be a required roster move to add Santiago or Negron to the 40 man roster.

    I’m discounting Hannahan entirely. If he isn’t ready to play after five months, two weeks isn’t going to get him ready to play and contribute.

    • @Shchi Cossack: The issue is who plays SS every day if Cozart goes down for an extended period if Santiago isn’t put on the 25 man roster and subsequently walks from the org.

      I don’t know the particulars of Santiago’s contract. Maybe the Reds are willing to pay him to stick around at AAA to provide organizational depth at SS. In the past some teams have supposedly paid MLB minimum or more to keep their “3rd catcher” on ice at AAA, so this wouldn’t be unprecedented.

      If Santiago or Bernadino or any of those guys in camp on invites make the opening day roster (this would include being put on 40 man then moved to the MLB DL), then under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, the Reds owe them their MLB salary for the entire season, come what may with their actual status.

      Also I saw Santiago’s name on short a list of guys signed to minor league deals but who were on MLB rosters at the end of the 2013 season and had enough MLB service time that they are owed a $100K “bonus” if they are NOT released or put on the MLB roster by some deadline (opening day or maybe a week ahead of opening day if I recall correctly).

      • @OhioJim: I guess what I was getting around to is that unfortunately it doesn’t look good for Soto to make the opening day roster since he has an option and no doubt is on some sort of split contract that pays him much less when he is at the minor league level.

      • @OhioJim:

        The issue is who plays SS every day if Cozart goes down for an extended period if Santiago isn’t put on the 25 man roster and subsequently walks from the org.

        That is an issue, but from the Old Cossack’s perspective (obviously not as meanigful as WJ’s or Bryan’s perspective), I don’t believe it’s a critical issue. The same situation occurs if Cozart needs a rest. I personlly don’t believe a major league contract is waiting for Santiago if he doesn’t make the 25 man roster, but if Santiago does walk, I’m comfortable rolling the defensive dice with Negron or Diaz waiting at AAA as a defensive replacement at SS. Neither Santiago, Diaz nor Negron are going to hit worth a lick. I think a slightly sweetened minor league contract could entice Santiago to play at Louisville adding him to the 40 man roster. If Soto or Bernadino don’t produce in a pinch hit, utility role, then the Reds can always make the switch for better utility defense. Frazier would obviously need more game experience at SS during spring training and possibly during blowouts in the regular season to get his comfort level at SS elevated. Remember, almost no one expected Frazier to put up a quazi-gold glove performance at 3B last season, so I wouldn’t count Frazier out as an adequate defensive
        SS if needed. This is Super-Todd we’re talking about, the man of saving lives and hitting no-handed HR’s.

        • @Shchi Cossack: I also have a feeling that Frazier would be an adequate replacement at SS, but we would, in that circumstance, lose defense at SS and 3rd–untenable for any sustained stretch.

      • @greenmtred: I don’t think anyone is proposing Frazier as a long-term option at SS if Cozart is injured, I know the Old Cossack wouldn’t dream of implementing that option. The best option in such a circumstance might be a fully healthy Hannahan. A serious injury to any key starter on the Reds (and Cozart is a key starter) would be a major obstacle to overcome. Such is the plight of small to mid-market teams.

  11. Soto has been very impressive. Has he figured something out over the winter? Bernadina has some pop in his bat. Reason for optimism!

  12. Yes, I know it’s only spring training, but I’m starting to drink the Soto Kool-Aid and it is delicious. Start hitting that kid some fly balls in LF for crying out loud!

  13. Roger Bernadina could be a nice pickup for the bench if he bounces back to what he did with the Nats in 2012.

    • @earl: I’ve said this in lots of places, but I’ll keep repeating it, Bernadina’s 2012 was a mirage. His BABIP was way out of line with his career. He’s fine as a fifth OF, I suppose, but he’s not a good major league player.

  14. Probably so, but if he is the 5th OF, I’r rather him be good by fluke than not good at all.

    I seem to recall him making some crazy catch against the Reds in DC too.

  15. With only 5 positions to fill, it is pretty limited in what you can do. As the old Cossack pointed out, Pena, Heisey, and Schumaker are locked in. Coming out of spring training they should go with the hot hands.
    But, this is where a trade for the Mariner’s 2B Nick Franklin would pay dividends, even with BP not being traded. Franklin could be the backup 2B/SS and he is a switch hitter. That is what WJ was looking for. And if BP is traded, at the deadline maybe or next winter, Franklin is there to take over, established.
    With Soto and Franklin added to Heisey, Schumaker and Pena, the bench could be a formidable part of the team.

    • @WVRedlegs: I would be stunned if WJ hasn’t looked into getting Nick Franklin. My guess is that the asking price is simply too high, especially if Franklin’s role is going to be as a backup. Franklin is also battling in Seattle for the starting SS job. He is very well liked by his current organization and I think that the asking price for him is simply too high. Other teams haven’t landed Franklin yet either and I’m sure they are trying. It may turn out that I’m wrong and he gets moved for relatively little but I’d be very surprised if that happened.

    • @WVRedlegs: If Seattle hasn’t gotten rid of Franklin by now, then they are probably looking to use him something like what you listed here, as the starting SS. He played a lot of that in the minors.

      • @steveschoen:

        I think the price for Franklin is high. Starting pitching high. But from what I’ve read out of Seattle is that Franklin is about the 4th best SS in their organization. Franklin is battling another younger player for SS, and Seattle has a very good SS prospect at AAA and just about every other level. They say his arm is just average to below avg. for a starting SS, OK for a backup, but good for a 2B. He is a very good hitter with a high offensive ceiling. When teams start paring down to the 25th man, things might get a litle interesting for a trade. It would just depend on what Seattle wants, but an offer of Lutz and Contreras might be a start. There is talk that Franklin could start out 2014 in AAA. So a AAA power hitting LH OF and a AAA SP might be better than a AAA 2B to the M’s. I don’t think any 2013 draftees can be included in any trade yet, so that eliminates Lorenson and Lively. And only a fool would include Stephenson. That is why I picked Contreras. But if Seattle wanted a ML pitcher I wouldn’t hesitate to offer up Simon.

  16. The Reds total off season FA spending was 4th lowest in the majors and the LOWEST in terms of avg per year and player (something like 2.15 mill per year in FA acquisitions).

    I think they know Heisey is due to ‘break out’ and that Todd’s flexibility will be utilized. With Chris, Shu and Bern are all the outfield this team should need.

  17. So many great posts here regarding the bench. Well done.

    I think the bench improves with Soto becoming the emergency catcher, allowing Pena to pinch hit, or come into the game late on double switch (agreed Hotto). We lost so many extended games last year, so generating any offense in extra inning games will be a bonus. That and not pitching Chapman in the 9th inning of a tie game, unless he is going to pitch the 10th and 11th as well. And with the way Soto is hitting the ball, that he would be worthy pinch hitter also

    I am really excited to have Shumaker. However, it will take me until the all star break to get the hate off of him. I am still on the bubble with regard to Ludwick. that cardinal stink really takes a long time to cleanse. Maybe if they both did the Latos tat thing down both arms with full size images of Shottzie, then I would begin to believe they are Reds and not somehow still working for those cheatin cardinals, trying to ruin our season. I was actually believing the childhood Reds fan thing of Ludwick until his untimely sabotage of our 2013 season in game one last year on a slide so bad he looked like he was taking a dive in a prize fight versus Mike Tyson. I say bench him for Heisey until either he starts hitting 285 with homers every other swing or until he does the Latos tats thing. If Shumaker tats up, I would start him over Hamilton even if Billy’s OBP is better than Votto’s and Choo’s combined.

    I like the idea of Bernadina also and he would be my 5th. back up shortstop in the short term by super Todd. I am really disappointed by this board that there wasn’t more of a comment on this:

    “so I wouldn’t count Frazier out as an adequate defensive SS if needed. This is Super-Todd we’re talking about, the man of saving lives and hitting no-handed HR’s.” So Good you old Cossack, so good

    • @reaganspad: I’m with you so much that I don’t have to write my own statement (except for Schumaker starting in CF, we don’t want that). I do think Schumaker has value as a utility guy.

      I too would like to see Soto and Bernadina make the team. If they feel Soto isn’t ready, then Nelson and Bernadina. No more Hannahan please.

      And no Santiago, another hitless wonder. Price and WJ have both said that while they want the Reds to have a long-term backup option at SS in case Cozart goes down with an injury, they’ve also said that the backup option doesn’t need to be on the major league roster. They’re figuring out if Frazer or Nelson or whoever can occasionally fill in at SS. If Santiago opts out, then someone can be found as the minor league backup option.

      • @pinson343: Apparently, Hannahan was injured most of last season. Not sure why they didn’t DL him if that was the case but that seems to happen a lot, particularly with the Reds. I’m not as down on Hannahan as some. I saw him play a lot and he’s a better player both in the field and in the batter’s box than we saw this year. That said, I don’t see any way that he could really be ready before the end of April. I really think the Reds need to start him on the 60-day DL.

        Also, Hannhan’s contract is not so large so as the Reds couldn’t DFA or release him if they felt that was the best course of action. The Reds did that to D’Angelo Jiminez some years ago and he was owed quite a bit of money. Of course Hannahan is by all accounts a good clubhouse guy and Jiminez was a bit of a malcontent, so that may factor as well.

        • @LWBlogger: I liked the signing of Hannahan last offseason and I still like a healthy Hannahan as a utility IF and backup 3B. The Reds lack of available IF options has really hamstrung the team when an IF is injured (i.e. Phillips & Hannahan in 2013) and should be DL’d but no one is available to replace the injured playter ion the lineup. Yes, Hannahan should start the season on the 60 day DL and get fully recovered and healthy before beginning a minor league rehab assignment. Nelson has really played his way into consideration for a utility IF spot on the 25 man roster along with Soto and Bernadina continues to impress as a utility OF, but there are only 2 available spots on the 25 man roster, even assuming Hannahan goes on the DL. All three are getting significant playing time in spring training to play their way onto or off of the final 25 man roster.

          Soto is already on the 40 man roster, but Nelson or Bernadina would have to be added to the 40 man roster.

          Bernadina hits LH while Soto and Nelson hit RH.

          Soto is under team control with available options but Bernadina and Nelson are not under team control for a minor league assignment.

          Nelson has extensive SS experience in the minor leagues and the Reds have no other utility SS experience on the 25 man roster.

          Soto has never produced at the major league level but Nelson and Bernadina each have one very productive season of major league experience.

          Bryan and WJ have a tough decision since the 40 man roster is already full is they option Soto to louisville and new, enhanced minor league contracts would probably need to be negotiated to send Bernadina or Nelson to Louisville. Hopefully, the discussion and probably decision to NOT add Santiago to the 25 man roster has already begun if not yet finalized.

  18. Schumaker is MUCH better than Rodriguez, He gives you a vet in the dugout and clubhouse that’s been on winning teams.

    • @pinson343: That’s one of the reasons we like you around here. Just call them as you see them. I think I saw a little more bat in him than you did, although it didn’t show up in brief MLB stints. I certainly agree with your assessment of his defense. His defense is downright brutal. There is no doubt that Schumaker is a better player. I’m a bit surprised that the Reds got absolutely nothing for him however.

  19. About Frazer being the man who hits HRs with no hands and saves lives over lunch, those two things happened at about the same time and here at RLN we decided he must be “the most interesting man in the world”. Then someone here came up with Frazer saying: “I don’t always play, but when I do …”
    (At the time Todd was mostly on the bench.)

    • @pinson343: Ah, memories. That may actually have been me, but I could be mis-remembering. Not to sound all nostalgic, but one of the things I am looking most to this season are our game threads. I have truly missed them. I hope I’m not the only one who has gone back and read through them the day after a game. There are things in there on reflection that are more hysterical than when they were first written. We do have some characters here. I am happy to be a part of the redlegfam.

  20. Has anyone else noticed Heisey’s change in his batting stance. Instead of holding his hands and back elbow high, he is holding them much lower and seems more relaxed. I bleieve this has helped/will help reduce his strikeouts. I would be very interested to see Heisey get a shot in LF mainly to see if the change has had a profound effect on his hitting. Admittedly, it is based on a small sample size and one that includes spring training no less, but he looks much more relaxed, comfortable and balanced at the plate. As hot as he is (plus how cool Ludwick is), I would roll the dice with Heisey and see if he runs away with the job.

  21. The Old Cossack is beginning to feel the angst about Phillips’ meager performance at the plate, although I like the walk rate of >10% and an OBP 90 points higher than his BA. Even Phillips lone hit yesterday required umpire interference, otherwise it would have been a double play rather than a hit. There’s certainly still time for Phillips to get comfortable and untracked at the plate, but that little nagging place in the pit of the Old Cossack’s stomach is gnawing and growing.

  22. Pingback: Redleg Nation 2014 Season Preview: The Rest of the Rotation | Redleg Nation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s