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
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.
Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.