05/18/2015

Gadget Man

His unique feat has been easy for Reds fans to overlook.

We’ve obsessed over every swing by Jay Bruce and home run surrendered by Jason Marquis. We’ve dissected every bunt by Billy and bad hop for Badenhop. We’ve been thrilled by the shiny new toys of Michael Lorenzen and Raisel Iglesias. Been deflated by disheartening injuries to Devin Mesoraco and Homer Bailey. We’ve scrutinized the development of Anthony Michael Cingrani and Anthony James DeSclafani. And we became irate to the point of filing a petition to have Kevin Gregg sent away.

All the while, a rare accomplishment has taken place right under our noses, underappreciated in baseball value and beauty. The 2015 season isn’t two months old and Kristopher Negron has played 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, LF, CF and RF. No other major league player has done that this year. Brock Holt has manned six positions for the Red Sox, but not first base.

Negron has not only played seven positions, he’s the Reds’ best defensive replacement at all of them. You only have to watch a few innings when Brennan Boesch tries to fill in for Billy Hamilton or Skip Schumaker steps in at second base before you realize how valuable Negron is to the Reds.

Billy Hamilton, Brandon Phillips, Zack Cozart and Todd Frazier — those are awfully good gloves. Imagine taking over in the field for even one of them. And yet, Kristopher Negron has played all their positions, and he’s excelled at it. Manager Bryan Price loves strict roles for his team? Well, Negron has more parts to play than Meryl Streep.

I don’t think we’ve quite grasped the wonder of what we’re witnessing. Gadget Man might not have been a Marvel Super-Hero, but Kristopher Negron is a marvel.

Negron’s Background

Kristopher Negron was born in New Jersey but played high school and college ball in California, then selected by Boston in the 7th round of the amateur draft in 2006. The Red Sox traded Negron to the Reds in 2009 in exchange for shortstop Alex Gonzalez.

Negron started at Advanced-A for the Reds but by 2010 he was playing for AAA Louisville. In 1,400 plate appearances for the Bats, he hit just .227/.289/.344. Negron got a brief call-up in 2012 when Drew Stubbs strained a side muscle. Negron’s major league debut occurred on June 6, 2012 when he entered the game as a pinch runner against the Pittsburgh Pirates. His first hit came a week later.

2014 Breakthrough

Kristopher Negron had spent parts of five seasons playing for Louisville before last July when he was summoned to replace Brandon Phillips. He also played frequently at third base when Todd Frazier moved across the infield to play first in Joey Votto’s absence.

Negron made the most of his second big league opportunity. Over 158 plate appearances, he hit .271/.331/.479 with six home runs and five stolen bases. In his first at bat, he hit a 3-run homer off of Francisco Liriano. Negron’s isolated power (ISO) was second highest on the team, ahead of Frazier, behind only Devin Mesoraco. His overall value to the team (fWAR) was fourth among position players, after Frazier, Mesoraco and Billy Hamilton – even though Negron played in only 49 games.

Negron credits his late-in-career breakthrough to elbow grease.

“I learned to really stick to my routine and really study,” Negron said. “That was a big thing last year. Skip Schumaker helped me out a lot with that, how to watch video on pitchers and go out with a game plan. Coming off the bench and going out to pinch hit, I had an idea. I definitely put myself in a lot better position to succeed.” (John Fay)

Swiss Army Knife

Coming off his exceptional 2014 season and strong spring training, Kristopher Negron made the Reds roster this April. He hasn’t duplicated last season’s hitting performance  – Negron is still looking for his first extra-base hit – but he’s provided enormous value to the Reds as a more-than-reliable fielder across the diamond.

Hall of Fame writer Hal McCoy gave Negron the apt nickname Swiss Army Knife. Indeed, he’s Bryan Price’s multi-use pocket tool. Sharp blade, screwdriver, can opener, scissors, corkscrew, bottle opener, nail file, toothpick, tweezers, a key ring even a wood saw – the versatile pocket knife has them all.

Joey Votto gets suspended for a game. Sharp blade. Play Negron at first base.

Zack Cozart’s wrist is barking. Bottle opener. Negron slides in at shortstop.

Todd Frazier’s day to rest. Screwdriver. Negron plays third.

Billy Hamilton, Marlon Byrd or Jay Bruce need a day off. Scissors, corkscrew, key ring.

“I’m just happy to be out there wherever it is,” says Negron, who carries six gloves on the road.

Negron pitched a scoreless inning for the Bats last year.

Might Negron some day be the Reds emergency wood saw, er, catcher? In an early demonstration of his positional superpower, Negron played behind the plate in Little League (C. Trent Rosecrans) for a season, when no one else on his team would do it. “I’ve caught Mike Leake between innings and I caught a lot of bullpens in Louisville,” says Negron.

He’d have to borrow Devin Mesoraco’s glove.

“But I’d do it.”

As if there was a doubt.

Natural Shortstop

Before becoming the Reds’ Angus MacGuyver, Kristopher Negron was a shortstop.

“I’ve played it forever. I go back to shortstop every day in batting practice. My instincts take over there. I’m a natural shortstop and played it since I was a kid, in high school, in college and in the minors.”

The Reds have needed that Kristopher Negron, with Zack Cozart sidelined a few days recently with a nagging wrist injury. “He (Negron) is athletic, has enough arm strength and he understands the position,” said Bryan Price.

“I’m filling in for a Gold Glove shortstop in Cozart and I’m just trying to field every ball the way he would.”

Appreciate What We’re Watching

Injuries are an inevitable part of sports. Back-ups get their chance. With Brandon Phillips suffering from turf toe, Kristopher Negron may see more time at second base in coming weeks. One position or another, Negron has proven that he can capably play anywhere Bryan Price needs him.

Sure, to anyone who can read Negron’s minor league stats, it’s no surprise he hasn’t had great success at the plate in 2015. Yet, Negron feels like he’s hit the ball well, but it’s just not falling in. His .154 BABIP screams agreement. Other stats belie a genuine regression to his career level.

But who cares?

In a season where it’s becoming obvious that Reds fans will have to work hard to find things to cheer for, Kristopher Negron’s mastery of all the defensive positions is an easy one. We should enjoy his unique talent whenever – and wherever – he takes the field.

“I keep grinding. It hasn’t been a sprint for me, it’s been a marathon, but I’ll take it,” says Negron.

Grinding. That’s the nail file.

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

Join the conversation! 33 Comments

  1. Nice article on Negron. How great would it be if the Reds could fannagle a way to get Holt away from the RedSox? In a Leake deal possibly?

    • Jimmy Stewart? I love his movies!

      • They used to call the Reds’ Jimmy Stewart the “Super Sub,” and I wondered as a youngster whether the Reds couldn’t have found a different player to include with Lee May and Tommy Helms to send to Houston for Morgan, Billingham, Geronimo etc. … I think Stewart ended up catching an inning or two at one point because Johnny Bench had been given a few innings off, and Bill Plummer got ejected for arguing with the home plate umpire.

  2. Hear, hear! Nice piece. Hopefully if he is pressed into regular service, his bat will improve.

  3. Well said, Steve. A versatile player like Negron is an integral part of any team.

  4. If only he could play Hitter.

    • Agreed. I really don’t see his defensive versatility making up for his woeful hitting.

      Not that he’ll hit this poorly forever, and not that I expect him to hit .280+ to be of value.

      But we can’t afford having this black hole in the line up. I know, there aren’t a lot of other choices right now, but I’m not going to celebrate the best of a bad set of choices.

      • Seriously, you guys can’t even enjoy when a player excels at defense so uniquely and spectacularly in a backup role?

        Must be competing for the Grumpy McGrumperson award.

        • Steve:

          I like the article, and I like Negron. He definitely does bring some value being able to play all of those various defensive positions. But, I think the frustration for a lot of people stems from the total lack of offensive production from anyone on the Reds bench for so long. If we had a least a couple of guys who could produce consistent offensive numbers from the bench, having a strong defensively diversified player like Negron would be more appreciated.

          Now, if the Reds could get their hands on a young player like the following who can play C, 2B and 3B (and I believe 1B and OF could probably be added), then you are truly looking at a trifecta player who combines diversified defense, good defense at each position and can hit – with good plate discipline. His name is Austin Barnes and he plays in AAA for the Dodgers. He is 25 and his overall minor league slash line is .296/.389/.430. He has hit wherever he has played

          He is the closest thing to a young Ben Zobrist-type that I have seen. I wonder if a Mike Leake trade could bring him our way. Add another young prospect – maybe Tucker Barnhart – with Leake and maybe we could get Darnell Sweeney as well – a candidate for replacing Hamilton. Sweeney can also play 3 positions – 2B, CF and SS. And, he can hit. His overall minor league slash line is .281/.359/.446. He is also in AAA and he is only 24. These players do exist out there, and they are not elite top 10 prospects on most lists. The Reds just need to start pulling the trade trigger to obtain them. I only wonder if they are even on Jocketty’s radar.

        • I can appreciate his defensive versatility. The only problem I had was when you brought up his hitting and said “But who cares?”

          I care. I’m not grumpy though. I just thought that line was a bit short-sighted.

          Nice article, otherwise.

  5. One of the best articles that I have read from Steve. Excellent!

  6. Good work, Steve. I certainly knew Negron had played a lot of spots, but I didn’t know he’d played everywhere except C and P!

    I bet every team would take 1 guy like Kris.

  7. Stat boys…. try to predict our wins in 2016 with a starting 5 of 1)Bailey 2)Disco 3) Lorenzen 4)Iglesias 5)Moscot (he might make the rotation this year or be the first 20 game winner in the minors in who knows how long. He is putting up quite a season down in AAA)
    Filter in a bullpen consisting of 1)Conteras 2)Diaz 3)Cingrani 4)Weiss 5) Axelrod 6)Adcock 7) Lecure
    Starting 8
    1)Votto 2)Phillips 3)Cozart 4)Frazier 5)Pena 6)Waldrop 7)Hamilton 8)Mesoraco
    Bench
    1) Rodriquez 2) Negron 3)Suarez 4) Barnhart 5)De Jesus

    More wins in 2016 than 2015 with that 25?

    • Going for the first overall pick in the 2017 draft? Going The Cubs Way?

      • No. The only way this team is better next year is if we get at least 2 starting caliber players in the trades for Cueto and Leake AND get a free agent fill in player.

  8. The article was great, I would add that his hustle every play is his most endearing quality.

    • I agree on both points–great article—and the hustle and energy that he shows is that quality that is so hard to find—sometimes a little too much (the throw from right field the other day)–but this what Branch Rickey called ” sins of enthusiasm” a trait that can be coached around, but never taught –you either have from within or you don’t—and Negron has it—Right on Carl Sayre

    • You might say that Negron has grit.

  9. Very nice article, Steve. He gets lumped in with being part of such a bad bench, but that contribution deserves recognition.

  10. Another positive for Negron … … he’s cheap. I know I’m dating myself but with Negron, the Reds could afford to carry a Rusty Staub type to be a professional pinch hitter.

  11. And with his speed he’s the number one option to pinch run, after Pena that is.

  12. Great article and a reminder that Negron deserves alot of credit and there ARE positives to this team that we don’t talk enough.

  13. I really like this guy, if he’d able to turn things around with the bat he’d perfectly be an everyday SS.

  14. He has always reminded me of my favorite Red, Ryan Freel. Miss that guy.

  15. Heavy rain is forecasted for Kansas City tonight. Hope they get the game in before the rain hits.

    • Precip chances:

      7 p.m. CT: 20%
      10 p.m. CT: 46%

      The heavy stuff looks like it will fall overnight — nearly an inch overall.

      Rain should end in time for the game on WED.

      • But, man, looking at the radar, the rain shield looks a lot closer than that…

  16. I read here, redreporter, and redsminorleagues.com almost daily…and all I hear is people complain. I can’t even listen to 700 any more because of the stupid people calling in…Holy cow. The sky isn’t falling. The reds are what they…a bad bench is the by product of a small market team. Celebrate the little things and that will make watching the Reds that much better 🙂

    Give Walt the benefit of the doubt on Baily’s contact. With what the team knew 2 years ago it was a decent contract. Not good, but not bad.

    • For the most part, this is an objective a blog about baseball that you will find. Obviously good news doesn’t sell but you should find many examples of it here – this article included.

      IMO, the Homer situation is like a brush fire, as long as no one lights the match….. It is certainly a beat subject along with the Brennamans. Just one man’s opinion.

      • Yes I should have been more clear. The articles are generally very objective…the comments can sometimes be very very negative and “the sky is fall” approach. This article is very good and celebrates the good out of a already long season 🙂

Comments are closed.

About Steve Mancuso

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky's Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve's thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

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2015 Reds

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