The Reds have struggled to put together a solid bench the last few years. This year, they’ve given 602 plate appearances to the combination of Skip Schumaker, Brennan Boesch, Kris Negron, and Jason Bourgeois. Their collective efforts have produced -2.9 WAR. While we don’t expect bench players to put up extraordinary numbers, we hope they provide value above replacement-level players. The importance of not having bad players is outlined in this Fox Sports article.

In the case of Negron, the Reds seemingly gave him a spot on the major league bench based on a strong performance during the latter third of the 2014 season. Unfortunately, Negron’s 2015 has been a disaster. That disaster has occurred because of several factors. First, we probably expected too much from a guy who never hit much in the minor leagues and had only a short, albeit successful, audition in the majors. Second, Negron has experienced a measure of bad luck as evidenced by his .186 BABIP. Finally and unfortunately, he suffered a shoulder injury that ended his season and kept him from potentially improving his numbers.

Negron’s season provides some hard evidence that short sample sizes should be taken with a grain of salt. Enter Ivan De Jesus Jr. While De Jesus has not impressed this year to the level that Negron did in 2014, he has nonetheless had a solid season for the Reds. To this point, DeJesus has hit .253/.327/.388, good for a 95 wRC+. He has also walked 9.5% of the time, an impressive number. The utility man has played every infield position besides catcher and logged some time in leftfield. Overall, DeJesus has rated fairly well defensively and produced 0.5 WAR off the bench.

So, is De Jesus another cautionary tale in small sample sizes, or should the Reds view him as a potential contributor off the bench going forward? The easy comparison is with Negron because they both play multiple positions, would fill a similar role, and have impressed to varying extents in a small-sample size in the major leagues.

There are some key differences in the profiles of Negron and De Jesus that suggest that De Jesus has a better chance of repeating his solid performance. Neither player has much of a track record in the major leagues with both players recording about 270 plate appearances. Even Mike Trout hit only .220/.281/.390 in his first 135 plate appearances so judging these two players based on limited time in the majors seems silly.

But, both players do have a long sample of minor league stats, and Negron and De Jesus have starkly different minor league numbers as seen in the table below.

De Jesus produced at much higher levels in the minors. He hit so well in the minors that it’s kind of strange that he never got much of a chance at the highest level.  His ability to produce at other levels makes him more likely to hit adequately in the majors, though it guarantees nothing. The biggest argument against Negron receiving a bench spot in Spring Training without a real competition was that he never had much success in the minors. Obviously, players rarely hit well at the highest level after struggling at each of the lower levels. The Reds probably felt it was worth the risk because of Negron’s ability to play several positions in the field well, which seems reasonable.

De Jesus was also recognized for his tools as a young player. In 2009, Baseball America had him rated as the Dodgers sixth best prospect. They also noted De Jesus as the player with the best strike-zone discipline in the system.  Baseball America’s scouting report from that season praised De Jesus’ ability to use the whole field and labeled him as an advanced-approach guy.

His approach has been as advertised. While it would behoove him to strikeout less, De Jesus has a strong walk rate. Even more impressive, he has hit the ball almost equally to all fields:

  • Pull%: 32%
  • Cent%: 32.8%
  • Oppo%: 35.2%

De Jesus has translated some of those tools into actual skill. Negron never had much fanfare as a minor leaguer. Most considered him an organizational guy with a chance of earning a spot on a major-league bench because of his speed and defense. While we wouldn’t consider De Jesus an especially toolsie player with the bat, we can clearly see that he has more hitting talent than Negron.

De Jesus’s minor league numbers and advanced approach suggest he might be worth another look next season on the Reds’ bench. He will also begin the season at age 28, usually a prime season for most players. I don’t think they should just hand him a job as they seemingly did with Negron, but he has earned an opportunity to win a spot. Negron may get another look too, but the Reds may see those two players as filling redundant holes. If they have to pick one or the other, my money’s on De Jesus.

35 Responses

  1. gaffer

    I agree he could be valuable in the Negron, Cairo, 25th man role or even in the Skip Schumaker INF/OUT overused PH role but PLEASE not as the starting LF.

  2. Moses

    By the numbers, perhaps DeJesus IS the next Trout. I think that’s good enough for a spot on the Reds next year. At worst, his OBP is an improvement over many of the guys we’ve been running out there, and what the Reds should be moving towards in making bench selections.

  3. Alex

    Given that Walt Jocketty and his elderly staff have zero idea how to construct a bench or bullpen, they could do much worse than the versatile and available DeJesus.

    • sezwhom

      Bingo. Until I see improvement in the bullpen and bench, I can’t get too excited going forward. In case you all haven’t noticed, our Division is loaded. Think we’ll be better than St. Louis, Pittsburgh or even Chicago next year? Good luck to us!

    • Tom Reed

      ‘…Elderly staff…’ at this point says it all. Not referring to the pitching staff of course.

  4. Redsfan48

    With Schumaker retiring after the season, I could see both Negrón and DeJesus making the team next year.

    • Redsfan48

      Although maybe Suárez plays a Zobrist-esque utility role next year, which would mean we only need 1 more UTIL.

      • whodeythinkgonnabeatthemredlegs

        Cozart has to prove he is healthy and that his brief period of success wasn’t an aberration for Suarez to be a utility role. Otherwise he needs to be starting SS

      • Redsfan48

        I definitely agree. Him at SS would be ideal and Cozart on the bench or gone. But Suárez would be far more valuable in a Zobrist UTIL role than as a starting left fielder. Play him nearly every day, but just at whatever position they need. Have him spell Winker or whoever is in LF, and use him to give Cozart, Frazier and Phillips days off from time to time. Have him playing 6 days a week (assuming a 7-game week) with maybe 3 in LF, 2 at SS and 1 somewhere else to give someone an off day.

  5. WVRedlegs

    De Jesus was pretty much the 26th guy coming out of spring training. He has played his way into the 2016 plans. A lot of good talk about him. Only a spring training injury or a bad spring training will keep him off the opening day 25 man roster in 2016. I think the versatility of him being able to play all 8 field positions is a huge bonus for him.

    • Shchi Cossack

      Based on the moves made by the Reds’ Baseball Ops, De Jesus was not close to the 26th gut coming out of spring training, but he should have been the 24th or 25th. He earned a spot on the 25-man roster comning out of spring training, simply didn’t have enough grit and verteraniness.

      The inclusion of Negron on the 25-man roster was solid due to the superior defensive flexibility he provided. One utility player capable of providing such defensive flexibility enables the Reds’ Baseball Ops to focus on offensive contributions from the remaining 3 utility players, who become the primary pinch hitters. The Reds’ squandered those positions on the likes of Boesch, Schumaker, Bourgeois and Dominguez, who all lack offensive production, superior defense and defensive flexibility.

      I would have no problem with Negron, De Jesus and Barnhart filling 3 of the utility positions in 2016 with the remaining 2 positions filled with offensively capable hitters. I would also be very comfortable with Suarez in a super-utility role providing regular (i.e. weekly) rest for Votto, Phillips, Cozart & Frazier to keep those 5 players fresh and rested through the entire season. I would also make sure that De Jesus is fully prepared to play CF in case Hamilton simply doesn’t hit agains next season.

  6. CI3J

    So basically, DeJesus is Norris Hopper without the speed.

  7. sultanofswaff

    Cross post from the recap—Dejesus had a .954 OPS in July and just .613 in August and September. I don’t know if we should be handing him a roster spot if the league has a book on him as the numbers might suggest. Still, his minor league numbers is a larger body of work, so I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    I suppose between Ivan and Eugenio, the infield backups could be set. This would preclude Walt from signing more over the hill nobodies. Win!

    What if we trade for a CF and Billy becomes the pinch runner/defensive replacement his numbers say he should be? I would think in that circumstance we would want him to take up infielding again next spring, positional flexibility and all………

    • Shchi Cossack

      Once WJ makes up his mind about a player, his mind stays made up. If he hands a position to someone, they don’t lose that position, even if they haven’t earned it and don’t deserve it. As long as WJ remains the GM for the Reds, Hamilton will remain the starting CF. I’m not saying that’s how it should be, but only how it will be.

      The return on the Chapman deal will really set the tone for any other moves.

      • WVRedlegs

        I think the Astros might be regretting the fact they didn’t make a harder push for Chapman at the deadline. An early playoff exit, especially in the one game wild card game, will leave a sour taste in the Astros’ mouths this winter. It would be a great opportunity for the Reds to obtain AJ Reed from Houston.
        Or maybe Bruce going home to Houston for Reed. The Astros would have one fine offensive/defensive OF with Springer, Gomez, and Bruce.
        And as we talked about a few days ago or so, don’t count out the Marlins in a bid for Chapman this winter.
        Just as long as the Reds get some hitters that know how to get on base.

      • I-71_Exile

        I can’t see Walt dealing with the Astros (or vice versa) in any way, shape, or form. His successor might though.

  8. Ryan Lykins (@ryan_lykins)

    He seems like a better bench piece than what the team has put out there in recent years. Is it really that hard for a team to construct a decent bench? The Reds seem to prefer over the hill veterans and guys that have no chance -be it opportunity of playing time or whatever- I’d ever contributing to the team. They don’t seem to be smart at all with constructing a bench. They haven’t really had a decent bench player since Heisey a couple years ago. The bench is obviously important so I hope it is treated as such.

  9. RedsDownUnderer

    I don’t involuntarily cringe when IDJJ pinch hits or gets a spot start–seems like a reliable enough criterion to suggest he deserves a spot next year.

  10. CP

    With De Jesus and Duvall, the Reds finally have the potential for a a decent bench. They’ll also almost certainly have Barnhart. Hopefully, they don’t extend Pena. That leaves what, 3 players they need to fill their bench? Of course, I would not be shocked if they carry an extra pitcher or two given the high probability of their SPs failing to go deep in games.

    They have to bring in at least one more OF, someone who can potentially play CF. Of course, that role could be filled in by whoever they get to play LF too…

    I’m not sure what they’re going to do with Cozart, I still think there is an outside chance he gets DFA’d, but it’s hard to count on him to start the season in any case so Suarez may or may not be on the bench. I doubt the Reds bring in anyone semi-decent if Cozart is expected to be back. Actually I doubt the Reds bring in a middle IF who is any good regardless, because that’s what they do.

    I wish the Reds could trade for someone like Stephen Vogt. A guy that could actually start at catcher if Mesoraco can’t handle it, but could also play OF if Mesoraco can.

    • Redsfan48

      Peña is a good re-sign for catching depth and his leadership and fan interactions. Just as a backup and PH, not a regular starter.

      • CP

        Barnhart is younger and cheaper. They don’t need two backups. Neither guy can start.

      • pinson343

        Agreed. No Pena next year. He has no power and is not a good defensive catcher.

    • pinson343

      I agree that DeJesus, Duvall, and Barnhart are a good start for a better bench than the Reds have had in a long time.

      DFA Cozart ? Do you mean trade him ? He’d have to prove he’s still the same player on defense to get traded. He isn’t DFA’d unless he’s no longer the same at SS.

      If he is that same player, then with his defense (and Suarez’ iffy defense at SS) and the way Cozart hit in 2015, Cozart will start at SS. Suarez will start at some other position, depending on who gets traded.

      • CP

        I made a mistake in saying DFA’d. I should have said there is an outside chance he does not get offered arbitration and hits the FA market. He got injured in June, and his knee injury has a 9 month recovery time (and the Reds have some recent experiences with players coming back from knee surgery and struggling mightily.).

        The non-tender deadline is in December so the Reds won’t have a clue what his status will be. Zack was having a career season when he get hurt, so it’s hard to forecast what his contract might be.

      • Carl Sayre

        Cozarts injury concerns me, the chance he comes back as good as he was defensively seems unlikely. We get the same kind of defense from him as before he has to be the starting SS. The 50 or 60 points that Saurez is likely to hit better is not enough to make up the difference in the glove if Cozart comes back to his previous level. DeJesus small sample size distorts the numbers but .253 in the outfield is a starter not a sub on this team as it is constructed. That was part bittereness and part sarcasm for those that missed it. DeJesus has earned coming into spring training as the utility player for the bench.

      • Redsfan48

        I’d say non tender him, and only re-sign him if it’s for a big discount. I wouldn’t want to take the risk.

  11. james garrett

    As Nick stated he has earned a shot but lets see what happens in spring training.He seems to make all of the plays,gives a good at bat and is a major upgrade at what we started the last two years with.Unless he just stinks it up next year in Arizona then he has a job.

  12. Chris

    Dude’s going to be 29 years old and has 280 PAs in the majors. And this was a second-round pick with a major league pedigree. He had every chance to make it to the bigs before he was 28. He just wasn’t — isn’t — good enough.

    His performance is going to fall all a cliff in the next 18 months, from it’s already mediocre level. This is a standard case of falling in love with a journeyman.

  13. Playtowin

    The Reds have the following needs by. 2017-18—– a 2B to replace Phillips, a shortstop, a left fielder, s center fielder, several starting pitchers, a bullpen to include middle, set up relievers and a closer, probable replacements for traded or unsigned Bruce and Frazier, and a catcher if Mesoraco is unable to catch or hit. All of this is a monumental task.

    • CP

      I know we Reds fans have been relatively lucky and have had the same core position players for a while, but if we are pushing things out to 2017 or 2018, you could pretty much say that about half the teams in the MLB.

    • Peter Ponds

      I think Blandino or Suarez will take over 2B. SS Cozart/Suarez. Taylor Sparks, Lavalley or Mejias-Bream may be on line to replace Frazier. The rotation seems to be on its way to be filled with young/cheap/good arms and the bullpen too if guys like Finnegan/Lorenzen even Sampson (he has the stuff) don’t pan out.

      Tyler Stephenson looks promising but at least 3 years to arrive.But catching is a position of depth in the minors at least defensively.

      IMO OF is the real problem,. If Billy doesn’t improve, Bruce keeps regressing or is traded, that’s 3 vacancies to fill with only Winker coming up.

  14. Peter Ponds

    I agree with bringing Dejesus back. Solid infield glove, good approach. Barnhart as the backup C. Then, uncertainty.

    I’m not sold on Duvall’s bat and his ugly defense in LF. They also have to consider a role for YRod as he’s out of options (I really hope he plays winter ball if healthy).

    The Cozart/Suarez decision is hard. With all those rookies starters defense is a must. But so is Suarez’ bat.

  15. ManuelT

    We should trade Mesoraco right now while the return might be good and hand the starting job to Barnhart with Pena as backup. I have a bad feeling about Mesoraco.