During spring training, even teams that figure to be quite bad usually have most of their starters set. Such is the case with the Reds this year (though I think they’ll be decent – but that’s not today’s topic). This means that, often, the most interesting thing to watch is who fills out the bench.

With a 12-man pitching staff and eight everyday players, the bench generally consists of five non-regulars (though sometimes platooning is involved). Given that, versatility is highly prized. In recent years, the Reds’ bench selection has left many of us puzzled, especially since it doesn’t seem to be rocket science. Bench guys, in general, should possess the following qualities in order to be considered:

  1. Cheap
  2. Not a top prospect/future contributor (you want these guys playing regularly at AAA to avoid stunting their development).
  3. Not a jerk (if you can hit 40 homers, you can be hard to get along with. If you’re just hoping for a roster spot, you’d better be nice).
  4. Not good enough to start, but also not likely to embarrass the team.
  5. Versatile. Benches are small. If you can play multiple positions, all the better.

Given those qualifiers, who are the best candidates to make the bench? (These aren’t guys I necessarily think WILL make the bench, mind you.)

1. Tucker Barnhart – This is obvious. It looks like Devin Mesoraco is going to make some kind of comeback (knock on wood) and that means Barnhart is the second catcher, though he’ll probably get more action than a typical second catcher. The organization is very thin at catcher in the upper-levels right now, but you have to have one and as long as Mes is playing, that’s Tucker.

2. Hernan Iribarren – He’s been getting at least a little bit of talk after acquitting himself very well in a call-up at the end of last season. At 33, he’s old for a bench guy, but his lack of MLB time also means he’s cheap. In Louisville, he was considered a great clubhouse guy and he has a reputation in the organizations he’s been with for mentoring young players, especially Latin guys. He also plays EVERYWHERE. I saw him play every position except catcher in Louisville and he generally acquitted himself well. His defense up the middle is especially nice because, while not spectacular, it is solid and reliable. He’s a reasonable spot starter pretty much anywhere. Plus, if Jose Peraza and Dilson Herrera end up on the roster, he may be a good guy to keep around.

3. Tony Renda – Renda is probably destined to be a starter in Louisville this year, but at 26, it may be time to ease him into the utility role. Like Iribarren, he’s well thought of in the organization. He’s also capable of playing second, third, and the outfield. He’s probably a better option than Herrera to be in a utility role simply because he isn’t as highly touted. He is also someone who you can imagine getting a good chunk of playing time should the need arise. Both analytics guys and old school guys in Louisville were fans of his game when I talked to them.

4. The Three-Headed Monster of Jesse Winker/Scott Schebler/Adam Duvall – The more I think about having all of these guys on the roster, the more it makes sense. Consider that, just in the corner OF spots, there are 1400 plate appearances to be distributed. But then factor in that Duvall can also sub at 3rd and 1st and that Schebler can play center and it’s easy to imagine all of these guys getting 500+ plate appearances, while also almost always having a REALLY solid bat on the bench – something the Reds have missed in recent years. I don’t think the Reds will do this, but I very much think they should do it.

5. The last spot depends a lot on how you feel about Arismendy Alcantara. If he’s still a prospect, he goes to Louisville and plays every day and you give this spot to Desmond Jennings. If not, you maybe cut Jennings and let Alcantara have this last spot. In any case, the fifth outfielder is probably the least important spot on the bench and these two are similar(ish) players at different points in their careers.

I suppose this all amounts to little more than speculation and I’d be shocked if this was the bench that headed north with the Reds, but it’s how I’d shape the bench. The Reds could certainly do a lot worse.

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.

Join the conversation! 44 Comments

  1. I’m rooting for Iribarren to make the team. Liked what I saw after his call-up last year and as you noted, well thought of by organizations he has played for. .

  2. Bench construction. This is where I hope Dick Williams deviates the most from the Walt Jocketty era.
    As you state, versatility is the key. You mentioned a 3 headed monster in the OF, but I hope one doesn’t rear its head at the C position. That will put a crimp on the bench.
    Barnhart or Mesoraco at C is a good start.
    Irabarren is a very good choice.
    Renda, maybe.
    Winker, I am afraid will be at AAA to start. That will give Jennings a big shot. The last spot may be a surprise. Maybe one of those minor league signings rises up or a Zack Vincej has a monster spring.
    Alcantara is fumbling his way to the minors or a release.

    • Yeah, three or four errors in the first four games for Alcantara?? He was playing short on Monday, and after his second error of the day, Brantley made the comment that the guy was fine at second base and center field for the Cubs, but not short.

    • I haven’t seen any of his errors. Any bad hops or tricky plays that were tough errors? Has he just been bad over there? The reviews on his defense weren’t favorable coming into spring and he hasn’t done anything so far to help that reputation out.

  3. Two things to consider. Winker has yet to start his service time clock. The Reds can add a full year of control by keeping him down in Louisville for about two weeks. It would be a huge mistake for Winker to make the team out of ST just to get two weeks of platoon starts in April. At this point the Reds have to think longterm for the rebuild and can’t afford to be short sighted.

    Secondly, I believe Alcantara may be out of options. That means the Reds will either keep him or expose him to waivers.

    I fully believe they intend to add Jennings to the roster to be the back up OF. I believe they’ll keep Alcantara rather than expose him to waivers, his flexibility is key as he can play 3 INF positions as well as in the OF.

    Then there are two big wild cards. One is Stuart Turner, and his potential roster spot depends less on him than it does Mesoraco’s ability to catch a couple times a week. If Mes is a go, then Turner is likely returned to Minnesota as a Rule V pick, and the 40-man spot goes to Jennings or another player like Irribarren or Renda.

    The second wild card is Herrera. Will the Reds keep him up? Will his shoulder be healthy enough to allow him to play in the field regularly? Will Price play him enough that he can get into a rhythm? Will Peraza fill the super utility role and Herrera takes a good chunk of starts at 2B?

    Those two decisions, which ever way they go, will have a drastic effect on the composition of the bench. With only two catchers on the roster the bench has more flexibility and Irribarren and Renda then have a much better chance as NRI’s. If the Reds carry 3 catchers and Herrera, then it looks like Jennings and Alcantara fill out the final two spots.

    • I think Winker would need to stay in Louisville longer than a few weeks to avoid Super-Two status, thus losing a year of team control. Correct me if Im wrong.

      That being said, I also think we shouldnt be overly concerned with his control 5 years from now, given we have entered the era of “Positive Trajectory.” Lets put the best team out there and start competing now!

      • Wrong.

        Super Two status doesn’t make you a free agent any earlier, it allows a player to go to arbitration a year before they otherwise would.

        So keeping Winker in AAA for a couple weeks does, in fact, allow for that “extra” year of control. Any notion that Winker or Garrett should start the season in Cincinnati ignores the financial realities of the modern game. Plus it ain’t gonna happen, so why bother with the conjecture?

      • Partly right. Winker would have to stay in Louisville longer than a few weeks to avoid Super Two status. But that’s just about his arbitration eligibility. It doesn’t affect the number of years of team control. Winker would have to stay in Louisville a couple of weeks to give the Reds an extra year of team control. See: Cubs and Kris Bryant.

      • Wasting a year of service time so he can play 3 extra weeks for what will likely be a 75ish win team is actually insane. There is no way that can be justified. If Cueto makes 27 starts in 2008 instead of 31 then they would’ve had him an extra year. Those 4 extra starts for a 90 loss team we’re life changing.

        Super 2 mitigation is trickier. It would be nice if it could be avoided, but it’s not a sign of utter incompetence if it happens.

        • Same thing with Mike Leake – one less start = entire extra season. Nuts.

    • You are correct, Alcantara is out of options. I agree that he is very likely to make the team unless there is a huge difference between his performance this spring and one of the non-roster guys.

  4. If it were me, and no one was offering anything of value for Cozart, then I would start the season with Peraza, Cozart, and Herrera on the roster. Give Dilson 4 starts a week at second, Cozart 4 starts a week at short, and Peraza 2 starts a week at second and 2 starts at short. On weeks with no off days, 2 of those guys get an extra start. Peraza could get an extra start per week in center to spell Billy.

    Doing it this way would have all 3 guys on pace for over 400 pa. And if Cozart gets traded at the deadline, the 2 young guys would get over 500 pa, assuming health. And it hopefully keeps Cozart fresh and productive to make him more attractive for a contender.

    It doesn’t make any sense to me to give a veteran journeyman like Irabarren 200+ pa while Herrera spends significant time in AAA for the 3rd consecutive year.

  5. I hope we can avoid the 3 headed catching monster. Also, who is our primary backup for Joey?

  6. To re-emphasize something I say above, I don’t think this will be the bench, but I think it would be a good bench.

  7. Off topic question:
    I was selected to buy Opening Day tickets. Does anyone have any idea how much they usually cost through the Reds? Is it typically standard pricing? If they jack them up, by how much?

  8. In an ideal world with no injuries, I’d have another 3 headed monster at middle infield: Cozart/Peraza/Herrera.That would give Reds a second solid bench bat. This group could cover third, and, with maybe addition of Duvall, cover first sometimes too.
    Because of service time issues with Winker and the likelihood of a Cozart trade later in year, one spot will be on opening day roster, be sent down for Winker later, then called back for either injury or Cozart trade. I’ll give that spot to Irbarren.
    Tucker is a lock. That leaves 2 players that should never take starts from either of the 2 three-headed monsters. My hunch is Desmond Jennings gets one and give Billy H some days off. That leaves Renda and Alcantara, and my hunch is Renda wins it. Final answer:
    2. Irbarren (then Winker in 2 weeks)
    3. Barnhart
    4. Jennings
    5. Renda

    • I think the edge on the last spot has to be to Alcantara since he’s on the 40-man and out of options. Renda isn’t on the 40-man.

  9. Wet day in Goodyear, and Cozart was a late scratch, apparently because they don’t want to risk anything from his leg injury. Marty was just saying that since the Reds keep proclaiming that Cozart is 100 percent healthy, why sit him? … That was what I thought too. I wonder if holding Cozart back might tell other teams that the Reds aren’t as sure of his health as they keep saying. Trade the guy now for whatever you can get, and get on with things.

    • Can a person be a healthy scratch when the reason for the scratch is to protect his health???

      Thus the first thing that came to my mind when I saw the tweet that Cozart was a “healthy scratch” was that this was today’s Reds contribution to the world of doublespeak. 😉

      And you are a regular here; so, you know, I’ve been on board with your last sentence all off season.

  10. You can only have 1 utility player. Other bench players have to provide a skill or fill a niche….Power bat off the bench….Or really good glove as late inning replacement. I do think a team should carry 4 outfielders who can start over a 5 month grind. Keeping Winker at AAA for a month makes sense but then bring him up. Can alcantara or renda play elite defense? Where’s the power bat to pinch hit in a tie game late?

    • I think in Jason’s scheme either Duvall or Schebler would be the bench power around two days out of three.

      Alcantara and Renda are both off to a good start of providing an answer of “NO” to the elite defense question.

    • Clearly Alcantara’s defense (at least at SS) needs some serious work. But I think he could bring some power off the bench. Perhaps the overlooked Ryan Raburn could also bring power off the bench.

  11. Barnhart, Hererra, Iribarren, Jennings and Kivlehan or Raburn if Mes is healthy. Turner back to Twins and Alcantara and Ogando DFAd. Barnhart, Turner, Herrera, Iribarren and Jennings if Mes is not healthy. Alcantara and Ogando DFAd. I can’t see the Reds putting 3 NRIs on the 25 man roster unless they DFA another reliever. Maybe Jumbo. I think Bonilla has moved ahead of Jumbo because he can be a starter or reliever.

  12. Dilson Herrera is hitting .800. Peraza is hitting .556.

    • Small sample size and spring training but if you ask me, I think Herrera is the better hitter and will be the better hitter in MLB. Better place discipline and a lot more pop.

  13. I predict and would be ok with …… Barnhart, Iribarren, Jennings, Raburn, Alcantara
    Hererra and Winker at least start the year in AAA along with Renda
    I wouldn’t mind Hererra winning the 2B job outright with a great spring pushing Peraza to a very heavily used super utility guy (until Cozart is gone) and Pushing Alcantara off the roster.

    and on a side note… I know Duvall was great in LF last year… and there is the lefty/righty thing…. but I’d still flip Duvall to RF and have Winker( everyday in AAA to start)/Schebler in LF

  14. It’s interesting that baseball is becoming more like basketball when it comes to playing time. Once upon a time, a baseball team had nine guys with “set” positions, and five guys on the bench that had one or two quality traits that could be used in a pinch. If any of them went down you saw a severe drop off in skill and talent if a bench guy had to replace them.

    Now, we talk about “total at bats” (like total minutes in basketball). The idea is to get a nucleus of eleven talented guys with flexibility so you can mix and match lineups based on matchups, keeping players fresh, and developing talent. In this universe, guys like Peraza have value beyond their mere numbers. The fact that you can move him all over the place without a severed dip in production from that position is a huge (dare I say “yuuuge”?) Plus for his team. I’d like to see the team take that same approach with Suarez and Duvall. Winker is here, and Senzel is on the way; it would behoove Suarez and Duvall to get use to moving around right now.

    • Senzel could also fit into the multi position mode. To date the Reds have seemed focused on pushing him through as a 3B; however when he was drafted there was talk he could end up at 2B or LF instead of 3B.

      My personal preference is to be as set as possible up the middle, at least at C, SS, and 2B. If a team has two guys who excel at covering the gaps and throwi well then perhaps continuity is less important in CF. Also a catcher with a strong bat (i.e. like Posey) who can also play 1B when taking the required breaks from the physical rigors of catching.

      Of course if a team has a regular who can move around, that can make it easier to rely on just one strong player off the bench to cover off days at several positions.

      It will be interesting to see what transpires with the Cubs this season with a healthy Schwarber back in the mix.

  15. Through the 1st week, the utility roles have received a lot of attention…

    11 PA => Alcantara
    10 PA => Iribarren
    10 PA => Renda
    10 PA => Dixon
    9 PA => Winker
    9 PA => Vincej
    8 PA => Jennings
    8 PA => Kivlehan
    8 PA => Guerrero
    7 PA => Turner
    7 PA => Herrera
    7 PA => Aquino
    7 PA => Elizalde

    None of the early appearances represent anything even approaching sample size legitimacy and spring training results in general lack legitimacy, but based on these early results, some of the utility role candidates have ‘stepped up to the plate’…

    2.057 OPS => Herrera (.800/.857/1.200 w/ 2-BB, 0-SO, 2-2B)
    1.457 OPS => Renda (.500/.600/.875 w/ 2-BB, 1-SO, 1-2B, 1-3B & 1-E)
    1.238 OPS => Turner (.500/.571/.667 w/ 1-BB, 0-SO, 1-2B & 1-PB)
    1.000 OPS => Iribarren (.500/.500/1.000 w/ 0-BB, 0-SO)
    0.804 OPS => Guerrero (.286/.375/.429 w/ 1-BB, 2-SO, 1-2B)
    0.778 OPS => Vincej (.333/.333/.444 w/ 0-BB, 1-SO, 1-2B)

    While some seem to have left their uniforms in the dugout…

    0.273 OPS => Alcantara (.091/.091/.182 w/ 0-BB, 3-SO, 1-2B & 3-E)
    0.286 OPS => Elizalde (.143/.143/.143 w/ 0-BB, 1-SO)
    0.311 OPS => Dixon (.111/.200/.111 w/ 1-BB, 2-SO & 1-E)
    0.347 OPS => Winker (.125/.222/.125 w/ 0-BB, 4-SO)

    • It is nice to see everyone getting quality ABs early. Hopefully this will continue until we know how things will shake out.

    • The only guy on the early crash and burn list I would have any concern about looking forward is Alcantara. I’d guess he probably figures prominently in their pencilled in preseason bench plans.

      Winker is an everyday player. The question is whether he starts the year in AAA or with the MLB team. His record and the scouts say he will get on base at a very good rate wherever he plays. His possible issue is the health of his previously injured wrist and whether that has robbed him of the power he showed at the lower and mid levels of the minor leagues. If he would incredibly turn out to be a MLB level bust at even maintaining an above MLB average OBP, that would be as big of a negative story as any of the debilitating individual injuries the Reds have endured over the last two season.

      • I’m really hoping that Alcantara was a waiver claim, hoping to tap into his minor league potential (.775 OPS in 1268 PA at AAA) rather than being predisposed and precommitted to keeping him on the 25-man roster. His below average 6.9% BB% and 25.2% SO% at AAA do not translate to effective results at the MLB level and his .587 OPS in 351 PA at the major league level bear out that expectation.

        I guess you can include the Old Cossack in the ‘not high on Arismendy’ club.

        • If I read Cot’s correctly, Alcantara is out of options. They haven’t tried to send him back though waivers to get him safely off the 40 man, so, somebody must feel he is good for something.

        • I look at how old Alcantara was for over 300 of those MLB plate appearances and I am more optimistic about his outcome and ability to hit MLB pitching than you are. I don’t like his BB% or his K% at AAA but I do like the OPS and the power. If he can defend at multiple positions, he’s an ideal bench player in my eyes. I think that’s what the Reds are hoping. If he continues to be a butcher in the field though, he’d have to really hit and hit well to be a good bench player and I”m not sure he’s that kind of hitter based on the aforementioned BB/K rates.

  16. My concern is that this bench profiles awfully light on power.

  17. One other thought: Price seems to be noodling with the idea of getting a lot of innings out of his top relievers — having Lorenzen and Iglesias pitch 100 innings each – coincidentally, each guy thew 50 IP of relief last year.

    If Price could manage that, he could get away with an 11 man pitching staff (easily) and add another bench bat.

  18. 1. Barnhart#, C
    2. Jennings, OF (takes Stuarts 40-man spot)
    3. Alcantara#, SS, 2B, 3B, CF
    4. Irribarren*, IF, OF (will have to drop a pitcher from 40-man)
    5. Raburn, corner IF/OF (will have to drop another player from the 40-man)

    Good position flexibility and mix of handedness.

    Start Dixon & Renda at AAA and use them in a utility role there before expecting them to excel in the utility role at the major league level.

    Somebody goes in mid-June when Winker is safely past the Super 2 cutoff. He will benefit from a little more seasoning and it allows for further evaluation of Duvall & Schebler.

    Herrera comes up when Cozart is traded.

  19. I have changed my mind on this every couple days but here’s my bench prediction.


    and then 2 of the following 3


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About Jason Linden

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.


2017 Reds, 2017 Spring Training


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