In the days leading up to Opening Day, we’ll be previewing The State Of The Reds at every single position on the field. Check out the previous installments of our Redleg Nation 2018 Season Preview series:
Third base is perhaps the place the Reds can feel most certain they’ll get good production, this side of Joey Votto. There is more high-end, advanced depth at third than anywhere else in the Reds organization. Also, with the exception of the current starter, all the players here are also in the mix at other spots around the diamond. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s good to be flexible. But it also means that, other than Eugenio, these guys have all been written about by my esteemed colleagues, whose work, one assumes, you have already enjoyed.
Eugenio Suarez. Duh. Suarez is the second-best player on the Reds right now and he’s not going anywhere. He seems to now be a very good bet for 20+ HRs and a well above-average OBP while also providing high-quality defense at third. Oh, and he’s still just 26 years old. It is interesting, however, to see how the offseason went with Suarez – that is, to arbitration. Reds general manager Dick Williams indicated that the Reds tried to talk extension and Suarez wasn’t ready to do that. Maybe their initial overtures were low or maybe Suarez wants another excellent year under his belt before negotiating or maybe he knows that he’ll have just turned 29 when he hits free agency and wants the chance to see what happens on the open market. We don’t know the answers here, but it does raise at least some questions about the future.
Now, it gets interesting and now we talk depth. The Reds will still have control of Suarez at this point, but other factors could come into play. If the Reds are a competitive team, Suarez likely stays where he is. If they aren’t? Well, if there’s still no extension in the works, Suarez may well find himself traded elsewhere. In which case, it gets more interesting.
Nick Senzel could start at third right now. For the moment, it seems he’s making a run at shortstop. If that doesn’t work, he’ll slide over to second, where the Reds have a lot of depth.
Dilson Herrera plays second (when his shoulder lets him). If he gets over the injury finally and Senzel sticks at short, he may establish himself at second. But Shed Long is also coming. And if he keeps coming what then?
The point is that any of the current second base candidates except Gennett could eventually find themselves over at the hot corner depending on what happens with Geno. I’d love to see him locked up forever, of course, but that might not happen. If it doesn’t, the Reds will still probably be okay there.
Alex Blandino is not a shortstop. I promise you. I like him, but he just isn’t a shortstop. He is, however, a solid second baseman and a decent third baseman. He can hit and he’s 25. He probably has something like a Todd Frazier ceiling in terms of WAR (Frazier, you’ll note, debuted in the majors at 25). The age thing does matter and it’s something not enough people pay attention to. A 25-year-old in AAA is a lot different than a 22-year-old in AAA. Still, I’d be pretty surprised if Blandino couldn’t manage some 2-3 WAR seasons given a starting gig. He’s just not the kind of player you sign to a long-term deal. (Note that Suarez is only a little more than a year older than Blandino and already has almost 2000 MLB plate appearances.)
Brandon Dixon is older than Blandino and not as good. He hits the ball hard, but doesn’t have good plate discipline. If he makes the team, it’s because the Reds want Blandino playing every day in the minors. If Dixon is getting regular playing time, chances are something has gone pretty wrong.
The Reds figure to have someone quite capable at third for the foreseeable future. Things can always go wrong, of course, but this is a strong position with several players available who are both young and advanced and it should be a point of strength for the Reds for a long time.