One of the fun stories from the early part of Cincinnati Reds spring training this year was shortstop Jose Garcia. The Cuban-born infielder crushed two homers in one game during the spring, and in his 13 games in Arizona he hit four of them while posting a .269/.300/.769 line with a walk and three strikeouts in 30 trips to the plate. The 22-year-old did that while coming off of a season in 2019 in which he missed nearly all of April, but still led the Advanced-A Florida State League in doubles with 37 of them (along with a triple and eight homers).
When the season begins in 2020, Freddy Galvis is going to be the teams starting shortstop as long as everything goes as planned. But behind Galvis on just about any projected roster for the Reds for opening day will be Kyle Farmer, and then maybe Alex Blandino. While both guys can play shortstop, and are fine there if you’re going to be filling in for a day or two – neither guy is likely to be the guy you want to hand the job over to on a daily basis.
Beyond those two guys you look at the full 57-man roster that the Reds submitted and you’ve got Alfredo Rodriguez, Jose Garcia, and perhaps Christian Colon as shortstop options. Both Rodriguez and Garcia can play the position every day when it comes to the defense. They’ve got the range, the hands, and the arm to look like a true big league shortstop. Colon, while he’s had some time at the spot in the past, is more of a “fill in at shortstop if needed” kind of option who doesn’t profile there every day.
When it comes to prospect status, there’s a night-and-day difference between Jose Garcia and Alfredo Rodriguez. Garcia, by some accounts, may be the top prospect in the Reds organization. He’s in at #4 on my list behind Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and Tyler Stephenson – but he’s still a guy who I would comfortably put as one of the top 100 prospects in all of baseball. Rodriguez didn’t make my top 25 Reds prospect list, nor did he make Baseball America’s Top 30 for the organization, and he’s coming off of a season in which he hit .267/.314/.327 with one home run between Double-A and Triple-A as a 25-year-old. That was far and away the best offensive season he’s had since he debuted in the organization in 2016.
Now, much like Garcia, Rodriguez was having a good spring training. He’s always looked like a guy who should hit more than he has, but he’s never actually done that. In his 33 plate appearances out in Arizona, the now 26-year-old hit .364 with two doubles and two home runs, leading to a .606 slugging percentage. Small sample size alert should be flashing in big, bright shiny letters right now if you’re thinking of placing much weight on that – but signs of life from his bat are welcome given the past several seasons.
If Freddy Galvis needs someone to step in for him in 2020 for more than a few days, the Reds may have to decide which direction they want to go. Do they give it a shot with someone like Alex Blandino or Kyle Farmer who are more second or third basemen types defensively?
Or do they go ahead and just go with a true defensive shortstop and make the choice between Alfredo Rodriguez and Jose Garcia? If it’s the latter answer, then the question becomes is there much of a choice based on the past history between the two guys bats? While Rodriguez has more upper minors experience, he’s struggled to hit everywhere he’s ever played. Garcia hasn’t played in Double-A yet, but it’s a tough sell to suggest his bat wouldn’t play better right now. Toss in that he’s a better defender and universally considered a better prospect, and the decision should be an easy one unless there’s been a massive turn around from Rodriguez at the plate since last season ended.