With the MLB season on hold, the Players Association and Owners expect to allow for a 29 man roster according to Bob Nightengale once the season does try to get underway. This means at least three more players on the bench. With the new roster rules for the season, teams were already having 26 players on their roster. Now for teams like the Reds who may want some extra time to look at players, they will get it. That is, whenever the season gets going.
Who are these players going to be? Well here is a guess.
When #MLB is able to start their season, teams are expected to expand their rosters from 26 players to 29 players the first month they begin playing games.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) March 27, 2020
For the First Month: 29 Players
While this decision may seem easy because of the extra players, when looking at the many options the Reds have, it is far from easy. For starters, who are going to be the regulars at each position? Here is a look at the lineup that seems likely to be ou there most.
Joey Votto 1B
Nick Senzel LF
Some of the outfielders may be shuffled up along with the batting order, but this seems to be the expected starting eight for the Cincinnati Reds. While gushing over how good this lineup looks, there are some key players missing from it. Namely Jesse Winker and Aristedes Aquino. Both of these players received plenty of playing time last season when healthy or on the roster. Winker was solid all-around and Aquino lit the world on fire and then cooled off substantially. Do they both deserve automatic roster spots?
Possible Bench Players
Now here is a look at the players the Reds will have to choose from for the six or seven available bench spots. Cincinnati would probably give at least one of the new spots to the pitchers either to add an extra starter or long-reliever.
Alex Blandino INF/UTL
Matt Davidson 1B/3B
Derek Dietrich INF/UTL
Phil Ervin OF
Kyle Farmer C/UTL
Mark Payton OF
Josh VanMeter INF/UTL
Jesse Winker OF
When looking at the options, one can see why this is going to be such a tough decision. With Jesse Winker and Curt Casali almost guaranteed a spot the rest are not so easy. This leads into the question about Aristedes Aquino. Is he guaranteed a spot? He will be battling it out with Phillip Ervin, Derek Dietrich, Travis Jankowski, Mark Payton, Scott Schebler and Josh VanMeter for a spot. Truthfully here is where things start to get messy.
As the most loaded position on the Reds, David Bell can look for and pick specific things he wants in a player in order to fill every role. Currently, they have a top of the order defensive rookie/veteran and lefty bat in Shogo Akiyama who will likely patrol Center most of the time. Then Nick Castellanos who leaves a lot to be desired in terms of defense but is their middle of the order right-hander. To round out the starters will probably be Nick Senzel who when healthy is absolutely electric and has potential star written all over him. With Jesse Winker who crushes right-handers and gets on base better than anyone not named Joey Votto already on the bench the Reds seem to mainly be missing some defense for the later innings and bigger ballparks in terms of the outfield. Don’t forget that Michael Lorenzen is a two-way player now too and as he is already making the team in the bullpen he will not be considered here for the bench, but one can expect him to get more at-bats this season. With the expanded rosters it feels like the Reds would want to keep two more outfielders.
Phillip Ervin as a former first-round pick and a player without any options left seems like someone who should make the roster. He finally showed out last year smacking left-handed pitchers and playing solid defense. Of the remaining options, it feels like he would be the first one to make it. He is the second-best defender of the available options and is used to coming off the bench and in pinch-hit situations. Also, he does not feel like someone the Reds would want to be claimed away from the organization.
The second option, at least to start, would probably be Aristides Aquino. Honestly, he may not be their top option of the players available in terms of what they need most but, he gives the Reds a massive right-handed power bat off the bench. In pinch-hit spots, especially for the NL, he fits perfectly to come in and get a big knock when the team needs it most. He can also get some spot starts against lefties and absolutely mash.
At this point, here is who the Reds would have in terms of outfield options.
This group looks outstanding and would likely be one of the best hitting outfield in all of baseball. Unfortunately, this means the end of the line for Mark Payton as he would have to be returned to Oakland. Travis Jankowski would be put on waivers and likely picked up. Scott Schebler also would hit waivers but probably make it through to Louisville. Luckily, Josh VanMeter and Derek Dietrich are super-utility players so they have a chance to still make it.
Catchers, Infielders and Utility Players
The Reds are also extremely fortunate to have a lot of utility players on the team. Most of them are more natural at second than anywhere else but they can play any combination of infield and outfield positions. This includes already starting outfielder Nick Senzel who can play the entire infield other than first and starting shortstop Freddy Galvis who can also play second extremely well. With Votto, Moustakas and Suarez all cemented in their starting roles, it is time to see who can give them their off-days. Cincinnati should continue to look for versatility here and players who can come off the bench to give the team solid at-bats. As a reminder, there are four spots left should the Reds decide to use 15 of their 29 roster spots on position players.
Curt Casali is the biggest shoo-in of the entire bench options. He is in the last year of his contract but the Reds love what he does behind the plate and since his arrival in Cincinnati, he has been having the best years of his career. Casali will actually get more at-bats than he ever has with the Reds because of Tucker Barnhart moving from being a switch-hitter to just batting left-handed. Expect to see Casali get the majority of starts against lefties.
Next on this list is Kyle Farmer. The last piece of the major Puig trade showed that he deserves a spot on this team. He is extremely versatile playing games at five different positions last season and provides some pop with a solid approach at the plate. Most importantly is that he can play catcher and be the extreme backup at even shortstop. The Reds love to carry three catchers and Farmer gives them that and more.
Taking the third spot will be Josh VanMeter. This kid showed up in a big way and proved that he deserved some at-bats as the season went on. While he was a bit streaky, the fact that he can play first, second, third and both corner outfield spots make him an extremely valuable player for the Reds. Not to mention he is a solid lefty option off the bench in crucial situations. VanMeter is willing to do anything to get playing time and he is an extremely likable person as well. It was a hard decision but he edges out for the third spot.
This last spot has some serious contenders but when it comes down to it, there was one player who filled a role that no one else could. Derek Dietrich is the definition of glue guy for the Reds. He cares so much for his teammates and proved that last year. Even with his abysmal second-half of the season, it was clear that he was staying with the team for one reason, to motivate them. The player who is last on this enormous bench is unlikely to get playing time anyways so why not fill it with someone who can help this team mentally? If nothing else the Reds can play him against Pittsburgh and let him hit missiles into both rivers.
Here is who the Reds have at Catcher, Infielder and overall Utility.
Overall Bench with a 29 Player Roster
It is hard not to get excited about a bench this deep. With it looking possible that the MLB will be instituting double-headers for much of the season to makeup games, even if this full bench started the Reds would be winning some games. The players who will get the most at-bats and overall playing time will be Casali and Winker. The players getting the least will be Farmer and Dietrich. For the rest they will have to earn their time and do their job. The Reds will have basically every role filled with a team this team. The problem is, it seems unlikely that it will be a 29 player roster all year. So every player on this bench will be fighting for the available spots once the rosters shrink.
After the First Month
Apparently, after the first month, the proposal would be that the rosters get back to the new normal, which is 26 players. Because the season keeps getting pushed back, it is possible that the 29 player roster could continue. If it isn’t then the Reds would be looking at making some tough decisions. Most likely the Reds would look at keeping a five-man bench. This would mean 13 position players and 13 pitchers. Obviously a lot of this would be dependent on who has been performing but, since they haven’t played yet, one can only make these assumptions based on past performances and the Reds past preferences. Here is who would probably be kept from the options listed above.
Again, Jesse Winker and Curt Casali make this iteration of the roster unless both of them crash and burn. They are pivotal players for the Reds and ones that they expect quite a bit from. Kyle Farmer is also added to this list due to the fact that the Reds would want to keep three catchers and he can still play a multitude of other positions without being a liability at the plate. That leaves two more spots.
The first would go to Phillip Ervin over Aristides Aquino. There are two main reasons for this. One is that this team needs a late-game defensive option and Aquino just is not that even with his big arm. He is too slow and struggles at times to get good reads on the ball. Ervin is an above-average outfield with some speed giving him the edge here. The second reason is that Aquino still has an option and the team would want to see him continue to develop. He would get more at-bats down in Louisville, should the minor league season happen. Ervin is out of options and it does not seem like the Reds would want to lose him on waivers as he would surely be picked up.
The last spot has to go to Josh VanMeter at this point. While Dietrich brings a lot of passion and the glue, the Reds would need another utility style player in order to round out the roster. Because both of them are lefties, VanMeter wins out here as well. He can provide power and still hit for average, Dietrich can just provide the power. Sadly Dietrich is sent down to Louisville here.
Overall Bench with a 26 Player Roster
There were a lot of tough decisions here but the Reds are fortunate because so many of their bench options are very talented. While not all of them could start regularly, there are a few who would be everyday players on many MLB teams. Once the season gets underway the Reds will be stacked and ready to show the baseball world that they mean business.
Who do you think should have made it? Let us know in the comments below.
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