Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard about the extensions that the Reds have handed out over the last two weeks to Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto that locks them each up for the next 6 years (and Votto for even longer).  That clearly is going to have an effect on how the prospects within the Reds system are handled. I will take a look at players on an individual basis and note why it is good and or bad for the player.

Didi Gregorius

With Zack Cozart in his rookie season and still under team control for the next 6 years, he and Phillips are Reds ‘property’ for the same amount of time moving forward as long as Cozart stays with the big club the entire time. Gregorius is a shortstop by trade, and defensively he is a very good one. The thought process has been that his future would come into play up the middle for the Reds at some point whether it was at shortstop of second base.

Where this could be good news for Gregorius is that he isn’t going to be rushed up the ladder. While he has hit over the last few seasons (.285/.332/.393 from 2009-2011), most of his offense has been tied up in his batting average. His on-base percentage hasn’t been over .333 since 2009 in Billings and while plate discipline isn’t really an issue, Gregorius doesn’t walk much due to his high contact rate so his ability to get on base is going to be tied closely to his average. From a power perspective, he hasn’t shown much in his career, only topping .400 at one stop along the way since Billings (Bakersfield-2011). Scouts think he has solid power potential in his swing, with good bat speed. I think part of his lack of power production could be due to how he changes his approach with 2-strikes. No matter what the reasons are at this point, Gregorius could use improvement on the offensive side of his game. With the extensions, it gives him time to spend a full season in Pensacola and a full season in Louisville to work on his game.

The bad side of things for Gregorius is that if Zack Cozart continues to hit well at the Major League level, there may not be a spot open for him in the Reds organization. While positions aren’t full of guys with a similar offensive profile, the ideal third baseman from an offensive perspective isn’t something that Gregorius, Cozart or Phillips really fit so the odds that one of them makes the move there is diminished significantly.

Henry Rodriguez

Rodriguez has been playing second base as his primary position with the Reds organization since he was in Dayton back in 2009. He has hit over .300 at every level of the system he has played at since coming to the US, but there have been questions about his defensive ability to play at second base at each stop of the way as well. Some of the questions came from the effort side of things, often getting the rub that he is a ‘loves to hit’ player, but didn’t put much work in on the other side of the ball. In 2012 though, he has spent 6 games playing third base and only one so far at second base (where Brodie Greene has played).

This move could be good for Rodriguez because if the move to third base is more than a way to get Brodie Greene in the line up, he will need some extra time to learn to better play third base. While he does have some experience at third base (33 career starts), it is very limited. While most of his power is to the pull side no matter which side of the plate he is working from, he may have just enough power to play third as he matures with age.

The moves could hurt Rodriguez though if he isn’t being looked at as an option as a third baseman as it could pigeon hole him into a future utility player who can play all around the infield. He has experience at third, second and shortstop in his minor league career and his bat would be a good one to come off of the bench as a switch hitter who doesn’t have a bad side of the plate.

Brodie Greene

Already in AA Pensacola just two years after being drafted, Greene has been on a bit of a fast track though at age 24 he is pretty age appropriate for the level. Greene has evenly split his time at shortstop and second base as a pro so far, though he is viewed more as a second baseman than shortstop.

There may not be much good that comes out of this deal for Greene. At shortstop, he is likely an afterthought at this point behind Cozart and Gregorius (and perhaps behind Billy Hamilton). At second base, he may have an offensive advantage on the rest of the minor leaguers but he is also the oldest of the prospects who may be in line for second base. If Phillips plays out his contract, Greene would be 30 by the time it is up. That could mean that he finds himself viewed as a utility man by the Reds.

Billy Hamilton

Similar to Didi Gregorius, Hamilton has work that he could do to improve his offensive output. Hamilton, unlike Gregorius doesn’t have much future power to tap into, so his entire offensive game is going to be tied to his ability to hit for a good average and get on base. In 2011 with Dayton, Hamilton struck out in 22% of his plate appearances. For a player who doesn’t have any power, that must be improved upon and by a significant amount if he would like to become an offensive player with value at the next level.

Where this deal could be good for Hamilton is that it gives him plenty of time to work on cutting down on the strikeouts as well as improving his ability to switch hit. While Hamilton is a few years into switch hitting, the longer he does it the better he is likely to become from both sides of the plate. The need to rush Hamilton to the Majors isn’t going to be there as long as the group of players above him all continue to do what is expected of them.

One thing this could do though, something that scouts outside of the organization have long talked about, is perhaps push Hamilton toward a move to centerfield. While it wouldn’t be the worst move in my opinion, I prefer having a shortstop with elite range over a center fielder with elite range.

I am not sure that there is a real downside of these deals for a guy like Hamilton who could use time to work on his overall game and his defensive skillset and age still leave plenty of options moving forward for him.

Neftali Soto

Soto may be the player that is most effected by the deals of all players in the system. While he has played all around the infield in his career (shortstop, third base, catcher and first base), he is viewed as solely a first baseman at this point in his career. With Joey Votto now locked up beyond his original contract, that puts Soto into the “trade bait” territory given that he isn’t likely to play another position.

Others

Donald Lutz has spent plenty of time in first base in his career, but has transitioned to the outfield in 2012 and from what I saw in the Futures game, he looks like he can cover the corners well enough despite his size. Middle infielders like Devin Lohman, Juan Perez and Ryan Wright have both time and age on their side as well as some potential position flexibility. All of those players also have plenty of things to work on in their game on both sides of the ball (as does nearly every player in the lower levels of the minor leagues).

17 Responses

  1. Beard

    Excellent article Doug. As of this moment, the Reds have to be disappointed with their production from 3B (Rolen), LF (Ludwick/Heisey), and CF (Stubbs). I know it is very early and the sample sizes are low, but the reality is that Rolen is old enough he may be finished at any time. Stubbs has looked more lost at the plate this year than he did last year (and it is hard to believe that is possible). And Ludwick and Heisey do not appear to be the long term answer in LF for a team with playoff aspirations.

    With all three positions (3B, LF, and CF) there do not appear to be any “elite” type prospects that are within range of contributing in Cincinnati this year or next. {Is that a fair statement to make or am I missing someone?} I don’t believe the organization is too big on Frazier filling one of those spots long term either — at least it appears that way given their treatment of Frazier these last couple of seasons.

    This finally leaves us with the questions I have:

    1.) How do the Reds fill the offensive void that we see in these three spots (I know the immediate answer is that they continue to ride the current players out as we are only 5% of the way through the season, but if this continues until the end of April or early May something will need to be addressed)?

    2.) The only way to upgrade these spots in 2012 is via trades. One area the Reds do appear to have depth is in starting pitching (Bailey being the most likely piece to be traded) and as you laid out with the middle infield positions (DiDi, Greene, Hamilton). Add Soto into that mix and the question becomes what could the Reds get for their three best trading chips of Bailey, Soto, and The General or Hamilton? Could they find their long term solution in LF or 3B with some combo of their trading chips?

    • Doug Gray

      I posted on twitter last night, but Rolen hasn’t had a monthly OPS over .726 since July of 2010. He shouldn’t be our cleanup hitter and you are right, he might just be done.

      There aren’t any elite level prospects ready to contribute at those spots any time soon. But that doesn’t mean we can’t use prospects to address the situation.

      1. Trades or trying something else. I would try a few things…. first of which would be getting Todd Frazier on our team and getting him some time in left and at third. Maybe just three times a week, but something. Next would be to not start Stubbs every single day. I am not one who wants to just put Stubbs on the bench or demote him to AAA, but give Heisey two starts a week in center. Something needs

      2. I think you could upgrade the positions by playing situations better. But yeah, a true upgrade is only going to be reached via a trade. I honestly doubt they could make much of a trade today given that it is so early in the season. Fast forward a few months, and assuming the guys are performing as expected, yeah, you might be able to grab up someone who could be a real upgrade.

  2. Ron

    I think if Cozart can handle 3B defensively, his bat would translate fine there. That would open the SS door for Didi or Hamilton. I have no issues with Billy moving to CF, especially if Stubb’s ABs continues to look like 2011. Watching him bat so far this season has been awful. Teams are still pounding hard inside & soft away and he just cannot hit those pitches.

    • mauired

      I agree with your statement fully Ron. If they would move Soto to LF, they could have a future cleanup hitter at a cheap price. Don’t understand why they haven’t yet, if they were willing to try with Alonso. Soto seems to be a little more athletic to make the transition. Better to try now, than in the bigs later.

      2014 Opening Day Lineup

      Billy Hamilton CF
      Zack Cozart 3B
      Joey Votto 1B
      Neftali Soto LF
      Jay Bruce RF
      Brandon Phillips2B
      Didi Gregorius SS
      Devin Mesoraco C

      • sagevic

        You don’t put a player at 1st if you think he can handle LF, ubless you have a higher ranked prospect there already. The Reds didn’t so I believe they have decidec that Soto is a 1st Baseman solely.

        Also, Soto has a lot of power, but he doesn’t walk enough to translate into an ideal clean-up hitter.

        Frazier may be a servicable 3rd Baseman defensively, but I think he’s better suited to the Outfield. PLus, he doesn’t strike me as a cleanup hitter either, although he did really impress me this spring. I think he will be a very productive hitter, but not a high contact guy.

        I just haven’t seen a player in our system that I would pencil in there, except for Alonzo, and I don’t think he was ever going to stick in Left or at 3rd.

      • Beard

        As far as talent goes that lineup is great but there are certainly big questions regarding Soto’s ability to play LF and whether Cozart’s bat can play at 3b. I suppose it is possible YRod could be ready by then. As of right now I would be surprised if Soto or DiDi are ever regular players for the Reds.

      • Doug Gray

        Neftali Soto runs like an old catcher. He simply doesn’t do it close to well. That is why he hasn’t been tried out there. Alonso was every bit as fast as Soto was (if not more once he trimmed down).

      • Doug Gray

        I would be really surprised if Hamilton were ready for opening day 2014.

  3. Beard

    Doug I know it is still early and very small sample sizes but at some point (again it may not be this year even) when does it become best for the Reds to trade Bailey and Stubbs while they still have some value based on potential? If the Reds hold on to both guys for two more years and there are no improvements the “potential” label will be gone. I still really like Bailey’s arm, but the way Chapman is throwing strikes it seems criminal to keep him out of the rotation. Arroyo is untradeable, so that leaves Bailey as the only real option to try and get Chapman into the rotation.

    • John

      Our bullpen would be in shambles if Chapman wasn’t there.

  4. sultan of swaff

    What’s the over/under on errors for Hamilton and at what level before you’d pull the plug and transition him to CF? For me, a 30 error season at AA would be proof enough.

    • Doug Gray

      80 or so. He has plenty of time to worry about fixing his error rate. You can’t teach his range at shortstop. You can teach him to correct a bunch of his errors.

      • Beard

        Does Stubbs’ performance affect the Reds decision regarding Hamilton at all. By that I mean if Stubbs has an epically bad year this year (like he is having so far) do the Reds have to start looking for a new long term CF solution and if so is Hamilton the best possible long term solution in the minors? Cozart has really impressed defensively at short and Didi is awesome there too. It is nice to have that depth at short but it is something that will have to be addressed.

        Lastly, how long do you think it would take Hamilton to transition to being a CFer?

      • MDRon

        I’m all for moving Billy to CF. I believe that he could stick at SS, but I question the wisdom of placing a player with uber-elite speed in a position where opponents will be sliding at his knees. Get him out of the middle of the infield!

      • Herbie

        Get him out of the infield to protect him? Purely speculation, but through years of observation I’d be willing to wager that his chances to have a long, healthy career are quite better at SS than running into walls and diving for balls in CF.

        It’s just one instance for example, but which 1990 Reds WS team member had the bad knee issues and which had the long, continuously productive career between Barry Larkin and Eric Davis?

      • RickD in Chicago

        I recently read an article on CBS Sports speculating on Billy Hamilton being called up by the Reds in late August so that he could be eligible for the playoff roser. A bit presumptuous at this point, but he could be a real asset on the base paths as a pinch runner late in the game. Stubbs is fast, just not a base stealer in this kid’s category.

        In spite of the whole “arbitration clock” thing (and who cares now the Reds have invested so much in Votto) I thought it made a lot of sense. He’s clearly not a regular player at this point. Pitchers and catchers would totally have to respect his ability which might give the batter a better chance or produce a throwing error. And, he’s so quick he could score from anywhere. Interesting possibilities.