Do the Reds have a dark horse bench candidate? Doug Gray January 23, 2014 22 Comments The Reds bench has been a bit of a weakness over the past couple of seasons. There has been a lack of bats on the Reds bench lately and as things stand right now, it seems that they are heading down that road again with a bench that will consist of Chris Heisey, Jack Hannahan, Cesar Izturis replacement at shortstop and Brayan Pena. Last year those guys had averages of .237, 216, .209 (what Izturis hit) and .297. Pena stands out with a .297 average, but he hit .245 over the previous three seasons and he probably won’t be used as much as a pinch hitter due to his being the backup catcher and generally teams don’t want to burn their back up. Bench players are often made up of guys who have a variety of skillsets, mostly built around their ability to play multiple positions and provide at least one offensive skillset that could be valuable off of the bench (be it hit for an average, have some pop, have some speed). The Reds made an interesting signing earlier this week when they brought in a guy that I believe could be an ideal bench player for the Reds who could potentially be rather well rounded. Hernan Iribarren currently is not invited to big league camp, but I would expect that to change. He will turn 30 at the end of June and has a very limited number of Major League experience that last came in 2009 with the Brewers. He has spent the last two seasons playing in Triple-A for the Rockies organization. While with the Rockies he has spent time at second base, third base, shortstop, left field, center field and right field. So he absolutely has the ability to play multiple positions that you look for in a bench player. On the offensive side of things he also shows some things you want to see out of a bench player. Over the last two seasons, both at the Triple-A level, he has hit .306/.368/.390. That did come in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League, but for his career he has a .307 average all while hitting at least .275 every year of his career. Behind that average he has 9% walk rate and a 14% strikeout rate, both of which are good rates. His power is not much to write home about. Iribarren is an above-average speed guy and has 29 steals over the last two seasons (195 games) while being caught 6 times. So Iribarren could boost the offense off of the bench with a solid bat and some speed as well. Maybe he is just one of those guys who can hit at the minor league level and will struggled at the big league level, though from reading old scouting reports from Baseball America (and we are talking old because the guy will turn 30 this year) his hitting was never really questioned. His peripherals do suggest he has a chance to hit somewhat if he can carry them forward. How does it apply to the Reds bench directly? Jack Hannahan is very likely to be on the roster. Last year the Reds suffered because both he an Izturis couldn’t hit at all. The Reds currently don’t have a shortstop on the 40-man other than Cozart so they could add someone who is a defensive first guy like Izturis was, but with Zack Cozart, Todd Frazier and Brandon Phillips manning the positions that they play, do the Reds need both of those guys on the bench providing absolutely no offensive help? I don’t think they do. A guy like Iribarren could be a decent upgrade to the bench who could provide plenty of options around the field where he could play once a week (giving him several options of places to get into a line up in a given week) and provide an offensive upgrade for a team that could use more offense. 22 Responses Doug Gray January 23, 2014 So I forgot to include Skip Schumaker as a part of the bench too. Either way, I still like the idea of looking at Iribarren. zblakey January 23, 2014 Excellent point Doug. A bench upgrade from the hitting perspective is desperately needed. The Reds are high on their bullpen, so if they are going to try and save the starters and max out the pen, they will need pinch-hiiters that can actually do that (hit!) Given that there appears to be the potential of a downgrade in overall offensive production from the starting 8 (loss of Choo) the Reds may be behind in more games this summer- thus the need for a quality pinch hitter. It almost astounds me that we are almost to February and spring training without another true shortstop on the 40 man or at least a quality guy signed to a minor league contract with a spring training invite. I know there are some guys still out there, but if Cozart were to go down, the Reds would be in a world of hurt based on the currently signed (or lack thereof ) alternatives. Bring back soft J? He gives you defense, but not much else. Alan Horn January 23, 2014 Doug, I know I’m jumping topics here, but the Brewers are signing Matt Garza to 4 years for $52 million(per MLBtraderumors.com). Is that not closer to what Bailey and Latos are worth at this point? I’m thinking Garza is very close to those 2 in ability at this point. MK January 23, 2014 Even with Schumaker there is still one bench spot available. With the loss of Paul and Izturis there are two spots to fill. It has to be someone who can play shortstop. Todd Fraizer with 2 games and BP with 5 are the only ones who have played shortstop in the big leagues on the roster. They need a right-handed hitter as the bench has two lefties, one righty and one swith at this point (Heisey, Schumaker, Hannahan, Pena) which Iribarren is but he does not play shortstop. My sleeper would have to be Areginas Diaz. Alan Horn January 23, 2014 Mk, I don’t know if you can count the catcher as a PH unless it is very late in the game. If you have a injury to the catcher and you have already spent the 2nd catcher as a PH, you are in deep trouble(at least for the rest of that game). That would be true for any position, but not nearly as critical as for the catcher position. MK January 23, 2014 I agree Alan, I just didn’t want to leave him off the list and then have someone say “You left Pena off the list of bench players”. Another topic Brad Boxberger traded from Padres to Rays. Alan Horn January 23, 2014 I saw that about Boxberger. He may be the best of the bunch(before it is over) that we sent to the Padres in the Latos trade. What is your opinion of Garza compared to Bailey and Latos? MK January 23, 2014 Probably pretty much in kine with what they would be worth as well although in my mind Latos might be a little higher as he seems to be more consistent that the other two. Alan Horn January 23, 2014 If Bailey and Latos would sign for near Garza money we might be able to keep both. That remains to be seen. Doug Gray January 23, 2014 If they would sign for that the Reds would have already signed them. From everything I am reading, Garza took a deal much lower than he should have. Norwood Nate January 23, 2014 I thought Hannahan played some SS with Cleveland. Regardless, none of those guys, Hamilton included, inspire much confidence at the position outside of emergency situation. MK January 23, 2014 Nate you are right about Hannahan and I missed it. Nine games. DaveCT January 23, 2014 At a minimum, we need someone at AAA who can play SS after a call-up, with a Hannahn or someone doing their best as an in-game fill-in for Cozart should he get hurt. I like the past reports on Hernan Iribarren as a slashing type of hitter with good plate discipline and speed if not stolen base aptitude. How cool would that be off the bench? Jim Delaney January 23, 2014 I think the REDS might go hard after Cuban SS Aledmis Diaz, he can’t sign with any team until i thnk after February 19th. He could potentially make the roster or at worse be at AAA playing everyday and be the insurance policy for Cozart. If he proves this year he is a legit player it gives you flexibility to trade Cozart if you think Diaz will turn out to be the better playe in future. If Diaz isn’t an option, I still think the Reds acquire a CF for this season and have Hamilton show up in Spring Training with multiple gloves and be used all over the infield and in CF. Get him 300 at bats and use his speed as a weapon off the bench. The Reds offense last year finished the season listless and appeared tired. If you play Hamilton at 2B, SS and 3B, the production from the rest of the infield might improve, I would include resting Votto as well and sliding Frazier over to first. I think the REDS could live with Hamilton as a stop gap at SS for a few games defensively and his arm appears to be good enough to play 3B. MK January 23, 2014 You know Jim I hope they work Pena out at first base a little. He has a nice bat and could be a way to get him more at bats (maybe once every two weeks against a tough lefty). Krozley January 23, 2014 I think Argenis Diaz will be the Triple A insurance for a Cozart injury. Or Negron. Iribarren has only played 10 games in his minor league career at ss. Since Cozart will play everyday and won’t need a defensive replacement, I like the idea that the position could be covered for the 10 or so Cozart-rest games by Frazier, BP, Hannahan, or BHam. That could leave a bench spot open for a hitter (like Ludwick if they could obtain a better option for the OF) instead of wasting one on an Izturis clone. HRod, Perez, Neal, Iribarren, or Soto could fill that roll if nothing else. Or just sign Justin Turner, like I’ve said before. Boy, Cozart’s health is very important to this team. Doug Gray January 23, 2014 Iribarren is very limited at shortstop, but if he needs to be there once every three weeks, I don’t think it is much of an issue. MK January 23, 2014 Doug he has played shortstop 10 games where he made 3 errors in nine seasons in the minors. Not sure that plays in the big leagues no mater the number of times. William January 24, 2014 I know they want a true shortstop, but I am at least a little intrigued by Thomas Neal. With a Sappelt like spring training could he have a shot to be in the outfield or are we already too overloaded with Skip being able to play out there? Doug Gray January 24, 2014 I would be surprised by it because I figure Schumaker and Heisey are the back up outfielders, even if Schumaker can play some infield too. I like Neal though, but I am just not sure with how the roster shakes out that he can grab a spot. JMO January 24, 2014 Felix Perez, HRod, A Diaz, Iribarren and J Bourgeois will battle it out for the last spot. Walt needs to acquire the Cuban SS. JMO January 24, 2014 Thomas Neal as well.