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.