In this weeks State of the Farm feature we will look at the shortstop position. To see the other positions you can click here. We will continue to move down the line each week as we get deeper into spring training (OF, SP and RP still remain).

For the first time in this series we are going to go all the way down to the Dominican Summer League to take a look at a player. This is an exception because the player is Alfredo Rodriguez. He signed with the Cincinnati Reds in early July for $7M out of Cuba as a 22-year-old. It had been about 18 months since he had last played in a competitive game before he took the field on July 12th for the DSL Reds. Things started out well enough for Rodriguez, he went 6-13 in his first four games with two doubles. Things slowed down from there, and a week later he was on the disabled list after being hit in the elbow by a pitch. He missed the next two weeks before returning. Once again, he started out well, going 5-15 with a double. Over the next two weeks he slumped, going 4-29 before the season ended. In total, he hit .234/.333/.299 with nine walks and 16 strikeouts over 93 plate appearances. Given his age, that’s terrible for the league as he was four years older than the average player. At the same time, he had essentially two different two-week lengths of playing time after a very long layoff. It’s tough to put anything into the numbers because of that. You would have liked to have seen better performance, of course, but the circumstances at hand don’t really tell us much of anything from the numbers.

Moving up to the United States we head over to the Arizona Rookie League where Carlos Rivero had the majority of the playing time at the position. The 19-year-old was making his stateside debut after spending two years in the Dominican Summer League. Rivero struggled at the plate, hitting just .240/.280/.273 with seven walks and 23 strikeouts in 167 plate appearances. It was actually his best offensive season of his career, which is a good sign as the step up in competition is actually quite large. He was rather solid in the field, at least from a fielding percentage standpoint as he posted a .943 fielding percentage – which is quite high for complex level baseball.

Hector Vargas began his year in Dayton in April. He struggled at the plate, hitting .194/.215/.240 in 36 games while playing multiple positions. In June he went back to extended spring training and then joined the Billings Mustangs a few weeks later when their season began. Things went much better with the Mustangs for Vargas. He spent all of his time there as a shortstop when he was in the field, starting 53 games. At the plate he went on to hit .352/.365/.538 in 222 plate appearances. He only drew six walks, but he also only had 19 strikeouts. The 21-year-old also stole 12 bases (and he had four more in Dayton). His approach could use some refinement – he’s going to absolutely have to walk more than he’s currently doing as he moves up, even if he’s rarely striking out. Defensively between the two stops he posted a .936 fielding percentage – but he was much better in Dayton at the spot, though it was just 12 games worth of data.

Luis Gonzalez took a majority of the playing time in Dayton at shortstop. It was his second year with the Dragons. The 21-year-old was recovering from a broken ankle and surgery that he suffered at the very end of the 2015 season. He was essentially the same hitter as he was the year before, with a little bit more power. Gonzalez hit .228/.261/.323 with 18 walks and 87 strikeouts in 404 plate appearances. The approach needs improvement as that strikeout-to-walk ratio isn’t going to be good enough to allow him to hit moving forward. Defensively he made a big time improvement in his error rate. He moved from a .935 fielding percentage in 2015 to a .959 mark this past season.

Daytona saw almost all of their playing time at shortstop go to Blake Trahan. He started 124 of the 140 games for the team at the position. After a slow start to the season in April (.384 OPS), he turned things around the rest of the season and hit quite well. For the season Trahan hit .263/.325/.361 with 49 walks and 73 strikeouts in 587 plate appearances. That wound up being better than the league average, where the Florida State League had an OPS of .677 for the year. The 22-year-old also stole 25 bases and was caught just eight times. In the field he posted a .974 fielding percentage.

Pensacola, much like Daytona, only had one majority player at shortstop. Zach Vincej started 98 games for the Blue Wahoos at the position and played in 121 games overall. At the plate he was solid, but unspectacular. He hit .281/.329/.378 with 25 walks and 85 strikeouts in 438 plate appearances. After the regular season he went to the Arizona Fall League. In 71 at-bats he crushed the ball. He hit .352/.425/.676 with more home runs, four, than he hit in entire regular season, three. In the field the 25-year-old was outstanding. He only made four errors on the season, posting a .991 fielding percentage.

The Blue Wahoos saw another shortstop at times during the season. Calten Daal played exclusively at shortstop for Pensacola in 2016. Unfortunately, he was riddled by injuries. In his first game of the season, in the first trip to the plate, he was hit in the helmet by a pitch. It was the second plate appearance in a row that he was hit in the helmet by a pitch, as his 2015 season ended in the same manner. This would cost him a few weeks on the disabled list before he returned late in April. When he returned from the disabled list he hit very well, posting a .337/.387/.372 line in 25 games. However he hit the disabled list with a shoulder strain on June 3rd. He returned 11 days later, but his stay wasn’t for long as he went back to the disabled list with the same injury on July 9th and saw his year come to an end. Daal would only play in 40 games, but hit well – posting a .310/.365/.379 line as a 22-year-old. There’s not much power there, but he’s got tools to work with.

Louisville saw a mix of a handful of players at the shortstop position. It was led by Jose Peraza, but no one saw a bunch of time at the position.

Overall Thoughts

The Cincinnati Reds currently have Zack Cozart as their starting shortstop. Jose Peraza looks to be the current near-term plan for the future at the position. In the minor leagues there is some depth at the position. With that said, all of the current minor league shortstops have some uncertainty in their game when it comes to profiling as a starter. Many of them have more of a look as a utility player who can move around to several positions. With that said, given the options at the big league level, there may not be a need to rush anyone and it can give them more time to develop their skills and possibly get more from them in the long run. It’s that lack of certainty that holds down the positional grade at this point.

Grade: C/C+

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31 Responses

  1. Sim

    You are ever the optimist when it comes to the Reds. I actually admire you for that. It is good to hear another voice instead of someone who is just going to praise you for your excellent research and insight so let me be the dissenting voice.
    The Reds have Peraza penciled in at 2b this year. Although things can change and peeps can move around doesn’t seem like a likely scenario if Peraza finds substantial success defensively.
    Zack Cozart is a more than adequate defensive SS. If we have a minor league player that has Zack Defense potential we are probably ok (Rodriquez). I would personally give our SS position a D- because aside from Peraza we have nobody readily available to take the throne away from Cozart if he is either injured or traded. Dilson is clearly not being rushed and there is more than likely a logical reason that we are not privy to.
    We have literally no AAA depth for SS. If we get an injury we are looking at a significant bind to plug SS.

    • Simon Cowell

      Sorry it cut off my name not sure why post above is from the great Simon Cowell

      • Champ Summers

        If the goal was to point out that when Cozart is gone we don’t have an everday replacement after Peraza I think you could say that about most teams depth. Vincej can field the position today. He might not hit but neither could Janish.

        As someone else pointed out Suarez isn’t that far removed from playing SS if you want to sacrifice defense.

    • MK

      Vincej was selected the best shortstop in Division I NCAA baseball and last year was the MILB Gold Glove shortstop for all the minor leagues. He should be able to fill in more than adequately if need be at the big league level.

      • Champ Summers

        No depth in AAA? what depth do you want? Its the minors?? Vincej is your SS in AAA. If he gets hurt Daal can take that spot. At 23 I’m sure Trahan could fill in too. Also Blandino may not be a SS but he can certainly handle it in a pinch. Worst case there’s always a scrap heap vet they could pluck like many team do in AAA.

        Not sure Doug needs a voice of dissent for the sake of dissent?

      • wes

        I think grading our whole system as a C is fair. And if Peraza pans out with ave/above ave D we are in good shape. If not, I don’t think Vincej is going to be the answer and we need to find a guy. I hope that the Reds think Royce Lewis can play short long term and draft him. MLB says he is already grading higher than Moniak (last years #1). If we can get him at pick 2 he could be our long term solution/cornerstone type player that we need to compete. As well as solidify an extremely important/competitive position.

        BIG SIDE NOTE- Reds top 30 didn’t come out today on MLB- that means we are top 10 farm according to them.

    • Simon Cowell

      I can’t reply to Champ Summers baseball card for some reason. I offer a different mindset than candy pleasing.
      There is no depth at SS if Cozart goes down. Who in AAA has experience at the MLB level if he isn’t there? Peraza is keyed in at 2B? you think VinceJ is MLB ready? I’m not so sure he is even MLB capable.

      • Doug Gray

        If the only way to grade a farm system is having MLB ready depth at AAA, then every position on almost every team in baseball is going to be a D or worse.

        Your outlook is awfully strange.

      • Simon Cowell

        Can’t reply to Doug directly not sure why. Doug…. you yourself bring up the point that the guys listed have work to do and questions to their game. Isn’t having depth about having mlb ready pieces? We don’t.

      • Doug Gray

        Having minor league depth is about having possibilities at different levels.

    • Champ Summers

      The answer is Peraza. He is only at 2b as long as Cozart is in his way. If he vacates 2B the choices are considerable. Herrera, Renda, Dixon could all play there in 2017 plus Alcantara can play there too.

      Last time we had 2 young SS ready to play we didn’t sit on depth. We traded one. Gregorious wasn’t just set to rot behind Cozart. Remember Larkin/ Stillwell.

    • RFM

      ‘The Reds have Peraza penciled in at 2b’. Yeah, it’s in pencil because he’ll be the starting shortstop if Cozart gets traded or hurt. And they’re clearly prioritizing trading Cozart.

      ‘Dilson is clearly not being rushed and there is more than likely a logical reason we’re not privy to’. You are privy to the reason, Peraza is ahead of him on the middle infield depth chart. Herrera is caught in a logjam. They want Herrera to play every day, that’s no secret and that’s very logical. He’ll get a spot when Cozart is traded.

      Someone at the upper levels who’s been completely left out of the discussion is Arismendy Alcantara. He’s not going to be a good defender but he’s played SS a lot, and will likely be the backup shortstop this year, as a 25 year old. I’d argue that he’s third on the everyday SS depth chart, after Cozart and Peraza, but ahead of Vincej.

      I guess as a major leaguer he’s not ‘AAA depth’ anymore. But he is a young guy with highly regarded young talent (albeit raw and unrefined). Ideally he’s used in a INF/OF utility role, but I think we’ll see a lot of him this year.

  2. Paula Abdul

    I think Suarez could be moved back to SS, Duval could be moved to 3rd and Winker brought in. Not too sure about 3rd at that point, but it would be an option.

    • Kap

      Pretty sure the “Duval to third” ship already sailed. He apparently was kinda brutal playing there when he was still in the Giants minor leagues. Winker will be up sometime in the summer when either Schebler or Duval struggle or get hurt. As for Suarez, he will more than likely have to find a new position when Senzel arrives. Short can still be a possibility but it’s unlikely. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out…

    • The Duke

      Duvall was a butcher at 3B. That he was as good as he was defensively in LF was a nice surprise.

      Suarez was an average to below average defensive SS, and that was before he got bigger. He’s listed at 5’11” 213 lbs, but I wouldn’t be shocked if 220 was closer to the mark.

      Long term, Senzel is going to be at 3B. Suarez will either shift to 2B if it opens up, or move to a reserve role. If he wants to stay a regular, he needs to hit this year, because replacements are coming. His increased walk rate and .169 iso-P last year were nice, but the .248 average and the 155 K’s need improvement. In August he was a .280/.348/.470 hitter. That guy can force his way into a starting role. The .245/.321/.296 hitter he was in September, but so much.

  3. Patrick

    This is position that i think is the most interesting to see what happens during the year.

    I want to see if someone steps up to become Cozart heir.

  4. dan

    It feels like everyone is assuming Dilson Herrera comes up and plays 2B and Peraza slides in at SS. What if Herrera sucks and/or Peraza has issues at SS (will probably translate to issues at the plate)?

    They need a plan and I don’t think they have one. I think the only reason to trade Cozart is if they get an offer they cant refuse.

    • The Duke

      That assumes Cozart doesn’t deteriorate as he goes into his mid 30’s. Anything beyond this year requires a new contract, potentially multi year contract. He turns 32 this August.

      • RFM

        Because the Braves thought perennial gold glover Andrelton Simmons was a better defensive shortstop and the Dodgers thought Corey Seager was their future shortstop. That’s where the narrative came from, and why he was moved off the position.

        And I think it’s logical to consider someone with his speed as a CF or 2b option. He seemingly has everything it takes to be an elite defender at those positions, while he might be more of an average defensive shortstop. The Reds are in a position where they’re okay with an average defensive shortstop, though, while Peraza’s two previous teams weren’t.

        I don’t think there’s any fine line between “can” and “can’t” play shortstop. It’s just a question of what you’re willing to accept. If you hit .300+ or hit like Seager or Tulo or Machado they’ll accept a lot less from your glove. There are cases like Suarez, who you can’t guarantee, in my opinion, won’t be moved back to SS… it just depends on what the team needs in the future. Arismendy Alcantara will probably play there some this year. So, yeah, the line between “can” and “can’t” often seems pretty darn vague, undefined, arbitrary, and flexible…

    • Yucatan man

      I agree. What happens if the reds young starting pitchers progress and perform well next year? It wouldn’t hurt to pay cozart $20 mill for 3 years. He is proven and could be a leader for cheap.

  5. The Duke

    The guy I’m really interested to see this year is Vincej. I have no delusions that he repeats his AFL numbers in AAA (baseball history is littered with AFL studs who did nothing in the show), but his plus defense does lower the offensive bar for him to be a usable piece. At worst, I think he can be a cheap reserve middle infielder for a few years as a defensive replacement. If he can be a .250/.310/.350 player at the big league level, he can be a league average SS with his defensive value. Any production offensively above that, and he’s above average.

    • sultanofswaff

      I was watching the video on Vincej—the bat speed was unexpected. It wouldn’t surprise me to see his offense catch up with his glove.

  6. sultanofswaff

    I’m a bit more bullish on the SS position than Doug. Peraza is legit SS, and behind him you have a pair of guys with league average potential who’ve had success A+/AA. Behind them you might have an all glove no bat Davey Concepcion type in AlfRod. Daal has all the tools to stick. More to the point, a lot of shortstops move to 2B, and when viewed thru that lens, there’s even more to like. I’d rate the system B/B+.

    • Doug Gray

      Well, if Peraza were eligible on the farm, the grade would be significantly higher. But he’s not. So that leaves the position without a Top 20 prospect, and only one Top 30 guy.

  7. The Duke

    I’m not sure if Blake Trahan has the upside to be a regular, but I can see him being a solid reserve MIF

  8. Arnold Z

    The SS position will be affected by the #2 selection in the 2017 MLB draft. The next Barry Larkin might be selected there. Hunter Greene or Royce Lewis coming to Billings in late June.

    • DanD

      I also like the idea with our second choice in the draft being Ricardo De La Torre out of Puerto Rico.

  9. Champ Summers

    Doug’s grade isn’t all that optimistic and positive. I think its about right based on the ceiling for most of these guys. There isn’t a ton of optimism for anyone in the system. Guys don’t project as much more than fringe starter at SS or as a good reserve. Sounds like a C to me. The gamble is on Peraza. We traded a valuable piece to acquire a very young SS. If he doesn’t stick then it’s back to the drawing board.

    Herrera doesn’t need to be the guy but it would be nice. There are 4 or 5 guys who could pan out there.

  10. Brad

    I believe the Reds are able to use this rebuild to setup roster for next 10-12 years. For example, Jose Peraza is the next SS up, after Cozart is moved, he is under team control through 2019 and arbitration years 2020-2022. Scenarios: 1) Peraza is an above average regular and is extended beyond 2022, 2) Peraza is average regular and is traded or leaves as a FA and Alf-Rod or another SS in system fills gap for 2023-2028. 3) Peraza is not good enough.

    I like having a number of SS capable guys in upper minors that can fill SS/2B bench spot: Vincej, Daal, Blandino, Trahan, etc. plug in Alf-Rod and Shed Long as potential everyday guys behind Peraza and Herrera is intriguing depth the Reds rarely have.