The Cincinnati Reds bench has three utility players on it: Arismendy Alcantara, Scooter Gennett, and Patrick Kivlehan. Gennett has hit very well this year and has been roughly league average at the plate in the past. Kivlehan has been solid off of the bench, posting a .299 on-base percentage and a .409 slugging percentage. Alcantara, however, has really struggled. The 25-year-old has one walk and 29 strikeouts in just 81 plate appearances to go along with a .535 OPS. Perhaps it’s time to consider replacing him, or at least thinking about replacing him in the future. The guy that could be that replacement may be Zach Vincej.

Spending all of the 2017 season in Triple-A with Louisville, Zach Vincej hasn’t exactly jumped off of the stat sheet. He’s hitting .281/.338/.347 on the season. Good average, gets on base a little bit, not much pop. He’s walked 16 times and he’s struck out 22 times. His strikeout rate is only 10%, which is a stark contrast from what a guy like Alcantara is bringing to the table. Vincej has also been swinging a very hot bat lately. Since the start of June he’s hit .351 with 10 walks and 12 strikeouts.

Zach Vincej is actually five months older than Alcantara is, and while Alcantara is playing in part of his 4th Major League season, Vincej has yet to see the big leagues. When it comes to a straight tools-to-tools comparison, Vincej is a little bit behind. He’s not quite as fast, his power doesn’t profile as well. However, it’s the offensive side of things where Alcantara simply hasn’t been able to get it done. Over his last 100 big league plate appearances, spanning the 2016 and 2017 seasons, he has one walk and 37 strikeouts and an OPS of .523. He has four stolen bases and has been caught stealing three times. The tools simply aren’t playing and with that kind of plate discipline it’s hard to see how they will.

For Zach Vincej, he has essentially only played second base and shortstop in the minor leagues. He’s played parts of two innings at third base and never any outfield in the minor leagues since being drafted in 2012. Ideally you would prefer to see a utility guy get a little more experience at other spots, but he can play up the middle on the infield and I’d imagine he could handle third base defensively if asked.

It’s not so much the defense, though, where this could be an upgrade for the Reds. While Zach Vincej isn’t ever going to show you the kind of raw power that Arismendy Alcantara will, he has a far better understanding of the strikezone and is going to give you a quality at-bat. He’s going to make plenty of contact. Vincej isn’t going to be confused with Billy Hamilton when it comes to his speed, but he’s not slow and can be used as a pinch runner, too.

The role of utility player isn’t something that everyone is cut out for. Some guys can play once or twice a week and maintain their approach and ability at the plate. Some guys simply can’t. It would appear that Arismendy Alcantara is one of the guys that simply can’t. He does provide the ability to play around the field. But, if he’s unable to provide any sort of value with the bat, it’s probably time to consider other options. Zach Vincej may be one of those options who can back you up around the infield and give you a better chance of doing anything at the plate.

39 Responses

  1. Steve

    When I think of a utility player, Vincej is not the first player I think about. Iribarren, Sweeney and Renda fit the profile better as they have been used in that role. Iribarren can also make some appearances in blowout games as a reliever. Lol. If Cozart is traded, Vincej can battle Peraza for the starting spot. My feeling is that Sweeney was obtained for a utility role. He’s also a switch hitter, which may make him a better pinch hitting option. Age is against Iribarren and Renda has not been playing regularly. Vincej can surely be a candidate for the utility role. But, how about Blandino?

    • Doug Gray

      Vincej isn’t the first player I think about, either. But he might be the most logical choice right this second, too.

      Blandino is at a point where I’m intrigued enough about what he’s done in 2017 that I’m not ready to pigeon-hole him into a utility role just yet. Yes, he’s in a very deep line of possible future second baseman, and he might not be at the top of my list among the guys there, but there’s enough there that I’m not ready to call it quits on him as far as that, either.

  2. DHud

    Lots of guys in Louisville who could fill that role better than Alcantara or maybe Kivlehan. Vincej, Renda, Irribaren, Dixon, Blandino, Sweeney… And that’s just the players with most flexibility. Elizalde has done nothing but hit and could be a good PH/4th OF. Ervin has seen time in the bigs already. And obviously then there’s Winker

    Point is, I guess, the best 25 players in the organization aren’t on the big league club.

  3. Shamrock

    I think Peraza would make a nice fit for Alcantara’s spot on the bench

    • Kap

      My thoughts exactly. I think Vincej brings more to the table than Peraza at this point. Vincej is better on defense and has better plate disapline

  4. Hingle McCringleberry

    Baseball is amazing sometimes. You can have a guy in arismendy who ripped the cover off of the baseball in spring training, then get to the major leagues and not get any at bats. This is the worse case of player management i’ve ever seen. Maybe the second case is drew storen? What price has done to this kid is an embarrassment. You cant get this guy in regular rotations? I bet Joe maddon could. Terry francona would.

    Kivy is batting at a .225/.296 clip but he can get the at bats? He’s suspect in the outfield. Arismendy should be the first option in the outfield. I truly believe the right manager can turn the switch on in this guy. Its hard to produce with 2 or 3 at bats per week.

    • Matt McWax

      There are always guys like this who kill spring training and then flop (e.g. Brennan Boesch in 2015). Alcantara’s has 16 games with 2 or more plate appearances (only 9 hits and 1 walk in those games) and another 31 with 1 plate appearance. For comparison, Kivlehan also has 16 games with 2 or more plate appearances and another 40 with 1 plate appearance. Is that really THE WORST case of player mismanagement you’ve ever seen? I just don’t see the ability, whether you use the eye test or the stats. I’m sure he would have some nice games here and there but I don’t think letting him go will be regretted later. Like everyone else has mentioned, there are a lot of guys to fill this spot at roughly the same talent level. Alcantara is sub-replacement level so not too big of shoes to fill.

      Overall, this has been one of our best years for not having a lot of dead offensive players on the bench. In 2015, we gave 681 plate appearances to Negron, Bourgeois, Schumaker, and Boesch (WAR of -.5, -.6, -1.1, and -1.4 respectively).

      If I was going to hold Price or the other staff to the fire for anything, it’s probably for Peraza who hasn’t altered his approach at all. He needs to be TOLD.

      • Matt McWax

        meant to say letting him go won’t be regretted later.

    • Bill

      I can’t knock Bryan Price’s low allocation of playing time or at bats to Alcantara knowing that additional opportunities would have likely come at the expense of Scooter Gennett. To the contrary, Price should get credit for finding 189 ABs for Gennett while allowing Peraza every opportunity to build on last year’s strong performance and enabling Cozart to maximize his trade value.

  5. Michael B. Green

    The challenge with all/most of these guys is the 40MR. In the offseason, when all DL60 guys need added back on or cut, you have a roster crunch. Then, you have to add guys like Mahle and Long. I think both need added this coming off season.

    • Doug Gray

      It’s certainly going to get tough this offseason to make everyone fit. Between the 60-day guys and the guys needed to be added from the minors, there will be some tough decisions.

    • Norwood Nate

      2 of the 5 on the 60-day are Arroyo and Ogando. Feldman, Storen, and Cozart will leave as FA (or trades). There’s a couple of players such as Wojo, Bonilla, Shackleford, Alcantara, Wood, and Mella who will probably have a tenuous hold on a spot.

  6. Tampa Red

    If the Reds are going to make a move with Alcantara, personally I would prefer Dixon as a utility player. More position flexibility and more thump in the bat. He’s on a nice two month run now and if he can keep it up over the next few weeks I’d like to see what he can do at the big league level.

    That’s not a knock on Vincej. I like him as a player too and would be fine if he was the guy to replace Alcantara. It’s a shame about AA. Once a top-100 prospect who really isn’t suited for the role he’s in.

    • CP

      Only trouble with Dixon is he can’t play SS I don’t believe….

      • Tampa Red

        That’s true but I’m assuming we’re filling Alcantara’s spot and Pereza isn’t going to get sent down. When he needs a day off why not let Suarez take a turn at SS for a game?

        I think as long as Reds are gonna carry 3 catchers and 7 guys in the pen then they’re gonna need max position flexibility on their bench and that guy is definitely Dixon. Again, nothing against Vincej.

  7. MikeinSoCal

    Vincej’s advantage is that he is a true SS. Can’t just throw anybody out there at SS. Perhaps several of the potential bench players can hit better than Vincej but Vincej is a minor league gold glover at SS and can probable give the same performance at 2B. Recently his bat has come alive, hopefully not a fluke.

  8. The Duke

    Vincej is 26 years old and is a plus defender up the middle who can give you a quality at bat. Sounds like a good reserve IF to me. Now is a time to cycle through some guys like Vincej, Dixon, Renda, and Iribarren to see if/which one of these guys you would want for a bench spot next year. Makes a lot more sense than paying 7 figures for a washed up player who used to start on the downside of their career.

    • wes

      I agree. We have had a lot of injuries and sub par performances. I am surprised we haven’t seen more guys up at big league level.

  9. MikeinSoCal

    Wishful thinking, Cozart hits two homers in the All Star game, gets MVP, and teams come calling. Peraza goes to SS. Vincej becomes the infield backup.

    • Redson Mind

      You’re really excited for Peraza to replace Cozart? He would be a downgrade defensively and at the plate just to be clear right? Well at least he can steal 30 bases and has a cool last name

  10. Fainsniners

    I know irribaren and elizalde are older but they both seem pretty professional and know the game well so while over on the bench they could talk n help younger guys out and keep the spirit up and the bench in game. and both would give good abs n bothcan hit well they seem like they were made for that kinda roll

  11. Sandheel

    Off-subject, but Adam Duvall is the most under-appreciated Red I can remember.

    We are at the half-way point (81 games) and Adam is hitting.284 with 19 HR and 58 RBI

    • wes

      Yeah IDK about that….behind Votto he’s got the best job security on the team IMO. Ilgasias is way more likely to be traded due to position.

    • Doug Gray

      I’d say that Adam Dunn fits that category for me. There were tons of people who actually thought he sucked. The guy was absolutely flawed, but he was so good at the plate that it made up for those deficiencies and then some.

      I’m not sure anyone thinks Duvall sucks. Some just don’t think he’s as good as others do.

      • Hingle McCringleberry

        If you would have told those people that duvall was going to hit .280- .285 at the break they would have burned you at the stake. Some reds fan cant recognize a player with value. I know i don’t speak for you doug and i’m not trying to. I’m just saying that reds fans are hooked on novelties. They fall for players like stubbs, bruce, hamilton, bailey. Everybody else is expendable. I don’t get it.

  12. wes

    Not a lot of NL central signings on BA top 50 international. That’s good news.

    • Doug Gray

      Cubs, Reds and Cardinals are all in the penalty phase. So that explains a lot of it.

  13. Stock

    I just don’t see a spot for Vincej. I see the Reds extending Cozart. He is one of the best SS in the majors and it would be shrewd to sign him long term. 2017/2018 you have Cozart/Gennett/Peraza. By 2019 Blandino and/or Long will be in the picture. Maybe if they get good value for Gennett a spot opens.

    • sultanofswaff

      The media is reporting there is mutual interest in extending Cozy. I’ve been saying for a while the team should at least explore the parameters of an extension.

      Cozart’s body of work with the bat the last couple years convinced me he has turned the corner offensively. I would have no problem giving him 2 years after this one with a team option for a third at, say, $13 million per. The Reds could easily absorb that salary given that so much of the team is pre-arb. All that said, you need a manager that won’t run him into the ground in back to back years!

      • MK

        Don’t think it is the body of work that should be an issue, it is just the body that can not seem to say on the field.

      • Doug Gray

        Signing shortstops to extensions who are already on the wrong side of 30 is usually a very bad idea. Doing so when the player has literally had one offensive season that’s ever been quality sounds a bit crazy to me.

  14. David

    Alcantara had his chance, and IMO, failed. DFA him. If he gets claimed, wish him good luck. At most, it will set the rebuild back about 20 seconds. Why he is still on the 25-man roster is a mystery to us all.

    • Shawn

      I agree. I couldn’t see anyone claiming him. Bring up Iribarren.

  15. DaveCT

    I see Vincej as a decent infield reserve option, but until the catching situation changes, we are boxed in. While his strength is his skill at SS, his deficit is currently lack of experience at 2B, 3B and CF. This team is hard pressed to have a guy such as Alacantara who can cover that space defensively, due in large part to carrying Turner (which, in turn, is due to the Mesoraco situation). Gennett is limited to 2B and the corner OF spots, so I actually think Vincej’s best chance is if the team demoted Peraza to work on his offensive game, and keeping Alcantara, as Peraza would need regular playing time. If Vincej shows something, Peraza can resume his SS/2B/CF role from 2016 with a DFA for Alcantara.

  16. Krozley

    I’d like to see Louisville play Vincej every day at a position other than shortstop to get him used to a utility role. Let Blandino play shortstop and see if those two can be serviceable at multi-positions to give them better bench options moving forward.

  17. Cguy

    With the Reds adding 3 new ss prospects to the fold in the last month (Jose Israel Garcia, Jeter Downs, & Cash Case), how would you rank them relative to Reds previous ss selections such as Alfredo Rodriguez, Blake Trahan, Calten Daal, & perhaps Zach Vincej?

    • Cguy

      Ok, it’s a trick question. Hunter Greene signs & becomes a ss not a rhp. Nick Senzel, Hunter Greene, & Shed Long become fixtures in the Reds infield for many years. As to whom mans 1st (by 2019) it could be Votto, Duvall, or LaValley. Jeter Downs places behind Greene, Alf Rod shows 3rd. Behind them, it’s just trade chips or utility infielders.