Friday, March 30, 2012

The battle for the last roster spots, who gets 'em?

Cincinnati faces a major dilemma in how to use Chapman
It's simply math, really. The Redlegs currently have 28 healthy players on their active roster, but only 25 will be in uniform on Opening Day. For all you number-crunchers out there, this means that three players won't make the cut. Luckily, most of the roster has already been set in stone.

However, there are a few decisions to be made. Most notably, who will be the team's fifth starter in the rotation and who will win the final two spots for position players? Here are the pros and cons of each potential candidate on the fringe of making the 25-man roster:

The battle for the last spot in the rotation....

RHP Homer Bailey
Spring stats: 1-2, 7.98 ERA, 14.2 IP, 6 Ks, 7 BB
Pros: Good upside, has shown flashes of brilliance, experienced, made great strides in 2011
Cons: Injury-prone, lacks consistency/reliability
Other notes: Out of options

LHP Aroldis Chapman
Spring stats: 2-0, 2.12 ERA, 17 IP, 18 Ks, 2 BB
Pros: Huge upside, can setup, can serve as a starter?, has had an excellent spring, can draw fans to ballpark, can help team win in some form or fashion
Cons: Unproven ability to start in the majors, durability, lacks control at times
Other notes: Still has options, pricey (5yr/$25.5M contract)

LHP Jeff Francis
Spring stats: 0-2, 8.44 ERA, 16 IP, 12 Ks, 1 BB
Pros: Left-handed, durable, good command, ability to make spot-start, could be useful in long-relief, experienced, low-risk
Cons: Hasn't had a good spring, would take away roster spot from player currently on roster, low upside
Other notes: Non-roster invite, willing to start year in Triple-A

The battle for the last two spots on the bench....

3B Juan Francisco
Spring stats: .170 (8-47), 3 HR, 7 RBIs, 16 Ks, 1 BB
Pros: Provides power off the bench, a back-up to Scott Rolen at third
Cons: Showed up to camp overweight, hasn't had a good spring, too many strikeouts, not enough walks, low average, below-average range defensively
Other notes: Out of options, could be in Dusty Baker's "doghouse" already
Frazier has clearly outplayed
Francisco this spring

3B/LF Todd Frazier
Spring stats: .265 (13-49), 4 HR, 11 RBIs, 9 RS, 13 Ks
Pros: Ability to play both third and left, possesses pop, can hit for average, has earned a spot on the roster this preseason
Cons: Strikes out a lot, inexperienced
Other notes: Still has options left

UTL Willie Harris
Spring stats: .233 (10-43), 0 HR, 7 RBIs, 3 SB, 7 RS
Pros: Experienced, can play multiple positions, would serve as a valuable pinch-runner and/or defensive sub
Cons: Provides below-average run production, below-average power, age? (33)
Other notes: Non-roster invite

INF Paul Janish
Spring stats: .306 (11-36), 1 HR, 6 RBIs, 7 BB, 9 RS
Pros: Great glove, familiar with organization, good range defensively, experienced
Cons: Limited offensive skills, doesn't provide much value to team other than glove
Other notes: Still has options

UTL Wilson Valdez
Spring stats: .302 (13-43), 0 HR, 3 RBIs, 6 RS
Pros: Can play multiple positions, experienced, would serve as valuable late-inning defensive sub
Cons: Limited offensive production, low value as a pinch-hitter, age? (33)
Other notes: Out of options

My picks: If it were up to me, I would start the year with Bailey as the fifth starter, use Chapman in the setup role, and use Francis as the "long-man" in the bullpen. This may not be in the best interest of the team in the long-run, but since the Reds have gone "all-in" this season it makes sense to put your best squad on the diamond, regardless of how the pieces may fit. If things aren't working out once May rolls around, the Reds can always decide to change it up.

I would go with Frazier and Valdez as the last two position players. Frazier has earned a spot on the roster with his play this spring and would provide a solid back-up to Rolen at third, and if need-be, an option to play left as well. Valdez provides another veteran presence in the clubhouse and a decent backup to rookie Zack Cozart at short.

Janish would begin the year in Triple-A and Harris would have the choice to join him. The real wild card with these moves would be with Francisco. He's out of options and thus, would have to be DFA'd (Designated For Assignment). The club would then have ten days to either trade him, release him, or place him on waivers (and hope another team doesn't claim him). The Reds would most likely attempt the waiver route.

What are your thoughts on the final roster shakedown? Should the club give the fifth spot to Chapman and relegate Bailey to the 'pen? Would you rather have a different set of position players occupy the bench? Let us hear ya.

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