Well, the Reds won five of their first six games and then, to make sure we didn’t get our hopes up, they turned around and lost five out of six. Here we are, back where we started.
We all know that this is going to be a lost season of sorts. It’s a year that’s not about this year. Rather, it’s about next year (hopefully) and beyond. To that end, I thought it might be nice to start a regular feature wherein we check in on how the 2017 Reds are doing. That is, I don’t plan to worry about the players who are currently on the team as filler or who figure to be traded sometime this year. Instead, I want to keep an eye on the players—both major league and minor league—who are supposed to help the Reds compete next year.
Today, we start with next year’s lineup, such as it is…
Catcher: Devin Mesoraco is supposed to be the catcher not just of tomorrow, but of the whole rest of next week, so to speak. But between last year’s injury and this year’s sputtery start, you could be forgiven for wondering if that’s going to materialize. It’s early, but we’re watching him with at least a little bit of worry.
First base: Joey Votto, like Mes, has not started the year well. But…it’s Joey Votto. His track record is long and consistent. Sure, he’s in the decline phase of his career, but barring injury, he is going to be great in 2017 (and this year, too).
Second base & Shortstop: TBD/Jose Peraza (I think). We all know that Peraza is a big part of the Reds’ plans for the future, but it is a little unclear what role he has in those plans. When he was obtained, the assumption was second base. Then talk started up when he played center in spring training (and yesterday for the Bats, for the record). He’s listed as a second baseman on the Bats’ website, but his playing time has been coming primarily at short. I guess we can safely say that when he comes up, he’ll play somewhere up the middle and that’s about it. He’s started off well for the Bats, slashing .321/.367/.393 to start the season and he’s still a couple of weeks from his 22nd birthday. There are things to be concerned about, but I’m optimistic, for now.
Third base: Eugenio Suarez is not someone I need to spend a lot of time talking about. As I saw someone else put it, he seems to not make outs anymore. I bought in on Suarez the moment he was obtained, and Chad Dotson certainly had good things to say about him. I assume he’ll get the defense part together soon enough. For now, I’m thrilled to have him at the hot corner. He makes 2017 look positively promising.
Left field: Jesse Winker. I have been clamouring for Winker for a couple of years now. Why, you ask? Because he gets on base, and if there is one thing the Reds have done poorly in recent years (except for Joey Votto and the brief, glorious affair that was Shin-Soo Choo), it is get on base. The consensus is that he’ll come up this year and is being held back primarily because of service-time concerns. I’m ready. Bring him up and let him hit in front of Votto. Please!!
Center field: Here we have the ponderance that is Billy Hamilton. Despite the low batting average (.185), early returns are promising due to the fact that he’s walking 15 percent of the time. If he does that all year, he’s an MVP candidate—and no, I’m not joking. But really, with Hamilton, your guess is as good as mine. The only thing I will say is that he wouldn’t be the first player of his age to seem like he was all-glove and no-bat who then matured enough to at least become adequate at the plate. His early career, so far, matches up amazingly with that of Ozzie Smith, who didn’t become reliable with the bat until he was 27, but had enough of a glove to keep around until he figured it out. I still believe in Hamilton (for now), and I’m happy to imagine a time when he gets his OBP around .320 and keeps it there.
Right field: TBD. Seriously. Your guess is as good as mine. There are prospects and potential fill-ins, sure. But nothing concrete. Much as I love Jay Bruce, I doubt he’ll be there in 2017.
There you go. I have to say, when I look at this group, I can almost get myself excited for next year as a Reds fan. There are still a couple of holes to fill, sure. But I’m not scared that any of the places above won’t be able to hack it. At least, I’m not scared yet. Give me time and I might manage it. But for now, well, it’s always sunny next year.
Jason Linden is a contributor to Nuxhall Way, Redleg Nation, and The Hardball Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @JasonLinden.