Will Reds get Scooter-style surprise this spring?
Projecting Cincinnati's Opening Day 25-man roster
Editor's note: With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com is taking a look at different aspects of the 2018 Reds. Today's topic: predicting the 25-man roster.
CINCINNATI -- They say there are few certainties in life other than death and taxes. A similar sentiment holds true for baseball: There are only a few things you can always bank on in Major League Baseball.
One of them is that one way or another, teams will set a 25-man roster just ahead of Opening Day on March 29. Of course, the journey the Reds take getting to that point is just beginning, and they can take multiple paths to complete the process.
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Who will fill out the back of the rotation? Who will get the last three spots in the bullpen? Who will make up the bench? Injuries have rocked the Reds in recent camps -- can the club stay relatively healthy? If there are injuries, how will that affect the outcome of the roster? Could there be a surprise waiver claim, like Scooter Gennett at the end of camp last year?
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Before pitchers and catchers report on Tuesday, here is the first educated guess as MLB.com projects the Reds' Opening Day roster.
Catcher (2):Tucker Barnhart, Devin Mesoraco
For the first time, the depth chart is reversed; Barnhart will be the primary catcher with Mesoraco backing him up. Barnhart earned a four-year contract and a National League Gold Glove Award for his strong work last season. A 2014 All-Star, Mesoraco has been sidetracked by big injuries each of the last three years and will be trying to reboot himself again.
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First base (1):Joey Votto
No drama to be found here, as the runner-up for the NL MVP Award is back following up the best season of his 11-year career.
Second base (2): Gennett, Dilson Herrera
Cincinnati's best pickup of 2017 cost the club nothing more than a waiver claim before the final day of Spring Training. Gennett slugged 27 home runs with 97 RBIs in a breakout year. Mostly injured with a bad right shoulder since his July '16 trade from the Mets for Jay Bruce, Herrera is out of options and puts the club in a bind. Can he be healthy and productive enough to remain on the roster?
Shortstop (1):Jose Peraza
Peraza opened 2017 as Brandon Phillips' replacement but struggled and lost the job at second base to Gennett. Still 23, he now replaces departed free agent Zack Cozart and gets to play his natural position.
Third base (1):Eugenio Suarez
Suarez has become a superb defensive third baseman in a short amount of time. He also hit 26 homers last season.
Outfield (4):Adam Duvall, Billy Hamilton, Scott Schebler, Jesse Winker
Currently, the plan is to have the four outfielders rotate among three spots with the odd man out being a bench option. The club believes Winker is ready to get significant playing time after his second-half performance last season.
Utility (2):Phil Gosselin, Patrick Kivlehan
Both are non-roster players in camp, so that will be an extra hoop to clear for them to make the team. Gosselin can play five positions, including shortstop. Kivlehan was with the team all of last season and batted only .208, but manager Bryan Price liked his versatility -- he can also play five positions -- and he has power potential from the bench after cracking nine homers last year. He led the club in 2017 with 57 pinch-hit plate appearances.
Rotation (5):Anthony DeSclafani, Homer Bailey, Brandon Finnegan, Luis Castillo, Sal Romano
The first three spots are going to veterans trying to bounce back from injuries. Castillo made himself a lock with a sensational 15 starts as a rookie last season. The fifth spot is up for grabs, but the edge goes to Romano for now. But he wasn't the only rookie to come on strong down the stretch; Robert Stephenson also impressed with a 2.74 ERA in his final eight starts. And Tyler Mahle also looked good in a small sample size. Amir Garrett, Cody Reed, Michael Lorenzen and others will be part of this battle.
Bullpen (7):Raisel Iglesias, Jared Hughes, David Hernandez, Wandy Peralta, Lorenzen, Vance Worley, Ariel Hernandez
Iglesias will close after logging 28 saves last season, and the free-agent signings of Hughes and Hernandez are expected to bring stability. Lorenzen will get a spot if he doesn't make the rotation. It's possible another pitcher who doesn't make the rotation could land here. Hernandez is a wild-card choice because of the control issues he experienced as a rookie, but he has a lot of upside with velocity and a nasty curveball. Worley, signed to a Minor League deal, could be a potential swing man with experience as a starter and long reliever. Others in the battle for the final spots could be Kevin Shackelford, Kyle Crockett, Kevin Quackenbush, Austin Brice and Jeff Manship and prospects Jimmy Herget and Zack Weiss.