The Cincinnati Reds are at a turning point in recent franchise history.
Over two decades removed from Cincinnati's last World Series appearance, the organization seems prepped for another run with the recent acquisitions of starter Mat Latos, set-up man Sean Marshall, closer Ryan Madson and outfielder Ryan Ludwick.
The reverse can be said of the amount of infielders on the roster—15. While there is one more position in the infield (excluding catcher) than in the outfield, this still amounts to about four players per infield position and less than two per outfield position.
There are two outfielders who are non-roster invitees in Goodyear this spring—Daryl Jones and Willie Harris. Although Harris is listed as an outfielder, he is actually more of a utility player and less of an actual outfielder. With only six true outfielders in camp, one must question the mentality of GM Walt Jocketty and manager Dusty Baker going into the 2012 season.
Several of the infielders on the team can play outfield, such as Wilson Valdez, Todd Frazier and even third baseman Juan Francisco. The only one of the this three who has seen playing time at outfield positions outside of left field is Valdez, but still this gives Jocketty and Baker flexibility when trimming the final roster down to 25 players.
The bench slots for the infield are currently under contention by Valdez, Frazier, Francisco, Paul Janish, Miguel Cairo and Chris Valaika. Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Scott Rolen, and Zack Cozart are the favorites for rounding out the starting infield, with Cozart the only possible question mark in the group.
Of the outfielders, Ludwick, Bruce, Stubbs, and Heisey are locks to make the team. Phipps has an very slim outside chance of cracking the roster but will probably start the season at Triple-A Louisville and Jones is likely only organizational depth.
Assuming Cincinnati carries a total of 12 pitchers and two catchers, this leaves four bench positions. One of these slots will go to Heisey, with Cairo likely reprising his infield utility role from last season.
With the acquisition of Valdez, it can safely be assumed he is a front-runner for one of the two last spots. Francisco has spent extensive time in the minors and is out of options, so he will likely take up the last spot. He also possesses some pop, and will likely serve both as a bench hitter and spell Rolen at third base every several games.
That leaves Valaika, Janish and Frazier as players likely to be optioned to Triple-A, as they still have options remaining. Janish and Valaika would not serve as capable bench bats, while Frazier's remaining options make him moveable in comparison to Francisco. Willie Harris will likely either accept a Triple-A assignment or revert to a free agent.
This roster make-up leaves something to be desired defensively for the outfield. Ludwick is an average-fielding corner outfielder at best, and will share time with Heisey in leftfield. Valdez can play center, but realistically the only backup for Drew Stubbs is Heisey.
One can see how having such a small amount of capable outfielders will likely cause issues. Late in games, defensive replacements will be limited and injuries could truly create major issues.
It seems that Jocketty made a mistake in not acquiring another outfielder for the 2012 season.