The Reds’ Upcoming Roster Dilemma

The Reds’ Upcoming Roster Dilemma

Joey Votto is eligible to be activated from the injured list prior to Friday’s game in Philadelphia. While it’s unclear if Votto is ready to join the team immediately after spending some time on a rehab assignment in AAA, whenever the Reds do choose to activate Votto, they’ll have a difficult roster decision.

The Reds likely came into the season with the plan that Jason Vosler, a left handed first baseman like Votto, was just a stopgap option that would be sent down or designated for assignment when Votto was ready. Vosler clearly didn’t have the same plan, and has spent the first week of the season proving he deserves a chance to stick around.

He’s gone 5 for 15 with three home runs, a double, and a triple, scoring four runs and driving in seven. Vosler has professional experience at every position except catcher, though the vast majority of his time has come as a corner infielder. Still, that positional flexibility, particularly the ability to play the outfield, could be the key to him remaining with the team.

Looking beyond Vosler, there are two other candidates that would make sense to send down when Votto returns. Those are outfielders Stuart Fairchild and Will Benson. Fairchild was initially optioned to the minors during Spring Training, but ultimately made the Opening Day roster. Perhaps the plan was for him to just be a short term fill-in until Votto and/or Nick Senzel returned. He is a right handed hitter though, something the Reds are lacking in the outfield, so sending him down prior to Senzel’s return might not be a realistic option. He has just seven plate appearances so far, with a walk, hit by pitch, and a home run.

Benson is a left handed hitting outfielder, acquired from Cleveland in the offseason likely with the intention of factoring into the center field mix all season. Though he’s still young and has plenty of potential, Benson has struggled thus far against Major League pitching. Playing sparsely for Cleveland down the stretch last season, Benson posted a 32 wRC+ in 61 PA. He’s come to the plate 12 times for the Reds this season, failing to get on base while striking out nine times. He’s generally looked overmatched in just about every plate appearance, and could potentially benefit from some additional time in AAA. Benson does have three options left, so the Reds aren’t pressed to keep him on the MLB roster all year.

Given Vosler’s success and Benson’s struggles, it would honestly be a fairly big surprise if the Reds didn’t opt to send Benson to AAA for the time being. Still, it only really kicks the can down the road another couple weeks, as Senzel is also nearing a return. Injuries and performance over the next couple weeks will be the key to who sticks around and who’s sent down when Senzel returns, though it’s worth noting that Senzel himself has options left and could be sent to AAA upon completing his rehab assignment.

Image: Twitter

Kyle Berger

Kyle Berger is a lifelong Reds fan who has lived in the Cincinnati area for his entire life. Kyle has always been interested in the analytics side of baseball, and recently graduated from Miami University with a degree in Business Analytics. You can follow him on Twitter @KB_48, where most of his Tweets are about the Reds or baseball in general.