What options do the Reds have if Jeimer Candelario misses time?

Infielder Jeimer Candelario left Wednesday’s game against the Phillies with a hyperextended elbow. According to David Bell, the hope is that it’s nothing serious, and the plan is for Candelario to be re-evaluated on Friday.

Still, there have been many cases in recent years where the Reds downplayed an injury only to see the player miss extended time, so it’s worth wondering if they may be in a similar situation with Candelario. That leads to the question of what the Reds could do if Candelario does have to miss extended time, or at least spend 10 days on the IL.

First, we can start by looking at how Candelario’s absence would impact the lineup. While Candelario is an every day player that starts against both RHP and LHP, it seems reasonable to expect there will be a larger impact against LHP.

Against RHP, it seems likely that the Reds will just slot Santiago Espinal into the lineup for Candelario, at least the majority of the time. However, they could also move Spencer Steer into the infield on occasion and give Stuart Fairchild some more time in the outfield.

Against LHP, that becomes more complex given that the bench currently includes left-handed hitters Jake Fraley and Nick Martini, neither of whom are ideal to play against a LHP. Assuming those two aren’t going to play more against LHP, that leaves only the backup catcher and Bubba Thompson, who has yet to record a plate appearance while being used exclusively as a pinch runner.

Naturally, if Candelario ends up heading to the IL, the Reds would bring someone up to take his roster spot. Short term, none of the options at AAA Louisville jump off the page as great options. Left-handed hitters Jacob Hurtubise (currently on the IL), Conner Capel, and Mike Ford can likely be ruled out given the specific need the Reds would have. Prospect Rece Hinds, a right-hander with experience as a corner infielder and corner outfielder, could be intriguing, though he’s played a grand total of six games at the AAA level heading into Friday. The same is true of Blake Dunn, a right-handed outfielder.

If we exclude Dunn, Hinds, and all of the left-handed hitters, that leaves just a few, relatively uninspiring options. Hernán Pérez and Erik González have Major League experience, but thrusting either of them into a platoon role isn’t likely to provide positive results based on their recent history, as neither have a career MLB OPS over .700.

Perhaps the most creative option would be giving the call to one of Louisville’s three catchers — Austin Wynns, Michael Trautwein, or P.J. Higgins. The Reds wouldn’t necessarily be calling any of them up to start, even against LHP. Rather, the call-up could assume the third catcher role, allowing the use of Luke Maile or Tyler Stephenson as the DH against LHP.

Given that both Stephenson (109 wRC+ against LHP in 2023) and Maile (98 wRC+ against LHP in 2023) can provide near-average or better offense against LHP, this could ultimately be the best option to minimize the loss of Candelario’s bat against LHP. Of course, the hope is that Candelario will miss only a few days at most, and none of this will matter. But any further injuries to others or extended missed time by Candelario would put them in this same situation, at least until TJ Friedl returns in the coming months.

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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.

1 Response

  1. Sean Lahman says:

    We spent all winter talking abut how the reds had more players than they had room for, yet here we are, a week into the season trying to figure out scenarios for when the 4th guy in the starting lineup gets hurt. Baseball is something else, and I really hope that injuries don’t derail such a promising season. if Candelario misses more than a few days, my vote is to bring Steer back to the infield and call up a RH outfielder.