2012 Reds Depth Charts: First Base

This might be a waste of time. Worse still, I'm not sure I even want to plant the idea the Joey Votto would need a replacement. Or play less than 100% of the time. But let's just get through this.

Boy, Joey Votto is good. And there's plenty of him. Votto appeared in all but one of the Reds' games last season, starting 159 of them. It kind of sneaked up on me that this season will be his fifth as the primary starter at the "cold corner." Only by signing an extension, however, will he be able to surpass Sean Casey in seasons played at the position as a Red. That really ought to put things over the top at the negotiation table. So sign on the dotted line there, OK, and ignore that "in perpetuity" thing?

Bill James, RotoChamp and Marcel all have Votto improving on his 2011 wOBA next year, while Zips and PECOTA have him taking a half-step back. If Votto remains healthy, his projection floor is around .305/.395/.525. With Votto in his prime and the winds of a full, healthy season at his back, we're talking about other players making more than a handful of starts only if he goes on the DL. And any injury is probably a deliberate strategic move by the Say Eh Kid.

The only other player that made a start at 1B last season who is also still in the organization is Todd Frazier - and he may not even break camp with the Reds. So Dusty's most likely designated back-up is Miguel Cairo, who played a total of nine innings as a replacement in 2011 and had a handful of starts spelling an injured or resting Votto in 2010.

Meanwhile, Juan Francisco has never played an inning of 1B in the majors - and only 3 games in the minors - but if they're going carry him on the team over a fifth outfielder or more versatile utility infielder, they might as well give him some grounders there in case of emergency. If Votto did make an extended trip to the DL, Frazier or Francisco might be the ones to take over full-time. Depending on the time of year and news from Louisville, it could also be a trade or a Soto call-up.

Rank
Name
Age (2011)
40 man?
Zips projected OPS+
S/BU? PT (%) Expected level on OD 2012
1
Joey Votto
28 Y 148 S 98% MLB
2
Miguel Cairo 38 Y
95 BU 1% MLB
3
Juan Francisco
25 Y 104 BU <1% MLB
4
Todd Frazier
26
Y 94 BU <1% AAA
5
Neftali Soto
23 Y - S - AAA
6
Danny Dorn
27 N 91 BU - AAA

Joey Votto

Ceiling: 100% of MLB starts

As you know, he's good as hell and takes days off reluctantly. Last season, in an offensive downturn that is strictly relative to 2010, he still reached a career high in walk rate (15.3%) while arguably improving his defense. What struggles there were came in a power outage during May and a slump at the end of the season (.236/.300/.425 in September and October). The latter might be an argument for resting Joey a little more, though it could also be just one of those things. Despite a K-rate lower than each of his two previous seasons in 2011, Votto struck more than once every five PAs during the last month-plus, while suffering an abnormally low BABIP (.286).

The power Votto flashed in 2010 could be a high-water mark for his career, though it's far too early to say he couldn't hit those heights again if he avoids getting into a protracted slump. Resting Votto if he's striking out like he was at the end of 2011 shouldn't be out of the question. He may have some frustration from working with slimmer pickings after his MVP season, but he also has a season of pitcher adjustments to work with now. That could mean another monster year if he can maintain through October.

Miguel Cairo

2012 ceiling: 10% of MLB starts

A 38-year old utility infielder who plays mostly third base is a weird place to go after Votto, but Dusty has called on The Old Giza as back-up for the last two seasons. Not only that, but you write off Cairo at your peril. He's proven to be a fine wine: stored in a bottle between innings, people like to say pretentious things about him and two of his three best seasons have been played in Cincinnati since joining as a minor league invite in 2010 as a 36-year-old. Last year, he hit a career high 8 HRs while filling in at 3B, 2B and 1B.

After the uniquely parabolic career arc Cairo has sketched, it's hard to say whether he has another year of being a model utility infielder left. He's honed his craft over 16 seasons and seems healthy, so think another solid 250 PAs are perfectly reasonable. He's not the ideal back-up at 1B, but he's passable there and, more importantly, great to have on the bench.

Juan Francisco

2012 ceiling: 5% of MLB starts

El Niño Destructor is a third baseman with a great arm that would be wasted at first. Without options, though, the team has to keep him up north or trade him. Since I'm not sure he'd have much more success or confidence from Dusty playing LF than Alonso did, 1B is the only other position he can chip in when he's not subbing for Scott Rolen. At the very least, his power plays well there.

Todd Frazier

2012 ceiling: 5% of MLB starts

Frazier is fully capable of playing 1B. Given as many as 3 back-ups for Scott Rolen (END, Cairo, Valdez), LF and 1B might be where he can make the most impact this season. He just has to make it back there first. He might make the most sense as a platoon bat in LF, but there's no opening currently.

Neftali Soto

2012 ceiling: 1% of MLB starts

Soto is still only 22 (until the end of this month) and barely cracking AAA. On a contending team like the Reds plan to be, he doesn't see daylight. But he's also the system's best 1B prospect (possibly by default) who hit 31 HRs in just 432 minor league PAs last season.

Danny Dorn

2012 ceiling: 0%

Danny Dorn's career may have entered a Groundhog Day period, having spent the last three full seasons in Louisville without so much as a 40-man add. He was superb at the plate in 2010 and, I would guess, works a glove well enough to play first (where he's played 168 pro games). He's not in that Pete Rose, Jr. space where we're supposed to learn a thing or two about persistence, but he's also not yet even at quad-A status without an MLB plate appearance. Fair or not, the Reds have sent their "we'll pass" message loud and clear, but with a bunch of thirdbasemen and a not-ready prospect ahead of him, they could do worse than Dorn in the event of a catastrophe.

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