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2015 in Review: Ivan De Jesus, Jr.

A look at the utilization of utility player Ivan De Jesus, Jr.

This picture is amusing.
This picture is amusing.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

We continue Red Reporter's player by player look at the 2015 Cincinnati Reds. We'll profile every player who got time for the Reds this year, and will imagine their tenure with the Reds going forward.

By The Numbers

76 G, 222 PA, .244/.311/.373, 4 HR, 28 RBI, 87 OPS+, -0.6 bWAR, 0.1 fWAR

Considering the "utility" brought to the table by recent Cincinnati Reds utilitymen like Skip Schumaker, Roger Bernadina, Jack Hannahan, Cesar Izturis, Willie Harris, Wilson Valdez, and Miguel Cairo, what Ivan De Jesus put together at the plate in 2015 was a minor revelation.

Almost Ramon Santiago-ish, if you will.

Thanks in large part to the fact that he'd barely sniffed a batter's box in the big leagues despite having exhausted his rookie status, Ivan set career bests in pretty much every single category except for steals in 2015.  He bonked the first 4 dingers of his career, more than doubled his career mark in PAs, and acclimated quite well the versatile role the Reds asked of him.

He mauled balls in Great American Ball Park (.768 OPS, all 4 of his homers) while struggling on the road (.557 OPS), but he's far from the first player the Reds have employed to see such a disparity (see:  Frazier, Todd and Bruce, Jay).  Heck, speaking of those two, Ivan's .311 OBP in 2015 bested them both in 2015, too!

How'd He Do?

His Baseball Reference page lists him as "Ivan De Jesus," but Baseball Reference lists his father as "Ivan de Jesus."  And, for good measure, his Wikipedia page lists him as "Ivan DeJesus."

It appears the interwebs are just as confused about how to spell his name as we are about how it took Ivan until age 28 to finally get a decent shot in the big leagues.

His 2015 stint with the Reds was his first in Major League Baseball since 2012, a year that saw him get 37 measly PAs with the Los Angeles Dodgers prior to being one of the nine players moved in the trade that landed Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford from the Boston Red Sox.  He was later flipped for Mark Melancon, and has also been traded for Kelly Johnson, among others, but De Jesus - despite cracking the Baseball Prospectus Top 100 prospect list in 2009 - couldn't find a way onto a big league roster for three more years.

The Reds, though, have had an obvious need for bench help for years, and they noticed Ivan's good glove, liked his versatility, and inked him to a minor league deal prior to the 2015 season.  The fact that he'd hit over .300 with a .360ish OBP in some 2000+ International League appearances against the Reds AAA affiliate over the years surely helped, too.

For the 2015 season, De Jesus generally worked out quite well for the Reds after his call-up, and while he tailed off towards the end of the season (he hit just .197/.219/.328 in September and October), he provided more or less exactly what the team could've hoped for given his lengthy MiLB track record.  What's a bit frustrating for Ivan, I suppose, is that the Reds opted to roll him out into their ugly, ugly LF void for 18 starts in 2015 despite the fact that he'd played a grand total of 2 games there in his 11 seasons as a professional, and his defensive numbers there were awful enough to bring down his overall defensive value in terms of both fWAR and bWAR (in bWAR's case having it valued poorly enough to make him an overall negative WAR player, unfortunately).  In that regard, he was a disappointment, but hopefully the team sees that only as a one-time necessary stop-gap that he was forced into thanks to the wrist injury to (and eventual trade of) Marlon Byrd, the relative struggles of Jesse Winker preventing his call-up, Yorman Rodriguez's calf injury keeping him as a non-option, and the only other warm body available being - for some reason - Skip Schumaker.

2016 Outlook

What I was alluding to in the previous section, I guess, was that entering September, Ivan De Jesus had hit .264/.348/.393 in 158 PA and had played solid infield defense at four positions, and that's the kind of thing that resonates.  Small sample size?  Sure it is, and his poor finish to the season should carry every bit as much weight as his earlier season success, but the fact remains that he's a guy who is in the prime years of his career, is still super cheap, and provided an 87 OPS+ with plus defense at multiple positions, and that's exactly the kind of player who fits well on any team's bench.

His path as mostly a career minor leaguer and a one-time small sample size success at the big leagues has continuously had him compared to Kris Negron's 2014 breakout and subsequent 2015 flameout, and I suppose that's warranted on the surface.  But De Jesus (.290/.370/.394 in 4177 MiLB PAs) consistently outperformed Negron (.244/.321/.357 in 3940 MiLB PAs) through their minor league careers, and that should give pause to the belief that De Jesus will end up being a flash in the pan like Negron was in 2014.

For 2016, it seems like De Jesus has the inside track on one of the two major utility roles for the Reds bench, and I think that's amply warranted.  With the merciful departure of Schumaker, De Jesus fits well as the primary backup at 2B as well as providing cover at 3B, 1B, and SS (should Zack Cozart not be healthy enough to start the season).  At a shade under $600,000 for the upcoming season, that's a sensible, seemingly dependable option for Cincinnati, and one I'd be surprised to see them pass up.  Anyone else remember Jack Hannahan's contract...?

Chance of making the 2016 Reds roster: 90% (since there's always the chance that off-season trades bring in direct competition for Ivan)