I’m sure this was not their intention, but these Cincinnati Reds look to be coming together in the opposite way teams generally are supposed to.
Maybe we’ll look at them differently in the future, but here s how things appear now:
The guys at the front are supposed to be your most talented players, the athletic outfielders who can do it all, the multi-talented shortstop and the big basher at first base. The electric arms in the starting rotation, mowing down hitters seven innings a night to make the bullpen’s job easy — especially the golden-armed closer.
Everything else sort of comes along later once those pillars are in place.
Players with a specific skill find their roles, and a team becomes fully functional.
That’s how it’s supposed to work anyway.
» ALL-STAR UPDATE: Gennett ranks second at his position
Right now the Reds have a deep bullpen but are still waiting for that rotation to solidify.
How about the offense?
Joey Votto is Joey Votto, of course -- a bona fide star who will be in the Reds Hall of Fame some day and could have a case for Cooperstown if he can keep up his current pace long enough.
Who else is driving this bus?
Scooter Gennett, Scott Schebler, Adam Duvall, Tucker Barnhart, Eugenio Suarez and Jose Peraza.
Suarez and Peraza were both teenage signings out of Venezuela who developed into prospects elsewhere and were acquired by the Reds in exchange for veterans while the other four can all be considered overachievers at this point in their career.
(Suarez and Peraza might be, too, as there are many youngsters signed out of Latin America who never turn into much, let alone potential all-stars like Suarez.)
So while the Reds went through a spell where they drafted poorly, they made up for it by finding productive players elsewhere.
The talent could be higher, but the production is there.
I thought of this after Alex Blandino played hero Monday night.
In a competitive season, getting clutch hits from guys like Blandino — not to mention pinch-hitting pitchers like Michael Lorenzen — often make the difference between good and great won-loss records.
His game-winning two-run double will probably end up being a footnote in another losing season, but that doesn’t render it meaningless.
Good teams need utility guys.
Blandino was a first-round draft pick out of Stanford, but his time in the minors indicates his ceiling in The Show is productive bench guy.
If he can play multiple positions and get a hit off the bench now and then, he might be able to carve out a nice career even if he’s never a star or even a full-time starter.
(Ironically Blandino’s draft status indicates he should be the guy having Gennett’s season and Gennett, a 16th-round draft pick, should be in Blandino’s role.)
The 2012 and ’13 Reds could have really used an Alex Blandino, so maybe the next good Reds team will be better if it already has one.
This all doesn’t necessarily mean anything.
Nobody cares about how a winning team was put together as long as a winning team is put together.
But it’s interesting because the last Reds run was lacking some things this team has.
They had a great rotation with Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake and a healthy Homer Bailey.
The offense had, well, that Votto guy (who second-round pick) but also had high-pedigree all-stars in Brandon Phillips, Scott Rolen and Jay Bruce, and the bullpen was headlined by multimillion-dollar flamethrower Aroldis Chapman.
Getting to The Cuban Missile was sometimes an adventure, and bench contributions were few and far between.
For all the handwringing over the Reds’ four-man outfield rotation this year, the last good Reds teams had no fourth outfielder (nor sometimes a third, for that matter).
What’s it all mean?
Maybe these Reds are closer to making a jump than it seems.
As good as the lineup is, there’s room to increase the talent level so it could get even better.
Imagine what can be with more at-bats for Jesse Winker. How about when No. 2 overall pick Nick Senzel arrives (not before next season unfortunately because of an injury)?
A little farther away are outfielders Taylor Trammell and Jose Siri while another year or two behind them could be Hunter Greene, Jeter Downs and maybe even Jonathan India, the 2018 first-round pick who just signed.
Plus it’s a safe bet at least a couple of those overachievers mentioned above — Duvall, Schebler, Gennett? — are flipped for prospects, increasing the talent in the system even more.
Of course those new faces might never become as productive, but let’s wait until the next losing streak to worry about that.
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