Fay: Reds Question 1: Where does Price play top prospect Jose Peraza?

The middle infield is too crowded
Posted at 7:00 AM, Feb 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-10 13:16:05-05

This is the first in a series of nine questions about the Reds as they head toward spring training.

CINCINNATI -- Bryan Price is deliberately vague when asked how the breakdown of playing time will work between Zack Cozart, Brandon Phillips and Jose Peraza.

“They’re all going to play,” he said last week as the Reds Caravan wrapped up.

This, of course, was not Plan A.

The Reds have traded Phillips three times. Each time he rejected the trade.

They also tried to trade Cozart, but a deal with Seattle fell through.

So the club heads into spring training without a spot for Peraza, the 23-year-old top prospect. Peraza gives them a slight out, though, because he can also play the outfield.

But the best thing for Peraza’s development would be to play second or short every day.

 Zack Cozart  and Brandon Phillips celebrate their 6-2 win over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on June 10, 2013. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)

Because there’s no opening, he’s sort of the first man up if Phillips, Cozart or any of three outfielders get hurt. Price is using that as a way to delay answering the question of how exactly he’ll use Phillips, Cozart and Peraza.

“I can't (answer that) right now, because I think we're going to have to get through spring training and see where we are,” Price said. “We've dealt with the injuries. We certainly don't know what our Opening Day roster is going to look like, so instead of answering that question at the end of January, I'd rather wait until the first of April, just to know exactly what our roster is going to look like from a health perspective and an overall 25-man roster perspective.”

There’s a possibility that the Reds could move Cozart, who is in his last year of Reds' control. There wasn’t much of a market for a shortstop in the offseason, but that could change if someone gets injured in spring training.

The other out is the Reds could simply part ways with Phillips. He’s only under contract for this year, so he’s not going to be around post-rebuild. But ownership -- at least at this point -- is not ready to eat his $14 million salary.

No matter what Price ultimately decides as far as playing time, it's going to hold back Peraza’s development somewhat. His bat -- he hit .324 over 79 games last year -- is more developed than his glove. If he were the everyday second baseman or shortstop from Day 1, the Reds would get an answer on his glove this year. But Peraza is like Billy Hamilton in that he could always move to center or left field.

Peraza is not the only young player in need of playing time.

Dilson Herrera, the second baseman the Reds got in the Jay Bruce deal, is also major league-ready, although he could start in Triple-A.

That’s not the case with Peraza, though.

If everyone comes out of spring training healthy, Peraza will be used as a super utility guy -- playing second, short, left and center.

And Price isn’t saying exactly how that will work either.

Question 6: With Homer Bailey out, who joins the rotation?
Question 5: Is Scott Schebler right for right field?
Question 4: Will we see first-half Votto or second-half Votto?
Question 3: Who closes? Storen? Iglesias? Cingrani?
Question 2: What should fans expect from Homer Bailey?