Projecting the Reds 25-man roster

Injuries have added another element to the roster decisions Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price will have to make.

Mark J. Rebilas/Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Think Warren Buffet’s $1 billion contest for the perfect NCAA tournament bracket was tough? It’s got nothing on trying to figure out who the 25 players will be for the Reds on Opening Day.

There’s a week to go before the Reds host St. Louis in the first of 2014’s 162-game schedule and manager Bryan Price has yet to name his starting pitcher against the Cardinals. He’d like to but it’s kind of hard with all of the injuries going around here. Head trainer Paul Lessard and his staff have been the MVP of this spring training camp. At least Price is confident enough to say that Joey Votto will be his first baseman and Jay Bruce will be starting in right field.

Let’s start with those injured players. At least six will start the season on the disabled list for some length of time: pitchers Mat Latos, Aroldis Chapman, Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton as well as position players Jack Hannahan and Skip Schumaker. Chapman is expected to be out the longest, into the month of May, after surgery last week to repair fractures caused by being hit in the face with a line drive. Schumaker could miss most, if not all, of April as he rehabs from a dislocated shoulder. Latos and Broxton are the closest to returning.

Add into the mix a group of non-roster invitees who have performed well this spring and would’ve forced some tough decisions if everyone were healthy. The trick is going to be in managing the 40-man roster to get them onto the active roster. The Reds will have to release, and risk losing to other organizations, some players they really don’t want to release to make room for these non-roster players.

So, let’s take a whack at what next Monday’s 25-man roster will look like as things stand today. Don’t rule out the Reds making a trade (or two) to create some room on the 40-man roster.

STARTING PITCHERS (5): Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake, Tony Cingrani, Alfredo Simon… If all goes as the Reds hope it does the next couple of days, Cueto will start Opening Day. He’s had an issue with some irritation in his right scapula area and has to get through a minor league assignment on Tuesday but he’s at the top of rotation. Bailey is also battling a sore groin and has a minor league assignment on Monday. Leake and Cingrani are healthy heading into this final week of spring training. Nothing has brought a bigger smile to Price’s face in the last 10 days. Simon is taking Latos’ spot in the rotation until Latos is up to speed. When that happens, he’ll go back to be the long reliever in the bullpen

BULLPEN (7): J.J. Hoover, Sam LeCure, Manny Parra, Logan Ondrusek, Nick Christiani, Brett Marshall, Pedro Beato… No Chapman means no designated closer so expect a lot of mixing and matching. Given the health of the starting staff and the uncertainty of how deep they’ll be going into games the first month or so the bullpen could be getting extra work. Parra is the lone lefthander in the bullpen but until Sean Marshall returns (and who knows when that will be) that’s going to be the case. Brett Marshall will be the long reliever, which has been Simon’s role the last couple of seasons.

CATCHERS (2): Devin Mesoraco, Brayan Pena… Mesoraco is dealing with an oblique strain and hasn’t played in a week but is hopeful of being ready for Opening Day. If not, expect Tucker Barnhart to get a call up to be the backup to Pena. Corky Miller is a possibility but isn’t on the 40-man and putting Barnhart on the active roster alleviates having to make a 40-man roster move.

INFIELDERS (6): Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Zack Cozart, Todd Frazier, Neftali Soto, Ramon Santiago*… Here’s where the non-roster moves get tricky. Chris Nelson has had a good spring and can play multiple positions but shortstop isn’t one of them. That’s why I think Santiago gets the nod over him. Soto is on the 40-man and has options. Again, Nelson would probably be a better choice over Soto if all things were equal but things aren’t equal.

OUTFIELDERS (5): Jay Bruce, Billy Hamilton, Ryan Ludwick, Chris Heisey, Roger Bernadina*… Amazing how little has been said about Hamilton after the first couple of weeks of camp. That’ll happen when you do your job. It will be interesting to see how much time Heisey ends up getting throughout the season. The good thing for him is he can play all three outfield spots. He found a new batting stance and approach at the plate prior to coming to spring training and it’s worked for him so far. Bernadina has played his way onto this roster this spring. He’s hit well and done a lot of little things well also. He’s shown more than just some raw athleticism that’s always been what people loved most about him. Now the Reds just have to try and find that 40-man spot for him.