Musical Shortstops In Reds System

Matt McLain, AFL Championship Game, November 12, 2022. Photo credit Benjamin Rush, @BenRushPhoto on Twitter

I wanted to take a look at how the glut of shortstops in the Reds system may shake out. This seems to be top of mind with many Reds fans and we all want to know what is going to happen. We will be looking at the numbers 1, 2, 3, 6 and 21 ranked prospects according to our Cincinnati Reds Top 50 prospects. My goal is to look at the 2023 season moving forward and where each of these stellar shortstops may end up and when they may reach the majors.

For the 2023 season the shortstop position will be manned by Jose Barrero at the major league level. Long thought to be the shortstop of the future for the Reds, Barrero’s bat has never come around and the prospect shine has left Jose. It is unfortunate. Barrero was rushed to the majors in 2020 due to injuries and in the middle of the COVID season at that. He had never played above High-A. That’s a tough break. Still only 24, there is time for Barrero to figure some things out but he has a lot of talent climbing up the ladder at his position. Once some of the dominos start to fall with the players mentioned below, Barrero may be a perfect change of scenery guy. Kevin Newman was brought in as well and will get some playing time at short but he is no long term solution. I imagine the Reds will play Barrero at short about 75-80% of the time. They really need to know if his bat is going to come around or not.

In Triple-A, Elly De La Cruz will be holding down the position. He is one of baseball’s best prospects according to all of the prognosticators out there. MLB Pipeline ranked him as the #10 overall prospect and the #4 shortstop prospect in all of baseball. With a solid season in Triple-A he could be joining the big league squad this September. I don’t imagine the Reds would want to start his clock prior to that. Elly is already on the 40 man and will burn his first option this year. This means he would have to be on the ML squad come 2026 but I doubt there is anyone who thinks he will take that long. Elly has played short primarily but I believe he has the capability of moving to third and there has even been talk of him moving to the OF, although he has yet to play there. Elly has the speed for the OF for sure. He takes long strides and can cover a lot of ground. Now we have no info on him tracking fly balls out there so that remains to be seen but I believe he can hold down center with some practice.

Down in Double-A we should see another one of the talented shortstops. However Noelvi Marte will most likely be manning the hot corner there. Primarily a shortstop in the Mariners system. Marte did head to the AFL to play some third and it looks like that may be his position moving forward. For this experiment we are going to roll with that. MLB Pipeline also likes Marte as a shortstop. He was ranked the #9 shortstop and the #29 overall prospect. Marte was also added to the 40-man this offseason so he would also have to be a regular on the 2026 team but most folks don’t think it will take that long. I expect he makes his debut in 2024 at some point.

Manning short in Double-A will be Matt McLain. He did not have a great season in 2022. It was a definite offensive road bump, hitting .232/.363/.453. But there is a lot to like still. McLain has plenty of pop in his bat with 17 homers and still draws plenty of walks. He can hold down short but I believe he ends up at second in the long term. He did start to play a little at second in 2022 and I believe we will see him slowly start to transition to second. McLain still has plenty of time, not needing to be added to the 40-man until after the 2024 season. That plays out perfectly for the Reds. The current second basemen in Cincinnati, Jonathan India, becomes a free agent in 2027. I like India a lot and the Reds could extend him for sure but if they let him walk or trade him, McLain becomes the second basemen of the future. I don’t believe McLain will be in Double-A for long so his timeline may be much quicker than that though. If he sees Triple-A in part of 2023 and then all of 2024, he should be ready to contribute to the Reds and make his debut to start 2025.

Also roaming the middle infield in Double-A Chattanooga will be Jose Torres. He is a dark horse in this whole scenario. I have always liked Torres but he looks like he could be Jose Barrero 2.0. A solid defender whose bat just never comes around. Last year was also a rough year for Torres in High-A Dayton so Double-A will be a challenge for him. 2023 will be very important in knowing what the Reds have with Torres moving forward. He would need to be added to the 40-man at the end of the 2024 season as well so his timeline is much like McClain’s. The problem with Torres is there is a ton of competition for the same position he plays. He is also capable of playing second and played 49 games there last year.

And the last shortstop we will look at in this exercise is most likely the actual shortstop of the future. Also coming over to the Reds with Noelvi Marte from the Mariners, among others, is Edwin Arroyo. MLB Pipeline also likes Arroyo quite a bit ranking him the #44 overall prospect and by process of elimination he would’ve been the #12 shortstop prospect had they gone beyond 10 in their rankings. Arroyo is a solid defender and had a great season in 2022. In Single-A he had a slash line of .293/.366/.480. He has some pop in his bat but most think he will be a top of the lineup, table setter type and can steal you plenty of bases as well. Arroyo is the farthest away and won’t need to be protected until after the 2025 season. That means he doesn’t have to be on the Reds roster fully until 2029 but that is worst case scenario. I imagine he would be ready come up and make his MLB debut at the end of 2025 and then take over full-time duties at short in Cincy in 2026.

If you have read this far, thank you. Now let’s break it down.

2023 India Barrero/Newman
2024 India De La Cruz
2025 McLain De La Cruz
2026 McLain Arroyo

In this scenario Jonathan India becomes trade bait. Now I know a lot of Reds fans won’t like reading that. I’m not sure I like typing it. Now if India becomes an All-Star level player we could move him to third or left. If it is third I think India has enough arm for the position but that means Marte would have to move somewhere. Maybe he goes to left? Also in this scenario De La Cruz moves to center or right after the 2025 season. I don’t think Jose Torres can crack through any of this so he either gets moved or becomes a utility type like Alejo Lopez has been for the current iteration of the Reds. Also, for argument’s sake, let’s say Barrero does figure it out. I think that would mean that Elly moves to the outfield immediately in Triple-A to make his debut out there in the bigs near the end of 2023. I think Barrero would still only be holding down that spot until Arroyo is ready to stake his claim to it.

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