The Reds have gone without injured second baseman Scooter Gennett all season, but his return is getting closer. Gennett could begin a rehab assignment within “two or three weeks,” manager David Bell said Saturday (via Mark Sheldon of MLB.com).
Gennett suffered a right groin strain March 22, at which point he was projected to miss eight to 12 weeks. It’s now clear the 29-year-old won’t return until near the end of that timeline, if not later. Fortunately for the Reds, they’ve received excellent second base production even without Gennett. Minor league signing Derek Dietrich has been a revelation in Gennett’s place, having slashed an elite .260/.366/.707 (168 wRC+) with 17 home runs over 145 plate appearances.
Like Dietrich, Gennett originally arrived in Cincinnati as a low-risk pickup. The Reds claimed Gennett off waivers from the NL Central rival Brewers on the brink of the 2017 campaign. Little did either team know Gennett would emerge as one of the game’s most valuable second basemen in Cincy. The 28-year-old’s coming off a two-season, 1,135-PA stretch in which he batted .303/.351/.508 with 50 home runs to place third at his position in wRC+ (124) and sixth in fWAR (6.7).
Gennett will reclaim his spot once he returns, Bell suggested, saying, “Obviously, Scooter is going to be playing.” But Bell indicated the Reds’ lineup is big enough for Gennett and Dietrich, pointing to the latter’s ability to play multiple other infield positions – first and third base – as well as the outfield.
First (Joey Votto) and third (Eugenio Suarez) are spoken for in Cincinnati, whereas corner outfielders Yasiel Puig and Jesse Winker haven’t established themselves as Reds cornerstones the way Votto and Suarez have. And Dietrich has handily outproduced Puig and Winker, which could open the door for him in the outfield. Platooning Dietrich – a lefty hitter who does all his damage versus righties – with Puig or Winker wouldn’t be easy, though. The righty-swinging Puig has typically caused more harm to same-handed pitchers (that hasn’t been the case this year, but he has scuffled in general), while the lefty Winker hasn’t had any success against southpaws this season. Of course, the Reds could resolve the situation to a degree if they fall out of contention in the coming weeks and trade Puig – an impending free agent.