The Reds are welcoming one of their best hitters back to the lineup, as they announced Friday that second baseman Scooter Gennett has been reinstated from the 60-day injured list. Cincinnati already had an open spot on its 40-man roster, so the only corresponding roster move came in the form of placing catcher Tucker Barnhart on the 10-day injured list due to a strained right oblique muscle.
Gennett, 29, has proven to be one of the best waiver claims in recent history. Designated for assignment by the division-rival Brewers in Spring Training 2017, Gennett has broken out as an everyday player and an All-Star since being claimed by his hometown team.
In 295 games and 1135 plate appearances with the Reds, he’s mashed at a .303/.351/.508 clip while teeing off on 50 homers, 52 doubles and six triples. One of the main knocks on Gennett in Milwaukee was a perceived inability to hit left-handed pitching, but he’s earned more at-bats against southpaws as his tenure with the Reds has progressed. In 202 plate appearances against lefties in 2018, Gennett batted .294/.335/.439. That breakout led to a $9.75MM salary for Gennett in his final trip through arbitration this past offseason.
A severe groin strain incurred toward the tail end of Spring Training ultimately cost Gennett half of the 2019 season — a crushing loss both for the Reds and for Gennett himself, who is slated to become a free agent at season’s end. His absence has undeniably been felt by a Reds lineup that somewhat surprisingly is tied for the fifth-fewest runs scored in all of Major League Baseball. Cincinnati hitters rank as a bottom-six team in terms of batting average and on-base percentage as well.
Gennett’s return could push another surprise slugger, Derek Dietrich, the outfield with more regularity. He’s batted .222/.350/.567 with a career-best 18 home runs and seen regular work at second base thanks to his power surge. But Dietrich has experience in the outfield corners, at first base and at third base, so he could bounce around the diamond a bit more now that Gennett is back in the fold.
As for Barnhart, he’ll hit the injured list with an oblique issue, leaving Curt Casali as the primary backstop and Kyle Farmer as the reserve. The 28-year-old Barnhart is in the midst of his worst season at the plate, having batted just .191/.290/.315 in 187 plate appearances. That downturn in production comes on the heels of a combined .257/.331/.374 batting line over his previous four seasons.