Cincinnati Adds Utilityman

Cincinnati added more organization depth when they signed versatile Chris Dominguez to a minor league contract. Also minor league holdover Felix Perez is still around after playing the past three years at Louisville. The clock has timed out on these players’ prospect status, but that still might not prevent one of them from logging some MLB action in 2015.

Two seasons ago Cincinnati picked up minor league free agent Derrick Robinson after he timed out in the Kansas City system. The outfielder not only made his MLB debut that year, but injuries in the outfield helped him to appear in over 100 games with the Reds. Last year 28 year-old Kristopher Negron, who was over two years removed from his four games of MLB experience made it back to the Reds and surprised with a nice effort over the last couple of months of the season. Also, minor league journeyman Jumbo Diaz made an MLB debut at the age of 30 and worked his way into some high level relief appearances.

Want a candidate to come from off the radar and make a splash in 2015? How about former Giants farmhand Chris Dominiguez? He ventured into the free agent market and signed a minor league deal with Cincinnati that includes an invitation to spring training. Previously the 28 year-old played six years in the San Francisco system without any MLB action save appearances in eight games last year.

Dominguez is coming off two and a half good seasons at AAA Tacoma over which he slashed .278 AVG/.312 OB/.446 SLG. Last year he added some power by smacking 21 homers, his highest total since leaving low-A. One thing that makes him more attractive is his versatility in the field. In 2014 he played in 131 games which were split up with fifteen or more appearances at five different positions.

Most of Dominguez’s action has been at third base and he might become a candidate for a corner infield utility position that was vacated by Jack Hannahan. Actually Hannahan’s time on the DL vacated it for most of last year and prospect Neftali Soto looked so overwhelmed against MLB pitching that he lost his spot on the 40-man roster. However, Dominguez will be on the outside looking in for a spot on the opening day roster because Negron returns with the inside track on one spot and trade return Eugenio Suarez is expected to secure the other one.

Perhaps another route to the bigs would come through the outfield. Right now the only right-handed backup outfielders on the 40-man is journeyman Jason Bourgeios who didn’t make it up to the Reds last season until after roster expansion, and Yorman Rodriguez who needs more development in the minors. Coming into the season the Reds depth is alarmingly thin, especially for a team that is coming off an injury-riddled season. Dominguez has more power than anyone currently projected for backup spots on the active roster and will be one of the first ones considered if they have to dig deep into the farm in 2015.

For a left-handed outfield candidate you can look no further than the Reds system and holdover Felix Perez. It’s a little puzzling why he keeps coming back because he’s been unable to crack the 40-man roster while serving eight years in the organization including the past three at AAA. He can play all three outfield positions and proved he can hit International League pitching by slashing .278 AVG/.326 OB/.408 SLG. That has gotten him nary a single game’s action at the MLB level despite making 373 AAA appearances.

Perez was once a high-profile free agent signing when he landed a big deal with the Yankees, but that was voided when it was discovered that he falsified his age. After serving a year’s suspension Cincinnati picked him up for a fraction of the cost and he’s since worked his way up the system on the way to becoming a minor league filler. Now at the age of 30 he’s received a non-roster invitation to spring training and perhaps he’s in a position where he can become this year’s version of Diaz.

At this stage in their careers these two are more suspects than prospects, but that didn’t keep Negron from latching onto an MLB job last year. They’ll need to continue their performances against AAA pitching to improve their chances, but they both have so much experience at the level that it’s a safe bet they’ll take care of business. Of course Cincinnati is hopeful that their regulars will hold up and reduce the need to give action to the backups. However, that was certainly not the case in 2014 and the only new addition to the lineup is 37 year-old Marlon Byrd, so organizational depth is needed. It’s been a long wait for these two, especially Perez, but as next season unfolds the cards could fall right to give one of them an opportunity to finally show what they can do at the MLB level.

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