Reds looking at how Peraza will fit into lineup

With 2B Phillips remaining with Cincinnati, club analyzing how top prospect will develop

Reds looking at how Peraza will fit into lineup

CINCINNATI -- The Reds' front office highly coveted infield prospect Jose Peraza, and as it commenced a rebuilding project, it very much liked the idea of having his glove, bat and speed on the roster.

That was why Peraza was a big part of the three-way trade from the Dodgers that sent third baseman Todd Frazier to the White Sox last month. Peraza, who turns 22 on April 30, is viewed as the second baseman of Cincinnati's future and seems Major League ready right now.
 

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The one problem, at the moment, is that the second baseman of the Reds' present still remains in veteran Brandon Phillips. A couple of days after Frazier was moved, the Reds appeared to have a deal in place to send Phillips to the Nationals. With the 10-5 no trade rights he's earned, Phillips did not approve the move and he remains in Cincinnati with two years and $27 million remaining on his contract.

Now it will be up to Reds manager Bryan Price to find a way to play Peraza this season if he makes the team out of Spring Training.

"I think it's important to remember that Peraza has played a lot at shortstop," Reds general manager Dick Williams said. "He has played center field. There's a chance we could see him in different spots. I don't think getting playing time for him will be an issue. We'd gladly take an approach where we get him some time at different areas and see where he can be of assistance to the team."

Peraza was traded twice within six months last year. Originally blocked by Andrelton Simmons at shortstop in the Braves' organization, he was part of a three-team blockbuster trade that sent him to the Dodgers on July 30.

Now ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Reds' organization by MLBPipeline.com, No. 24 overall, Peraza is a .302/.342/.387 hitter in five Minor League seasons. He stole at least 60 bases in 2013 and '14 and swiped 33 in the Minors last season. With nine professional home runs, there isn't a lot of power in that bat, but speed is his game.

Over a brief callup to the big leagues, Peraza batted .182 in seven games for the Dodgers. Viewed as also having a plus glove, MLBPipeline.com put Peraza on its All-Defense Team heading into 2016.

"He had moved off shortstop because of what the organization had ahead of him in Atlanta," Williams said. "It wasn't because he played his way off of shortstop."

The Reds are banking on having Zack Cozart return at short, fully recovered from major right knee surgery that knocked him out for the season in June. Eugenio Suarez, who replaced Cozart at shortstop, is slated to open the season at third base. Billy Hamilton is the center fielder and coming off of September right shoulder surgery.

If there is no room at the big league level, there is always the option of having Peraza start the season at Triple-A Louisville.

"We have to get a look at him firsthand," Williams said. "We're not going to force his development. We're certainly not going to put him in a position where he's sitting on a bench somewhere."

Phillips, 34, had a resurgent 2015 season but likely won't be part of any future return to contending even if he finishes his contract with the Reds. His daily presence in the lineup could hinder Peraza's development. To encourage him to accept a trade, the club could potentially reduce Phillips' playing time in favor of giving opportunity to Peraza. The risk in that choice, though, would be making Phillips unhappy.

Phillips' future with the Reds

How much Phillips -- or Peraza -- plays will ultimately be up to Price, Williams noted.

"I'll defer to Bryan on how to use these guys, but Brandon is the incumbent regular second baseman if he's coming back," Williams said.

Perhaps, but there is no doubt that Peraza is part of the next generation in Cincinnati. It's just a matter of when his time comes.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.