Reds find hidden gem in form of Gennett

Price lauds utility player's offensive impact

Reds find hidden gem in form of Gennett

CINCINNATI -- Waiver claims at the end of Spring Training are, more often than not, smaller moves that rarely stand out. The Reds have bucked that trend a few times in the past several years with pitchers Alfredo Simon and Dan Straily coming to mind.

When the Reds claimed Simon after camp broke in 2012, he became a do-it-all reliever for two seasons before having a 15-win All-Star season in the rotation in 2014. Straily arrived just before Opening Day last season and won 14 games. But this year's end-of-camp claim, Scooter Gennett, might be the best of all.

"It's impactful. During my tenure here, he's got to be No. 1," Reds manager Bryan Price said on Sunday.

Gennett, who hit a three-run home run in the ninth inning of Saturday's 10-7 loss to the Nationals, has gone from a utility bench role to playing himself into regular at-bats. His 16 homers in 2017 are two more than his career high of 14 set last season with the Brewers in 498 at-bats.

Entering Sunday, Gennett had 213 at-bats.

Gennett draws bases-loaded walk

"You can't say you [saw] this coming but you look at his body of work and figure you're getting a real solid big league player," Price said. "When you look at him now, this guy is off the charts for what he's done for our ball club in any number of ways. Certainly the offensive impact stands out."

Gennett, 27, came into the day batting .310/.364/.610 with 12 doubles and 51 RBIs. In 45 starts, he was batting .314 with 14 homers. His RBI total is the most by a National League player with as few at-bats as he has.

As for a new homer total goal, Gennett doesn't have one.

"I just want to hit the ball hard, that's my goal," Gennett said. "Whether it goes up in the air or straight into the ground, if I barrel it and hit it hard, I'm going to be satisfied. If I'm getting jammed or swinging at bad pitches, that's when things start to get frustrating. I'm just trying to hit the ball hard. It seems like it's been working out pretty good. I've been more relaxed, not pulling off the ball. The swing, the ball comes more natural off the bat. It equates to doubles and home runs."

When Gennett does barrel the ball, he's hard to get out. According to Statcast™, only one of his 13 barreled balls resulted in outs while nine left the park as homers.

Milwaukee put Gennett -- a Cincinnati-area native -- on waivers, and the Reds claimed him on March 28. He has played his natural position of second base for his new club, but also third base, left field, right field and designated hitter.

"That day when I found out I was coming over, it was a day of mixed emotions, for sure," Gennett said. "It was sad to say goodbye to some of the fellas over there and being with the Brewers my whole career. But these guys are great, it's a great group of guys and a good clubhouse and the fact that it's the Cincinnati Reds, the team I always dreamed of playing with, it's just crazy how things worked out. I couldn't have picked a better team."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. 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.