Barry Larkin knows that the Cincinnati Reds’ starting shortstop position is an open competition this season.
Larkin, who was named a Reds color analyst for Fox Sports Ohio on Tuesday, has seen 72 different players man that position since the Hall of Famer retired in 2004. Even though Cincinnati has at least four players competing for playing time at shortstop this season, Larkin said he hopes the Reds settle in on one primary player this season.
“Obviously defense and consistency is really important,” Larkin said. “My hope is that someone, whoever it is, gets an opportunity there for most of the year.”
Down the road, Larkin is confident that prospect Jose Garcia will be Cincinnati’s long-term answer at shortstop. Before last season, Garcia had never taken an at-bat above A-ball, but he started 19 games for the Reds down the stretch last season.
That doesn’t mean that Garcia, 22, will break spring training with the Major League team as Cincinnati’s starting shortstop.
“I still believe that long-term Jose Garcia is going to be a monster. My hope is that he’s given enough time to develop,” Larkin said. “Obviously, we saw last year that he wasn't (ready) quite offensively – I think he caught just about everything that was hit his way, but he's still young, and he's growing.”
If Garcia opens the season in the minors, the Reds have three leading candidates to start at shortstop on Opening Day: Kyle Farmer, Kyle Holder and Dee Strange-Gordon. Larkin said that he’s heard Holder is a good player and that Farmer did a “nice job” last season in Cincinnati.
“It's not the big price free agent guy, but trust me, we have some talent,” Larkin said. “I'm excited to see who takes advantage of the opportunities out there.”
Of all the current options at shortstop, Strange-Gordon is the player Larkin was most excited about. Larkin knows Strange-Gordon, and the two have worked out together over the last 10 years.
Even though Strange-Gordon hasn’t been a regular starting shortstop since 2013, Larkin said he believes in him.
“He was in a very tough situation this past season with the Seattle Mariners and didn't get much of a chance to play, but he had a very positive impact on some of the young players in that organization,” Larkin said. “I think coming from that situation, coming into a situation where there's an open opportunity, I truly think Dee Gordon could play shortstop at the big-league level and (be) a very good shortstop at the big-league level.”
Larkin added that Strange-Gordon could also play second base and center field at the Major League level. But Strange-Gordon had a poor 2020 season at the plate.
Last season, Strange-Gordon had a .200 batting average and a .482 OPS, which was a 40 percent drop from his career average at .679. But Strange-Gordon does have a track record of being a good contact hitter –– he had a .286 batting average between 2017 and 2019.
“I'm excited specifically for Dee Gordon because I've worked with him for the last ten years,” Larkin said. “I truly believe in him and I'm excited about him and Nick Krall signing him to possibly fill the slot until I believe Jose Garcia will be that guy.”