As a versatile utility player http://www.bravesfanproshop.com/authentic-nick-markakis-jersey , rmer Houston Astro"Coming into this winter, there was a general belief that every single team in baseball had a spot on its roster for Houston Astros super-utility player Marwin Gonzalez. Gonzalez is just 29 years old, played seven different positions in 2018, and is a reliably above-average offensive contributor. He’s just a year removed from a breakout 4-WAR season in 2017, and since the Astros did not extend to him a qualifying offer at season’s end, he would not even cost a draft pick to whomever signs him. Simply put, he’s the kind of relatively low-cost upgrade all 30 teams could afford, and one that would make every one of them better.The Reds thought so too, so they signed Derek Dietrich.You may know Dietrich for being historically good at getting hit by baseballs, or for getting base hits on chip shots that land three feet in foul territory. You may not know him at all. After all, if he were an especially productive or popular player, the Marlins obviously would have traded him, instead of simply designating him for assignment the way they did in November. Dietrich didn’t land on many free agency wish lists across baseball, and I’m not here to claim that that is some grand injustice. What I am here to do is present this:Courtesy of FangraphsThose are stats from the previous three seasons, 2016-2018. I chose 2016 as a starting point because that’s when Dietrich formally established himself as a major league regular.The table above says Dietrich has posted the same wOBA as Gonzalez, a walk rate one percent lower, a strikeout rate one percent higher, and a wRC+ two points lower over the last three years. Gonzalez’s offensive ability goes a long way toward making him as valuable as he is, and there’s Dietrich http://www.bravesfanproshop.com/authentic-nick-markakis-jersey , right there with him by nearly every offensive metric.What the table doesn’t say is that Dietrich played five different positions in 2018 — two fewer than Gonzalez, but a couple more than the average player typically plays in a season. Here is a table of all seven players in Major League Baseball who played at least five positions in the field last season while also maintaining Dietrich’s 109 wRC+ or better (min. 200 PAs):That’s an exclusive group of big leaguers Dietrich happens to be a part of. It’s not a list of star players, necessarily, but it’s a list of perfectly useful players, and even if Dietrich is the least valuable of them all, it’s worth something that he’s a part of the group to begin with.While his bat is relatively on par with most of the other players on that list, his defense is a decent ways off from the rest of the group. Baseball-Reference was no kinder to his fielding, rating him at -2.4 dWAR in 2018. Defensive metrics are often noisy and shouldn’t be trusted a whole lot even over the course of one full season, but from a cursory glance at their histories, defense is where Dietrich differs the most from Marwin Gonzalez: Dietrich has posted a negative dWAR figure in five of his six seasons at the big league level, while Gonzalez has posted a positive dWAR in six of his seven seasons.But through the same elementary research that we use to settle upon the fact that Dietrich likely isn’t the fielder Gonzalez is, we can also identify something of a pattern in what causes the former some extra trouble to begin with. In that 2018 season that served as Dietrich’s worst all-time from a defensive standpoint, he played 95 games in left field, far and away the most of his career. His second-highest number of games in left field came in 2015, when he played 46 games there — and posted his second-worst defensive value of his career, -1.2 dWAR. In other seasons, Dietrich was primarily used at second and third base, and graded out as roughly average each time. If the Reds don’t count on him for a significant load of innings in the outfield, they’ll more than likely get at least replacement-level defense.The good news here is that Dietrich shouldn’t be counted upon for much defense at all. Cincinnati appears to be gunning for a starting outfield of Jesse Winker Mike Foltynewicz Jersey , Nick Senzel and Yasiel Puig, which would leave Scott Schebler and Matt Kemp on the bench. The Reds won’t have much need for a sixth outfielder, nor will they have any reason to platoon left-handed Scooter Gennett with the also left-handed Dietrich at second base. Instead, it’s likely Dietrich is used simply as an extra left-handed bat off the bench, with innings in the field largely contained to third, second and first. If he’s able to man those positions capably while putting together the above-average offense he’s been responsible for in recent seasons, he’ll be a fine piece to the puzzle Cincinnati has put together over the past four months — and one that will only cost the team $2 million.Dietrich might not be Marwin Gonzalez. Fortunately, the Reds won’t ask him to be. And that’s bad news for him and the Reds"Jose Peraza swings a lot. We knew that when he consistently checked in with walk rates below 5 percent when he was in the minors, and we’ve more or less come to accept it when his walk rates dipped even further as he began getting regular big league playing time. Last year, Peraza’s swing rate was the 42nd-highest in all of baseball. The year before, it was 26th-highest. He’s made his approach at the plate very clear, but importantly, that approach has never made him an outlier. That is, until now.After a little less than two weeks of regular season games, Peraza has the highest swing rate in all of baseball by more than eight percentage points. His O-Swing% is also the highest by more than eight percentage points. His Z-Swing% ranks 12th-highest. He has played only nine games and logged just 30 plate appearances, but the uptick in his swing rate has still been alarming. Here’s Peraza’s swing percentages year over year, courtesy of Fangraphs:Over the first four years of Peraza’s career, his swing rate has always been high, but it also hasn’t fluctuated much. In his brief start to 2019 http://www.bravesfanproshop.com/authentic-nick-markakis-jersey , there is suddenly a steep incline. Now, part of this almost certainly has something to do with the number of strikes Peraza has seen this season. He leads all big league hitters in zone percentage, a category he finished 59th in a season ago, and the uptick in pitches he swings at inside the strike zone is more or less right in line with the uptick in pitches he’s seen there.A funny thing about the number of pitches a batter sees inside the strike zone is that it can have a significant effect on how often he swings at pitches that are outside the zone. After all, if a hitter is seeing a lot of strikes, that tends to mean he is falling behind in more counts than the average hitter, and in turn, is chasing pitches outside the zone to keep from striking out. Swinging at lots of balls can be a result of a hitter getting consistently fooled, sure, but it can also be a result of a hitter protecting the plate when he needs to. Early in 2019, it seems that Peraza likely belongs in that second group. In 30 plate appearances, Peraza has taken a first-pitch ball in just eight of them, and has gotten ahead 2-0 just once. Just two of his plate appearances have gotten to a two-ball count at all. As a result, Peraza’s natural free-swinging tendencies have been exploited by pitchers getting ahead in the count and forcing him to climb up and down the strike zone, instead of waiting for pitches closer to the middle.Now, there is obviously a lot of caution that should be applied when analyzing a hitter’s performance over the first couple weeks of his season. Some numbers have realistic odds to stick; others don’t. Mike Trout, for example, is likely to finish among the top three major leaguers in fWAR when this season is over. Tim Beckham probably will not. But regardless of the specific numbers behind it, Peraza’s swing rate is an important thing to keep an eye on as his season progresses Brandon McCarthy Jersey , because of how much his offensive production has depended on it over the course of his career. Below are Peraza’s 15-game rolling averages showing the relationship between his swing rate and wOBA dating back to 2017.For the most part, when Peraza is swinging more than usual, his offensive production plummets. When his swing rate is under control, his hitting is at its best. Even without a robust walk rate, we’ve seen how valuable Peraza can be to an offense over long stretches of a season. Over his final 102 games of 2018, Peraza slashed .305/.344/.465, good for an .809 OPS, despite walking just 4.4 percent of the time. Over his first 55 games of the season, he hit .256/.292/.324 while walking 3.7 percent of the time. Peraza’s success as a hitter doesn’t really depend at all on his ability to walk, but it does depend on him being in good counts, and getting the right pitches to swing at.Peraza is far from the only hitter in the Reds’ lineup in need of a resurgence at the plate. But somehow, he doesn’t feel like as safe a bet to rebound as the likes of Joey Votto, Yasiel Puig and Jesse Winker. Going forward, Peraza’s going to rely a bit on pitchers being less effective at getting ahead in the count, but he’ll also need to show more of a willingness to take pitches around the edges, with the hopes that more mistakes will follow. It’s no grand revelation to say that someone will hit better if they are in more hitter’s counts. In Peraza’s case, though, that feels especially true.