From scrapheap to cleanup, Reds’ Gennett a find

April 3, 2018

CINCINNATI — Scooter Gennett cost the Cincinnati Reds about half the price of the Toyota pickup truck that sits on a platform behind the outfield wall in left-center field of Great American Ball Park.

The Reds acquired Gennett off waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers on March 28, 2017. The waiver fee was $20,000. That’s the best money the team has spent in quite a while, as Gennett has blossomed into a strong-hitting, sure-handed second baseman whose 4-for-4 effort off Cy Young winner Max Scherzer on Opening Day last week was an indication that last season’s performance was no fluke.

“You couldn’t have a much better day at the plate than Scooter,” Reds manager Bryan Price said of Opening Day. “He had a strong spring against left-handers and right-handers and he hasn’t been trying to pull the ball as much.”

Gennett, 27, came to Cincinnati with a reputation for not being able to hit southpaws. For his career, Gennett has hit .211 with a paltry .256 on base percentage and .310 slugging percentage in 323 at bats against left-handed pitchers. Facing right-handed hurlers, Gennett posted all-starlike numbers of .299/.338/.474 in 1,677 at bats. Gennett’s struggles against same-sided pitchers and the presence of young second baseman Jonathan Villar prompted the Brewers to let Gennett go. That decision has been a mistake, as Gennett has outperformed Villar.

Not only has Gennett been the better player, he has accomplished feats no one else in Major League Baseball history has performed. Gennett is the only player ever to smack five hits, four home runs and drive in 10 runs in the same game. He also is the lone player in National League history to have a four home run game and four grand slams in the same season. Only one other player, hall of famer Lou Gehrig, has done that.

Last season, Gennett had 136 hits, 22 doubles, and posted career-highs with 80 runs scored, 27 home runs, 97 RBI and a .531 slugging percentage. He committed just nine errors in 141 games.

Through four games this season, Gennett is 8 for 17 and has at least one hit in each contest.

“I’ve always been confident about what I’m capable of doing,” said Gennett, who was born in Cincinnati before moving to Florida as a youngster. “The more you do what you feel you can do, the more confident you become.”

Gennett said his confidence isn’t to be mistaken for cockiness. He battled for a starting job last year, won it and impressed the club. He said he certainly didn’t take starting for granted in the offseason, as Cincinnati has talented young players Nick Senzel and Dilson Herrera at Triple-A ready for a big league job.

“I had to battle for a job last year and I’m kind of taking that same mindset this year,” Gennett said. “I work to get better.”

Price said he likes Gennettt’s approach to the game.

“He’s highly motivated,” Price said. He wants to be great. I think he found himself last year and is looking to be even better this year.”