top of page

Is Spencer Steer the Reds' Mookie Betts?



Mookie Betts is a phenomenal player.  Generational.  Probably a first ballot, no-doubt Hall of Famer the moment he decides to hang up his cleats.  That was probably true before the 2024 MLB season was underway – before Betts was cranking out numbers that would even be unrealistic in your dreams.


The Los Angeles Dodgers have played nine games so far this season.  They have fourteen home runs as a team.  Mookie Betts has five of them, which not only leads the team, but also leads the entire major leagues.  Betts’ fourteen runs scored also lead the majors, along with his MLB-leading sixteen hits, nine walks, and eleven RBI.  He also bests the MLB in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.  Oh, and he’s doing all of this while being an everyday shortstop for the first time since high school.


Betts’ season would be remarkable even if he was DH-ing, but the fact that he’s continued to be the best hitter in baseball while transitioning to arguably baseball’s toughest defensive position only adds to the degree of difficulty – and makes him even more worthy of praise.  But while Betts has gotten (and deserves) plenty of attention for all of his incredible feats this season, there’s another, much-less-heralded player in baseball who should be getting more of a spotlight.  His numbers aren’t quite at Betts’ level, but he’s been no less important to his team’s success, and though he isn’t manning shortstop (yet), he accepted a position change too.  That player is Spencer Steer.


Caught up in all the excitement about promising prospects like Matt McLain, Elly De La Cruz, Christian Encarnacion-Strand and Noelvi Marté, and the breakouts of players like Will Benson and Jake Fraley, Steer was lost a bit amongst the shuffle.  He performed well – and even finished sixth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting – but Steer never quite grabbed the attention of Reds fans like the rest of the Reds rookie class, and frankly, it’s not that hard to see why.


He isn’t flashy or dripping with athleticism like Elly.  He doesn’t have the raw power of a Encarnacion-Strand or a five-tool profile like Marté.  He wasn’t the Reds everyday shortstop like McLain.  But for all the ways Steer is overshadowed by his prodigious teammates, there’s one way he overshadows them all: this dude just plain rakes.


You won’t mistake Steer’s numbers for Betts’, but in terms of team impact, it’s hard to separate the two.  Steer leads the Reds in hits, runs scored and on-base percentage, while also locking down left field out of necessity.  Steer made appearances at five different positions last year, but primarily played first and third base.  In 2024, it’s been all left field to make room for De La Cruz, Encarnacion-Strand and free-agent acquisition Jeimer Candelario.  Steer could have looked at the move to outfield like a demotion; instead, he’s used it as an opportunity to make himself indispensable.


Though he’s established himself as the Reds everyday left fielder, Steer’s ability to line up in multiple spots along the diamond – while continuing to be a plus hitter – make him a unique asset.  Utility players are an often-overlooked commodity in baseball, but they can be important pieces to a championship contender.  Ezequiel Duran made appearances at six different positions for the defending-champion Texas Rangers while knocking fourteen homers and scoring 55 runs last year, and Aledmys Díaz appeared at six positions while slugging eleven homers and scoring 35 runs for the 2022 World Series champion Houston Astros.  But no player in recent baseball history has quite exemplified the importance of the utility player like Ben Zobrist.


A two-time World Series champion and three-time All Star, Zobrist made a career of being willing and able to play anywhere at any time – all while hitting at a high clip.  In each of his three All-Star seasons, he appeared at no less than five different positions, while averaging nineteen home runs, .281/.382/.459 hitting splits, and 87 runs scored.  The only way to describe that kind of production is invaluable – and that’s exactly what Steer has been for the Reds.


After a year of being mostly in the background, Steer might finally be getting his due (at least in Cincinnati).  He’s obviously pacing the Reds in several key categories, but he’s also shown up in some of the biggest moments of the year too.  He had two hits with two runs scored and two RBI on Opening Day and hit a go-ahead grand slam (the first of his career) in the Reds extra-innings win over the Phillies.  Even in an off-night like last night in which Steer had two strikeouts and “only” went one for four, he still managed to hit a triple.  It’s only been six games, but Steer has already been a massive difference-maker.


For the Reds’ outlook in 2024, the development of Steer into a potential All-Star-caliber player is enormous.  Misfortune struck the Reds hard in Spring Training, with McLain and center fielder T.J. Friedl both landing on the Injured List and Marté getting banned for PEDs, but Steer has been a big part of the team not missing a beat in their absence.  And once they return, Steer will continue to play a key role: filling in wherever necessary and giving the Reds great at-bat after great at-bat.  There’s no player in baseball like Betts (and maybe not ever), but if Steer can continue his Zobrist-like impact on the Reds, they may have more than enough firepower to stay in contention – and maybe much more.

371 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page