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10 reasons to start the Reds’ season optimistic

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How many games will the Reds win?

That’s not a question I can put a number on with any confidence. And I haven’t talked to anyone who is willing to say with any ease what that number will be.

Why are we so non-committal?

Well, my head can’t commit to a number above 79. My heart wants to say something in the 80s. Most Reds fans, it seems, are having the same head-heart tug-of-war.

We know what the worst-case scenarios are that would produce a similar season to the past two. Just list the pitfalls of last summer.

But who wants to be negative now? Maybe you do. That’s your choice.

If there’s a time to be optimistic, it’s now. This team can be in the wild-card hunt when August arrives. Admit it. You want reasons to believe that could happen. You don’t want to be negative on opening day.

If you are feeling low (and even if you’re not), let’s focus on what could spark hope.

In not particular order, here are 10 things, that if they happen in any degree of abundance, might mean the Reds get to August with something to play for.

  1. Figure out lead off

This position has changed as the game has changed to one dominated by power hitters and power pitchers. The argument is that speed isn’t required at the top. No argument there. Get on base.

But when someone with Billy Hamilton’s speed comes along, there’s not a manager who wouldn’t try to make him a lead-off hitter. In today’s game, speed is a bonus. And it’s smart to at least try to take advantage of that bonus.

But if Billy can’t play at least close to league average on-base percentage, then he should bat at the bottom of the order.

Jesse Winker gets on base. Eugenio Suarez gets on base. Joey Votto gets on base better than anyone. What’s the answer? Winker is a popular choice, but we don’t know how much he will play.

Solving this riddle will reduce a lot of anxiety.

  1. At least 3 starters stay healthy and dependable all season

That’s not an unreasonable expectation. It happens all the time.

But I know what you’re thinking … last year, 16 different starters and not a full season out of any of them. It can’t happen again.

Think about it. Three starters healthy all year from the group of Bailey, Castillo, Romano, Mahle, Finnegan and Garrett will bring some stability and produce more victories.

  1. Fewer starting pitchers than last year

Even with three healthy and dependable starters, those last two spots could be a revolving door. That doesn’t mean the Reds can only contend if the number is six or seven.

The Astros won the World Series with 11 different starters. Yes, most were far more experienced than what the Reds have, but don’t freak out because a couple of guys miss a few starts. But if a lot of guys miss a lot of starts, freak out all you want.

  1. At least two more position players get multi-year deals after season

Even if you are not a fan of long-term contracts, signing players to them usually means you have talent.

Votto and Suarez are it for now. Mostly that’s because most of the players aren’t to the point where the Reds have to make that decision.

But if this season sees two players produce enough for the Reds to make that commitment, that can only be a good thing.

  1. Joey Votto isn’t the only Red in top 10 for MVP voting

The last Reds other than Votto to get MVP votes were Johnny Cueto and Devin Mesoraco in 2014. So even one MVP vote would be a good sign.

And it doesn’t matter who gets it.

  1. Bench production improves

A few years from now (if it even takes that long), we won’t remember names like Kivlehan and Alcantara. The Reds need some bench guys with staying power.

The four-man outfield rotation will help. And Mesoraco showed signs this spring of swinging a bat the way he used to. Not to be negative, but I’m not digging Cliff Pennington and Phil Gosselin.

Phillip Ervin is a good choice. I would rather see some prospects getting a chance and learning what the big leagues are about than guys we know will never develop beyond what they already are. If this is a rebuild, keep Brandon Dixon and Alex Blandino.

  1. Bullpen doesn’t melt down

That can’t happen like the past two years, can it? The starting rotation needs their support for 162 games.

That does work both ways. The bullpen needs the rotation to increase its number of quality starts.

  1. Winker a rookie of the year candidate

Now wouldn’t that circumstance answer a lot of questions. He has been like the backup quarterback everybody wants to see get a chance when the starter isn’t performing at a high level.

Is Winker ready for Price to give him that chance? No doubt about it.

  1. Duvall has a good second half

Is it the diabetes that wears him down? Is it the pitchers figuring him out all over again? Maybe more days off with Winker in the mix will help.

If Duvall can put two halves together, then you have your second Red in the top 10 in MVP voting. Then you’re looking at numbers like 40 homers, 40 doubles, 120 RBIs, a .265 batting average and an OPS well over .800.

Those are big ifs, but not impossible.

  1. Reds still can’t find a full-time spot for Nick Senzel

That would mean Jose Peraza, Scooter Gennett and the corner outfielders are playing well. And that means more victories.

Senzel will get some big-league time for sure, but it could be next year before he takes over a position full time. Gennett is probably gone after this year, and a season at second base might be the best thing for Senzel.

Certainly there are more candidates for this list. Use it to feel optimistic for at least the next month.

That’s my plan.

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Cincinnati Reds

Under the Radar Prospects for the Cincinnati Reds: 4 Names to Know

Here are four players you may not already be aware of who could be building their prospect status for the Cincinnati Reds

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Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Jose Garcia, and many other names highlight most “Reds prospect list”. But who are some other names to watch for? So much time and focus goes towards the top 30 guys, but several organizational players are starting to blossom. Let’s look at 4 names to keep an eye on that are not on the top 30 prospects.

 

Alejo Lopez 2B  AA (25 years old .373/.447/.458 .326 wOBA)

Anyone who’s followed me on Twitter knows my love affair with Alejo Lopez. The Lookouts leadoff batter is so fun to watch. He hits everywhere he goes. A career .302/.373/.757 slash line will show that. He simply always puts the ball in play and has enough speed to steal some cheap hits (10.6% K rate 88.5% contact rate). His glove plays well enough, but his power doesn’t. 7 career home runs in 1254 at bats, but there’s enough of a hit tool to keep him interesting. You’ll see in this video how he just pokes the ball and get’s the ball in play.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5ZieFsTsow

 

 

Reiver Sanmartin SP  AAA (25, AA stats: 18 innings 0.50 ERA 23 K’s)

Sanmartin was the extra piece acquired in the Sonny Gray deal a couple of years back from the Yankees. The lefty has steadily worked his way through the system and just got the call up to AAA Louisville. He has an interesting arm angle which helps with deception and K numbers. He’s been a starter his entire career, but with the number of high-end starter prospects ahead of him, sliding to the bullpen could be the next move. The Reds have Doolittle (FA after 2020) and Amir in the pen with Perez, Finnegan, Osich, and Diehl as organizational depth. I will be watching closely to Sanmartin this year.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JI57hy9cYb4

 

Leonardo Rivas SS AA (23, .375/.490/.550 16.3% BB% 20.4 K %)

The switch-hitting SS was acquired from the Angels in the Rasiel Iglesias trade last winter. Only 23 years old, he’s still young but has plenty of experience (1445 at bats). He has speed (89 SB) and has a career .383 OBP. The Reds need an answer at short. Garcia looks like the answer for 2022, but he’ll need a back up and the organization needs depth. Rivas doesn’t project to be a star, but the only other “prospects” at short in the organization in AAA are Errol Robinson and Alfredo Rodriguez.

 

Dauri Moreta RP AA (25, 2.08 ERA 12 K’s 8.2 innings 2 BB)

Moreta career numbers look good but not great. However, his 2019 (and so far in 20201) looked really good. 2019: 2.35 ERA 64 K’s to 9 Walks in 57.1 innings. He has a fast past pace, quick set delivery. His strikeout to walk ratio is good enough to play. With the amount of arms the cycle through a bullpen each year, Moreta could be looking to earn a spot in 2022, or at least a chance.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Xi2I70T748&t=26s

 

Other names to watch:

Lorenzo Cedrola, Evan Kravetz, James Proctor, Daniel Vellojin, Braxton Roxby, Eduardo Salazar, Quinn Cotton

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Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds Previous Shortstop Targets: How They Are Doing

The hole at shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds has yet to be filled by anyone, this season. Looking at who they didn’t sign, this past offseason, would any of them have been much better? One guy would have…

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Every day that goes by we remind ourselves that the front office told the fans “we are working on improving the shortstop situation”. Well, that didn’t happen. So far we have seen the likes of Suarez and Farmer man the position and it’s leaving fans wanting more. Suarez has a -11 OAA (outs above average, a defensive stat)  and Farmer has a 1. No one expected them to be gold glovers, but their bats would pay off! RIGHT?! Suarez is slashing .150/.228/.358 while leading the league with 65 K’s but does have 10 HR, good enough to be a 52 OPS+ player. Farmer’s line is better than Suarez, but still an ugly .219/.299/.316 63 OPS+. Would the rumored offseason SS option have helped the Reds?

 

Andrelton Simmons (.244/.333/.328 2 HR 0.7 WAR 92 OPS+   8 OOA)

Simmons signed a 1 year/ $10.5 million dollar contract with the Twins. That’s not a cheap deal for a glove first guy, but the Twins thought they were legit contenders. The twins have fallen off but Simmons defense hasn’t. Eight OOA is number two in the league for shortstops behind Nick Ahmed. His offense has been fine, and if the Twins continue to lose he could be an attractive trade piece at the deadline. 

 

Didi Gregorius (.229/.266/.364 4 HR 74 OPS+ -0.6 WAR  – 6 OOA)

Many fans wanted Didi likely because of his former ties to the organization more than his outstanding play on the field. His career numbers show mostly hit or miss seasons, and the Phillies gave him 2 years/ 28 million. YIKES. Honestly, with that contract and a declining player, I wouldn’t want him on the 2021 Reds.

Jonathan Villar (.223/.304/.384 4 HR 5 SB 94 OPS+  0.3 WAR  -1 OOA)

Villar was rumored to be a Reds during spring train but ultimately signed with the Mets to a 1 year/ $3.5 million contract. This deal had ended up being a great value considering how injured the Mets and and how Villar can fill in at other positions. As a first place team, he likely remains with them this season. At the very least he could have been the replacement for Blandino and an upgrade there.

Marcus Semien (.286/.349/.536 2.4 WAR 143 OPS+ 8 SB   3 OAA) 

This is the only one I’m beat up over. The Blue Jays plucked Semien for 1 year/ $18 million. A disappointing 2020 after a near MVP 2019 lead to a strange market for Semien. The Blue Jays capitalized. He’s been a good defender while also hitting very well. He’s been primarily a second baseman in Toronto, but he would be the perfect SS for the 2021 reds.

 

In conclusion, the Reds missed out big time on Semien (so far). I think they dodged a bullet with Didi, while Villar and Simmons would be better, I’m not kicking myself over either one. The Reds need to get better at SS if they want to contend this year. My next article: Who could help.

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The Top 10 Recent Cincinnati Reds Debuts as Starting Pitchers

With Vladimir Gutierrez set to bed on Friday on the mound for the Cincinnati Reds, let’s look at some guys who have debuted as starting pitchers for the Redlegs.

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Vladimir Gutierrez has officially gotten the call and will make his Major League debut on Friday at Wrigley Field. This got me thinking about some recent debuts, as a starting pitcher on the mound, for our Redlegs. Since I am a man of great brevity, here’s the last 10 Reds starting pitcher debuts, ranked in order of how good the debut was.

1.) Amir Garrett
Remember 2017? You probably have blocked most of it from your memory as the Reds were horrible, but six of the 10 debuts on this post happened that year. At the top of this list is a man who now hails from the bullpen (which tells you how much you can learn from a pitcher’s debut). Garrett came up to face the hated St. Louis Cardinals on April 7th, 2017. He tossed six shutout innings while striking out Kolten Wong, Jhonny Peralta, Yadier Molina, and the opposing pitcher, former Red Mike Leake. AG allowed just two singles and two walks as the Reds went on to win 2-0. According to the game score metric, that was his best start. As we know, he would be moved to the bullpen later that year.

2.) Tim Adleman
The Red who pitched the most innings in 2017 made his debut a season before that and pitched pretty well. He tossed six innings of two-run ball in Pittsburgh as the Reds beat the Pirates 6-5. Adleman didn’t factor in the decision, but he did strike out six while walking two and allowing three hits, including a homer to Gregory Polanco. Adleman has traveled overseas and back again, since his two years with the Reds, and currently is on the roster in Louisville.

3.) Cody Reed
The promise that was this southpaw, and cornerstone of the Johnny Cueto prospect haul, began to manifest itself (or so we thought) June 18, 2016. Reed pitched seven innings in Houston, striking out nine Astros on his way to a no-decision. He did allow four runs on six hits and two homers, which tempered excitement slightly, but Reed was up and going. He never really went, though, as control was always an issue for him. Five of his next nine starts would see the opposition rack up seven or more hits while he finished his first year in the bigs with a 7.36 ERA. A move to the bullpen seemed to resurrect some value, but he never really panned out like we hoped. He’s down in Florida, now, but not because he retired and moved south.

4.) Jackson Stephens
The first appearance of an obscure former Red! His debut was of the spot start variety against the Cubs, too (thought at Great American Ballpark instead of Wrigley). He pitched five innings while allowing three runs (all earned) on six hits. Though Jon Jay and Willson Contreras took him deep, Stephens struck out eight Cubbies on the day and the Reds won 5-3. And he got the decision. He was sent back down after that start and didn’t resurface until September of that year in the bullpen. Stephens lasted all of two seasons as a member of the Reds and currently is not on a roster for a MLB team. Ironically, his debut was just a smidge better than our next guy…

5.) Luis Castillo
La Piedra just barely makes the top-5 recent MLB debuts with his five innings in our Nation’s Capital. June 23, 2017, Castillo allowed two runs on a pair of solo homers to Brian Goodwin (!) and Anthony Rendon, as well as three other hits, while striking out five. He also issued five free passes on the game. I wish I could say he’s never done that again, but he actually has done it six total times (the most he’s issued in a game were six in Houston on June 17, 2019 in a game that he got the win). We’re just hoping he figures out whatever it is he hasn’t figured out yet, in 2021, as the Reds need him at his best.

6.) Tyler Mahle
His first start didn’t set the world on fire, but Mahle has certainly come around since then. On August 27, 2017, Mahle debuted at GABP against the pirates and pitched five innings and allowing three runs. He managed to strike out five, but he issued four walks and allowed four hits. What’s interesting is he got three more starts that year, two of which he did not allow a run in his time on the mound. He’s been the Reds best pitcher in 2021, thus far.

7.) Tim Melville
Who? You heard me. Now you’re going to look up this guy and the next guy on this list and it might be debatable, but Melville actually had a positive Win Probability added for this start, so that’s why I give a four-inning outing the nod over a five-inning variety. April 10, 2016, Melville tossed four innings at GABP against the pirates and allowed just a solo homer, as far as the scoreboard goes. Now, he did give up five hits and four walks, but managed to tip toe around those and also strike out five. He would pitch two more games as a Red and total five more innings.

8.) Robert Stephenson
That’s right. Tim Melville beat out BobSteve. The dude who, I swear I remember this, people are comparing his prospect value to Stephen Strasburg. Well…that didn’t work out. His first start, though, wasn’t horrible. It just wasn’t very good, either. He pitched five innings against the Phillies allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits, two of which were homers, and a pair of walks. Cedric Hunter (who I would never have ever remembered anywhere) and Ryan Howard (no, not the Dunder Mifflin temp) took him deep. For all his hype, Stephenson managed just one strikeout (Odubel Herrera) in his debut. He’s trying to resurrect his pitching career in the only place where pitchers probably hate more than GABP, Coors Field.

9.) Rookie Davis
The one guy you might remember from the Aroldis Chapman trade (what a farce) debuted to…less than ideal results. He pitched three innings against the Phillies, at GABP, and allowed four runs on five hits. The Reds did win that game, though, which is why he’s not last. Davis struck out the very first bater he faced (Cesar Hernandez) but then promptly flipped the good vibes as he allowed a home run to Daniel Nava (his first of two that day off Davis) the very next dude up. Davis did get a few more chances, though he never pitched more than five innings (and he only got to five once) and was done as a Red after 2017.

10.) Sal Romano
Big Sal didn’t have the beginning he was hoping for. April 16, 2017, Sal pitched against the Brewers at GABP and was busy. He only tossed three innings, but he threw 82 pitches as he walked four, allowed three hits, to of which were home runs, and three runs (two earned). He was sent back down after the start and didn’t get called back up til July. He is now in the Yankees farm system, but there will always be the moment where he and I had a connection at GABP. On June 19, 2018, Sal had what was probably the best start of his career. He pitched seven scoreless innings against the Tigers, allowing four hits and four walks, while striking out six. As he was walking off the mound in the middle of the seventh he looked up toward where I was standing and clapping, at the back of section 127. There were multiple empty rows in front of me, so no one was directly between his line of sight and myself. I decided to take my hat off and tip it toward him. He then responded by doing the same and pointing it directly at me. This happened.

Here’s hoping Vladimir Gutierrez ends up toward the top of this list.

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