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Cincinnati Reds

And I Didn’t Even See It Coming

There’s been ugly, bad, and some good, but mostly bad, in this season’s early going. Here’s a few thoughts on how the Cincinnati Reds can turn it around.

Dave Pemberton

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I did not expect to be the Reds lineup to be record setting in the worst possible ways, just one week into the season. I did not expect the a majority of the fan base to be jumping ship this suddenly. I definitely didn’t expect the strongest part of our team to be the starting rotation this early. Lets looks at the good, the okay, the bad, and the ugly. Then lets talk about how the Reds can improve there situation.

I’m going to lead with the ugly. I hate getting awful news as my last piece of information. The Reds lineup right now is straight up ugly. This team has the lowest batting average, on base percentage and runs scored of any team in the MLB. Its not even close. Iglesias, Barnhart, Dietrich and Casali are the only people currently batting better than .250. In fact the Reds currently have six batters batting less than .200. Puig, Kemp, Schebler, Suarez and Winker are seriously struggling. They have combined for 45 strikeouts in just 9 games. The Reds went over three games without producing any runs while the team only gave up 5 runs during that period. This has translated to a 1-8 start and wasted some amazing pitching performances.

The bad would be some questionable management decisions from Bell. Bell’s decision not to walk the bases loadad to get to the pitcher on Tuesday night against the Brewers. A mistake which led to a 3 run homer. Bell also had a controversy when Casali doubled and rather than bunt Schebler who has barely touched the ball he let him swing. While I agree with Mr. Jeff Carr that bunting is largely a waste that doesn’t mean its not necessary. I am 100% for situational bunting. And when you have Votto behind a guy that can’t hit a volleyball, currently, you bunt him.

The other bad has been the use of Lorenzen. I am fine using him as the occasional pinch runner, hitter, and center fielder. The Reds have essentially used his as a fifth bench player. Lorenzen played center field opening day. He has already logged an at bat and been used as pinch runner multiple times. What he has not done is pitch well. He’s been brought to clean up the mess. The results have been disastrous. Lorenzen has 4 innings pitched with an opposing avg of .353, 3 walks, and a 4.50 ERA.

Another frustration is the constant hooking of bullpen pitchers. The best example of this was on Opening Day when three different pitchers logged an out. Duke has logged 5 games and only 2.1 innings. Completely unnecessary.

One other bad thing is Bell, until the last two games, has not really shook up the lineup. Schebler and Winker keep finding themselves often leading off, something both seemed to be terrible at, so far. For the first six games the leadoff spot was hitless.

The okay has been the Reds bullpen putting up a 3.98 ERA at 16th overall in the MLB, so far. Amir Garrett, Wandy Peralta, and Robert Stephenson have been lights out in there performances. The rest have been struggling to shake the rust off. Iglesias, even though he was left with the loss, finally looked somewhat himself in his nearly 3 inning performance, Saturday. I’m confident they will continue to improve.

The good has been the starting rotation. They have posted the 11th best starting rotation ERA with 3.47. They have outstanding starts from everyone, but Roark, so far. Castillo has looked like he could be reaching the potential we all believe he has. Gray recovered from a horrendous start in the frigid weather with a stellar performance Friday night that should have produced a win. Disco and Mahle also produced terrific performances of there own. Derek Johnson seems to working some magic with these guys so far. The best part is they have Alex Wood still slated to comeback sometime near the end of April-early May.

Another piece of good has been the Reds use of analytics. Each outfielder has been carrying a card in there pocket they look at before each batter. The fielder then shifts based on the hitter’s tendency with the pitcher on the mound. While Puig’s bat has been absent, his glove has been a highlight reel.

On Sunday, Bell, Puig, and Garrett showed some life getting ejected. Chris Archer got butt-hurt that Dietrich whacked a dinger into a different area code and just admired it. Archer followed it up by throwing a 93mph fastball behind Dietrich his next at bat. The team seemed pretty unified in it’s response. The picture of Puig ready to take on the Pirates by himself is so good it belongs in the Louvre Museum. Hopefully this will help spark something in this season that is drowning.

How can the Reds turn this around. For starters they MUST shake up the lineup. I am not just saying this for the sake of trying to shake things up. I am saying this because with the depth this team has, there is zero reason why they shouldn’t. There is no reason they shouldn’t be seeing how Peraza could do as leadoff. Say moving Votto back to third and sliding Puig to fifth. Possibly try mixing Dietrich’s hot bat into the lineup more often as a starter. I have all the faith in the world that this team’s starting lineup will be an unstoppable force soon enough. In the meantime play the hot hand.

Next the Reds must move up Senzel and Ervin as soon as possible. Having 8 bullpen pitchers is serving this team no purpose. Especially when most of the rotation is able to eat up at least six innings. Senzel and Ervin could give the team the shot in the arm it needs till Scooter gets back in the lineup. This would also help Lorenzen to focus more on his pitching. Lorenzen was a solid bullpen pitcher for the 2018 Reds. I still feel like his career is on the upward swing. However using him as a substitute for a fifth bench player is a gimmick this team doesn’t need.

Finally Bell must give the bullpen a little more rope before yanking them. Garrett and Perelta have been lights out. No reason to pull them after one hitter. I also think as we go deeper into the season you’ll see the starting rotation go deeper into the games lessening the need for the bullpen. Bell has been great with integrating the analytics. However, just like in the movie Moneyball, playing the numbers only gets you so far. Sometimes you have to think with your gut and look at the bigger picture, not just the numbers in front of you. I hope to see less head scratching moves in the coming weeks.

I know this is rough Reds fans. Believe me my group of buddies and I have season tickets and we have a group chat going every night. If you were to read the messages without any context you’d think we all need anger management courses. However, I am always reminded the 1995 Reds, one of my favorite in my lifetime, started out a whopping 1-8. They used the remaining games to win the NL Central and advance to the the NLCS. I can and truly believe this team is capable of doing the same. Have faith and remember we were #BornToBaseball.

I grew up engulfed in baseball. My grandfather had season tickets for the Reds from 1970 until 2002. I was raised in a neighborhood that was essentially the Sandlot set in the 1990's but with even more kids. We played from the minute we woke up until it was too dark to see the ball. Then we'd spend the night at someones house playing baseball video games, talking about baseball cards, or watching it on television. I idolized Barry Larkin as fielder, hitter, and leader. I was fortunate enough to play baseball through high school. Now I am a registered nurse, married way out of my league, and have two amazing kids that will exceed anything I ever do in this life. I am fortunate enough to have a Reds season ticket package with my close friends and family. The Reds ballpark is my second home. Baseball has provided me with some of my most treasured memories shared over four generations.

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Cincinnati Reds

Reds Rule 5 Players and Predictions

We are coming up on the deadline for MLB teams to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft. Here are some players the Reds need to make some tough decisions on.

Clay Snowden

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MLB teams have until November 20th to make their decision on the players eligible for the Rule 5 draft. They must decide to “protect” (add to the 40 man roster) to avoid another team selecting a player in the draft. I want to go over the list and make predictions on if the player will be protected or not.

Riley O’Brien RHP

O’Brien was acquired from Tampa Bay in the Cody Reed trade. A late bloomer of sorts, the 6’4” righty has a nice fastball. Being 25, he’s ready to battle for a spot in the pen right now. There isn’t great bullpen depth on the 40 man roster right now, so I can see O’Brien replacing a spot that players such as Romano/Alaniz/De Leon held in 2020. Prediction: Protected

Vladimir Gutierrez RHP

The former top 10 organizational prospect has been trending in the wrong direction. The beginning of 2019 was tough in AAA for Vlad but he finished the year strong. A suspension plus the lack of a 2020 minor league season makes it difficult to see how he is doing. However, he has enough raw talent to keep him on the roster. Prediction: Protected

Jacob Heatherly LHP

Checking in at #18 on the Reds prospect list, Heatherly is the only lefty on the list. We know the Reds will likely bring in lefty competition for the LHP bullpen spot next to Amir. Coming off an injury, I would bet he would not get drafted. Prediction: Not Protected

Alfredo Rodriguez SS

It feels like Alfredo has been in the Reds system forever. A 2016 pricey Cuban SS, Rodriguez was brought in due to his glove in hopes that the bat would come around. Long story short, it hasn’t. He’s now 26 and a change of scenery might be the best for him. I doubt he will get picked, though. Prediction: Not Protected

TJ Friedl OF

Friedl was exposed last year in the draft and not selected. He is a plus fielder and runner, but most other parts of his game are underwhelming. Prediction: Not Protected

Joel Kuhnel RHP

Most of us have a pretty good idea of what Kuhnel is. He has a fastball that is VERY good. I have always liked Kuhnel and wanted to see him get a longer look. There were plenty of opportunities for him to get a shot and more often than not he was overlooked. This one is hard for me, but I think him not getting more chances shows what the Reds think of him. Prediction: Not Protected

Mariel Bautista OF

Bautista has been with the Reds since 2014. I really do not think he is anything too special in terms of a prospect. He also doesn’t do any one thing so well that a team would select him off of that one skill. Prediction: Not Protected

Jared Solomon RHP

To be honest, I do not know much about Solomon. So I reached out to someone much smarter than me, our #RedsTwitter friend @RedsFan_Brandon . He predicted him to be protected. Boddy has been high on him and his fastball has improved. So I will stick with that. Prediction: Protected

None of these players are top 15 Reds prospects by most list. So losing any of them shouldn’t be the end of the world. Last year the Reds selected Mark Payton. Conor Joe was selected the year before.

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Cincinnati Reds

Non-Tender Candidates

Should the Reds look to be active in the free agent market they’re most likely going to have to cut payroll, first. Let’s start with some player who could get non-tendered before the December 2nd deadline.

Jeff

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This offseason…stop me if you’ve heard this…is going to be weird. Budgets will be unpredictable, although most believe spending will be at a minimum, and the Reds already have a lot of contracts that are set. Further additions and movement in the free agent market most likely will be preceded by some surprise cuts.

Based on the players leaving and the estimated totals of arbitration contracts, spotrac.com has the Reds at just over $126 million in payroll for 2021. They totaled out at a smidge over $144 million last year (if the season was to be as normal) with all of the transactions considered. The Reds could try to get back to that number, but the most likely scenario is that they hover around the $125-$130 million mark.

With the idea of making one or two moves to improve one of the worst lineups in baseball, let’s look at three candidates for being non-tendered. 

(Just an FYI, only non-tender candidates are capable of being cut and their salary taken off the books. All other MLB contracts are guaranteed.)

Brian Goodwin

As a fan, this one would hurt. He was a guy I watched with the Angels thinking if he were given everyday playing time, he would flourish. If I’m being objectively honest (and if I want the Reds to run similarly to the Rays) non-tendering him would make sense. He’s an athletically gifted outfielder who has a little bit of pop in his bat. In fact, he’s pretty much Phillip Ervin. The problem is, he figures to be a rotational outfield player, assuming everyone is healthy.

According to Spotrac, he will make around $3.2 million next year, or possibly the sixth highest dollar amount of Reds position players. That’s more than Jesse Winker’s possible $2.7 million and I think we can all agree that Jesse needs to be in the everyday lineup. Ik now he just got here from LA, but the dude was bit by whatever bug bit the Reds bats and slashed .163/.236/.327 in 20 games as a Red. Small sample size, sure, but am I counting on him to be light years better than that in what may not figure to be much more playing time? No.

Archie Bradley

This one I am less sure of being a good idea, but I am rolling with this whole “be more like Tampa” idea. The Rays, per Spotrac, aren’t estimated to give ANY of their relievers more than $2.5 million next year. The Reds are slated to give three relievers over $4 million.

I am not advocating a non-tender for Michael Lorenzen because of his versatility and potential for being the fifth starter in 2021. Barring a trade, the Reds are paying $9.125 million to Raisel Iglesias to get the last out of a game. They’re really going to pay Archie Bradley, who it felt as though David Bell didn’t trust as much as Nate Jones at times, $5 million to be a setup man? 

Robert Stephenson

Okay, this one really isn’t that surprising. It is time. We once regarded him as the Reds top prospect. We once regarded him as a future ace. We once proclaimed he reborn as a shutdown reliever. We now have no clue what to expect from him and it just does not make sense to continue to trot him out there expecting the complete career turnaround that we’ve all been hoping for since the “rebuild” began.

It won’t really save the Reds a ton of money, but freeing up BobSteve’s roster spot will open up an opportunity for one of the up-and-coming prospects or another Derek Johnson reclamation project. Frankly, I’d rather see any of those than BobSteve coming out of the Reds bullpen in 2021.

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Cincinnati Reds

Mailbag: Senzel, Winker, Votto, and More

Time for an offseason mailbag to get your focus on what the Reds need to do th be better for 2021

Clay Snowden

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It’s been a while and we have all had a chance to process that Reds playoff performance. Yuck. However, it is time for offseason talk. Let’s get into the mailbag.

 

What are the Reds going to do at catcher? The Reds and pitchers seem to like Casali and Barnhart behind plate..

The Reds once again went with the duo of Casali and Tucker behind the plate in 2020. The results were underwhelming, but not miserable. Tucker is a finalist for a gold glove while hitting .204/.291/.388 and an OPS+ of 77. Casali hit .224/.366/.500 with an OPS+ of 126. However, we all want to see the exciting prospect, Tyler Stephenson, take his reign of the position. I expect exactly that next season. Having a veteran backing him up is important so I’d imagine Tucker plays that role as he is under contract while Casali will enter arbitration.

In terms of how the pitchers like Casali and Tucker, I think that just comes with time. I am sure once the pitchers get to work with Stephenson more, they will learn to pitch well to him.

 

If there is a DH in 2021, shouldn’t #19 fill that role and let Da Wink and (place RH bat here) platoon at 1st?

The only thing the Reds have now is time (between now, and next season). So, what is their excuse for not putting Senzel at 2B, and give him regular ABs? (This makes Votto the DH, and Moose 1B)

What’s the odds of moving Senzel to 2nd, Moose to 1st and Votto to DH.

Well this is my intake everybody has one with the Outfield I guess we’re not going to have a DH going forward so Jesse Winker needs to be traded along with Nick Senzel I definitely keep Shogo, and hopefully we can keep Castellanos and let’s go try to get a productive outfielder

 

I want to clump all these together because it’s pretty much all the same gist.  So, let’s breakdown what it could look like with and then without the DH.

WITH: Votto to DH, Moose to first, Senzel STAYS in center, second is open to add speed/OBP.

Explanation: Votto’s defense is terrible. His contract isn’t going anywhere, so put him at DH. He still has something left with the bat. When Moose signed he wasn’t signing on to play second for the duration of that contract. No way. Move him to first and the defense at first likely improves. Keep Senzel in Center. Injuries and swing changes have stunted the development of Senzel enough. Asking him to change back to second after 2 years of focusing on becoming a CF just feels like something they will not do. He hasn’t done any work (that we know of ) at second since he moved to CF.

Now for 2B. Bringing back the same team that barely sneaked into an expanded playoff (while maybe losing Bauer) seems like a bad idea. Changes have to be made. The Reds added plenty of HR power last offseason, now add a 2B that might be a better OBP guy. Speed and better baserunning would be welcomed as well. In theory, this could increase the defensive ability at second as well.

WITHOUT: Votto at first (with plenty of days off), Moose at 2B, Senzel in CF, Winker traded.

Explanation: Votto really doesn’t have anywhere else to go besides the bench. There is not an option at this point, when they play him he will be at first. Which leaves Moose at second. Again, not a thrilling defensive side of the infield, but Moose held his own at second but as he gets older his range will continue to drop. Senzel in CF for the same reason’s I listed above. Winker is traded. In this scenario, I am still looking to shake up the team from 2020. ( I am also assuming Castellanos is returning) An OF with Winker and Castellanos fielding would be far less than ideal. I really like Winker, but Shogo could be ready for a bigger role. Winker has trade value and could strengthen the team in other areas by moving him. If the Reds make a big trade like many fans are hoping for, they will have to move MLB talent. They do not have enough top-end prospects to trade. If they do move the top prospects, they will deplete their farm system because it lacks depth. Remember, to acquire top-end talent you have to trade high value. Prospects out of the top 5 usually aren’t considered too high by many other organizations. 

 

Goldstar or Skyline and Cut or Twirl

I have never even had Goldstar. No need to. Skyline fills my needs. Twirl

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