It feels like it’s been ages since the Cincinnati Reds looked like a real, contending team. A win over St. Louis on July 14 gave the Reds a record of 43-52, the only time this season the team dipped below 10 games under .500. It also meant the Reds had gone 40-34 in the post-Bryan Price era, 18-7 over the previous 25-game stretch and had taken series from the Cardinals, Cubs (a four-game sweep, even!) and Atlanta.
Since then, it’s been nothing but sadness, particularly since the All-Star break. Injuries have decimated the roster with Joey Votto, Scott Schebler and Jesse Winker all spending time either on the disabled list or, in Winker’s case, having the season come to an end as a whole.
The once-competent Reds look destined to finish with a worse record than year’s past even despite the promising middle months of the season. Heading into Friday’s contest, the Reds are 59-82. At the same point last year, the Reds were 61-79. Two years ago, the team was 59-82. The team needs to reach the 69 win mark to finish with a better mark than years past. To avoid another 90-loss season, the team must go 14-7.
In short, it doesn’t look great for the franchise, which begs the question, are the Reds really in a better spot than years past?
Coming into the season, the Reds appeared to have a plethora of starting pitching options, more than one rotation could even hold. And that didn’t even include Homer Bailey or Matt Harvey. Fast forward six months and there’s never been more uncertainty about the starting pitching.
Luis Castillo has been disappointing in his sophomore season. At times he looks incredible, like going 6.2 innings while allowing just two hits and striking out 11 against the Cardinals. At other times, like the start that preceded that in which he lasted just 3.2 innings while allowing five runs, he’s frustrated.
Tyler Mahle and Sal Romano suffered struggles of their own. While both had positive signs, the negatives outweighed the good and both were demoted in separate ways, the former sent to AAA and the latter to the bullpen. Cody Reed and Robert Stephenson look like lost causes as starters. Reed has shown enough promise to earn a chance in the bullpen while Stephenson looks like a player that needs a change of scenery.
Harvey and Bailey hardly deserve discussion about the future. Neither belong in the present Reds rotation and certainly don’t warrant a spot in the coming seasons.
While the bullpen has been largely a positive for the team this season, overall, the pitching has tons of question marks. Free agency or trades could address the matter but it means the team can’t address other holes with their limited funds.
The offense has not been a source of questions. When at full strength, the Reds not only have an offense worthy of competing at a high level but one of the best in the league. Heading into next season, the Reds will have some combination of Votto, Schebler, Winkler, Nick Senzel, Eugenio Suarez and even potentially Scooter Gennett in the lineup. That’s the type of offense that a contending team should have.
The biggest source of concern for the Reds, though, is not on the field but off of it. Recent moves, or lack thereof, have raised many concerns about the structure of the front office. While President Dick Williams and General Manager Nick Krall are saying many of the right things publicly, owner Bob Castellini has handcuffed both of them.
The comments about the team not moving Billy Hamilton and Harvey point to an owner unwilling to let those who he hired have freedom. And when your boss is hovering around in the day-to-day operations, it wears on a front office.
To be honest, does any fan trust Castellini to make the moves necessary to turn the Reds into a winner now? Hamilton’s time as a starter should be done. Harvey and Bailey’s time as Reds should be done. Gennett should have been traded months ago and that’s not even taking into account the necessity of finding a spot for Senzel in next year’s team.
Because of Castellini’s lingering, the Reds appear to be in a worse position than any year prior. The team is on the brink of capping off the rebuild and balking at the trade deadline could prove costly. Even then, the correct sequence of moves in the off-season could still put the Reds back into contention. But the question marks are continuing to arise more quickly than they disappear and without a properly-functioning front office, the Reds may be moving backwards than forward.
Cincinnati Reds Alternate Site Game: April 6, 2021
The Cincinnati Reds are currently playing some games with their alternate team against other alternate teams. Clay Snowden had a chance to attend one and gives a report.
78 degrees with a few clouds in the sky was the perfect day for the perfect game of baseball. My first in person game since 2019. I never knew just how much I missed it until I experienced the sights of sounds of the game for what felt like the very first time (again). Enough about me, let’s talk about the game. The alternate site Reds (that’s what we will call them) took on the Royals on Tuesday night. I want to provide a recap of the pitching and hitting while highlighting a few players.
Riley O’Brien started for the Reds. Acquired in the Cody Reed trade, O’Brien is an interesting pitcher with some obvious upside. He has a lot to like but can struggle to find the zone at times. He struck out Bobby Witt Jr (One of MLB top prospects) while causing him to whiff on back to back strikes. He also gave up 2 home runs, 4 hits 4 runs in 3 innings while striking out 5. At times he simply over powered hitters and at times they squared him up. I still like him as a possible bullpen guy at some point.
Brandon Finnegan, who came out of nowhere this spring and impressed, looked pretty solid tonight. Struck a guy out looking while allowing 1 hit in one inning. His breaking stuff had some life on it. Doolittle, Perez, and Garrett will make it tough for him to find innings, but if injuries happen he’s more than capable of filling in. What a great story his comeback is.
Finnegan was followed by uneventful innings from R.J. Alaniz, Edgar Garcia, Hector Perez, and Ryan Hendrix. Garcia was hit hard and hit often. Perez has a fastball that is noticeably faster than others, but the radar gun was not on. Hendrix really pops the catchers glove, but location was an issue.
Mike Freeman, a utility infielder brought over from the Indians, provided the only real offense tonight with a home run off a LHP (Lynch) to right center. In my mind him, Blandino, and Schrock all are battling for the same “utility infielder” position. Schrock was quiet at the plate tonight.
Mark Payton had a decent night at the plate. I really like his eye for the strike zone and patience at the plate. He had a strong single up the middle and worked a count full on another at bat. He had a ton of balls hit to him in center and he covered a lot of territory well. One ball he tried to rob a HR and it hit off of him and went over the wall. From my vantage point it looked like he might have helped that ball go over.
Jose Garcia made solid contact in his two balls put into play. I am far from a swing expert, but his swing looked a little off tonight. Maybe a little slow? I don’t know. He also swung and missed several times. A full year in the minors will do him well.
The last player that caught my eye was Alejo Lopez. The 24 year old switch hitting infielder just knows how to hit. He has logged over 1,000 minor league at bats and has a slash of .297/.367/.746. In his two at bats he made great contact one leading to a single up the middle and one a sharp lineout to end the game.
Eugenio Suarez at Shortstop Makes the Cincinnati Reds Very Interesting
The Cincinnati Reds have announced that Eugenio Suarez will start Tuesday’s game at shortstop which opens up so many possibilities that make the Reds lineup dangerous.
The Cincinnati Reds dropped a Geno-sized bomb on Reds Country and the result is mass excitement.
We are all aware of the swings-and-misses with free agent shortstops the Reds front office had this offseason. In fact they struck out, if you’re counting, as there were three bonafide shortstops who all went elsewhere. So we’ve spent all Spring Training squinting our eyes to see if we could maybe see the fringe possibility of someone on this roster playing shortstop. Then the Reds stopped pretending.
Coming into camp, Eugenio Suarez just looked different. He was way more fit, trim, cut, whatever word for in-shape you want to use. You could say he was in the best shape of his life (many have). Geno planned for this, and management noticed. They’re reportedly been giving him more practice reps at shortstop and getting him comfortable fielding back there again. You don’t do that just for kicks, they were on to something.
Then Jose Garcia showed a continued lack of confidence at the plate, Dee Strange-Gordon proved there was a reason he hasn’t played shortstop, exclusively, in eight years, and Kyle Holder showed some skills but ultimately proved he needs more seasoning. Kyle Farmer has shown promise at the plate but the defense isn’t any sort of revolutionary development and he still shows more value as the do-everything guy off the bench. Insert Suarez.
Immediately some of you are thinking “Isn’t there a reason they moved him away from shortstop in the first place?” You could go that route, but let me answer your question with a question “Is there really a good reason to keep Jonathan India, or dare I say Nick Senzel (when Shogo Aliyama is healthy) out of the starting lineup for Kyle Farmer, or any of the other options they’ve tried at shortstop?”
This is the Reds thinking outside the box! This opens up so many possibilities with the lineup. With injuries, this is what the Opening Day lineup could look like:
CF Nick Senzel
LF Jesse Winker
SS Eugenio Suarez
3B Mike Moustakas
RF Nicholas Castellanos
2B Jonathan India
C Tyler Stephenson
1B Tucker Barnhart
I like that lineup. Now, there’s more than a chance that someone else plays first base and Tucker is the catcher on Opening Day, but this is the optimal lineup with Joey Votto on the COVID shelf. Once he is back, this lineup just looks dangerous:
CF Nick Senzel
LF Jesse Winker
SS Eugenio Suarez
3B Mike Moustakas
RF Nicholas Castellanos
1B Joey Votto
2B Jonathan India
C Tyler Stephenson
Here’s hoping the Eugenio Shortstop experience lots all year long!
Monday Morning Manager: The Cincinnati Reds and Things Being What They Are
David Bell has too many outfielders, or does he? An injury to Shogo Akiyama could make lineup decisions easier, but could hurt the overall team potential.
Today on the Monday Not-Morning Manager I want to look at how the chips fall. There’s a line of thinking in sports that pertains to rosters. If you’ve got four players for three spots and it’s hard to differentiate between them, something always works out. Something beyond the making of a lineup card happens that makes making the lineup card slightly easier (so far as filling the three spots). One wonders if this is what has happened with centerfield for the Cincinnati Reds.
Shogo Akiyama had an encouraging September, last year. He got on base roughly 46% of the time and became the leadoff hitter that Reds fans felt he’d be when he signed. He showed his prowess in the outfield and sound fundamentals that lead you to believe he can be a defensive asset. He looked to be showing he could bring value to the lineup.
Nick Senzel has had a heck of a Spring. Hitting the ball all over the field, taking what the pitcher gives him, and making solid, powerful contact. He’s overcome some early spring mishaps on defense and is back to his athletic range in centerfield. When healthy he has shown to be an asset for the team. Barring some creative decision-making on the part of David Bell, he’s going to play in the outfield, come he’ll or high water.
So what then? Shogo and Senzel cannot both start of Nicholas Castellanos and Jesse Winker man the corners. How does David Bell figure this out? That may be taken off his plate.
Today (Monday) Shogo is getting his left hamstring examined. He left Saturday’s game after just one at-bat. If he is to miss any amount of time, the decision who the Opening Day centerfielder will be will be easy, but this isn’t a statement of relief. The best version of the Cincinnati Reds lineup includes all of Shogo, Senzel, Castellanos, and Winker and you’ll have a hard time convincing me otherwise. I want Bell and the Reds managerial staff to find ways to get all four of them in the lineup as much as possible. Hopefully, Shogo is fine and Bell will begin the 2021 with too many players rather than too few.