The Reds have finished April with a 12-17 record and 7 games out of first place. We will take a look at the successes and downfalls of the first month.
Fielder of the Month
We all knew the guy was going to bring a glove. No one was expecting that glove to be gold. The man is a human highlight real with his mitt. Nearly every night he makes an amazing stop worthy of a second look. What has been even more surprising is his bat. Forgotten history about Iglesias was that Suarez was traded to us by the Tigers because they felt Igelsias was the better player. He came in second for Rookie of the Year in 2013 and was an All Star in 2015. The Reds got him on a minor league, show me your worth, steal of a contract. He currently leads in leading WAR among fielders with 0.6, leading AVG with .305, and is second in OBP with .345. While the Reds are desperate for a shot in the arm, offensively, Iglesias has made the wait easier with his performance.
Honorable Mention: Curt Casali
Starting Rotation Pitcher of the Month
He sports a 1.45 ERA, which is third among all MLB starters right now, seven quality starts, and 6th in strikeouts. Castillo is starting to show signs of a player we had all hoped he could be. He is THE Reds ace right now. The changeup he seems to have perfected has been devastating to batters. Since Opening Day, this guy continues to pitch gem after gem. Castillo has incredible confidence and ownership of the mound. This is great sign not only for the 2019 Reds but for years to come with such a young arm.
Honorable Mention: Sonny Gray
Bullpen Pitcher of The Month
I would not have fathomed that I would be saying this a month ago. I felt like the Reds did this kind of as a favor to Stephenson, being one of the Reds first round draft picks. Many other commentators and fans, including myself, thought there was no way he was even going to make the roster. Stephenson, instead, seems like a man reborn. Developing a nasty slider has made him almost untouchable. He seems past his issues of control and command. Stephenson once said walks were apart of my game. Well, that is no longer the case as he’s tied for least amount of walks in the bullpen. The Reds have also been leveraging him in situations that need clutch performances. He has seemingly come through everytime. He has posted a 2.45 ERA, lowest WHIP of all bullpen pitchers, and second in strikeouts among bullpen pitchers. I couldn’t be happier for the guy.
Honorable Mention: Everyone but Zach Duke
David Bell’s Grade for April: C
The negative: His affinity for players that seemed to be going no where fast like Schebler and Duke have really turned off a lot of people. He seems like he’s almost trying to will these players to be better by consistently playing them when their stats show otherwise. The old school way of righty vs. righty and lefty vs. lefty. This makes sense if the numbers work in your favor. Seems to go against the analytics focus the team has been pushing. Both from a lineup standpoint and bringing in someone from the bullpen stand point. His constant hooking of pitchers is frustrating. It seems like some nights it’s his mission to go through every pitcher in the bullpen even if total the whole bullpen might pitch in 3 innings. Using Lorenzen as essentially a fifth bench player has been a headache to watch. It’s not that I don’t mind I just think it’s frustrating that we feel the need to have him pinch hit, pinch run and be put in center field in tough situation such as the end of most games.
The Positive: Perhaps for the Reds seem to be on the path to analytics based decision making. It has showed from a defensive standpoint as well how amazing the pitching staff has been. Bell has also been willing to experiment with the lineup. Something that I recommended a few weeks ago when the hitting was virtually non existent. Votto at leadoff as well as Winker in the three hole seems to working quite well. Something no one thought possible just a month ago. Bell has already shown some tenacity being kicked out of several games already just one month into the year. Say what you will but I love a coach willing to grill an umpire to stick up for his guys. It unifies his players. He not been afraid to go with his gut instinct. Such as pinch hitting people and bringing a new guy from the bullpen. While I only agree with his questionable decisions about 50/50 I like the fact he’s willing to nut up somewhat and take a risk. That shows GRIT.
Starting Pitching: A
Bullpen Pitching: A
Overall Grade for April: C
Many expected the Reds with all the offseason hype to come out hot. While the pitching has been historically good though just one month of baseball for all the right reason the hitting ranks amongst the worst in the league in almost every major category. If this team can manage an even mediocre hitting performance next month with good pitching they should be back up to .500 in no time.
Who’s the Reds Third Best Pitcher?
The third best pitcher on the Reds in 2020 will not be who you are thinking.
Castillo, Gray, Bauer, DeSclafani, and Miley. A deep, veteran, proven rotation which, on paper, makes the Reds the NL Central favorites. You can argue over who the “Ace” is, but who cares. Gray and Castillo both showed incredible stuff each earning an all-star bid. Miley brings a lefty to the rotation while Bauer brings the big name on a contract year. However, the one pitcher that doesn’t have an all-star appearance on his resume is the one to keep an eye on. I think Anthony DeSclafani will be the third best pitcher behind Castillo and Gray.
In 2019, Anthony DeSclafani had a healthy season. Coming off a promising 2016 (3.28 ERA 130 ERA+), Disco missed the entire 2017 season and only pitched in 21 games during the 2018 campaign. With how fantastic Gray/Castillo pitched and the splash trade that landed Bauer, DeSclafani’s season flew under the radar. 2.6 War 3.89 ERA 117 ERA + 167 K’s in 31 starts pitching 166.2 innings. His last 8 starts he pitched to the tune of a 2.39 ERA. Just a lucky year? I don’t think so. DeSclafani has mentioned before how much working with pitching coach Derek Johnson has helped him. Now more of a veteran, coming off a healthy season and having another healthy offseason with DJ, just how good could DeSclafani be?
According to Baseball Reference Disco’s projections:
9-9 4.35 ERA 1 Sv (?) 155 innings 154 K’s
Zips projection: 1.6 (Bauer 3.8, Castillo 3.9, Gray 3.2, Miley 1.1)
First off, win loss record for a pitcher means absolutely nothing. However, I do think DeSclafani will set a career high in wins, which is 9 (9 wins 3 different times). Last season, his first with Derek Johnson, Disco set a career high in strikeouts while pitching 18 fewer innings than his career high in innings. Contrary to many pitchers, he pitched pretty well at GABP.
Home: 6-4 3.50 ERA 82.1 in 71 hits 86 K’s
Away: 3-5 4.27 ERA 84.1 in 80 hits 81 K’s
A healthy 2020 while pitching in a contract year is important. Earning $5,900,000 at 30 years old it is crucial for DeSclafani to pitch well and set himself up for another contract and payday before he gets older. If he can continue to build off last season and take a step forward the Reds could be around a 90 win team in 2020.
*Random stat: DeSclafani’s 2019 117 ERA+ is higher than Bauer’s ERA+ in 7 of his 8 seasons.*
Bounce Back and Breakout: Outfield
Looking to the outfield for a bounce back and a breakout candidate.
10 outfielders. TEN?!?!? On the 40-man roster? Well, let’s try to unpack this obscurity. The offseason started with a quick trade to acquire Travis Jankowski which has turned into the safety option after the Reds hit big on their free agent targets. Mark Payton was selected in the Rule 5 as a long shot to make the roster. Scott Schebler is still around and apparently healthy. Don’t forget he once hit 30 home runs but more recently hit .123/.253/.222. VanMeter is probably projected more as an infielder especially with the new additions. Ok, so now that we have trimmed the fat, we are left with the big question mark in Aquino, hits LHP Ervin, often injured Senzel, RHP only Winker, and the big free agents Akiyama and Castellanos. With at bats limited, who will bounce back and who will break out?
Bounce Back: Nick Senzel
Honorable Mention: Aristides Aquino
No one has ever questioned the talent. There’s a reason Senzel was drafted high and appeared at the top of prospect list. The issue has been health. Not to beat a dead horse, but he’s struggled to stay on the field. Once he arrived on the scene in May, Senzel hit .279/.347/.468 with 4 home runs 5 doubles and 2 triples. Those numbers started to slip and Turner Ward changing his batting stance didn’t help. Injuries once again were an issue. How Senzel will be used in 2020 is up for debate. Everyday centerfielder? Second if Suarez is injured? Super utility? Who cares, the most important thing is to get Senzel healthy, find a comfortable batting stance, and get him at bats. A season (well, 104 games) under his belt should help. Many rookies struggle. Hell, Mike Trout batted .220 in his first year (40 games). Senzel won’t be Trout, but if he can hit around .280, which I think he can, this team could catch fire in and take the division.
Baseball Reference Projection: .260/.324/.445 14 HR 10 SB 20 2B (These seem low to me)
Breakout: Shogo Akiyama
Honorable Mention: Phillip Ervin
The first Japanese player in Reds history comes with high expectations. Although a rookie, Akiyama will be 32 years old and has proven himself in Japan. Hitting 20 home runs or more the past three seasons while hitting over .300 and an OBP of .398, .403, .392 should cause fans to drool over what he could be. Many question if he can be a centerfielder in the MLB but the Reds think he’ll hold his own. Adjusting to the new country and a new league could lead to a slow start. Many assume he has an elite eye for the strike zone due to his OBP, but Akiyama has never walked more than he strikes out. Not many players do, we as fans have been spoiled with Votto doing just that a few seasons in his career (APPRECIATE VOTTO). Frankly, I couldn’t care less how he gets on base as long as he is on base. I think Akiyama will be a crucial part of the team’s success in 2020.
2020 Offseason Compared to Others
This offseason is definitely the best the Reds have had in the last decade.
$165 million dollar SPLASH offseason’ s are not common in Cincinnati. After years and years of subpar rosters and uninspiring managing, the Reds started to focus on the future last offseason with a few big moves. Sonny Gray was brought in help the top of the rotation while Puig in friends were brought in to jazz up the lineup. At least one worked. 2019 offseason has built a solid foundation for the years to come. If you thought that was exciting, 2020 blew it out of the water.
So, let’s run down some previous offseason’s. Here are some of the players the Reds acquired via free agency and trades:
2010: Chapman, Arredondo, Orlando Cabrera
2011: Ramon Hernandez and Edgar Renteria
2012: Mat Latos, Sean Marshall, Ryan Madson, Dioner Navarro, Ludwick, JJ Hoover, Wilson Valdez
2013: Jumbo Diaz, Broxton, Choo, Hannahan, Cesar Izturis
2014: Tim Adleman, Skip Schumaker, Jason Bougeois, Trevor Bell, Ramon Santiago
2015: Ivan De Jesus, Ramon Cabrerra, DeSclafani, Suarez, Marlon Byrd, Jason Marquuis, Burk Badenhop
2016: Blake Wood, Brandon Allen, Tim Melville, Schebler and Peraza, Alfredo Simon, Dan Strailey
2017: Stuart Turner, Josh VanMeter, Drew Storen, Luis Castillo, Scott Feldman, Arroyo, Scooter
2018: Kevin Quackenbush, Mason Williams, Phil Gosselin, Jared Hughes, David Hernandez, Cliff Pennington
2019: Tanner Roark, Farmer/Puig/Kemp/Wood, Sonny Gray, Derek Dietrich, Jose Iglesias
Man, that 2014-2018 was bad. The good players acquired were prospects. Obviously, during a rebuild that is what you do. But the MLB “talent” that was signed, well, yikes! (A couple of good players, I am being harsh.) The front office had no plans for winning. That is just how rebuilds work. But, you can see the foundation being built. The prospects take a few years and 2018 was the first aggressive push in years. The Reds window for success is now. By going out and signing offensive players in Moose and Castellans to pair with OBP machine Akiyama the city of Cincinnati is ready for excitement. Lack of spending has been the gripe of patrons each offseason. They were finally silenced. Interestingly, previous improvements had been made via trade, mostly. The opposite happened this offseason with signing talent and holding on to future assets. What do we make of that? I’m not really sure. Does it say the Reds have something up their sleeve to pull off a spring training trade? Could be. Too many outfielders will have to play itself out. Although this offseason has been the biggest yet, it’s possible it’s not even over yet.