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.
The Cincinnati Reds and the 20 Pitch Limit
When it comes to quirky early Cactus League season games, there’s a lot to know. One this is the 20-pitch limit a manager can invoke on an inning his guy is getting clobbered in. The Cincinnati Reds have already done this.
This Spring has seen an interesting beginning in that teams have smaller rosters than normal (though still plenty of players to go around) and they can choose to play shorter games. One other added wrinkle of differentness is the ability of a manager to “throw in the towel” whenever his pitcher reaches 20 pitches in an inning.
The Reds have already taken advantage of this twice, both during the beat down at the hands of the Athletics. Sal Romano got the curtain pulled on him in the fourth inning while Shane Carl heard the music in the fifth. These don’t necessarily paint a larger picture, as of yet, but it is interesting to note.
Carle doesn’t factor into the equation that is the Opening Day roster, but Big Sal surely does. He is out of minor league options (meaning he’d have to clear waivers to be assigned a minor league team) and he has shown some flashes of talent in the past. He could be valuable depth for the Reds bullpen, so calling it quits after 20 tosses (which frankly were all a consequence of Nick Senzel misplaying a ball early in the inning) doesn’t mean he’s out, but it is something to watch.
We’ll keep track here on the blog for more 20-pitch tap-outs.
Cincinnati Reds Roster Breakdown: Non Roster Invitees
Let’s take a look at the non-roster invitees trying to make the Cincinnati Reds roster during this Spring Training
WELCOME BAAAAAAACK! The Reds kick off the 2021 season on Sunday with their first spring training game. As I do each spring training, I am going to take a look at the non roster invitees (NRI) and how they could impact the team this season.
R.J. Alaniz, Matt Ball, Cam Bedrosian, Jesse Biddle, Shane Carle, Josh Osich, Branden Shipley, Bo Takahashi
You might recognize a couple of these names. Alaniz has been around the organization the past couple of years and pitched 11.2 innings with the Reds in 2019. Biddle was a guy who was around last year, but the others are new. Carle (76.1 in), Osich (206.1 in), Shipley (100 in) have experience in the show with moderate results. Cam Bedrosian is the name to know here. The fact that he was signed on with a minor league deal is surprising. 277.2 innings with a 3.70 ERA has been a solid MLB pitcher. 2019 batters hit .207/.283/.336 and in 2020 they hit .196/.276/.255. His spin rate is gritty darn good honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a minor league deal that really is a promise on the roster. Think Jose Iglesias who was also a NRI a couple years back. This allows the Reds to delay their decision on making a 40 man roster move.
For a team that lost Rasiel Iglesias, Bradley, maybe Antone and Lorenzen to the rotation, Bedrosian will have a chance to really earn a legit role with this team. You don’t have to squint too hard to see a scenario where Shipley or Carle get innings this year.
Bittle and Osich are lefties that would have battled for the other LHP spot in the pen, but the signing of Doolittle bumps them to depth roles.
A 33 year old catcher with 37 at bats and a career .108 avg. Id say that there is not much to see here. Stephenson and Tucker are the one two punch and the offseason addition of Deivy Grullon will provide a younger depth option with a higher upside than Gale.
Cheslor Cuthbert, Dee Strange-Gordon (not listed on Reds roster yet)
Cuthbert isn’t a household name, but he does have over 1,000 at bats in the MLB. He had a decent season in ’16 with the Royals batting .274/.318/.413 and 12 HR, but he hasn’t shown enough to be a full time MLB player. Corner infield depth.
Here’s where I stand on Dee….If he is here to battle for a utility role, that’s fine with me. If he is here to be some variation of an answer at SS, we are in trouble. A 32 year old poor defender (who on the Reds isn’t at this point) who doesn’t have any power and doesn’t get on base. Yeah, he has stolen some bases. We all know speed is one of the first things to go when you age, and he still has some jump, but I don’t think it’s game changing speed at this point, and it’s useless unless he’s on base. I’m not high on Strange Gordan making an impact.
Nicky Delmonico, Tyler Naquin, Dwight Smith
I was worried about the Reds outfield depth. It’s a sneaky need, especially of Aquino doesn’t bounce back. This group of NRI is a group I am excited about. All have MLB experience and have had their moments. Delmonico had a nice (small sample size) rookie year with the White Sox in 2017, but has been worse each year since then. It’s the other two that catch my eye.
Dwight Smith has shown he has some pop in his bat. He is the type of player that you want to have in AAA ready to fill in if needed. Tyler Naquin is a guy I think could actually contribute to this team. We know 2020 was a small sample size, but look at the hard hit and exit velo. And his outfield jump/Outs above avg. fit in well with the team that doesn’t seem to care about defense.
He had a great rookie year in ’16, and has had moments since. .288/.325/.467 10 HR 19 2B in 2019 would be a good bench bat. The question is…is he better than Aquino/Heineman/Payton? Him and Payton are the two leftieis of the group. At the very least, I think he is great organizational depth, and I think his floor is a higher floor than the group listed above (maybe Aquino can make me eat crow there)
This list is different than most years. Not as many players listed, and no prospects. The number of players at Spring Training will be smaller than years past. Overall, I think theres 2-3 guys who could earn a role on the Reds 2021 roster.
Monday Morning Manager: The Snell Effect
David Bell has many things he needs to go right in order to win games and get a contract extension. One thing he can control is a decision-making process that should not be made entirely analytically.
In case you lived under a rock last year (and that might be Truer than in any other year) then you know how the World Series went down with the Rays falling to the Dodgers. You may even know about Blake Snell’s improbable removal from Game Six when he was absolutely on fire. This is something David Bell cannot mess up in 2021.
Ok, so in the grand scheme of things, I’m talking about the correct managing of the bullpen and rotation in pressure situations. Most people will look at the Game Six managing of Kevin Cash and see two things: a man sticking to his system that got him there and a man over-thinking things. Neither thoughts are incorrect.
In this day and age of baseball, most people understand statistical evaluations on pitchers favoring removing a starter before they pitch to the opposing lineup for the third time in a game. Well, maybe, because the numbers are a bit different in 2020, small sample size, and all. In fact, the Reds pitching staff held opponents to a .599 OPS in 253 plate appearances the third time through the order, last year. That may be a smoke screen, though, as the 2019 Reds pitching staff (largely similar to 2020) allowed an OPS of .892 in 799 PA. That’s a bit of a more reliable sample size, which would leave me to believe a starter pitching a third time through the order isn’t the most favorable idea.
Also something David Bell must consider is the overthinking aspect. In this Player’s Tribune post by the man, Blake Snell, himself, he points out the immense effect that simply seeing someone warming up in the bullpen had on him. Now, you can say “Well, that shouldn’t have been an issue, he should have sucked it up and pitched!” The dude is a human being. If you saw the person management was likely to replace you with if you messed something up at your job, are you going to just keep on keeping on with no thought to look over your shoulder? If you are, you might be a Jedi. Most of us mere mortals have problems with worrying about what might happen if things fall apart. Baseball players are not totally immune to this, either.
In order for Bell to garner a contract extension, he will have to adeptly manage a pitching staff that has talent, but also has human egos. Just because the numbers say that a decision should go one way, the human element must also be factored in. Last I checked, theres no button for that on a calculator, which leaves it up to his own decision-making skill.