A week and a half later we find ourselves at the same point we were at after the Pirates fight night. The Reds have found themselves again at seven games under .500. Today I found myself infuriated as the Reds wasted another quality pitching performance from it’s starting rotation. A starting rotation that was supposed to be adequate at best. A starting rotation with the 6th best ERA in baseball as I write this. The bullpen continues to pitch above average as well ranking 11th in ERA with 3.70.
The one thing we all said we could absolutely depend on has been the depth of this lineup. The Reds gains from last week in hitting have been washed away during this losing streak. The team is dead last in team avg, 28th in OBP, and 26th in runs. Tucker Barnhart actually has the team-high in average at .258 and on base percentage at .409. I predicted Barnhart to have the lowest of any of the starters average. This team desperately needs a jump start. Here’s how they can do that to get the bats finally somewhat consistent and start winning games.
Can we all, including the Reds front office, agree that Senzel was sent down to gain an extra year of control on his contract? Now that time has come and pass. Senzel can be brought up tomorrow and the Reds have that extra year of control. This is a player many Reds fans have been clamoring for to see his full potential. We’re all tired of hearing about his potential and his prospect ranking. I’m ready to see him getting his chance in the starting lineup whereever he can get the playing time. Center field, second base, shortstop, or third base. Get the man in the lineup any chance we can. If given the opportunity, he will be a serious Rookie of The Year candidate.
The other way to light a fire under the outfielders butts would be bringing up Phillip Ervin. Ervin had the opportunity this weekend to show us why he shouldve made this team after absolutely owning spring training. What does he do? He rips a triple in clutch situation. Ervin was the Reds first round pick in 2013. Now is his time to shine. He did well most of last season until September. Right now they don’t have an everyday center fielder. And no I am not saying to cut or send down Schebler. He belongs on this team. Schebler just is not an everyday player on this roster. I think Ervin is just dying for an opportunity to prove his worth as a first round pick. Perhaps this will put some much needed pressure on the other outfielders who has been virtually non existent at the plate with the addition of Ervin and Senzel. They could bring these guys up by sending Farmer down and DFA’ing their weakest link in Zach Duke
While the Reds pitching has been pretty amazing overall there is still a few ways they could improve. The most glaring being parting ways with Duke. In 9 appearances he has totaled a 10.13 ERA, 7 hits, and 5 walks. I can’t imagine the front office will allow this to continue much longer. The Reds already have one too many bullpen pitchers with eight. If they choose to stay with that many bullpen guys they still have Cody Reed waiting in the wings. Something tells me Reed will easily outperform Duke this year even with a small sample size.
The final way they might be able to improve this team would be sending Disco to the minors instead of Mahle when Wood returns. Latest news has Wood returning mid May. These next few starts will be crucial for both Mahle and Disco to outperform one another. Mahle seems to really be zoning in. Last night in his worst performance so far and he still managed to hold the Dodgers to 4 runs on 11 hits. Disco has the highest ERA by far of any Reds starter at 7.43 and FIP at 6.44. Each player has minor league options but Disco definitely seems to be the obvious choice at the moment.
Right now almost every bit of news coming from the Reds is overshadowed by the sound of losing. Losing isn’t fun. Neither is this Reds team right now. They remind me of the scene in Moneyball where Billy Beane realizes that the plan isn’t working out right now. They need to shake things up. I do accredit Bell with shaking up the lineup and allowing pitchers a little more rope as I suggested a few weeks ago. I think the only thing right now that would truly shake this team up would be the addition of some new guys who are desperate to prove themselves as major league ballplayers in Senzel and Ervin. That followed by the addition of Scooter and Wood returning from the DL could prove a great way for the team to finally gain some traction. I expect this team to at least be at .500 by the end of May. I hope the front office is expecting the same or better by then.
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.