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Cincinnati Reds

Early Thoughts on the Bullpen

There’s been mostly good things come from the bullpen, so far, for the Cincinnati Reds in 2019.

Clay Snowden

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© Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

14 games into a 162-game schedule you should not *yet* read too deep into stats. Far too early, too much to be determined, but one thing we do know about the Reds on tax day 2019 is David Bell will pull pitchers early. Plenty have debated and questioned Bell’s decision to call on the bullpen early (although some made sense) and how it could play a role later in the season. Early on the bullpen has been hit or miss. A few players are throwing lights out while others have struggled to put up the numbers similar to years past.

I am not sure if I can call Robert Stephenson’s early season success a surprise. Ranked amongst the top prospects in baseball for the better part of his career, the talent has always been there but putting it all together has been a struggle. His pitches have had great movement forcing swing and miss at a much higher rate. Being used as the “long man” out of the pen has produced to a line of 1-0, with a  1.23 ERA in 5 games, 7.1 innings, 10 K’s and 1 walk. He is also holding batters to a .120 avg. Did the 26–year old finally figure it out with the new pitching coach? The Reds sure hope so.

The ever so interesting Michael Lorenzen has also been used in multiple innings, along with the outfield and pinch-hitting duties. He’s not off to his best start, but no need to hit the panic button as he has pitched well enough.

Some fans (prematurely) are hitting the panic button on David Hernandez and Jared Hughes. Hernandez has struggled in his first 7 games giving up 10 hits while batters are hitting .370. After a career-best .984 WHIP in 2018, 2019 has started with a 2.333. I would expect to see the number level out to his 1.288, 10-year average, but it has been a struggle in his first 6 innings.

Jared Hughes 2018 season saw him throw a career-best 1.94 ERA leading to high expectations for 2019. People who only read the stats will see an 8.10 ERA and .346 avg against and start to worry. Four of the six earned runs Hughes has given up were on Sunday, April 14th. In the 102 appearances since his last 4 run outing, his ERA has been 1.90. The consistency in his career leads me to be optimistic.

The Reds most valuable relief pitcher over the past few years has been Raisel Iglesias. His 2019 got off to a weird start when David Bell used him earlier than usual on opening day. After a rough start, and rough spring training, Iglesias has not allowed an earned run in his past two outings.

Carrying a larger bullpen (8 pitchers) allows the team to have three lefties. Wandy Peralta, Amir Garrett, and Zach Duke make up the southpaw roster. Garrett is a fan favorite with his swagger and early season success to back it up. In 8 games he has 10 K’s and 2 walks with 4 hits given up and holding batters to a .174 average. Peralta seems to be a guy that fans have mixed reviews on. His good spring training has followed him into his 2019 campaign. An ERA of 0.00 usually pleases most fans but his streaky past leaves people uneasy. Zach Duke was brought back to Cincinnati on a 1 year $2 million deal to be the teams LOOGY. So far, it has not been pretty. A team-high 8.31 ERA with 4 walks to 2 K’s has caused frustration. I do not expect the Reds to move on from Duke having only 4.1 innings under his belt.

It’s a bit ridiculous to read into a teams bullpen success when a reliever has yet to pitch even 10 innings. The focus should be on the movement pitchers are showing and their control. Some of these players have shown great movement and control, others haven’t. If the Reds want to be a team that climbs out of the bottom of the division, the bullpen will play a crucial role.

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Cincinnati Reds

Unappreciated Cincinnati Reds: Kyle Farmer

Numbers don’t tell the whole story when you look at Kyle Farmer. His value goes far beyond the box score.

Clay Snowden

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© Cody Glenn-USA TODAY Sports

On December 21st, 2018, the Dodgers and Reds made a splash in the offseason with a blockbuster deal. The Reds received aging all-star Matt Kemp, animated outfielder Yasiel Puig, lefty Alex Wood, and a versatile utility player named Kyle Farmer. While Kemp’s Reds career ended after 20 games and fan favorite (and now U.S. citizen) Puig’s career ended in a trade, Wood and Farmer very much could be part of the Reds future.

What Kyle Farmer brings to this team is far beyond the box score. David Bell has shown trust and confidence in Farmer and his ability to pinch-hit. Offensively Farmer has improved from his first two seasons in LA. Over two seasons with the Dodgers he only played in 59 games and had 88 at bats. A .250 hitter with no home runs his value might have seen minimal. Reds fans saw his value immediately in spring training when he would catch bullpens then play short and second. Due to injuries, he found himself on the 25-man roster to begin the season. Many thought he would be the first sent down but his pinch-hitting and versatility proved his value to be too high. Farmer has played first, second, third, catcher, and pitcher. I have to mention his pitching stat line: 1.1 innings 1 hit 0.00 ERA. Hell yeah. With Casali injured Farmer has stepped in as the team’s second catcher and Alex Wood’s “personal” catcher. As many of you all know Wood and Farmer have been teammates and friends for a long time. The familiarity they have only helps each other during the game. Farmer’s 7 home runs look good, but his other numbers could use some work. .248/.288/.438 and 45 K’s to only 5 BB are not great. Improving on the walk to K ratio would go along way for his development. If you watched the Cubs series, you saw a few great plays he made at second. He is no Jose Iglesias, but he can hold his own.

How does Farmer play into the Reds future? Well, it’s no secret that the catching depth is not the Reds strength. Tucker is under contract but Casali is on a one-year deal, with arbitration left. In the minors, Tyler Stephenson looks promising but after that it’s slim. Questions on where Jose Iglesias (if resigned), Galvis, Peraza, VanMeter, Dietrich, and even Blandino will get playing time could limit Farmer’s time at second base. Votto will get plenty of off days next season and Farmer could pick up at-bats at first. Dietrich, if brought back, might get the at bats against right handers. What if Alex Wood is resigned? You could keep Farmer as a pinch hitter/late game sub and have him catch Wood every fifth game. His ability to catch opens opportunities for Bell to pinch hit his backup catcher (Casali) and not worry about a “what if” situation when they need a catcher in late innings/extras.

While there are plenty of unknowns about this team as the offseason approaches, we do know that David Bell values versatility and Farmer brings just that. Maybe knowing that he really does deserve to be in the big leagues will help his confidence going into the offseason. Either way, he’s a fun player to watch and adds value to this Reds club.
Here’s a couple of home runs for you:

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Cincinnati Reds

Series Recap: Chicago Cubs

Here’s what we learned about the Reds, moving forward in 2019, after the weekend against the Cubs.

Clay Snowden

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© David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The Reds split a series with the Chicago Cubs in August and the fans feel upset. As strange as it might sound, that’s a good sign. In recent years I would be excited about splitting with the Cubs in August. The upset feeling shows this team is different. Expectations have changed. What we saw over the past four games leads fans to believe the future is bright.

The buzz across Reds twitter Thursday was refreshing to see. Fans were more engaged and thrilled to see the Reds welcome the first place Cubs to town for a four-game tilt.

Well, the first game was not a good start. Wood had a rough start going only three innings, Gausman made his debut, Sims showed a strong outing and David Hernandez did much of what he has been doing all season; disappointing fans. Hernandez, like many announcers have said after a pitch he’s thrown, “He’s gone”. We did see Phillip Ervin deliver a 4-hit night, Aquino continues to catch everyone’s attention, and Kyle Farmer displays his versatility by pitching 1.1 innings surrendering one lone hit and throwing slightly slower than Aroldis Chapman.

Friday was a different story. Trevor Bauer gave up a homer to new Cub and new Reds killer Nicholas Castellanos then was smooth sailing as he went 7 innings. The Reds collected 6 hits with no one having more than 1 but it was enough to show they wouldn’t go away easily.

Was Saturday the best Reds game this year? If seeing Cubs fans mad ranks high on your list than it might have been. Everyone besides Sal Romano had a hit and Aquino is now *checks notes for confirmation* the best player to ever play the game. His three homers and going back to back with Senzel gave us a glimpse into the future. Sonny Gray’s 2 hits allowed matched his 2 RBI he had at the plate. Sal Romano earned the rare 3 out save and Brian O’Grady had his first big league hit. The Reds won and momentum for Sunday was at a level we haven’t seen this season.

https://www.mlb.com/reds/video/o-grady-s-1st-big-league-hit

Having the Ace on the mound was not enough to earn the win Sunday. Castilo went 6.2 innings with 3 ER but Michael Lorenzen could not get an out. Bryant’s homer gave the Cubs the lead and they didn’t look back. A disappointing and frustrating loss to say the least. Jeff Carr said it best: “This is kinda where the Reds are in 2019. They are fun, they are interesting, they are entertaining…they are not a playoff team.”

What we learned from this series:
– Aquino is not only fun to watch but he is a legit piece for the future
– Sal Romano and Lucas Sims will get a chance to show how they can play into 2020
– Ian Happ and Nickolas Castellanos are banned for the City of Cincinnati (waiting on confirmation)
– Kyle Farmer had some great defensive plays and is very important to this team (Farmer article coming soon)
– Angel Hernandez should be embarrassed
– The Reds missed an opportunity to climb the standing but didn’t completely fall out

All in all, it was a fun series and seeing the fanbase this interested and invested in August is refreshing. Still plenty to learn about this roster and what it could look like next year. Let’s see if the Punisher can hit one to the White House.

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Cincinnati Reds

VanMeter, Aquino, O’Grady – What They Bring Now and in the Future

Theis trio of guys who have come out of nowhere, in 2019, now have a shot to stick on for the years of contention.

Clay Snowden

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© David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

As spring training 2019 rolled around you were likely excited to see the Reds new slugger Yasiel Puig. Maybe you kept tabs on Sony Gray and his bounce back from a not so ideal year. Other prospects and veterans such as Derek Dietrich and Jose Iglesias were intriguing to watch as you tried to find out how the Reds would work the few extra pieces into the opening day roster. Three names probably not on your radar were Josh VanMeter, Brian O’Grady, and Aristides Aquino. Those three names are now getting a chance to prove their talent while also trying to earn a 2020 spot on the roster.

Josh VanMeter was left off the Reds “Top 30 Prospect” list this year. He had played well in 2018 for the Bats and started the year in Louisville where he found his stroke. .348 BA 14 HR 43 RBI .429 OBP. Not bad for what many had written off as a good minor league player and not much more. What I have noticed with his time in the show is his versatility and approach at the plate. He can play a few different positions and we all know how much David Bell values versatility. VanMeter has already drawn 14 walks in 88 104 PA (take note Peraza). He had 8 steals with the Bats but has already swiped 4 bags in his time with the Reds. The trade of Scooter shows the Reds will be looking for a new second baseman next season and VanMeter will have a shot to compete to be just that.

Aristides Aquino looked like he might have gone down as one of the obscure former Reds (@ObscureExReds) after getting one at-bat last season and striking out. Removed from the 40 man roster after 2018 returning to the Reds did not look likely. Signed on a minor league deal, he returned to Louisville to show he was still the sought-after prospect he once was. A change in approach and a slight change in his swing led to Aquino having a monster season with the Bats. .299 BA was up from his .227 career average in AA. 28 HR caught the eyes of many fans calling for him to get another chance. Since being called up he has made the most of his opportunity. Only 13 PA but he does have 4 hits and a home run. Being able to cut down on strikeouts have always been his flaw. The new approach seems to be working. A strong finish to 2019 would set Aquino up well for 2020 to be an option. He has been mostly a right fielder but did appear in 5 games in center for the Bats.

Brian O’Grady is a great story. An “older” prospect at 27 many might not have had him on their radar after he hit only .185 in 2017. 2018 looked much more promising as he bounced back in a big way to hit .306 in Louisville. 2019 has shown just how far he has come since 2017. .277 BA 27 HR 70 RBI 27 doubles while also stealing 16 bags. He hasn’t made his debut yet after joining the Reds yesterday (8/5) but his skill set will help this team now and hopefully in the future. In Louisville he played mainly first and center but also logged innings at third and left. With Dietrich injured O’Grady will step in and fill his void. A lefty bat off the bench who can play multiple positions.

While none of these three players are guaranteed a roster spot in 2020, I would imagine each will get his shot. Two are lefty bats that have stolen some bases and can play multiple positions and the other is a corner outfielder with a strong arm and pop. They will have to show they belong in spring training, but their auditions have already begun.

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