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Cincinnati Reds

Five Games Left, More Questions than Answers for Reds

Jeff

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© Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Your Cincinnati Reds (66-91) have finished their road schedule for 2018 after splitting a four-game series with the Miami Marlins (62-93). This isn’t going to be the typical recap, though, because the results are sort of moot at this point.

There are five home games remaining for the Reds, but we can pretty well judge this season for what it is. Scooter Gennett is the only red who has something to play for, individually. He’s seven points behind Christian Yelich in batting average (.315 to .322), which means he has some work to do in these last five games. We’ll see if he can pull it off.

Coming into this season the biggest question that needed to be answered, or at least sort of figured out, for 2019, was run prevention. Pitching, defense, that sort of thing. Unfortunately, there are no real answers there. The Reds have given up the most runs in the National League, at 795. They’ve managed to allow the second most earned runs (721), but that’s because they’ve allowed the most un-earned runs (74). Confused yet? See, still no answers here.

So where does that leave us? Well, more change is needed. Yes, this far into the rebuild, there’s still brick to be laid. Any pitching help, at least in the amount needed, will have to come from the outside. Unless someone snaps their fingers and the pitching staff turns the clock back to 2012, this team will only return to contention by adding two top-shelf starting pitchers. Most believe that’s going to have to be through trades as the free agents to-be (Dallas Keuchel, Patrick Corbin, possibly Clayton Kershaw) would probably need to be given keys to the city in order to agree to pitch at Great American Ballpark. Projecting who they could trade for would be like looking for a needle in a stack of needles, suffice it to say, the front office will be on the prowl.

Another question coming into 2018 remains unanswered: Nick Senzel. Can he be a valuable contributor, and where will he do the contributing? Early in the season, he had another problem with the vertigo, that he overcame, but that is something that will be hard to predict and prevent, moving forward. It’s not that it’s 50-50 as to whether it will happen to him again, but it’s enough of an albatross that it cannot be ignored. Then there’s the actual physical ailment that derailed his season. He tore a tendon in his index finger, on his right hand, and had to have it surgically repaired. He seems to be recovered from it, now, though, and is ready for the Arizona Fall League…where he will play the outfield. Yes, the third baseman who played shortstop during Spring Training and second base at Triple-A Louisville, before getting hurt, is not done on his nomadic trip around the diamond. Where will he play for the Reds? And will he be stymied at Triple-A to begin 2019 in order to save time on arbitration? I, personally, hope the answer to the second question is no, but at this point, who knows?

That’s two questions that we had in March which remain in September.

What’s answered, then?

For starters, the Reds have a solid lineup. Now, they’ve sure hit a wall to end the year (so much for positive momentum), but the bats should, largely, be unchanged. I’ll go into more detail in later posts about each player, but Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez, Jose Peraza, Tucker Barnhart, Scott Schebler, Jesse Winker, and Scooter Gennett should all be mainstays in the lineup, barring trades, of course. The Reds have been one of the leading NL lineups in on-base percentage, all season. It’s kept them in most games, and led them to a successful streak back in June and July, and should drive the success of this team in 2019.

Another positive answer has been the bullpen. It started out rough, sure, but they trimmed the fat early. The two best signings of last offseason, Jared Hughes and David Hernandez have held down the late innings with Raisel Iglesias for much of the year. Now fatigue has played a factor, for Hernandez in particular, but that’s due to the fact they’ve pitched the third-most innings in the NL (580.2). That’s right around 90 innings more than the NL team with the least amount of bullpen innings, the Rockies with 491. Hughes and Hernandez have combined to pitch 136.2 IP this year, I’d be a little tired, too.

But the rest of the season has been fraught with turmoil. Winker started, then didn’t start (for four days) and then started, until he got hurt. Homer Bailey started, stunk, got hurt (kinda), said no to a bullpen assignment, started again, again…and again, and then was shut down for the final month. Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed, Michael Lorenzen, you get the picture. Much has been made of the Reds inability to develop starting pitchers from their farm system, maybe we see a symptom here. Players don’t know their role on a day-to-day basis with this club. So, the biggest question heading into 2019 for me is this: is stability forthcoming? That will be the over-arching, big picture theme for this offseason, how they will set themselves up for stability. They can make all the trades and signings they want, but if we go through more constant role changing in 2019, there may be a 5th 90-loss season in a row.

Follow @lockedonReds, @jamesrapien, and @jefffcarr as we enter the offseason for all your Reds content!

Jeff has spent his entire life around sports. From playing baseball and golf in high school to traveling with college softball, volleyball, and men’s basketball teams as their media relations guy, sports have always been his focal point. He’s pumped to be bringing Reds content to the Locked on Sports Podcast Network!

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Cincinnati Reds

LET’S GO REDS COUNTRY!

Now, in almost-March, we are looking forward to the 2019 season like a kid would the start of the summer.

Dave Pemberton

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This time last season I was praying for a sub par 77 win season from the Reds. By the time April had ended I was praying for the 2018 Cincinnati Reds not to go down in history as THE worst in franchise history. My group of friends and I decided to get a 20 game package last year and it was almost comical that they lost the first 8 games we attended. Besides the bit of offensive excitement this team showed in June and July, and solid bullpen performance throughout the year, it was a forgetful season. I think what worried me most was the discussion my friends and I had at the last home game of the season. Wasn’t this supposed to be the last year of “The Rebuild?” What did we have to look forward to in 2019? Besides that, how in the heck was this franchise going to be competitive with an almost stagnant front office making no moves.

Friday evening, December 21st, I was standing in line with my wife and kids, getting ready to see Santa Clause, when I received a text from a friend. No joke, I thought it was some edited photo. Just to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating I had my wife read what was in the photo. “Cincinnati Reds add Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Alex Wood in trade with Los Angeles Dodgers”. Never in a million years would I think that trade was a possibility. Then I thought I was really hallucinating when I saw was all the Dodgers got in return was Homer Bailey and a little known prospect. These aren’t some mediocre players, these are All-Star caliber guys that make you want to come to the ballpark, or at least tune in, every night to see what happens next. Puig has not even played a game in a Reds uniform yet but somehow managed to ignite Reds Country this offseason with his media blitz.  Dick Williams and Nick Krall are now clearly in control of the front office. Many articles had stated Castellini had decided to step aside of being involved in personnel moves this offseason. This 180 degree turn has proved to be almost magical for this franchise. The Reds were the talk of the offseason finding themselves associated with nearly any and all trade rumors and free agents. Williams and Krall were able to add Tanner Roark and Sonny Gray (with a contract extension at a team friendly deal) to the starting staff. They were able to acquire all of this new, exciting talent while holding on to their most valuable prospects in Senzel, Trammell, Greene, and India. These are the type of moves you try to make in a video game and the game rejects the offers because they are so absurd. They did so by not adding a ton of payroll to this team for the long term as well. Meaning in 2020 they Reds can still go out and spend some dough. Williams and Krall have made the 2019 offseason like some exciting Netflix series where you want to see what will happen next.

When I set my expectation for any of the teams I root for I try to be realistic instead of optimistic. This is the stark reality that comes with being a Cincinnati sports fan right now. I think the Reds go 81-81 for the 2019 season. I do feel if anything I am selling this team short with that expectation. Puig, Kemp, Wood, Roark and even Scooter are all in contract seasons. You see it all the time in nearly every major professional sport. When the opportunity to earn that big paycheck comes those players somehow magically turn out one of the best seasons of their careers. Winker back to full health for the first time in his entire professional career. Senzel if given the opportunity could become a Rookie of the Year candidate. Add to the mix you have Votto poised for a huge comeback season and a lineup that no team can pitch around, now. I don’t think it’s an unreasonable expectation that everyone, but maybe Barnhart, could potentially bat above .275 in the regular starting lineup. The bullpen, the one solid performer last year, comes back largely intact with even more depth. You add to that several young pitchers trying to make a name for themselves in what could be some their final opportunities (Stephenson, Finnegan, Disco, Reed, Mahle, Ramano, and Castillo). Plus, perhaps the biggest turn around, our starting rotation comprised of solid veterans and young guys on the cusp of catching there breakout seasons. No longer will this be a copy and paste rotation that changes almost entirely every couple of weeks with an ace that unhealthy and unmotivated.  I truly don’t think its a far reach to see this team as serious contenders in the playoff race come the end of September.

The conversation we had with our group of season ticket holders aka #RoughneckReds completely changed. In September we were looking forward to the 2019 season like getting your tags on your car renewed at the BMV. Now, in almost-March, we are looking forward to the 2019 season like a kid would the start of the summer. We can’t wait for it to start and hope to enjoy every minute of it. Until then I will continue to enjoy every second of the most exciting offseason in my lifetime. The Reds might not be done just yet making this team a contender for 2019. I cannot wait to see all you beautiful Reds fans down at the Findlay Market Parade, The Banks, and finally the ballpark. LET’S GO REDS COUNTRY!!!

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Cincinnati Reds

Which Non-Roster Players to Watch

The Cincinnati Reds will play their first spring training game of 2019 this Saturday. While there are stories and discussion such as Nick Senzel’s usage this year and who will be the opening day starter, I wanted to break down the non-roster invitees.

Clay Snowden

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© Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Reds will play their first spring training game of 2019 this Saturday. While there are stories and discussion such as Nick Senzel’s usage this year and who will be the opening day starter, I wanted to break down the non-roster invitees.
A spring training non-roster invite list usually is constructed of veterans that are trying for one last push to make an MLB roster or are trying to prove themselves coming off of an injury. It also includes promising young players who have high upside but have not been added to the 40 man roster. As of today, the invite list looks like this:

Pitchers:
Anthony Bass
Buddy Boshers
Oldrisamer Despaigne
Vladimir Gutierrez
Felix Jorge
Ian Krol
Alex Powers
Tony Santillan

Catchers:
Juan Graterol
Chris Okey
Tyler Stephenson

Infielders:
Christian Colon
Alfredo Rodriguez
Nick Senzel
Derek Dietrich

Outfield:
Aristides Aquino
TJ Friedl
Brian O’Grady
Jordan Patterson
Taylor Trammell
Mason Williams
Kyle Wren

The average fan is probably asking themselves….who? The group of pitchers is headlined by Tony Santillan who has landed in the back half (69 Baseball America) of some “MLB Top 100 Prospects” list. He won the Reds minor league pitcher of the year last year while playing in AA Pensacola. I would be very surprised to see him on the opening day roster, but he is a guy you should watch in spring and follow throughout the year. Vladimir Gutierrez and Alex Powers are both young players with upside. Boshers and Krol both have MLB experience and are lefties but with the recent Zack Duke signing and having Finnegan, Peralta, Reed, and Garrett all on the roster it is unlikely to see Boshers or Krol make the team.
The catchers have two players that the Reds have selected early in recent drafts with Chris Okey (2nd round, 2016) and Tyler Stephenson (1st round, 2015). Okey has struggled so far batting a mere .200 but is still developing. Stephenson’s career was plagued with injuries early on, but in 2018 he showed some promise batting .250 with 11 home runs and 59 RBI. At only 22, the young catcher will be in the minors this season but could be a promising part of the Reds future.
The infield has a name you will know; Nick Senzel. He is listed as an infielder but will be getting a shot to prove himself as the centerfielder of the Reds. Several things will have to happen for him to start on opening day. The Reds have some difficult decisions to make about his team control, a roster spot opening, and if he needs more time in centerfield. Dietrich was signed to a minor league contract but could make the team out of spring training. A veteran lefty bat that has played over 50 innings at 1B, 3B, LF, and 2B brings tremendous value to a team that could be carrying more pitchers than years past.
The outfield is crowded, and I do not see any of the non-roster guys making the team on opening day. You might recognize some names such as Mason Williams and Aristides Aquino (who both had at-bats with the Reds last year) but the name to know is Taylor Trammell. Drafted 35th overall in 2016 and has climbed the prospect rankings into the top 50. It was rumored that teams were trying to get him in the blockbuster trades this summer, but the Reds refused to include him. He likely won’t be in Cincinnati this year but remains a big piece of the future.

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Cincinnati Reds

Weekend Thoughts – Pitchers and Catchers

Jeff

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© Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

There isn’t a podcast over the weekends, but that doesn’t mean the Reds stop. This will be a weekly-weened column following Reds stuff, thinking about the Reds, and talking about the Reds. Just in case you need more reds.

Projections are upon us, with two really standing out. Fangraphs and PECOTA both have nice increases predicted for Cincinnati, as a reward for their diligent effort to rebuild in a hurry. Fangraphs says they’ll finish with as many wins as losses while PECOTA thinks they’ll be one win better, at 82-80. This is an awesome time of year…that we Reds fans have been robbed of the last four years. Sure, there were whispers of success right before spring training in each of those seasons, but most all of us knew it would be a long season ahead. Now we can actually begin to think of a chance at contention. When the typical thought for the Reds season is they will finish at the .500 line, then its not hard to imagine a little luck happening, and one or two cases of lightning in a bottle, then they’re right in the thick of Wild Card contention. Seriously, this is a possibility!

With this week just looking at pitchers and catchers, there will be a lot of the podcast dedicated to that subject. Just as a lead-in, though. Obviously, the biggest question will be who the Opening Day starter is. Probably question 1-B is who is the fifth starter. That question has a bit more light shed on it, with Anthony DeSclafani as the odds-on favorite. Still, someone could emerge. On the Opening Day starter idea, I think it’s a three-horse race between Alex Wood, Luis Castillo, and Sonny Gray. I do not have any idea who the favorite is there. As of right now, gun to my head, I’d pick Castillo. Definitely not putting money on it, though.

The other part of this week, catchers, got a little interesting over the last few weeks with the idea of J.T. Realmuto possibly coming here. Then Philadelphia snatched him up. Here’s the thing, that’s ok. Tucker Barnhart is a steady presence behind the plate and a streaky producer at the bat. His backup, Curt Casali, is a solid bat and newcomer Kyle Farmer is a versatile utility player with catching experience. They’re deep there. Do not confuse their interest in Realmuto with the idea that they were weak at the backstop. They just had an opportunity to turn something solid into something great. Here’s another thought that I haven’t seen much chatter on. I think one of the reasons the Reds didn’t go past offering Jonathan India is they feel good about Tyler Stephenson and his development. Sure, to have the best catcher, arguably, would be nice, but they have an abundance of backstops with a young gun coming up.

Pitchers and catchers report on Wednesday, in Goodyear. Enjoy your weekend, see you on Monday!

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