The day is almost here, Opening Day.
The Cincinnati Reds — who are coming off a 94-loss season — will begin their 2018 campaign Thursday when they take on the Washington Nationals. With fans hopeful for improvement, here are four storylines to pay attention to heading into the new year.
1. Nick Senzel’s MLB debut
Hitting .286 in 28 at-bats, top prospect Nick Senzel found success in big league camp, but the Reds sent him down to minor league camp March 19. Many expect Senzel to make his much-anticipated MLB debut this season, though, but the question is when?
If Senzel spends roughly three weeks in the minors the Reds will control him contractually for an additional year, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. So, fans must wait at least a few weeks.
Another question surrounding Senzel is what position he will play once in the majors. Senzel is a third baseman, but Eugenio Suarez is a lock at that position as he has hit 47 home runs over the past two seasons. Senzel took reps at third base and shortstop during camp, so he could be the one to replace All-Star Zack Cozart.
No matter when or where Senzel plays for Cincinnati, fans have a lot to be excited about.
2. The health of the pitching staff
Last season, the Reds’ pitchers struggled to stay healthy. Brandon Finnegan only started four games with a shoulder injury and right-hander Anthony DeSclafani missed the whole season with a sprained elbow. Homer Bailey started 18 games for the team, but has only started 26 games the past three seasons.
So far, this season is looking much of the same. Finnegan exited a game early March 11 after experiencing a lateral spasm in his forearm, DeSclafani is starting the season on the DL with a strained left oblique, and Michael Lorenzen suffered a Grade 1 strain of his teres muscle.
All these guys should hopefully return in a reasonable amount of time — Finnegan even took the mound on Saturday — but the injuries are something to worry about considering the recent history.
3. Billy Hamilton’s struggles at the plate
Billy Hamilton is fun to watch. His speed makes him an elite defender and impossible to pick off when he is running the bases. It is easy to contain him on the bases, though, when he doesn’t even get there.
Hamilton has a career on-base percentage of .298, and his batting average dipped down to .247 last season after hitting .260 in 2016. He isn’t showing any improvement this spring either as he is batting .186 in 17 games.
For the Reds to have success this year, they must see more production at the plate from the speedy star.
4. Is this Bryan Price’s last chance?
Since becoming the Reds’ manager in 2014, Bryan Price has a record of 276-372. The team was 18 games above .500 the year before Price became the manager, then were 10 games under.500 in his first year.
The Reds exercised Price’s option for 2018 on his one-year contract, meaning there is no guarantee for his future in Cincinnati.
If the Reds don’t take a step towards improving this year, the ball club could turn to a legend to lead their club. Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin has expressed interest in managing his former team.
“If I manage in the big leagues then I would only want to manage for the Cincinnati Reds,” Larkin said in February. “I’m getting pressure from our young players that are now starting to make it to the big leagues and they keep telling me ‘When it’s time for us to go to war we want you to lead us.’”
The future of the Reds’ manager position is unclear, but Price’s club must show improvement if he wants to continue to stay in Cincy.
Reds Mailbag: 7/08/2020
Let’s brush up on a few burning questions before the season gets going
BASEBALL IS BACK. The 2020 Reds will finally get to see the field. Sure, it will be totally different than we expected, but I’ll take it. Let’s jump into some mailbag questions.
Who will end up being the Reds MVP?
I think you have to go pitcher here. Pitching will be crucial in a shortened season, so let’s go with Luis Castillo. We all know he has the stuff of a true ACE. However, someone like Bauer/another starter playing at an MVP level would be a bigger impact to add to Gray and Castillo. Offensive MVP = Castellanos.
Will the Reds make the NLCS?
Yes. I think the Reds are set up well for a 60 game season. As many have said, the team that remains the heathiest has a huge leg up. The Reds have the starting pitching to have a chance to win each day. The offense should be there as well. Staying healthy is the most important thing to success this season.
Who will the 4 extra players be on the 30 man?
Injuries and illness could cause roster changes, but as of today: Nate Jones, Mark Payton, Tejay Antone, Alex Blandino.
I could be seeing some as locks or part of the “26” that others might see as bubble. Payton must be kept on because of the rule 5 pick or sent back to Oakland, and he shows enough talent. Blandino is the best option as a back up short (defensively) that’s had MLB experience. Jones is great when healthy, and you can’t have too many good arms in the pen. Antone is a guy I have been high on, and his increased velo stands out. He’s a back of the end rotation/Long relief guy.
Will Castellanos play for the Reds past this season?
Yes. Owners are likely to be cheap this offseason. Going into the free agent market hoping to make more than the Reds are set to pay him could be tough. I think Castellanos will love playing in GABP. This ballpark gives him an opportunity to put up big offensive numbers. I expect him to have a huge season.
Any chance Jose Garcia is on the Opening Day roster?
It would take a major injury to Galvis. Even then, I am not sure he would. He is the best pure SS of the back up options, but he hasn’t played above AA. I think if Galvis went down, the Reds might do it. But if Galvis just needs a couple of days off, Blandino/Farmer/”other” could step in.
Don’t get me wrong, I cannot wait to see Garcia take over the everyday SS at bats, but only once they feel he is ready. Who knows, a trade could still happen.
If the Reds win the WS do you think everyone will give it the same respect as a normal season?
Why not? It might even be more difficult to win this year than any other. Strategy will play a larger roll this year than any other. Managers will have to show what they are worth. Someone has to win the World Series this year, might as well be the Reds.
Remembering Reds: Corky Miller
Among the Reds’ fan favorites is a man not known for his statistical achievements, but for simply how awesome he was.
Morgan, Bench, Robinson, Larkin, and Miller. All names that Reds fans recog…wait, Miller? As in Corky Miller? Absolutely. Corky Miller, the minor league catcher with 539 career MLB at bats. The Miller that holds a career .193/.277/.306 53 OPS+ and a 0.0 WAR, yet everyone knows his name. And adores him. His stats won’t jump off the page, but his laid back attitude and fu Manchu leave a mark on your memory.
Signed by the Reds in 1998, Miller did not reach the show until 2001. In his 11 year career spanning from 2001-2013 (didn’t appear in 2011/2012) Miller never played more than 39 games in one season. So how did he become a household name? Well, probably because he looks more like your fun uncle than your favorite team’s catcher. Now don’t get me wrong, Corky brought value to the teams he was on. He was as much as a coach/mentor as he was a ballplayer. You will still find him in the Reds organization helping the young catchers develop. Let’s take a look at some of Corky’s highlights.
Corky steals home
When you think about baseball players stealing home you might immediately think about the great Jackie Robinson sliding in against the Yankees as Yogi Berra losses his mind at the “safe” call. Hell, you might even think about Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez pulling off the impossible feat in the last scene of the Sandlot. Well, Corky Miller joined this elite group on September 27th, 2001. As Omar Daal of the Phillies threw to first Miller showed off his wheels as his much slimmer self had a perfect slide under the tag. Miller walked back to the dugout as if he’s done this 1,000 times. Incredible swagger.
The Dancing KING
Fast forward to late June 2013. Miller finds himself back in a Reds uniform for the first time since 2010. Looking more like the Corky we know and love, sporting the fu Manchu, Miller shows off his quick footwork. Juan Uribe flies out to Jay Bruce who’s throw home took Corky off to the left of home. Hanley Ramirez, not the best baserunner himself, runs past home, retreats, dances around the grounded Miller only to be tagged on the third attempt while flailing towards home. This is so ugly that it is absolutely beautiful.
The Next Cy Young
Corky was more than a catcher and fan favorite. He was an elite pitcher. Well, maybe not elite. Over his career in the minors he pitched 7.2 innings and surrendered 14 hits, 13 earned runs and struck out 2. But in 2012 while playing for the Louisville Bats he pitched a scoreless inning. Down 13-0 in the bottom of the 8th, Miller came in to throw some rainbows in the general direction of home plate. A fly out to left, a pop out to first, and a fly out to right Miller put down the Columbus batters in order.
While his career might not stand out, Miller’s impact has. One of the beloved players in the clubhouse, he has mentored many young catchers along the way. Here’s to many more great years to Corky!
How a Shortened Season can Help and Hurt the Reds
step back and attempt to look at the way the Reds can benefit from a possible shortened season and how it could hurt them.
The world is in an obscure and unsure place. Today we were supposed to be watching a parade and cheering on the Redlegs. Instead, we are confused about the future of the 2020 season as we watch the 7th straight episode of a Netflix series, perfecting social distancing. How the 2020 season will be played has yet to be determined. I want to take a step back and attempt to look at the way the Reds can benefit from a possible shortened season and how it could hurt them.
Each day that passes without baseball is a day closer to a season without 162 games. For the sake of argument, let’s say the season is somewhere between 75-100 games. What ways can that benefit the Reds?
1. They can get healthy. Suarez, Senzel, and Galvis (amongst others) have battled some spring injuries. Extra time off only helps their recovery and could lead to a 100% healthy “Opening Day” lineup. Although Galvis is not a top ten talent at short, he is much better than the current back up options. Luckily, he should be ready to go and 100%.
2. The rotation can be a great strength. We all know how strong the current rotation is. The Reds could adjust the strategy because you won’t be worried about getting starters 32 starts and 200ish innings. With a compact season, you could let starters go deeper in games, or even go to a shorter rotation because you won’t be trying to strength out the innings over several months. Bauer and Disco are both on contract years and will be laser-focused on making the most of their fewer starts to prove their value come next offseason. If the league goes heavy on doubleheaders, Mahle and a few others could step up into the expanded rotation and stronger than many team’s depth starters.
3. How a shorten season benefits Votto? As Joey ages, he will need more days off, especially if the decline is steady. If Joey does not have to prepare himself for 162 games, it could lead to better results as he would be fresher. We all know he can get off to slow starts and avoiding that would be crucial in a shortened season.
How can the shortened season hurt the Reds?
1. David Bell is still a new manager. Fresh, unproven, inexperienced. At times in 2019, he cost the Reds some games. There is little to no margin for error in a short season. Each game means more and the lineup experimenting with playing players out of position won’t fly. Managerial experience will be extremely important in 2020 and hopefully Bell has improved after year one.
2. Lack of important experience for prospects. Tyler Stephenson, Jose Garcia, Jonathan India, and many other prospects are missing out on developmental time. This one really stings. A couple of the Reds top prospects are projected to be on the 2021 roster but needed some time in higher levels of the minors to learn and iron out a few things. You can train and work with coaches during this time, but the actual game experience cannot be overlooked.
3. Pressure. Obviously, every game counts each season. But a shortened season stresses the importance of each game. The Reds cannot afford to go on a losing streak as they did at the beginning of 2019. The expectations for 2020 remain high, and the pressure to perform is building. The adjustment to the MLB for Shogo must happen fast. Senzel has to stay healthy. The margin of error shrinks and pressure goes up. Iglesias cannot struggle to close out games or he’ll be replaced.
The 2020 season won’t be ideal. No one wants it to be this way. Watching 162 games a year is a joy and I will miss the routine of watching the Reds every night. Let’s hope this shortened season feels and plays like a playoff series where every aspect of the game is emphasized and more important. Here’s to everyone staying safe and healthy, and the Reds winning the pennant.