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Cincinnati Reds

Four storylines to pay attention to heading into 2018 season

David Wysong

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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.

David is a fourth-year journalism student at the University of Cincinnati. He has covered UC sports for the student newpaper, The News Record, during all four years. He is currently the editor-in-chief of The News Record. After graduation, David hopes to stay in Cincinnati and cover sports in the city as a career.

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Cincinnati Reds

What’s Wrong With the Reds Trading Luis Castillo

Luis Castillo trade rumors got you worried? Here’s the fatal flaw in the reports that will ease your mind.

Jeff

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Rumors have flared up, from some varying sources all stemming back to Jim Bowden spitballing on a radio show, that the New York Yankees and Cincinnati Reds are seriously discussing a swap that would send Luis Castillo to the Bronx. Before we get to the “What the…?” part, check out friend of the podcast Doug Gray’s thoughts as to why we shouldn’t worry about the Reds doing this, too much. 

Now then…what in the world? Why would the Reds be considering the trade of an ace-caliber pitcher who makes less than half of their other ace-caliber pitcher who will make less than half of what Trevor Bauer is likely to sign a free agent contract for? Yeah, that’s a long question, but the fact that reports surged out of a passing comment by Jim Bowden on MLB Network Radio leads me to agree with Doug that there isn’t much to worry about here.

The weirdest part has been the reported return that the Reds require: 

Or maybe this is more extrapolating by Yankees-focused sources that are looking at something small. Both of those players make little sense for the Reds. Andujar is woeful in the field. If he were to put on a glove, it would be in the outfield. Frazier is also an outfielder. The Reds have Shogo Akiyama, Nicholas Castellanos, Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker, and even Aristides Aquino already on the roster. Why on earth would key return pieces be outfielders? That helps the Reds very little, if at all.

To expound on the inequity of these trade rumors, we have this beautiful website Baseball Trade Values (shout out to Obscure Former Reds for introducing me to this site). I find that I am extremely biased in matters of evaluating Reds players’ trade values, so a site that does math and applies objectivity to such an endeavor is very intriguing. Let’s take a look at how this website values Castillo and then how it values the rumored return.

I get how reported returns work. When a report says “key pieces” that means there are more pieces. But if you look at that value discrepancy, there is going to need to be lots more value in the remaining pieces, which means the reported “key pieces” don’t objectively move the needle.

Per Baseball Trade Values, Luis Castillo is the ninth-most valuable player in all of baseball. Yup, you read that right, Castillo is top-10 in all of Major League Baseball in trade value. They figure that out by taking what they call “adjusted field value,” which takes several performance factors into account, and subtracts the salary from that to come up with the trade value. They explain it more, here.

The most valuable player on the Yankees, per Baseball Trade Values, is Gleybar Torres at 69.2. In other words, the most valuable Yankee is still little more than half as valuable as Castillo. Now, it’s not as if these numbers drive every trade discussion. In fact, the folks at Baseball Trade Values admit this is just them creating formulas and basing values on their formulas…but it’s better than a Reds fan and a Yankees fan screaming at each other.

Overall, this website shows the herculean task that Nick Krall would have of getting back even comparable value for Luis Castillo, if he even thought of actually trading the talented La Piedra. It’s not being overly biased to say the Yankees can’t put together a trade that keeps them contending and meets the Reds demands, at the same time. So why is it even being talked about? For that, I invite you to take a look at the rabid Yankee fan base on Twitter that is beside themselves that the Bombers have only resigned Dj Lemahieu and added Corey Kluber. They’re pining for more and they’re stretching to find any rumor that brings more to New York, no matter how farfetched.

 

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Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds Bounce Back & Break Out: Infield

Who will bounce back in the Cincinnati Reds infield, and who will break out?

Clay Snowden

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As it stands today, 1/11/2021, the Reds infield situation looks very similar to their 2020 situation. Galvis and Casali are gone, but most everyone else is back. Votto is a year older while Stephenson and Garcia headline the youth movement. Veterans Eugenio Suarez and Mike Moustakas look to rebound after average seasons. Although I think another MLB caliber middle infielder will be added, we will work with what is currently on the roster.

 

Bounce Back: Eugenio Suarez (.202/.312/.470 15 HR 102 OPS+)

The Alfredo Simon trade (lol), the HR record, the team friendly deal, the huge smile and big bubble gum bubbles are a few of the many reasons we all love Suarez. With HR numbers increasing year after year big things were in store for Geno in 2020. Sadly, I think the offseason shoulder injury played into his slow 2020.

The batting average and on base % took a dive. Around .270 avg and .360 OBP was the standard in previous years but an absolutely terrible start to the season really set things back. However, he improved his average and OBP and Slugging every month of the season.

July: .080/.258/.120

August: .213/.315/.489

September: .228/.326/.557

An entire offseason to get healthy and get right should lead to more of what we expect from the star third baseman. Getting his shoulder back to where it needs to be is crucial. He’s still only 29 years old and is in his prime. Strikeout numbers are something we’ll probably just have to live with (the case for many HR hitters). A bounce back year would help this Reds team add to what was a lackluster offense at times.

Honorable Mention: Every other starter 

Just look at the stats 

 

Breakout: Tyler Stephenson (.294/.400/.647 2 HR 17 AB 170 OPS+)

We all know the Tyler Stephenson story. His big homerun on his debut was a moment we will not forget. A 2015 first round selection, the fans have been waiting patiently for Stephenson to contribute. It always takes catchers longer and his injuries did not help. The glimpse that we saw in 2020 has us excited for what the future holds.

The Reds moving on from Curt Casali leaves the door open for Stephenson to be on the roster. Tucker is back after adding his second gold glove to the collection, but I don’t think that holds Stephenson to a reserve role. Tyler will get plenty of chances to start. His bat is something that Tucker simply cannot match and this Reds team needs more offense from the catching position. Prepare yourself for some growing pains. Not necessarily like what we saw from Jose Garcia, but Stephenson has very little experience and will take some time to adjust. We haven’t seen enough of his defense to make too strong of judgement but working with Tucker daily should help immensely.

Honorable Mention: Jose Garcia 

The talent is there, but his youth and lack of experience showed. Hopefully, another offseason under his belt will help. The Reds likely will add a veteran to help ease him along. 


Several Reds infielders had a down 2020. Hell, most of us had a down 2020. This team is better than what they showed in the shortened season. If a few of them can get back to the numbers on the back of their baseball cards, I think the Reds will be fine.

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Cincinnati Reds Bounce Back and Break Out: Starters

Who will impress us on the mound this year for the Reds that we don’t necessarily expect?

Clay Snowden

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I started this series, “A Bounce Back and a Breakout”, last season. It will be a four part series including outfielders, infielders (with catchers), starters, and bullpen. It is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. I will pick a player to break out and a player who had a down year to bounce back.

 

Let’s get things started with, well, the starters.

 

Bounce Back: Wade Miley ( 0-3 5.65 EERA 14.1 innings 86 ERA+ )

For most of his career, Miley was a *fine* pitcher. About league average. Then in 2018, at 31, he had a breakout year with Milwaukee and pitching coach Derek Johnson. This caught the eyes of many and landed him a deal with Houston in 2019 where he pitched pretty well, but nowhere near is 2018 form. Last season (his first with the Reds) was injury plagued but even when he did pitch it wasn’t very pretty. A veteran lefty could really help the rotation. His fastball velocity in 2020 was atrocious, while his fastball spin and curve spin where around average.

The hope is being reunited with Derek Johnson could help him get back to his 2018 numbers. While that didn’t happen in 2020, a healthy 2021 still leaves a glimmer of hope. At 34 years old and more mediocre baseball than good baseball shown in his career, I am not expecting Miley to fill a hole Bauer left or anything close to it. I expect him to battle for the fifth starter spot, or even a bullpen spot. Regardless of his role, he is a better pitcher than 2020 showed.

Honorable Mention: Jose De Leon (0-0 18.00 ERA 6 innings)

Once a top prospect, De Leon has struggled with injuries and consistency leading to a lackluster career so far. He wasn’t given much of an opportunity last season, but his winter ball performances this year are showing promise. 3.18 ERA in 17 innings 31 K’s and 10 BB. Walk numbers are still high, but De Leon is a long shot but someone who qualifies as a bounce back due to his poor numbers in the past.

 

Break Out: Tyler Mahle (2-2 3.59 ERA 47.2 innings 60 K’s 133 ERA+)

I know Mahle might not be thought of as a candidate for a breakout considering his success. However, I think there is an even higher level for Tyler to reach. Bauer most likely being gone hurts. Anytime you have a Cy Young walk out the door there will be big shoes to fill. Mahle has all of the talent and finally will have a chance to be a top 3 guy.

Some good numbers, and some elite numbers. I think so many people, myself included, wrote Mahle off at times. He was still so young when he was brought up and then his usage was kind of funky. He is 26 now and ready to take over a bigger role and I cannot wait to see what 2021 has in store for him.

Honorable Mention: Tejay Antone

To be honest, I would have had Antone has the breakout player for 2021, but I am not 100% sure what his role would be. I want him to be in the rotion, but we will wait and see. Either way, what we all saw in 2020 left our jaws on the floor. Antone’s spin rates are off the charts. The former 5th round pick from 2014 will have a big role with the Reds team, but what exactly that role will be is unknown.

 

In conclusion, the Reds are still looking like they will have a good rotation even without Bauer. If they keep Gray and Castillo that leaves Mahle, Miley, Antone, De Leon, Hoffman, Greene, Lodolo, Lorenzen (?) and others to fill out the 5 spots. These things always work their way out, but I like the options this team has.

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