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Cincinnati Reds

From the Beginning to the Break

Jeff

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© Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, and there are still 66 more games to go for the Cincinnati Reds. Buckle up, though, this ride still has a few ups, downs, loops, and corkscrews.

Although, this ride isn’t as bumpy as, say, the Vortex over at Kings Island. This year feels more like the Diamondback. It took awhile to get up that first chain hill (April through the first week of May) but that’s only because it’s a really big hill. The ride has been quite entertaining since that first month.

Sure, the state of things aren’t great. Cincinnati is last in the Central at 43-53 – 13.5 games behind Chicago. They’re 10 games out of the second National League Wildcard spot. The question is, though, were playoffs the goal of 2018? If you’ve paid attention to Locked on Reds, the answer is no.

This was supposed to be a year that the Reds set the table for a contending team at Great American Ballpark, and there is some semblance of success in this arena.

The current team MVP is Joe…nope…Eugenio Suarez. That’s right boys and girls. You remember that contract extension that the front office handed out to a talented, young Venezuelan this past offseason? Yeah, looking like a great idea. According to baseball-reference.com, Suarez has compiled a 3.6 WAR up to this point.

Of course, if WAR is your thing, Fangraphs has both Suarez and Scooter Gennett at 3.3 WAR. The Reds have found their nucleus. In fact, Jose Peraza is currently sitting at a 1.8 WAR, making the entire Reds infield (Votto with a 2.8 WAR) the most valuable part of the team.

Much has been said about Suarez and Scooter, so let’s take a look at an under-appreciated part of this team: Peraza.

For starters, he’s been a revelation from the leadoff spot. Peraza is hitting .333 as the leadoff hitter and has a .389 on-base percentage. Right, blink, rub your eyes, and look again at that .389 OBP. He’s scored 22 of his 53 runs from the leadoff spot, scoring just under 50% of the time he’s reached base.

Part of the explanation for his success can be explained by Peraza having a 30 point-better batting average on balls in play than last year (.293 compared to .259). Another part of the explanation comes from Peraza’s improved plate disciple. His walk percentage is up for the third-straight year to 5.5% and his strikeout rate is down to 10.9%. Diving slightly deeper, he has decreased his swing % by three points on pitches outside the zone and has a 95% contact rate on pitches in the zone. He’s made leaps and bounds in the improvement area this season.

The hitting has been what’s pushed this team through the first 96 games. The Reds have scored the third most runs in the NL, at 461. Their team on-base percentage trails the Cubs by 4 points (.341) for best in the Majors. Much has been written, of late, regarding Cincinnati’s plate discipline and their willingness to take more walks translating into success at the plate, and who could argue? It has been a huge factor in their turnaround.

While not egregiously worse, Cincinnati’s OBP was 15 points lower for the month of April. Combine that with the second worst slugging percentage in all of major league baseball, for that month (.357), and you get an offense that was unable to bail out horrific pitching.

The pitching has come a long way, since that harrowing month, in which the Reds compiled the worst ERA in the NL (5.15) and beat everyone to 20 losses. They’ve shaved over a run off that number, since April, as their team ERA in months not named April is 4.06. The bullpen has gotten a lot of work, as Reds starters average just over five innings a game, but they’ve been up to the task, thus far.

As a unit, considering some individuals that are no longer with the major league team, they re statistically at the middle of the pack in the National League. Individually, there are some pitchers that no opposing lineup looks forward to facing, late in-game. Foremost is Jared Hughes.

Hughes has a 2.3 WAR, per Baseball Reference, good for 4th best on the team. His 1.44 ERA is third best among NL relievers with at least 40 IP. When you are the key guy out of the bullpen, you’ve got to be tough when you get a bad hand dealt to you, and Hughes stands tall in those situations. He’s inherited 23 runners and stranded 15 of them. Despite tossing right handed, Hughes is toughest on lefties, allowing 16 hits in 81 lefties faced. He’s also kept the ball in the park, allowing just two round-trippers.

Amir Garrett stands tall next to Hughes. The starter turned reliever has one-upped Jared Hughes in the inherited run department. Just six of the 32 runners Garrett has inherited have crossed home plate. He is tied for eighth in the Majors with 18 holds, but his ERA has climbed each month (it currently sits at 10.13 for the month of July). Safe to say, he’s relishing this All Star break.

The winning of late has distracted us Reds fans from the big picture of this season. It isn’t necessarily the goal to make the playoffs this year, but to get the team situated for multiple years of playoff contention, beginning next year. The biggest storylines coming out of the All Star Break will not be a pursuit of a playoff appearance, but a couple of other things:

What will they do at the trade deadline?

– Will they sell off? (I hope not)

– Will they go after a staff ace? (I hope so)

– Who will be a Red after the dust settles?

Will they succumb to peer pressure and remove the interim tag from Jim Riggleman?

– Don’t get me wrong, Riggsy has done a fantastic job, but that’s just premature and needless in so many ways. They haven’t conducted an actual managerial search since they hired Bob Boone. It needs to happen at the end of this season. If Riggsy is determined to be the guy after it’s all said and done, cool, but do a search.

Will they stop bunting?

– Okay, admittedly this isn’t really a storyline, per say, but it’s worth noting. The team that has scored the most runs in the Majors, the Boston Red Sox, have compiled a grand total of three sacrifices. Three. That’s it. That’s 30 less than the Reds, who lead all of Major League Baseball in sacrifices. Their seventh in runs scored, but think of where they could be if they stop giving up outs. You know what…I’m feeling a more detailed blog about this subject, so let’s wrap this up.

The Reds need to win 38 games in their final 66 to finish the year at .500. I predicted they would, before the season, on another website. I still think they complete the 81-81 season. This is a decent team, an entertaining team, and they can play with anyone. Add in a couple of trades that are, hopefully, coming in the next few weeks, and you got yourself a contender for the next few years.

Like I said in the opening graph, buckle up, Reds fans, there’s plenty of baseball left!

(Also, shout out Locked on Reds, this is post 100!)

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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