Take us back to March. You know, before the world ended. An aggressive offseason of adding in free agency, the excitement of spring training with legit playoff hopes, and the breakout of the big-time prospect Jose Garcia. Oh man did he come on the scene with a BOOM. He contributed four spring training bombs, 7 hits, a double, and sky-high Barry Larkin like expectations.
Many were high on the Cuban shortstop, but they understood where his development was. He needed more time. He needed AA and AAA adjustments. Without minor league baseball, the small glimpse of spring training excellence was used by many (myself included at times) as a cry for help. A hero to save the lifeless Reds. Well, on August 27th fans got their wish. And Garcia delivered with a hit, walk, and a stolen base. He had a 3 game hitting streak to start his career. However, Garcia did not save the Reds. In fact, his .194/.206/.194 and 7 OPS+ (100 in MLB average) left many fans asking “What happened?” “ Is this really the guy going forward?” Let’s dive in.
At 22 years old, the jury is still out on Garcia. No one has ever doubted his talent, but I think he was just not ready for MLB baseball. I get the move at the time. The Reds needed something and two headed monster of Galvis and Farmer at short was in need of an upgrade. Bring up your SS of the future and let him learn on the fly. You’ll never know what will happen until you try it. And I tip my cap to the Reds for actually doing it. It did not turn out how we all wanted it, but they did something to try to spark the team.
In terms of development, I am not sure how it will change Garcia. MLB talent was overwhelming for him, but maybe it was better than just playing in Prasco all year. If there was a minor league season, obviously Garcia would have been playing in it. That would have been best case scenario for 2020. But there wasn’t a season so plan B happened. Now we just wait and see how he develops. But what’s the plan for SS in 2021?
As it stands today, Garcia, Blandino, and Farmer are the only rostered players with SS experience. I can tell you right now, that will not be the case come Opening Day. The direction that most, including myself, think the Reds go is adding a veteran to fill in for a year or two. This allows Garcia to develop and not have all the pressure on him while also having a proven (and hopefully above average) veteran to hold down the position. The consensus top 3 available FA are : Semien, Didi, and Simmons. Of the three, I want the Reds to go Semien here. Semien had a monster year in 2019 (3rd in MVP) while putting up a 139 OPS+, his only season over 100 OPS+. He came back down to earth in 2020, but at 29 years old he can do a one year prove it deal to still land one last big contract, or take a 2-3 year deal for good money and eventually give up the starting spot in a year or two and be a solid back up infielder. With Didi taking the prove it deal last year, and performing well, I think he is looking to get longer term at 30 years old. Simmons is the oldest of the 3 at 31, but he is still productive. He seems to have a good offensive season every once in a while, but his glove carries him most years. I am not sold on any of these 3 being high level players, but I think Didi has the best shot at that. I just don’t think the Reds are a fit with what he will want/get.
Bottom line, I still think Garcia is the future. The Reds have struggled to lock down the SS spot since Larkin, and Garcia seems like the most talented of the bunch to get a shot. We know the Reds cannot go into 2021 with the Freddy Galvis’ of the world and expect this team to improve. Let’s hope Garcia explodes onto the scene in 2021, and SS becomes the least of our worries.
Cincinnati Reds Bounce Back & Breakout: Bullpen
Here are two names to look out for from the Cincinnati Reds bullpen in 2021
The Reds bullpen will look different in 2021. Robert Stephenson, Archie Bradley, Raisel Iglesias, Nate Jones and many now “Obscure Former Reds” are gone. Iglesias at times was lights out. Bradley had a short stint with the Reds, but a dominant one. Although these guys are gone, it will leave the door open for some other players to step up and fill these roles.
New Names in the mix (on 40 man) : Brandon Bailey, Edgar Garcia, Jeff Hoffman, Riley O’Brien, Noe Ramirez, Jared Solomon, Art Warren, Tony Santillan
Bounce Back: Jeff Hoffman (9.28 ERA 21.1 in 20 K’s 57 ERA +)
Picking a bounce back was hard. A lot of these names have not really had much of a chance. But Hoffman is a former 9th overall pick who has bounced around from the bullpen to the rotation. Will he start? Time will tell. His career stats are pretty rough for a top ten pick. The one thing that catches my attention (and the Reds attention) is his spin rate, which is 82nd percentile. Not elite, but good enough to take a flier on a guy. We all know the Reds and their organization has been big on targeting guys with great spin rate since adding Boddy and Johnson. Hoffman is the latest project for DJ to make into what everyone once thought he could be.
The main reason why I think Hoffman will bounce back is simple; change of scenery. A fresh start in an organization with top notch pitching coaches is the perfect situation at this point in his career. I hope they define his role, let him focus on that, and don’t bounce him from starter to long man to other pen roles. It feels like it’s now or never for Hoffman and he is surrounded by great pitching minds to help him find his way.
Exempt from breakout consideration: Tejay Antone (he was in the starters article)
Breakout: Lucas Sims (2.45 ERA 25.2 in 34 K’s 196 ERA+)
I know I know…a guy who has already maybe went through his breakout. However, I think he isn’t exactly a name all baseball fans around the league know, and that’s about to change. Sims was incredible in 2020. He has earned a larger role with the Reds. His dominance made it much easier to move on from Bradley and Iggy.
LOOK AT THAT PICTURE. Sims was in the top 2% in the league in: Barrel %, XBA, XSLG, XWOBA, and xERA. It doesn’t get much better than that. I want to see Sims as the closer for the Reds. I know Amir will get his chance there as well, but I think Sims emerges as the most reliable arm out of the pen and makes himself a household name in the league.
Honorable Mention: Riley O’Brien (Acquired for Cody Reed)
O’Brien has mostly been a starter in his career, which consists of 56 minor league games. However, with the rotation being closer to set than the bullpen, if he cracks the roster it would likely be as a reliever. Minor league stats: 2.83 ERA 232 innings 250 K’s. Listed at 6’4” and only 170 pounds don’t confuse him with former Red Jimmy Herget, although I think his pitching will make it easy to see past the physical similarities.
This bullpen doesn’t have a lot of bona fide veterans. There will be plenty of opportunities for younger guys to make the roster and earn a spot. I would be surprised if a few more veterans (2021 versions of Nate Jones and Tyler Thornburg) get an invite to Spring Training to try to earn a spot.
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.
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.
Cincinnati Reds Bounce Back & Break Out: Infield
Who will bounce back in the Cincinnati Reds infield, and who will break out?
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.
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.