An unseasonably warm January has everyone thinking of spring and giddy for the return of baseball. The Reds recently released the initial non-roster invitees list. These are players that are invited to spring training who are not currently on the 40 man roster. Typically consisting of veterans looking for a second, third, fourth chance or promising prospects any player must be added to the 40 man roster to be on the opening day roster.
Here are the hopeful names looking to crack the club: (# of MLB games played in parentheses)
R.J. Alaniz (12)
David Carpenter (222)
Brooks Raley (14)
Tyler Thornburg (185)
Francisco Pena (86)
Christian Colon (150)
Matt Davidson (273)
Boog Powell (59)
Cincinnati has one of the strongest rotations in the MLB. Cracking the rotation is near impossible without a few injuries. Gutierrez (Prospect #11) and 2019 seven overall pick Nick Lodolo (Prospect # 2) are the two current starters listed. Both are likely to start in the minors. Lodolo struck out 30 batters in only 18.1 innings in 2019. Gutierrez struggled early in AAA but still has a high upside.
Every MLB team is looking to strengthen their bullpen. Tyler Thornburg showed flashes of excellence in Milwaukee a few years back but after two rough years in Boston he is looking to bounce back now reunited with pitching coach Derek Johnson. Carpenter has bounced around with decent success but has not been consistent. Alex Powers has been great in the minors. 1.98 ERA with 33 K’s in 27.1 innings with Louisville is promising. Raley is the lone lefty who hasn’t pitched in the MLB since 2013. He returns to the states after pitching Korea since 2015. Raley, Josh Smith, Cody Reed, and potentially others will be battling for the other lefty spot.
Organizational catching depth is slim. Okey was a 2016 second-round pick who has not hit at any level thus far. Pena has had a few cups of coffee and carved out a role with the Cardinals in 2018. Pretty much this year’s Juan Graterol. A veteran who can be an insurance policy if needed.
Infield depth, especially shortstop, is not a strength of the Reds. Kyle Farmer and Alex Blandino are the current options. Neither are really shortstops. Christian Colon was a 2019 September all up and former Royals World Series hero. With Louisville he hit .300/.372/.443 with 10 HR and 24 stolen bases while playing mostly third but appearing at first, second, and short. Davidson has hit over 20 home runs twice with the White Sox. 33 bombs and 101 RBI last season in AAA was impressive. His struggles with strikeouts have always been an issue. A third/first basemen he is blocked for a starting role, but a bench bat is still a possibility. Garcia (prospect #9), India (Prospect #3), Rodriguez (prospect #18) will likely all start in the minors. Garcia has a huge upside as a middle infielder and is a name to remember. India plays third and has been in plenty of trade rumors. 2019 is a pivotal year for the 2018 5th overall pick. What position he projects with the Reds is still up in the air. Rodriguez was solid in AA but struggled in AAA in his 77 at-bats but is known more for his glove.
The Reds have approximately 392 outfield options for 2020. The two players listed would be a huge surprise to make the team. Fairchild (prospect #16) hit .264/.352/.441 across A+ and AA in 2019. A smooth fielding centerfielder is always great to have in the organization. The less popular of the two Boog Powell’s, this Boog comes over to the Reds after 59 games with the Athletics and Mariners. In 2019 he hit .288/.391/.438 and stole 14 bases. Another centerfield option for the minors.
Jose Iglesias and Derek Dietrich were the non-roster lottery tickets last season. With the rotation set, catching set, and a crowded outfield infield depth and bullpen arms have the best shot to earn a roster spot. Seeing how it will all play out will be interesting. Pitchers and catchers report on February 13th.
Locked On Reds Mailbag
You’ve got Reds questions and Clay Snowden has Reds answers!
What do you think Tyler Stephenson? What do you think of the future of the catching position looks like? (@transredsfan)
Stephenson is one of my favorite prospects. Good offensive catchers are hard to come by. Since struggling earlier in his career with injuries, Stephenson has put together strong offensive years. I would bet he is the 2020 Opening Day starter if all goes as planned. Behind him, the Reds are slim in organizational depth. 2016 second round pick Chris Okey has struggled at every level. Barnhart and Casali are both pretty good options, but I do not see either being a long term answer.
Which non 40-man roster player will have a big spring? (@JoeFain5)
A spot or two is up for grabs on the roster, especially in the pen. Lodolo will be impressive, but I think he will start in the minor regardless of performance. I have always liked Alex Powers and he is ready to contribute. Matt Davidson has the pop, but he plays a position that is crowded. Christian Colon could earn a backup SS role. He had a great spring in 2019 and an impressive year at AAA Louisville.
Outfielders most likely to be on the roster Opening Day? Starting Lineup? (@ChrisSchloemer)
As I was answering this the Reds signed Nicholas Castellanos. This throws a huge wrench into projecting the OF due to having too many options. Someone will be traded and Senzel has the most value.
C – Barnhart
1B – Votto
2B – Moustakas
SS- Glavis (most likely someone different via trade of an OF)
3B – Suarez
LF – Winker
CF – Senzel/ Akiyama depending on trades
RF – Castellanos
What throwback uniforms will the Reds wear this season? (@William46676045)
Last season the Reds wore throwbacks to celebrate 150 years of Reds baseball. It was awesome, too. The 1976, 1967, and 1999 were my favorite. The 1902, 1911, and 1936 I could do without. I’d like to see the Reds wear all of them again, but I would imagine we could see some of the player’s favorites. The collared jerseys were not the favorite amongst players.
Win projection if the Reds sign Castellanos? (@OdetoRedsWS)
Well, they did sign him. A big bat will be added to the middle of the order. What that means for the other 45 outfielders on the roster….who knows. I would think this adds at least 2 wins to the Reds in 2020.
If you could use one statistic as a measure for a player’s ability which would you use and why? (@soffenbaker)
People love and hate some stats. Some loved Iglesias’ 2 strike average. I didn’t really care about it. For hitters, I like OBP because I think getting on base leads to run production. Overall, I like WAR (wins above replacement). I know many do not like it, but it gives a value that most fans can pin to a player when comparing him to others. Good players will have bad stats, but no good player will have a bad WAR.
Who do you go get now? (Jamlung429)
The weakest position is short. Most of the top SS would cost a lot. But, considering the crowded outfield and that the Reds haven’t traded any prospects this offseason, go get that final piece. Senzel, prospect(s) and get a top 5 SS. Who that will be is tough to predict. I like Bogaerts but the Red Sox might not want to trade him.
Reds are All In
Whether or not the moves made pan out in a few months, there can be no doubt that the Reds are all in to win.
It was quietly mandated by the fanbase that the Reds go “ALL IN” this year. It started last year the night before the trade deadline. I wrote an article saying to trust the front office after the Reds traded away Yasiel Puig and Taylor Trammell for Trevor Bauer which at the time didn’t seem great on the surface. Since that trade for Bauer, Dick Williams and Nick Krall have been busy.
The middle infield was the glaring need of this team. First big splash this offseason was Mike Moustakas for 4 yrs/$64million. While the Reds will have him playing second base, he was considered the best free agent available at that position this offseason. Moose posted a 3.2 WAR (Baseball Reference), wRC+ 113 (Fangraphs), and OPS+ 114 (Baseball Reference) for the 2019 season while making the All Star team. Much welcomed stats for a team that struggled mightily to bring in runs last year.
Their next big splash shored up there starting rotation as the best in the NL Central, and one of the best in the MLB, with the signing of Wade Miley for 2yrs/$15 Million. Miley provided the Astros with 167.1 innings, 116 ERA+, and 4.51 FIP in 2019 according to Baseball Reference. I might add Miley will be reunited with Derek Johnson who he played under for the Brewers in 2018. In 2018 Miley provided the Brewers a 159 ERA+ and 3.59 FIP in a half year of work. This means the Reds starting rotation would consist of Gray, Castillo, Bauer, Disco and Miley. A projected 20.2 fWAR as a starting rotation ranking fourth in the National League. We have all seen what Johnson was able to do with Gray and Castillo last season. Will Miley be the next chapter of Johnson’s miracle work once they are reunited? More insane is the complete 180 the pitching staff has become in just one year. If Miley had signed in 2017 or 2018 there’s a real chance he might have been the Opening Day starter. Now he’s the 4th or 5th guy in a loaded starting rotation.
Finally, we come to the most recent signing in Shogo Akiyama for 3 yrs/$21 million. Shogo was the top free agent from Japan sought after by many clubs, including the Cubs. Playing at the highest level of Japanese baseball Shogo slashed .302/.392/.471 in 2019. For the most part his OBP has stayed around the .390 mark in recent years. OBP is probably one of the best stats that carries over from Japanese baseball which is promising for the Reds. Per the Reds front office they seem him as being able to play anywhere in the outfield as well. Probably the biggest concern with Shogo is that he is already 31 years old. Hopefully the Reds can get some amazing value out of this deal with Shogo in his prime.
This totals over $100 million spent, already, through free agency this season for the Reds. Our closest competition ranks among the lowest spending in free agency this offseason. The Cubs and Pirates have committed NOTHING in serious free agency contracts. The Cubs are looking to dump payroll and possibly trade Kris Bryant. The Pirates are a proverbial dumpster fire in rebuild mode. The Cardinals have their fan base banking on a trade for Arenado to be there savior this season. That won’t come cheap since Arenado is one of the elite third basemen in the league. Not to mention he is owed roughly $234 million through 2026. The Brewers have now lost Moustakas, Grandal, Thames, or 13 of the 25 players on their 2019 playoff roster. The Reds are absolutely seizing the day when it comes to taking advantage of the economic situation the rest of the division is in.
Many believe the biggest surprises are yet to come. Freddy Galvis is the projected starting shortstop for the Reds as of right now. In my personal opinion that is unacceptable with the current roster. Dick Williams addressed this issue a few weeks ago when he was on with Lance McAlister. He stated their openness to possibly moving Senzel, Suarez, or a potential player acquired through trade to that position. Any hopes of getting Lindor Correa or Story through trade have cooled in recent weeks. The Reds have been attached to Corey Seager, superstar shortstop with the Dodgers in trade rumors. Seager could come at a steal of a price for a player who has posted 4 WAR in his three full seasons and two years of contract control. There is a lot of history of the two teams trading, as well. Adding even more fuel to the fire is that the Reds are still attached to possibly signing Nicholas Castellanos to an already overcrowded outfield with Senzel, Winker, Aquino, Shogo, and Ervin. Castellanos has expressed interest in being a part of a team going after a championship, being a leader in the clubhouse, and in recent years he’s been hitting his stride. For the past two seasons he’s had an OPS+ greater than 120 and just shy of a 3 WAR according to Baseball Reference. At the very least the Reds could sign him to an Ozuna-like deal for one year overpriced. You sacrifice none of your prospect capital if this is the only move till Opening Day. Something the Reds have been pretty damn good at in recent years all things considered.
If they they are able to make one of these moves before Opening Day your probably looking at a 90 win team. I feel like if the Reds could somehow pull off a trade for Seager and signing Castellanos it would be hard to argue that they didn’t go “All In” this offseason. They would be the clear cut front runner to win the NL Central and hopefully a serious playoff run. If so that would keep Dick Williams promise for a record Opening Day payroll.
What I found more newsworthy is that Dick Williams said, at a recent stop on the Reds Caravan that his objective this season was a World Series championship. I’m not going to try and argue that this team is a serious contender for the World Series. I would be lying to you if I did. Personally, I think the team as currently constructed will go 85-77. I think their ceiling is NL Central champions and there floor is 81 wins. However, if Dick Williams and Nick Krall, who have been honest with their promises to the fan base so far, can truly go “All In” we should see something in the near future that make our beloved Redlegs something to talk about all season.
Bounce Back and a Breakout: Bullpen
Here are a few guys to keep an eye on, in the bullpen, as we near pitchers and catchers reporting.
2019 didn’t go as well as fans had hoped. Starting pitching was great, but the bullpen was not. Wandy Peralta, Zach Duke, David Hernandez, Jared Hughes, Kevin Gausman, and others are gone. How the bullpen will shake out is yet to be known, but I wanted to highlight a breakout and bounce back candidate.
Bounce Back: Raisel Iglesias
Honorable mention: Sal Romano
Since transitioning from a starter to a closer, Iglesias has been a hell of a pitcher. 2016 169 ERA+ 2017 181 ERA+ 2018 176 ERA+ 2019….109 ERA+. Iglesias had an ERA of 2.53 or lower from 2016-2018 but it ballooned to 4.16 in 2019. 2019 saw a new career high in saves, 34, while also setting a career high in losses, 12, up from his previous high of 7. Iglesias was disgruntled with his role while fans were upset with his play leading to trade rumors. 2020 is a new year and I think Iglesias will have a major bounce back.
We have all seen the talent. There’s no question if he has the stuff. For whatever reason, relievers seem to have on and off years (Looking at you Hughes and Hernandez). Iglesias threw his sinker only 10% of the time last season, which is the lowest of his career. He’s thrown it as much as 40% (2015) and his previous low was 22.6% (2017). Getting back to the sinker could help Iglesias improve in 2020.
Iglesias’ “advanced” analytics look great in the above graphic (thanks baseball savant). Spin rates have never been talked about more and Iglesias still looks good in that department. There’s simply too much talent in his arm to have another pedestrian season.
Prediction from Baseball Reference: 3.82 ERA 20 saves 1.227 WHIP.
Breakout: Joel Kuhnel
Honorable Mention: Jose De Leon
2019 saw a #66 steal the hearts of Cincinnati and now a different #66 will do the same. 6’5” 260 isn’t quiet Jumbo Diaz size but Kuhnel stands out, and so does his fastball. Topping out at 99 MPH Kuhnel has the stuff to blow past hitters. Bullpen arms don’t need several pitches if the two you throw, you throw well. His fastball slider combo could lead to plenty of strikeouts. The bullpen is starving for another reliable arm and Kuhnel will have every chance to earn a role. When I watch him pitch it reminds me of Bobby Jenks, now let’s hope he can pitch as well as Jenks. Still only 24 years old, as Sinatra once said the best is yet to come.
Prediction from Baseball Reference: 4.50 ERA 1.300 WHIP
Here’s a video of some heat: