It is May 7th and our beloved Redlegs sit at 8-26 on the season, tied with the Baltimore Orioles for the worst record in baseball. It’s hard for me to get excited about the actual games during another lost season and I often find myself wondering how much longer we will have to wait to see a competitive Reds team. A lot of time has passed and the club has made a number of moves, but are they the right ones? Have the Reds front office shown the competency to bring an end to this rebuild and start winning? In this three-part series I hope to shed some light on who the Reds have acquired and determine if they will be on the next competitive Reds team and try to forecast when the Reds might start winning again.
The road to recovery starts with admitting that you have a problem in the first place. If you ask me, the Reds admitted this on Sunday, July 26, 2015, the day the Reds traded Johnny Cueto to the Royals for starting pitchers Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb, and Cody Reed. What a sad day in Reds history. I will always have fond memories of Johnny pressed up against the backstop at GABP kicking any Cardinal within five feet of him. The results of that trade are not looking great. John Lamb is no longer in the organization, Cody Reed can’t seem to figure things out at the Major League level (or at AAA for that matter), and Brandon Finnegan has had injury issues and has been ineffective this season (8.27 ERA, -0.8 WAR). I think that Finnegan could still have success as a starter. He has three pitches that he throws pretty well (four-seam fastball, sinker, and slider), and his change up is still a work in progress. Finnegan could be a four or five starter on the next competitive team if he can develop his change up and limit the amount of fly balls he allows.
Our next stop brings us to the 2015 trade deadline, also known as the day the Reds traded Mike Leake to the San Francisco Giants for minor league pitcher Keury Mella and IF/OF Adam Duvall. Mella was not a super prospect when acquired in this trade, but was one of the best prospects that the Giants had to offer from their depleted minor league system. He got a cup of coffee with the Reds last year in a September call up and is currently in AA Pensacola. He has a 0.84 ERA over six starts with an impressive 32 strike outs compared to just six walks. Last year the Reds called up both Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle straight from AA and I don’t see why they can’t do the same with Mella. He could be a very interesting piece in the rotation if he can get batters out in the majors the way he does in the minors. We should all be familiar with the other player that the Reds acquired in that trade. Adam Duvall has been the Reds primary starter in left field since acquired in 2015 and was the Reds’ lone representative in the All Star game in 2016. He has shown impressive power and solid defense in left, but has really struggled as of late. This year he is the owner of a .192 batting average to go along with a .606 OPS. At this point in his career I think that he is a decent fourth outfielder at best and should not take playing time away from Jesse Winker or Scott Schebler. If the Reds are truly committed to the rebuild then they need to move on from Duvall starting everyday and let the younger, more talented hitters play. I don’t like his odds of contributing to the next competitive Reds team considering his age (30 in September) and declining bat.
The 2015 season mercifully came to an end and the Reds looked to the offseason to unload some more of their players. On December 16, 2015 the Reds sent third baseman Todd Frazier to the White Sox in a three team trade that also involved the Dodgers. They received infielder Jose Peraza, infielder Brandon Dixon, and outfielder Scott Schebler in return. Peraza has had mixed results during his time with the major league club. He finished the 2016 season with a .324 batting average over 256 plate appearances, had a dismal 2017 season that saw him benched at second base in favor of Scooter Gennett, and has showed signs of promise this year at short. After an 0-12 start to the season Peraza is now hitting a respectable .293 with an OPS of .713. He has also made strides on defense at shortstop and I can see him getting better and better each game. This would be huge if Jose can pan out and be an average shortstop at the major league level. It will allow Eugenio Suarez to remain at third and Nick Senzel to focus solely on playing second. I definitely think Jose can be a starter on the next great Reds team if he can continue to develop his glove at short. Scott Schebler was not thought of a as a highly touted prospect in this trade but has offered more value than expected. He has a lot of power potential and has hit for average when healthy. He got off to a great start last year but suffered a bruised rotator cuff on June 3rd which sapped him of some power until he finally went on the DL near the end of July. He still went on to hit a very quiet 30 home runs and ranked near the top in hard hit percentage amongst all outfielders last year. After a brief stint on the DL this year, Scott is hitting a solid .273 and is still hitting the ball incredibly hard. He is another player that I can see contributing to the next winning Reds team. Brandon Dixon was a throw in player that didn’t even crack the dodgers top 30 prospect list at the time. He is currently hitting .329 at AAA and has the chance to be a decent bat off the bench as well as a reliable utility infielder. Meanwhile Todd Fraizer has played for three different teams and hasn’t finished a season batting above .225. This trade is starting to look better and better as time goes by.
We will follow up a really good trade the Reds pulled off by taking a look at a really bad one. The club traded closer Aroldis Chapman to the New York Yankees on December 28, 2015 for four players, three of which are no longer in the Reds organization. The only one left, Rookie Davis, is on the 60 day DL after having hip surgery this past offseason and isn’t expected to be back until after the All Star break. Davis posted an 8.63 ERA in six starts last year for the Reds and looked in over his head. I am willing to hold out judgment until after he returns from injury but I do not expect him to be a top five starting pitcher in the future. I think the bullpen might be his best bet and even that might be a stretch. What hurts the most about this trade is that the Yankees turned around and traded him to the Cubs for much more than what the Reds got in return. The Yankees received uber infield prospect Gleyber Torres, reliever Adam Warren, and two other players from the Cubs in exchange for Chapman. There were reports that the Reds had a deal worked out with the Dodgers prior to the Fraizer trade but it fell through when MLB learned of a domestic dispute that Chapman had earlier in the offseason. This resulted in a 30 game suspension and diminished Chapman’s value on the trade market. If they would have waited until after the suspension they could have received much more from a team still in the playoff hunt and desperate for a shut down closer to bolster their bullpen.
We will leave it there for part one. So far the Reds have acquired some players capable of helping the Reds long term, and many who are no longer in the organization. In part two we will look at events that occurred starting with the 2016 amateur draft and bring us right up to the start of the 2018 season. Part three will focus on when the Reds might start winning again and even question their commitment to the rebuilding plan.
The Positives for the Cincinnati Reds of Keeping Nick Senzel in AAA
The Cincinnati Reds are telling us it is time to change our expectations of Nick Senzel, writes Clay Snowden
Things have not gone as planned. Nick Senzel was selected with the second overall pick in 2016 and was praised for his plus hit tool. Fast forward to now and Senzel is an often injured player who currently sits in AAA Louisville. I am not sure if I remember a player with as much frustration attached to his name, maybe Billy Hamilton? I am not writing Senzel off as a bust just yet, but things are trending that way. With him in AAA what should we make of this?
I think it is time to change expectations. Once thought of as a potential building block of the Reds rebuild and future, Senzel has proven he cannot be that. Injury after injury has limited his time on the field, but even when he has played he has not been very good. Definitely not second overall good. Hell he’s a negative WAR player. He’s still young(ish) and has not had enough at bats to really determine what he will become. If I was a betting man, I would bet he wouldn’t reach the potential we once though he had. A lot of the blame falls on….well….bad luck. Injuries stunting development is not something I like to blame on players. The organization has not exact made it easy on him. Changing his positions several times including a drastic change to center to fit team needs was not easy on Senzel. Changing his swing/stance during his rookie season was crazy. And here we sit on August 16th, 2021 with Senzel playing for the Louisville Bats. You can debate if it’s the right move or not, but its where we are. What positives can come from this move?
Let’s go back to expectations. It’s time to shift from all star build block to useful utility player. We can be mad about it all we want, but it won’t change anything. My hope is Senzel is used all over the field in Louisville. He’s played some SS down there which makes things interesting. We know he can play second, third, and center. Adding short to that resume makes him a very useful piece. If the plan is to transition him to a utility role, he could get plenty of starts at multiple positions, cover pinch running, defensive subs late in the game, and be a back up shortstop (especially in 2022).
Bottom line, Senzel needs a role and they need to stick to that role. I think the utility role with more playing time than an average bench player is the best role for him. No, it’s not the role we all expected when the Reds selected him in 2016, but it could be the best role for him and the Reds going forward.
Cincinnati Reds July Reds Mailbag
The Cincinnati Reds are battling to retake first place in the NL Central, here in July, and questions abound. Clay has some answers for you!
Here we are, a few days before the deadline and more than a couple spots outside of first place. The Reds are looking less and less like a playoff team, and have yet to make a move (7/27/21 2:24 pm). Let’s get to some questions.
Miguel Rojas and Yimi Garcia for Allen Cerda and Alejo Lopez?
These are the caliber of players the Reds seem likely to get. I think World Series contenders are more likely to overpay for some all star caliber players than the scratching and hoping for playoff Reds are. I do think the Reds will get someone, but not a splash move. I would love to add Rojas and Garcia. However, I think the Marlins say no to this. Lopez projects to a bench bat and Cerda has been good, but not a high profile prospect. I think the Marlins could get someone in the 8-11 range plus another top 30 from a team. OF course, each team ranking is different, but you get what I am saying.
What do you see in the future for Castllanos? Do you think the Reds will sign him to another deal?
I hate to say this, but I do not think Castellanos will be a Red next season. His agent, Scott Boras, is tough. An he loves to have his clients test the market. Castellanos will opt out, as he is worth more than the $16 million option. Once he hits free agency, another team will outbid the Reds. This isn’t me being some grouch, this is me being realistic. One of the best bats hits free agency at age 29, he will be looking to get locked up to a big money/term deal into his mid-late 30s.
Will Alejo Lopez get a chance? Does Jose Barrero get called up? What about Phil Diehl?
Lopez has been mostly up and down from Louisville and Cincinnati, and has received a spot start here and there but mostly has been a bench bat. I’d like to see him play some third and give Suarez time on the bench. However, that doesn’t seem likely. To me Diehl is a classic example of a AAAA player. I don’t expect him to come up and make an impact but with the way he’s pitched in Louisville and the current state of the bullpen, he’s earned a shot.
Jose Barrero has been outstanding this season. He was recently moved to the number 20 overall prospect for Baseball America. The deadline will determine the rest of his season. If a SS is acquired, he will stay down. If not I think he would be their “deadline addition”. For the record, I would keep him in AAA the rest of the year and go acquire a SS. Bringing him up as the answer is a lot of pressure. Also, he has less than 250 at bats above single A. If his lack of experience was the issue less than 12 months ago, 245 at bats isn’t a huge amount to prove otherwise. But the way he’s hitting…I would understand if he’s brought up.
What should the Reds do with Shogo? Does he stay or go?
He stays. Too much money with another year left for an older outfielder with zero (proven at MLB level) hit tool. I doubt there’s much of a market for that. Maybe he “needs more playing time” to get comfortable, but he has done nothing to earn that. I love Shogo, but it’s getting harder to justify playing him. Keep him on the roster for a defensive replacement/pinch runner.
Will the Reds do anything to strengthen the bullpen? Will the starters be stretched out to go 7 innings?
I think the Reds will add a bullpen arm. I don’t think it will be some all star closer, but an above average guy. Givens/Bard from Colorado come to mind.
The issue with a lot of these starters isn’t David Bell *not* letting them go deep, but instead, they are throwing too many pitches. It’s on them more than Bell most of the time. We need to advance past thinking every starter should go 7 or 7 plus innings.
Positives of the Cincinnati Reds 2021 Season
The highs have been high, but man oh man the lows have been low. Clay Snowden checks in to highlight some of the positives from the first part of the Cincinnati Reds season.
The highs have been high, but man oh man the lows have been low. This season has entertained us with some big moments like sweeping the cardinals, Wade Miley’s no – no, and a couple of winning streaks. The low’s have been low. Like, lower than Geno’s batting average low. I still have nightmares about the west coast trip. And as of right now, the Reds are hovering around .500. To be frank, that’s about where they should be. A roster with this many flaws, fakes, and aches won’t win many divisions, even if it’s an easier one like the NL Central. I wanted to take today to highlight some of the positives from the first part of the season.
The Future is Bright
The Reds rookie class is shaping up to be more than a few contributing pieces, but a core a build around. Johnathan India started off scorching hot, cooled down, but has since blossomed into one of the integral parts of this team and the Reds future. The former 5th overall pick switched positions and has shown he can flash the leather at second. Slashing .262/.374/.396 on the year, he’s really turned it on in June slashing .303/.425/.455. The most important part…the Reds have found a leadoff hitter. Something they have struggled to find.
Tyler Stephenson has not only shown he can hit at the big league level, but that he can become one of the best hitting catchers. His ability to play first has been the cherry on top. Slashing .269/.378/.425 with 5 HR he’’s proving he needs to play every day. I expect a big breakout in 2022. What Alejo Lopez has shown in the minors is promising as a future switch-hitting bench bat that puts the ball in play.
The rookie arms have shown flashes as well. Vladimir Gutierrez and Tony Santillan have not been perfect, but they have shown enough to have a role in the future. Even if they become 4 or 5 starters under cheap team control, that’s a plus for the Reds. The top two pitching prospects, Nick Lodolo and Hunter Greene, have been battling for the title of “future ace”. Both have looked great, especially Lodolo. Greene is younger but developing quickly. Art Warren isn’t exactly a prospect but has pitched well enough to get a mention.
Internal MVP Race
No matter what the Reds do this summer, we will always have the summer of the MVP race. Jesse Winker has blossomed into one of the best pure hitters in the MLB while tapping into more power than he was every projected to have. Nicholas Castellanos had a frustrating covid season in 2020, where he showed power but chased too many bad pitches. Fast forward to 2021 and he’s a doubles machine. He’s hitting everything. Who knows how much longer he’ll be a Red, but what’s happening right now, two all star outfielders, doesn’t happen often. Enjoy it.
Reds Broadcast Team
I watch about 8 MLB games a night. Fantasy baseball has turned me into a monster, and MLB TV quad screen has been feeding that monster. I listen to games every time I’m in the car, and I can say with certainty the Reds have one of the best radio + TV groups. John Sadak has been energizing, positive, quirky, and unique. He’s been a breath of fresh air compared to the previous. Larkin was awful at the beginning of the season but has improved, and will continue to improve. Tommy Thrall is gold. He’s in his second year but has been amazing. Chris Welch brings intelligence of the game that makes us smarter each day and Cowboy is just fun as can be. It might seem small but trust me a bad team with bad announcers is unbearable. The Reds nailed this.
A baseball season is a roller coaster of emotions. 162 games is a long season. Sure, it’s frustrating that Bob won’t spend the money, but at the end of the day I am thankful I have a team to watch every day. Especially after last season, I will not take that for granted.