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.
Remembering Reds: Corky Miller
Among the Reds’ fan favorites is a man not known for his statistical achievements, but for simply how awesome he was.
Morgan, Bench, Robinson, Larkin, and Miller. All names that Reds fans recog…wait, Miller? As in Corky Miller? Absolutely. Corky Miller, the minor league catcher with 539 career MLB at bats. The Miller that holds a career .193/.277/.306 53 OPS+ and a 0.0 WAR, yet everyone knows his name. And adores him. His stats won’t jump off the page, but his laid back attitude and fu Manchu leave a mark on your memory.
Signed by the Reds in 1998, Miller did not reach the show until 2001. In his 11 year career spanning from 2001-2013 (didn’t appear in 2011/2012) Miller never played more than 39 games in one season. So how did he become a household name? Well, probably because he looks more like your fun uncle than your favorite team’s catcher. Now don’t get me wrong, Corky brought value to the teams he was on. He was as much as a coach/mentor as he was a ballplayer. You will still find him in the Reds organization helping the young catchers develop. Let’s take a look at some of Corky’s highlights.
Corky steals home
When you think about baseball players stealing home you might immediately think about the great Jackie Robinson sliding in against the Yankees as Yogi Berra losses his mind at the “safe” call. Hell, you might even think about Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez pulling off the impossible feat in the last scene of the Sandlot. Well, Corky Miller joined this elite group on September 27th, 2001. As Omar Daal of the Phillies threw to first Miller showed off his wheels as his much slimmer self had a perfect slide under the tag. Miller walked back to the dugout as if he’s done this 1,000 times. Incredible swagger.
The Dancing KING
Fast forward to late June 2013. Miller finds himself back in a Reds uniform for the first time since 2010. Looking more like the Corky we know and love, sporting the fu Manchu, Miller shows off his quick footwork. Juan Uribe flies out to Jay Bruce who’s throw home took Corky off to the left of home. Hanley Ramirez, not the best baserunner himself, runs past home, retreats, dances around the grounded Miller only to be tagged on the third attempt while flailing towards home. This is so ugly that it is absolutely beautiful.
The Next Cy Young
Corky was more than a catcher and fan favorite. He was an elite pitcher. Well, maybe not elite. Over his career in the minors he pitched 7.2 innings and surrendered 14 hits, 13 earned runs and struck out 2. But in 2012 while playing for the Louisville Bats he pitched a scoreless inning. Down 13-0 in the bottom of the 8th, Miller came in to throw some rainbows in the general direction of home plate. A fly out to left, a pop out to first, and a fly out to right Miller put down the Columbus batters in order.
While his career might not stand out, Miller’s impact has. One of the beloved players in the clubhouse, he has mentored many young catchers along the way. Here’s to many more great years to Corky!
How a Shortened Season can Help and Hurt the Reds
step back and attempt to look at the way the Reds can benefit from a possible shortened season and how it could hurt them.
The world is in an obscure and unsure place. Today we were supposed to be watching a parade and cheering on the Redlegs. Instead, we are confused about the future of the 2020 season as we watch the 7th straight episode of a Netflix series, perfecting social distancing. How the 2020 season will be played has yet to be determined. I want to take a step back and attempt to look at the way the Reds can benefit from a possible shortened season and how it could hurt them.
Each day that passes without baseball is a day closer to a season without 162 games. For the sake of argument, let’s say the season is somewhere between 75-100 games. What ways can that benefit the Reds?
1. They can get healthy. Suarez, Senzel, and Galvis (amongst others) have battled some spring injuries. Extra time off only helps their recovery and could lead to a 100% healthy “Opening Day” lineup. Although Galvis is not a top ten talent at short, he is much better than the current back up options. Luckily, he should be ready to go and 100%.
2. The rotation can be a great strength. We all know how strong the current rotation is. The Reds could adjust the strategy because you won’t be worried about getting starters 32 starts and 200ish innings. With a compact season, you could let starters go deeper in games, or even go to a shorter rotation because you won’t be trying to strength out the innings over several months. Bauer and Disco are both on contract years and will be laser-focused on making the most of their fewer starts to prove their value come next offseason. If the league goes heavy on doubleheaders, Mahle and a few others could step up into the expanded rotation and stronger than many team’s depth starters.
3. How a shorten season benefits Votto? As Joey ages, he will need more days off, especially if the decline is steady. If Joey does not have to prepare himself for 162 games, it could lead to better results as he would be fresher. We all know he can get off to slow starts and avoiding that would be crucial in a shortened season.
How can the shortened season hurt the Reds?
1. David Bell is still a new manager. Fresh, unproven, inexperienced. At times in 2019, he cost the Reds some games. There is little to no margin for error in a short season. Each game means more and the lineup experimenting with playing players out of position won’t fly. Managerial experience will be extremely important in 2020 and hopefully Bell has improved after year one.
2. Lack of important experience for prospects. Tyler Stephenson, Jose Garcia, Jonathan India, and many other prospects are missing out on developmental time. This one really stings. A couple of the Reds top prospects are projected to be on the 2021 roster but needed some time in higher levels of the minors to learn and iron out a few things. You can train and work with coaches during this time, but the actual game experience cannot be overlooked.
3. Pressure. Obviously, every game counts each season. But a shortened season stresses the importance of each game. The Reds cannot afford to go on a losing streak as they did at the beginning of 2019. The expectations for 2020 remain high, and the pressure to perform is building. The adjustment to the MLB for Shogo must happen fast. Senzel has to stay healthy. The margin of error shrinks and pressure goes up. Iglesias cannot struggle to close out games or he’ll be replaced.
The 2020 season won’t be ideal. No one wants it to be this way. Watching 162 games a year is a joy and I will miss the routine of watching the Reds every night. Let’s hope this shortened season feels and plays like a playoff series where every aspect of the game is emphasized and more important. Here’s to everyone staying safe and healthy, and the Reds winning the pennant.
Take a look at a few thoughts before we get this 2020 season underway!
What is this team’s greatest weakness and how do they go about addressing it? (@GeraldSHuber)
To me, it has to be defense. (Here’s an article I wrote about it: https://bit.ly/2wft1Bs ). Tucker and Casali are fine but not spectacular, Votto is mediocre, Moose is an unknown, and the outfield defense leaves you wanting more. Galvis is great at short, but many others could be troublesome. If defense is your greatest weakness, you probably have a pretty good team.
How many years until we see Jose Garcia? (@smoffe87)
Everyone’s new favorite prospect, and he should be. The future is bright. Garcia has yet to reach AA, where he’ll likely start this season. In high A Daytona he hit .280/.343/.436 with 8 HR and 37 (!) doubles. No need to rush the 21-year-old, but he likely is the SS in 2021 if all goes according to plan. The lack of depth at SS could rush him if injuries happen or he hits the cover off the ball.
Who will lead off? What do they do with Schebler, Reed, Mahle, and other players without options? (@StachlerJames)
Shogo Akiyama should see time as the leadoff. A career .376 OBP who has been closer to .400 in recent years (NPB league) has a chance to be a real difference maker.
Schebler, I think, will end up being traded or DFA. Reed has a tough first start, but its early and he looked great in limited time last season. Another lefty in the pen not named Peralta or Duke is welcomed. Mahle has an option and likely is headed to Louisville to get regular starts. The Reds will likely need him to start at some point during the season. Sims likely earns a pen spot, Travis Jankowski could be the final spot if injuries occur. His speed and defense are useful.
Is Senzel going to be a utility player or end up getting traded? (@GerryYnciarte65)
Being a super utility is not a bad thing. Ben Zobrist was a hell of a player in that role. However, I think Senzel will be seeing plenty of time in CF splitting with Akiyama. His bat is too good to be a true bench player. I don’t think he will be traded. It feels like he would have already been moved if that was the plan.
If Tucker or Casali get hurt do they let Farmer catch or Stephenson? (@OdeToRedsWS)
Catcher organizational depth is lacking. Stephenson could be the option if he is hitting well in AAA Louisville. I think we see him at some point this season. Only other catcher in the organization with MLB experience besides Casali and Tucker is Francisco Pena (190 AB .216/.249/.311). His stats are underwhelming at the plate but he’s a veteran and that carries value. Sadly, I doubt we see former Red great Ryan Lavarnway in 2020. Add Garcia and Stephenson to this lineup in 2021 and that team is very strong.
Over/Under….When do the Reds give up on the mix-n-match platoon ideas and have a regular lineup? Line is May 31st. (MTGPackFoils)
The days of the “same lineup everyday” are gone. And they should be. Putting out the same lineup doesn’t always mean the results will follow. Some players hit lefties but not righties and some hit righties and not lefties. Play the best players for each situation. Platooning can lead to the best results at times. So OVER. (More on that here: https://bit.ly/38cbCXD)
What are your thoughts on Shogo playing mostly center or left, if Senzel is healthy? (@Win1SuperBowl)
As it stands today, the outfield is crowded. It will play itself out. Akiyama can play all three OF positions and I could see him getting at-bats in the corner OF when Senzel is in CF. There’s true competition for at-bats this season and that’s absolutely a good thing. Players will have to earn their playing time.
Who is the backup SS? (@GebzillaG)
Kyle Famer. He ‘s such a unique player who can play all over the field. He was a college SS and has worked their early this spring. Across all levels he’s seen 76 innings at SS and hasn’t recorded and error. Blandino could also be the back up SS. Blandino has 60.2 innings at short in the MLB and is a .941 fielder there. 1692 innings at short in the minors with a .951 fielding %.