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.
Cincinnati Reds Roster Breakdown: Non Roster Invitees
Let’s take a look at the non-roster invitees trying to make the Cincinnati Reds roster during this Spring Training
WELCOME BAAAAAAACK! The Reds kick off the 2021 season on Sunday with their first spring training game. As I do each spring training, I am going to take a look at the non roster invitees (NRI) and how they could impact the team this season.
R.J. Alaniz, Matt Ball, Cam Bedrosian, Jesse Biddle, Shane Carle, Josh Osich, Branden Shipley, Bo Takahashi
You might recognize a couple of these names. Alaniz has been around the organization the past couple of years and pitched 11.2 innings with the Reds in 2019. Biddle was a guy who was around last year, but the others are new. Carle (76.1 in), Osich (206.1 in), Shipley (100 in) have experience in the show with moderate results. Cam Bedrosian is the name to know here. The fact that he was signed on with a minor league deal is surprising. 277.2 innings with a 3.70 ERA has been a solid MLB pitcher. 2019 batters hit .207/.283/.336 and in 2020 they hit .196/.276/.255. His spin rate is gritty darn good honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a minor league deal that really is a promise on the roster. Think Jose Iglesias who was also a NRI a couple years back. This allows the Reds to delay their decision on making a 40 man roster move.
For a team that lost Rasiel Iglesias, Bradley, maybe Antone and Lorenzen to the rotation, Bedrosian will have a chance to really earn a legit role with this team. You don’t have to squint too hard to see a scenario where Shipley or Carle get innings this year.
Bittle and Osich are lefties that would have battled for the other LHP spot in the pen, but the signing of Doolittle bumps them to depth roles.
A 33 year old catcher with 37 at bats and a career .108 avg. Id say that there is not much to see here. Stephenson and Tucker are the one two punch and the offseason addition of Deivy Grullon will provide a younger depth option with a higher upside than Gale.
Cheslor Cuthbert, Dee Strange-Gordon (not listed on Reds roster yet)
Cuthbert isn’t a household name, but he does have over 1,000 at bats in the MLB. He had a decent season in ’16 with the Royals batting .274/.318/.413 and 12 HR, but he hasn’t shown enough to be a full time MLB player. Corner infield depth.
Here’s where I stand on Dee….If he is here to battle for a utility role, that’s fine with me. If he is here to be some variation of an answer at SS, we are in trouble. A 32 year old poor defender (who on the Reds isn’t at this point) who doesn’t have any power and doesn’t get on base. Yeah, he has stolen some bases. We all know speed is one of the first things to go when you age, and he still has some jump, but I don’t think it’s game changing speed at this point, and it’s useless unless he’s on base. I’m not high on Strange Gordan making an impact.
Nicky Delmonico, Tyler Naquin, Dwight Smith
I was worried about the Reds outfield depth. It’s a sneaky need, especially of Aquino doesn’t bounce back. This group of NRI is a group I am excited about. All have MLB experience and have had their moments. Delmonico had a nice (small sample size) rookie year with the White Sox in 2017, but has been worse each year since then. It’s the other two that catch my eye.
Dwight Smith has shown he has some pop in his bat. He is the type of player that you want to have in AAA ready to fill in if needed. Tyler Naquin is a guy I think could actually contribute to this team. We know 2020 was a small sample size, but look at the hard hit and exit velo. And his outfield jump/Outs above avg. fit in well with the team that doesn’t seem to care about defense.
He had a great rookie year in ’16, and has had moments since. .288/.325/.467 10 HR 19 2B in 2019 would be a good bench bat. The question is…is he better than Aquino/Heineman/Payton? Him and Payton are the two leftieis of the group. At the very least, I think he is great organizational depth, and I think his floor is a higher floor than the group listed above (maybe Aquino can make me eat crow there)
This list is different than most years. Not as many players listed, and no prospects. The number of players at Spring Training will be smaller than years past. Overall, I think theres 2-3 guys who could earn a role on the Reds 2021 roster.
Monday Morning Manager: The Snell Effect
David Bell has many things he needs to go right in order to win games and get a contract extension. One thing he can control is a decision-making process that should not be made entirely analytically.
In case you lived under a rock last year (and that might be Truer than in any other year) then you know how the World Series went down with the Rays falling to the Dodgers. You may even know about Blake Snell’s improbable removal from Game Six when he was absolutely on fire. This is something David Bell cannot mess up in 2021.
Ok, so in the grand scheme of things, I’m talking about the correct managing of the bullpen and rotation in pressure situations. Most people will look at the Game Six managing of Kevin Cash and see two things: a man sticking to his system that got him there and a man over-thinking things. Neither thoughts are incorrect.
In this day and age of baseball, most people understand statistical evaluations on pitchers favoring removing a starter before they pitch to the opposing lineup for the third time in a game. Well, maybe, because the numbers are a bit different in 2020, small sample size, and all. In fact, the Reds pitching staff held opponents to a .599 OPS in 253 plate appearances the third time through the order, last year. That may be a smoke screen, though, as the 2019 Reds pitching staff (largely similar to 2020) allowed an OPS of .892 in 799 PA. That’s a bit of a more reliable sample size, which would leave me to believe a starter pitching a third time through the order isn’t the most favorable idea.
Also something David Bell must consider is the overthinking aspect. In this Player’s Tribune post by the man, Blake Snell, himself, he points out the immense effect that simply seeing someone warming up in the bullpen had on him. Now, you can say “Well, that shouldn’t have been an issue, he should have sucked it up and pitched!” The dude is a human being. If you saw the person management was likely to replace you with if you messed something up at your job, are you going to just keep on keeping on with no thought to look over your shoulder? If you are, you might be a Jedi. Most of us mere mortals have problems with worrying about what might happen if things fall apart. Baseball players are not totally immune to this, either.
In order for Bell to garner a contract extension, he will have to adeptly manage a pitching staff that has talent, but also has human egos. Just because the numbers say that a decision should go one way, the human element must also be factored in. Last I checked, theres no button for that on a calculator, which leaves it up to his own decision-making skill.
The Cincinnati Reds Optimal Lineup
Let’s look past the Opening Day Lineup to the lineup the Cincinnati Reds could have, if everything is going right.
There will be many things said/written about the Opening Day Lineup and what that should like for the Cincinnati Reds. With the first full team workout happening Monday, let’s take a look at what the lineup should look like if things are going well for the Reds, this season. I’m going to exclude positions for this experiment and you’ll see why.
- Shogo Akiyama – Ideally, Shogo will be getting on base much closer to the clip he posted in September than the one he did in August of last year. If he does this, he will be producing what the Reds hoped he would when they made him the first Japanese-born Cincinnati Red.
- Jesse Winker – He broke out in a big way in 2020 and was the Reds best hitter. There’s no reason to think that won’t, at the very least, continue and probably will even get better.
- Eugenio Suarez – He should be the Reds best hitter and I believe he will regain that title in 2021.
- Mike Moustakas – Moose has always been a run driver-inner and, if things are going well he will continue to do so.
- Nick Castellanos – he could be the third hitter, but it would be an amazing season, indeed, if he gets on-base at a higher clip than Geno.
- Joey Votto – this isn’t meant to be an insult, just realistic. I’ve seen and heard takes putting him in the three-spot. That’s a great idea in 2017. Now, any power should be considered a bonus with the main expectation of him being an on-base catalyst for the bottom of the lineup/turning over of the lineup.
- Nick Senzel – him being down here is more a hope that the top six indeed prove worthy to be top six. This is also hoping he’s healthy enough to play everyday, or almost everyday, and build up enough momentum to produce at the level he is capable of. Also, the not labelling defensive position thing is because he should be in the running as a shortstop option, but it sure feels like that’s not the case. Before you say, “Jeff, he’s not a shortstop…” who on this roster is? Get the best eight (nine if the NL miraculously gets the DH) in the lineup and worry about defense later. That’s pretty much how this roster is built, anyway.
- Tyler Stephenson – in a few years, he should be hitting in the middle of the order. In 2021, let’s keep the pressure on low and watch him thrive in the box.
- Pitcher (again, we’ll reassess if the players and owners ever get together and figure this out before the season begins, but we aren’t holding our breath).
This lineup could be pretty good…maybe. As fans we can hope, the folks who run the Reds should not lean on that. The lineup I propose should only be if each player is performing to the level that is expected of him. More than likely, this lineup will not happen, because it is doubtful every single bat bounces back in 2021.