Long cold months heated by hot stove rumors define the offseason. Winter meetings, Redsfest, and the Reds caravan provide just enough of a fix to get everyone to spring training. Fake baseball and roster battles get us all to Opening Day. For many players, the offseason is still filled with baseball games. Winter leagues have been going on for years. Prospects play in the Arizona fall league and others play in their country’s offseason leagues. The Reds have about 30 players and prospects competing in different winter leagues. Here’s how they have fared. (All stats as of 1/20/2020)
Notable names (Reds Prospect rankings #): Jose Siri (15), Blake Trahan, Alfredo Rodriguez (18), Jose Garcia (9), Johnathan India (3), Christian Colon, Tyler Stephenson (7), Aristides Aquino, Narciso Crook, Stuart Fairchild (16), Andy Sugilio (19).
Aristides, Mr. August, has looked more like his Mr. September. Batting .209/.255/.395 with 1 HR 6 K’s and 3 BB in 43 at-bats is not great. Many Reds fans want to see Aquino play every day in right field but as it looks today, that is a long shot. A crowded outfield needs to sort itself out and Aquino needs to have a strong spring to earn MLB innings. Jose Siri is on the 40 man roster and is also struggling in areas. .196/.264/.411 with 34 K’s in 112 t-bats. His 6 home runs are a positive, but the strikeouts continue to haunt him no matter where he is playing. You can drool over his defense but if the bat doesn’t come around neither will the playing time. Trahan and Rodriguez will be SS depth in Louisville with Rodriguez hitting better this winter at .309/.351/.324 in 68 at-bats while Trahan is hitting .176/.235./.187. Christian Colon earned a September call up and will be a great veteran option this season for Cincinnati. In 60 at-bats his line is .217/.338/.267 9 BB to 6 K’s in 60 at-bats.
The three big prospects (India, Stephenson, Garcia) have mixed results. Stephenson continues to impress as his .347/.418/.490 and 7 doubles caught the eyes of many prospects ranking systems as they continue to move him up the list. Feels like he will be beating down the door to get to Cincinnati this season. Garcia, like Stephenson, has caught the eyes of prospects rankers and has increased his spot amongst popular list. .213/.290/.311 12 K’s and 3 stolen bases in 61 at-bats won’t raise his name to the top but what he has shown over the past calendar year has impressed many. India hit .133/.254/.333 with 3 HR 21 K’s in 60 at-bats. Where he projects in the Reds future is still a large question mark moving forward.
Notable Names: Vladimir Gutierrez (11), Jesus Reyes, Alex Powers
Gutierrez had a rough start in AAA Louisville but finished strong. 7 starts in the Dominican winter league resulted in a 3.21 ERA 20 K’s 12 BB 1.21 WHIP and batters hit .214. The 24 year old will need to show improvements in 2020 to earn a shot with the Reds. Reyes had a cup of coffee with the Reds in 2018. This offseason he pitched 20.2 innings 3.48 ERA 11 BB to 17 K’s .186 avg. Remains a depth bullpen arm for the organization. Powers earned an invite to Arizona this year. This winter he pitched 12 innings to a tune of 0.75 ERA 7 BB 12 K’s .92 WHIP .121 avg. No matter what level, Powers has been terrific. Cincinnati is far from set in the bullpen and a player like Powers is in a perfect position to earn a spot. He’s a name to keep a close eye on all year.
Before you get too excited or too low on a player just remember what these stats mean, not a whole lot. Small sample sizes and competition level make it hard to predict what a player will do in 2020. Regardless, it’s good to get familiar with seem of these names and see if they can impact the Reds in 2020 or beyond.
All stats and players can be found here: http://mlb.mlb.com/milb/stats/org.jsp?id=cin&y=2019
Who’s the Reds Third Best Pitcher?
The third best pitcher on the Reds in 2020 will not be who you are thinking.
Castillo, Gray, Bauer, DeSclafani, and Miley. A deep, veteran, proven rotation which, on paper, makes the Reds the NL Central favorites. You can argue over who the “Ace” is, but who cares. Gray and Castillo both showed incredible stuff each earning an all-star bid. Miley brings a lefty to the rotation while Bauer brings the big name on a contract year. However, the one pitcher that doesn’t have an all-star appearance on his resume is the one to keep an eye on. I think Anthony DeSclafani will be the third best pitcher behind Castillo and Gray.
In 2019, Anthony DeSclafani had a healthy season. Coming off a promising 2016 (3.28 ERA 130 ERA+), Disco missed the entire 2017 season and only pitched in 21 games during the 2018 campaign. With how fantastic Gray/Castillo pitched and the splash trade that landed Bauer, DeSclafani’s season flew under the radar. 2.6 War 3.89 ERA 117 ERA + 167 K’s in 31 starts pitching 166.2 innings. His last 8 starts he pitched to the tune of a 2.39 ERA. Just a lucky year? I don’t think so. DeSclafani has mentioned before how much working with pitching coach Derek Johnson has helped him. Now more of a veteran, coming off a healthy season and having another healthy offseason with DJ, just how good could DeSclafani be?
According to Baseball Reference Disco’s projections:
9-9 4.35 ERA 1 Sv (?) 155 innings 154 K’s
Zips projection: 1.6 (Bauer 3.8, Castillo 3.9, Gray 3.2, Miley 1.1)
First off, win loss record for a pitcher means absolutely nothing. However, I do think DeSclafani will set a career high in wins, which is 9 (9 wins 3 different times). Last season, his first with Derek Johnson, Disco set a career high in strikeouts while pitching 18 fewer innings than his career high in innings. Contrary to many pitchers, he pitched pretty well at GABP.
Home: 6-4 3.50 ERA 82.1 in 71 hits 86 K’s
Away: 3-5 4.27 ERA 84.1 in 80 hits 81 K’s
A healthy 2020 while pitching in a contract year is important. Earning $5,900,000 at 30 years old it is crucial for DeSclafani to pitch well and set himself up for another contract and payday before he gets older. If he can continue to build off last season and take a step forward the Reds could be around a 90 win team in 2020.
*Random stat: DeSclafani’s 2019 117 ERA+ is higher than Bauer’s ERA+ in 7 of his 8 seasons.*
Bounce Back and Breakout: Outfield
Looking to the outfield for a bounce back and a breakout candidate.
10 outfielders. TEN?!?!? On the 40-man roster? Well, let’s try to unpack this obscurity. The offseason started with a quick trade to acquire Travis Jankowski which has turned into the safety option after the Reds hit big on their free agent targets. Mark Payton was selected in the Rule 5 as a long shot to make the roster. Scott Schebler is still around and apparently healthy. Don’t forget he once hit 30 home runs but more recently hit .123/.253/.222. VanMeter is probably projected more as an infielder especially with the new additions. Ok, so now that we have trimmed the fat, we are left with the big question mark in Aquino, hits LHP Ervin, often injured Senzel, RHP only Winker, and the big free agents Akiyama and Castellanos. With at bats limited, who will bounce back and who will break out?
Bounce Back: Nick Senzel
Honorable Mention: Aristides Aquino
No one has ever questioned the talent. There’s a reason Senzel was drafted high and appeared at the top of prospect list. The issue has been health. Not to beat a dead horse, but he’s struggled to stay on the field. Once he arrived on the scene in May, Senzel hit .279/.347/.468 with 4 home runs 5 doubles and 2 triples. Those numbers started to slip and Turner Ward changing his batting stance didn’t help. Injuries once again were an issue. How Senzel will be used in 2020 is up for debate. Everyday centerfielder? Second if Suarez is injured? Super utility? Who cares, the most important thing is to get Senzel healthy, find a comfortable batting stance, and get him at bats. A season (well, 104 games) under his belt should help. Many rookies struggle. Hell, Mike Trout batted .220 in his first year (40 games). Senzel won’t be Trout, but if he can hit around .280, which I think he can, this team could catch fire in and take the division.
Baseball Reference Projection: .260/.324/.445 14 HR 10 SB 20 2B (These seem low to me)
Breakout: Shogo Akiyama
Honorable Mention: Phillip Ervin
The first Japanese player in Reds history comes with high expectations. Although a rookie, Akiyama will be 32 years old and has proven himself in Japan. Hitting 20 home runs or more the past three seasons while hitting over .300 and an OBP of .398, .403, .392 should cause fans to drool over what he could be. Many question if he can be a centerfielder in the MLB but the Reds think he’ll hold his own. Adjusting to the new country and a new league could lead to a slow start. Many assume he has an elite eye for the strike zone due to his OBP, but Akiyama has never walked more than he strikes out. Not many players do, we as fans have been spoiled with Votto doing just that a few seasons in his career (APPRECIATE VOTTO). Frankly, I couldn’t care less how he gets on base as long as he is on base. I think Akiyama will be a crucial part of the team’s success in 2020.
2020 Offseason Compared to Others
This offseason is definitely the best the Reds have had in the last decade.
$165 million dollar SPLASH offseason’ s are not common in Cincinnati. After years and years of subpar rosters and uninspiring managing, the Reds started to focus on the future last offseason with a few big moves. Sonny Gray was brought in help the top of the rotation while Puig in friends were brought in to jazz up the lineup. At least one worked. 2019 offseason has built a solid foundation for the years to come. If you thought that was exciting, 2020 blew it out of the water.
So, let’s run down some previous offseason’s. Here are some of the players the Reds acquired via free agency and trades:
2010: Chapman, Arredondo, Orlando Cabrera
2011: Ramon Hernandez and Edgar Renteria
2012: Mat Latos, Sean Marshall, Ryan Madson, Dioner Navarro, Ludwick, JJ Hoover, Wilson Valdez
2013: Jumbo Diaz, Broxton, Choo, Hannahan, Cesar Izturis
2014: Tim Adleman, Skip Schumaker, Jason Bougeois, Trevor Bell, Ramon Santiago
2015: Ivan De Jesus, Ramon Cabrerra, DeSclafani, Suarez, Marlon Byrd, Jason Marquuis, Burk Badenhop
2016: Blake Wood, Brandon Allen, Tim Melville, Schebler and Peraza, Alfredo Simon, Dan Strailey
2017: Stuart Turner, Josh VanMeter, Drew Storen, Luis Castillo, Scott Feldman, Arroyo, Scooter
2018: Kevin Quackenbush, Mason Williams, Phil Gosselin, Jared Hughes, David Hernandez, Cliff Pennington
2019: Tanner Roark, Farmer/Puig/Kemp/Wood, Sonny Gray, Derek Dietrich, Jose Iglesias
Man, that 2014-2018 was bad. The good players acquired were prospects. Obviously, during a rebuild that is what you do. But the MLB “talent” that was signed, well, yikes! (A couple of good players, I am being harsh.) The front office had no plans for winning. That is just how rebuilds work. But, you can see the foundation being built. The prospects take a few years and 2018 was the first aggressive push in years. The Reds window for success is now. By going out and signing offensive players in Moose and Castellans to pair with OBP machine Akiyama the city of Cincinnati is ready for excitement. Lack of spending has been the gripe of patrons each offseason. They were finally silenced. Interestingly, previous improvements had been made via trade, mostly. The opposite happened this offseason with signing talent and holding on to future assets. What do we make of that? I’m not really sure. Does it say the Reds have something up their sleeve to pull off a spring training trade? Could be. Too many outfielders will have to play itself out. Although this offseason has been the biggest yet, it’s possible it’s not even over yet.