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Reds Mailbag

The Cincinnati Reds are close to beginning the 2021 season but there are still plenty of questions that need answered. We’re covering a few of those right here.

Clay Snowden

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Who are some guys that are considered long shots to make the team that could help this team this year?

Ryan Hendrix and Tony Santillan.

 

Hendrix has nasty stuff and is a bullpen arm. It feels like every year there are several “out of nowhere” guys to get a chance in the pen. I have been high on him for some time and at 26 years old it’s time for him to get a shot. Santillan is a prospect that a lot of people have cooled on. A bumpy 2019 and nothing to show for 2020 will do that to you. A starter who might have to be a reliver to get innings this year, I see Santillan as someone who could earn a role. If he can return to his 2018 and before form, he could be a big surprise.

 

Does Jonathan India make the team Opening Day? If not, will he be here this year?

No, I do not think he will be an Opening Day roster guy. And we should hope he isn’t, because if he is that means there are several injuries. With the minors getting canned last season, I think it is more important than every for developing players to get everyday at bats. India still needs some seasoning, and starting him everyday, especially if it’s at a position other than third, will help his development. Even if he is killing the ball, I am not sure bringing him up and sitting him on the bench is the best option. It would likely take an injury to bring him up before September.

IF India, a top 100 prospect on some list, is hitting well he could be seen as trade bait. Maybe the Reds view him as the future second basemen? His situation/fit with the Reds is particularly hard to read at this time.

 

 

Who makes the Opening Day Roster: Naquin, Aquino, both, neither?

.183/.270/.350 7 HR 52 K’s 149 AB…..that’s Aquino’s line if you take away his August 2019. The idea of Aquino is much more fun than the player Aquino. He hits some home runs, but that’s about it. He’s out of options so we all know that means he is likely on the bench. Trading him would be trading very low on him. I like Naquin. I think he’s a better player than Aquino, well, I think he has a higher floor than Aquino. Let’s just put it that way.

With no DH, Winker will play left, Senzel (if healthy) will play plenty of center, Castellanos slots into right. Shogo will see a lot of time at center and backing up the corners. That means maybe one more spot for an outfield bench bat. Heineman, Aquino, Naquin, and Payton will all be fighting for that spot. Naquin isn’t on the 40 man, but the others are. Heineman can play all outfield positions and also can play first. The others are all outfielders only. They obviously see something they like in Payton as they keep bringing him back. It will be interesting to see how spring plays this out.

 

 

Which player do you see having a better year….Tyler Mahle or Tejay Antone?

This is such a hard question. Well let’s try to set this up. We know Mahle is going to be in the rotation. We know Antone has the ability to start, but has only really been a reliver in his brief MLB career. I know Antone can start, he has logged 109 minor league starts, but is it where the Reds want to use him? For the sake of this question, let’s assume both are starters and pitch the entire year as starters.

I am going to give a slight edge to Mahle. I have been saying all offseason that I think he could really take his game to the next level. He has the stuff and now he will be able to step up and fill that number 3 role. The only think that has me hesitant with Antone is the “sophomore slump” (for lack of a better term). He has 35 career innings, and he has been incredible in those innings and so far through spring, but if he’s  a starter I need to see how he looks the second and third time through the lineups. As a bullpen guy, you don’t often get to reach that second and third time through.

Either way, I think both will be huge assets for the Reds.

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Cincinnati Reds Alternate Site Game: April 6, 2021

The Cincinnati Reds are currently playing some games with their alternate team against other alternate teams. Clay Snowden had a chance to attend one and gives a report.

Clay Snowden

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78 degrees with a few clouds in the sky was the perfect day for the perfect game of baseball. My first in person game since 2019. I never knew just how much I missed it until I experienced the sights of sounds of the game for what felt like the very first time (again). Enough about me, let’s talk about the game. The alternate site Reds (that’s what we will call them) took on the Royals on Tuesday night. I want to provide a recap of the pitching and hitting while highlighting a few players.

 

Pitchers:

Riley O’Brien started for the Reds. Acquired in the Cody Reed trade, O’Brien is an interesting pitcher with some obvious upside. He has a lot to like but can struggle to find the zone at times. He struck out Bobby Witt Jr (One of MLB top prospects) while causing him to whiff on back to back strikes. He also gave up 2 home runs, 4 hits 4 runs in 3 innings while striking out 5. At times he simply over powered hitters and at times they squared him up. I still like him as a possible bullpen guy at some point.

Claiborne Snowden on Twitter: “Riley O’Brien (@RileyyOBrienn ) striking out one of the best prospects in all of baseball Bobby Witt #Reds https://t.co/YVQOpuIKby” / Twitter

Brandon Finnegan, who came out of nowhere this spring and impressed, looked pretty solid tonight. Struck a guy out looking while allowing 1 hit in one inning. His breaking stuff had some life on it. Doolittle, Perez, and Garrett will make it tough for him to find innings, but if injuries happen he’s more than capable of filling in. What a great story his comeback is.

Finnegan was followed by uneventful innings from R.J. Alaniz, Edgar Garcia, Hector Perez, and Ryan Hendrix. Garcia was hit hard and hit often. Perez has a fastball that is noticeably faster than others, but the radar gun was not on. Hendrix really pops the catchers glove, but location was an issue.

Claiborne Snowden on Twitter: “Finnegan (thread) https://t.co/a8pYMq0JuI” / Twitter

Batters:

Mike Freeman, a utility infielder brought over from the Indians, provided the only real offense tonight with a home run off a LHP (Lynch) to right center. In my mind him, Blandino, and Schrock all are battling for the same “utility infielder” position. Schrock was quiet at the plate tonight.

Mark Payton had a decent night at the plate. I really like his eye for the strike zone and patience at the plate. He had a strong single up the middle and worked a count full on another at bat. He had a ton of balls hit to him in center and he covered a lot of territory well. One ball he tried to rob a HR and it hit off of him and went over the wall. From my vantage point it looked like he might have helped that ball go over.

Jose Garcia made solid contact in his two balls put into play. I am far from a swing expert, but his swing looked a little off tonight. Maybe a little slow? I don’t know. He also swung and missed several times. A full year in the minors will do him well.

Claiborne Snowden on Twitter: “@TooKold2 https://t.co/YJgnyWHl7Q” / Twitter

The last player that caught my eye was Alejo Lopez. The 24 year old switch hitting infielder just knows how to hit. He has logged over 1,000 minor league at bats and has a slash of .297/.367/.746. In his two at bats he made great contact one leading to a single up the middle and one a sharp lineout to end the game.

Claiborne Snowden on Twitter: “Alejo Lopez single. A player who isn’t listed as a super high prospect but has been producing https://t.co/FydDrk2kjd” / Twitter

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Eugenio Suarez at Shortstop Makes the Cincinnati Reds Very Interesting

The Cincinnati Reds have announced that Eugenio Suarez will start Tuesday’s game at shortstop which opens up so many possibilities that make the Reds lineup dangerous.

Jeff

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The Cincinnati Reds dropped a Geno-sized bomb on Reds Country and the result is mass excitement.

We are all aware of the swings-and-misses with free agent shortstops the Reds front office had this offseason. In fact they struck out, if you’re counting, as there were three bonafide shortstops who all went elsewhere. So we’ve spent all Spring Training squinting our eyes to see if we could maybe see the fringe possibility of someone on this roster playing shortstop. Then the Reds stopped pretending.

Coming into camp, Eugenio Suarez just looked different. He was way more fit, trim, cut, whatever word for in-shape you want to use. You could say he was in the best shape of his life (many have). Geno planned for this, and management noticed. They’re reportedly been giving him more practice reps at shortstop and getting him comfortable fielding back there again. You don’t do that just for kicks, they were on to something.

Then Jose Garcia showed a continued lack of confidence at the plate, Dee Strange-Gordon proved there was a reason he hasn’t played shortstop, exclusively, in eight years, and Kyle Holder showed some skills but ultimately proved he needs more seasoning. Kyle Farmer has shown promise at the plate but the defense isn’t any sort of revolutionary development and he still shows more value as the do-everything guy off the bench. Insert Suarez.

Immediately some of you are thinking “Isn’t there a reason they moved him away from shortstop in the first place?” You could go that route, but let me answer your question with a question “Is there really a good reason to keep Jonathan India, or dare I say Nick Senzel (when Shogo Aliyama is healthy) out of the starting lineup for Kyle Farmer, or any of the other options they’ve tried at shortstop?”

This is the Reds thinking outside the box! This opens up so many possibilities with the lineup. With injuries, this is what the Opening Day lineup could look like:

CF Nick Senzel
LF Jesse Winker
SS Eugenio Suarez
3B Mike Moustakas
RF Nicholas Castellanos
2B Jonathan India
C Tyler Stephenson
1B Tucker Barnhart
Pitcher

I like that lineup. Now, there’s more than a chance that someone else plays first base and Tucker is the catcher on Opening Day, but this is the optimal lineup with Joey Votto on the COVID shelf. Once he is back, this lineup just looks dangerous:

CF Nick Senzel
LF Jesse Winker
SS Eugenio Suarez
3B Mike Moustakas
RF Nicholas Castellanos
1B Joey Votto
2B Jonathan India
C Tyler Stephenson
Pitcher

Here’s hoping the Eugenio Shortstop experience lots all year long!

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Monday Morning Manager: The Cincinnati Reds and Things Being What They Are

David Bell has too many outfielders, or does he? An injury to Shogo Akiyama could make lineup decisions easier, but could hurt the overall team potential.

Jeff

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Today on the Monday Not-Morning Manager I want to look at how the chips fall. There’s a line of thinking in sports that pertains to rosters. If you’ve got four players for three spots and it’s hard to differentiate between them, something always works out. Something beyond the making of a lineup card happens that makes making the lineup card slightly easier (so far as filling the three spots). One wonders if this is what has happened with centerfield for the Cincinnati Reds. 

Shogo Akiyama had an encouraging September, last year. He got on base roughly 46% of the time and became the leadoff hitter that Reds fans felt he’d be when he signed. He showed his prowess in the outfield and sound fundamentals that lead you to believe he can be a defensive asset. He looked to be showing he could bring value to the lineup. 

Nick Senzel has had a heck of a Spring. Hitting the ball all over the field, taking what the pitcher gives him, and making solid, powerful contact. He’s overcome some early spring mishaps on defense and is back to his athletic range in centerfield. When healthy he has shown to be an asset for the team. Barring some creative decision-making on the part of David Bell, he’s going to play in the outfield, come he’ll or high water. 

So what then? Shogo and Senzel cannot both start of Nicholas Castellanos and Jesse Winker man the corners. How does David Bell figure this out? That may be taken off his plate. 

Today (Monday) Shogo is getting his left hamstring examined. He left Saturday’s game after just one at-bat. If he is to miss any amount of time, the decision who the Opening Day centerfielder will be will be easy, but this isn’t a statement of relief. The best version of the Cincinnati Reds lineup includes all of Shogo, Senzel, Castellanos, and Winker and you’ll have a hard time convincing me otherwise. I want Bell and the Reds managerial staff to find ways to get all four of them in the lineup as much as possible. Hopefully, Shogo is fine and Bell will begin the 2021 with too many players rather than too few.

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