The Louisville Bats released their initial roster on Tuesday, April 2. It currently sits heavy with 28 players meaning changes to get to 25 will be made before the season starts in Toledo on April 4th. The roster consists of 18 players with major league experience including familiar names like Ervin, Trahan, Reed, Romano, and headlined by Reds top prospect Nick Senzel. I wanted to take some time to breakdown the rosters position groups and help the fans know the players and who could be in Cincinnati.
(Names in Italics are on the Reds 40-man roster)
Catchers: Juan Graterol and Chris Okey
Graterol’s strong spring (.381 avg 6 RBI) might have some fans remembering his name. His 13 years in the minors provide the experience needed to help the young catcher Okey while also helping with the pitching staff. Okey was the second-round pick in 2016 out of Clemson. The 24-year-old out of Florida has struggled with the bat sitting right at the Mendoza line of .200 avg in his young career. The Reds still have hope for him, but he will have to show improvements with Reds #6 overall prospect (mlb.com) Tyler Stephenson in AA Chattanooga.
Infielders: Christian Colon, Hernan Iribarren, Sherman Johnson, Brian O’Grady, Blake Trahan, Josh VanMeter
A group with several veterans, Colon has the most MLB experience playing in 142 games. Colon can play a few positions and is a career .283 minor league hitter. Sherman Johnson was signed on after a cup of coffee with the Angels. Mostly a second and third baseman that will provide competition positionally. Brian O’Grady had a monster bounce back year with Louisville/Pensacola turning a .185 avg. in 2017 to a .280 avg. (.306 in AAA) with a total of 14 HR . A first basemen and outfielder, O’Grady will look to build upon his strong 2018 to see if he can find a role with the Reds. Blake Trahan is a slick-fielding shortstop who earned some September time with the Reds last season. He is the only Bats infielder on the Reds 40-man roster and with Alex Blandino still injured Trahan could earn the first call up. (Expect a rehab assignment from Blandino with the Bats). Josh VanMeter played outfield and third for the Bats last season and hit 11 homers and 45 RBI. He should provide some pop and positional versatility. Hernan Iribarren is one of my favorite Bats player of all time. First appearing in a Bats uniform in 2014 he has provided veteran leadership each year since. I was surprised to see him back this season but could not be happier. A .297 career minor league hitter he has shown he can really hit while playing every position. One of the best guys in the game, just ask around.
Outfield: Aristides Aquino, Phillip Ervin, Nick Longhi, Nick Senzel, Kyle Wren
Ahhhh finally. The one we have been waiting for; Nick Senzel. The Reds top prospect and now centerfielder came on the scene last season playing in 44 games while batting .310 with 6 home runs, 12 doubles, 8 steals in Louisville. Injuries have been a concern early in his career but the ceiling is high. We all know he can hit, but he is in Louisville to *learn how to play center*. How long he will be a be in Louisville remains to be seen but I suggest coming early and often to the Bats games this season. Ervin showed out in spring hitting .341 with 6 bombs. Playing in 78 games with the Reds last season he showed at times that he deserves a shot in the show. I expect to see him in a Reds uniform. Nick Longhi has been a first basemen/outfielder has played 32 games in Louisville. He provides depth at the two positions. Aristides Aquino saw one at-bat with the Reds last season. He profiles as an outfielder with a lot of power, and a strong arm. The issue has been the hitting for average and striking out. After two seasons in AA, he will get a shot at AAA this year. Kyle Wren is a .292 hitter in the minors. New to the organization it will be interesting to see how it plays out.
Pitchers: Anthony Bass, Matt Bowman, Odrisamer Despaigne, Vladimir Gutierrez, Jimmy Herget, Ian Krol, Jose Lopez, Juan Martinez, Keury Mella, Cody Reed, Jesus Reyes, Sal Romano, Lucas Sims, Jackson Stephens, and Rob Wooten.
I will not breakdown every single pitcher, but I will a few. No disrespect to any I skip.
Jimmy Herget has shown in the minors he has the stuff combined with the funky delivery to at least get a shot at some point in 2019. Listed as the #8 prospect for the Reds (mlb.com), Vladimir Gutierrez is one to watch. His high upside and fastball alone will draw you in. He is someone to keep an eye on and monitor how the young 23-year-old develops. Keury Mella and Jesus Reyes each had a cup of coffee with the Reds and could be options injury happens. Matt Bowman came over from the Cardinals where he pitched well at times, and not so well other times. He will look to get back on track. Cody Reed, Sal Romano, and Jackson Stephens are all names you should know. It feels like the last chance for some names and a strong showing in Louisville can put them in the mix.
Anthony Bass, Odrisamer Despaigne, Ian Krol, Rob Wooten are all veteran players hoping to get another shot with a big league club.
Overall, this roster will change often. Young talent is just below in AA Chattanooga and pushing for at-bats at the AAA level. As far as Bats rosters from previous years, this one looks better than many in recent memory. Another exciting year of Bats baseball ahead!
Reds Rule 5 Players and Predictions
We are coming up on the deadline for MLB teams to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft. Here are some players the Reds need to make some tough decisions on.
MLB teams have until November 20th to make their decision on the players eligible for the Rule 5 draft. They must decide to “protect” (add to the 40 man roster) to avoid another team selecting a player in the draft. I want to go over the list and make predictions on if the player will be protected or not.
Riley O’Brien RHP
O’Brien was acquired from Tampa Bay in the Cody Reed trade. A late bloomer of sorts, the 6’4” righty has a nice fastball. Being 25, he’s ready to battle for a spot in the pen right now. There isn’t great bullpen depth on the 40 man roster right now, so I can see O’Brien replacing a spot that players such as Romano/Alaniz/De Leon held in 2020. Prediction: Protected
Vladimir Gutierrez RHP
The former top 10 organizational prospect has been trending in the wrong direction. The beginning of 2019 was tough in AAA for Vlad but he finished the year strong. A suspension plus the lack of a 2020 minor league season makes it difficult to see how he is doing. However, he has enough raw talent to keep him on the roster. Prediction: Protected
Jacob Heatherly LHP
Checking in at #18 on the Reds prospect list, Heatherly is the only lefty on the list. We know the Reds will likely bring in lefty competition for the LHP bullpen spot next to Amir. Coming off an injury, I would bet he would not get drafted. Prediction: Not Protected
Alfredo Rodriguez SS
It feels like Alfredo has been in the Reds system forever. A 2016 pricey Cuban SS, Rodriguez was brought in due to his glove in hopes that the bat would come around. Long story short, it hasn’t. He’s now 26 and a change of scenery might be the best for him. I doubt he will get picked, though. Prediction: Not Protected
TJ Friedl OF
Friedl was exposed last year in the draft and not selected. He is a plus fielder and runner, but most other parts of his game are underwhelming. Prediction: Not Protected
Joel Kuhnel RHP
Most of us have a pretty good idea of what Kuhnel is. He has a fastball that is VERY good. I have always liked Kuhnel and wanted to see him get a longer look. There were plenty of opportunities for him to get a shot and more often than not he was overlooked. This one is hard for me, but I think him not getting more chances shows what the Reds think of him. Prediction: Not Protected
Mariel Bautista OF
Bautista has been with the Reds since 2014. I really do not think he is anything too special in terms of a prospect. He also doesn’t do any one thing so well that a team would select him off of that one skill. Prediction: Not Protected
Jared Solomon RHP
To be honest, I do not know much about Solomon. So I reached out to someone much smarter than me, our #RedsTwitter friend @RedsFan_Brandon . He predicted him to be protected. Boddy has been high on him and his fastball has improved. So I will stick with that. Prediction: Protected
None of these players are top 15 Reds prospects by most list. So losing any of them shouldn’t be the end of the world. Last year the Reds selected Mark Payton. Conor Joe was selected the year before.
Should the Reds look to be active in the free agent market they’re most likely going to have to cut payroll, first. Let’s start with some player who could get non-tendered before the December 2nd deadline.
This offseason…stop me if you’ve heard this…is going to be weird. Budgets will be unpredictable, although most believe spending will be at a minimum, and the Reds already have a lot of contracts that are set. Further additions and movement in the free agent market most likely will be preceded by some surprise cuts.
Based on the players leaving and the estimated totals of arbitration contracts, spotrac.com has the Reds at just over $126 million in payroll for 2021. They totaled out at a smidge over $144 million last year (if the season was to be as normal) with all of the transactions considered. The Reds could try to get back to that number, but the most likely scenario is that they hover around the $125-$130 million mark.
With the idea of making one or two moves to improve one of the worst lineups in baseball, let’s look at three candidates for being non-tendered.
(Just an FYI, only non-tender candidates are capable of being cut and their salary taken off the books. All other MLB contracts are guaranteed.)
As a fan, this one would hurt. He was a guy I watched with the Angels thinking if he were given everyday playing time, he would flourish. If I’m being objectively honest (and if I want the Reds to run similarly to the Rays) non-tendering him would make sense. He’s an athletically gifted outfielder who has a little bit of pop in his bat. In fact, he’s pretty much Phillip Ervin. The problem is, he figures to be a rotational outfield player, assuming everyone is healthy.
According to Spotrac, he will make around $3.2 million next year, or possibly the sixth highest dollar amount of Reds position players. That’s more than Jesse Winker’s possible $2.7 million and I think we can all agree that Jesse needs to be in the everyday lineup. Ik now he just got here from LA, but the dude was bit by whatever bug bit the Reds bats and slashed .163/.236/.327 in 20 games as a Red. Small sample size, sure, but am I counting on him to be light years better than that in what may not figure to be much more playing time? No.
This one I am less sure of being a good idea, but I am rolling with this whole “be more like Tampa” idea. The Rays, per Spotrac, aren’t estimated to give ANY of their relievers more than $2.5 million next year. The Reds are slated to give three relievers over $4 million.
I am not advocating a non-tender for Michael Lorenzen because of his versatility and potential for being the fifth starter in 2021. Barring a trade, the Reds are paying $9.125 million to Raisel Iglesias to get the last out of a game. They’re really going to pay Archie Bradley, who it felt as though David Bell didn’t trust as much as Nate Jones at times, $5 million to be a setup man?
Okay, this one really isn’t that surprising. It is time. We once regarded him as the Reds top prospect. We once regarded him as a future ace. We once proclaimed he reborn as a shutdown reliever. We now have no clue what to expect from him and it just does not make sense to continue to trot him out there expecting the complete career turnaround that we’ve all been hoping for since the “rebuild” began.
It won’t really save the Reds a ton of money, but freeing up BobSteve’s roster spot will open up an opportunity for one of the up-and-coming prospects or another Derek Johnson reclamation project. Frankly, I’d rather see any of those than BobSteve coming out of the Reds bullpen in 2021.
Mailbag: Senzel, Winker, Votto, and More
Time for an offseason mailbag to get your focus on what the Reds need to do th be better for 2021
It’s been a while and we have all had a chance to process that Reds playoff performance. Yuck. However, it is time for offseason talk. Let’s get into the mailbag.
What are the Reds going to do at catcher? The Reds and pitchers seem to like Casali and Barnhart behind plate..
The Reds once again went with the duo of Casali and Tucker behind the plate in 2020. The results were underwhelming, but not miserable. Tucker is a finalist for a gold glove while hitting .204/.291/.388 and an OPS+ of 77. Casali hit .224/.366/.500 with an OPS+ of 126. However, we all want to see the exciting prospect, Tyler Stephenson, take his reign of the position. I expect exactly that next season. Having a veteran backing him up is important so I’d imagine Tucker plays that role as he is under contract while Casali will enter arbitration.
In terms of how the pitchers like Casali and Tucker, I think that just comes with time. I am sure once the pitchers get to work with Stephenson more, they will learn to pitch well to him.
If there is a DH in 2021, shouldn’t #19 fill that role and let Da Wink and (place RH bat here) platoon at 1st?
The only thing the Reds have now is time (between now, and next season). So, what is their excuse for not putting Senzel at 2B, and give him regular ABs? (This makes Votto the DH, and Moose 1B)
What’s the odds of moving Senzel to 2nd, Moose to 1st and Votto to DH.
Well this is my intake everybody has one with the Outfield I guess we’re not going to have a DH going forward so Jesse Winker needs to be traded along with Nick Senzel I definitely keep Shogo, and hopefully we can keep Castellanos and let’s go try to get a productive outfielder
I want to clump all these together because it’s pretty much all the same gist. So, let’s breakdown what it could look like with and then without the DH.
WITH: Votto to DH, Moose to first, Senzel STAYS in center, second is open to add speed/OBP.
Explanation: Votto’s defense is terrible. His contract isn’t going anywhere, so put him at DH. He still has something left with the bat. When Moose signed he wasn’t signing on to play second for the duration of that contract. No way. Move him to first and the defense at first likely improves. Keep Senzel in Center. Injuries and swing changes have stunted the development of Senzel enough. Asking him to change back to second after 2 years of focusing on becoming a CF just feels like something they will not do. He hasn’t done any work (that we know of ) at second since he moved to CF.
Now for 2B. Bringing back the same team that barely sneaked into an expanded playoff (while maybe losing Bauer) seems like a bad idea. Changes have to be made. The Reds added plenty of HR power last offseason, now add a 2B that might be a better OBP guy. Speed and better baserunning would be welcomed as well. In theory, this could increase the defensive ability at second as well.
WITHOUT: Votto at first (with plenty of days off), Moose at 2B, Senzel in CF, Winker traded.
Explanation: Votto really doesn’t have anywhere else to go besides the bench. There is not an option at this point, when they play him he will be at first. Which leaves Moose at second. Again, not a thrilling defensive side of the infield, but Moose held his own at second but as he gets older his range will continue to drop. Senzel in CF for the same reason’s I listed above. Winker is traded. In this scenario, I am still looking to shake up the team from 2020. ( I am also assuming Castellanos is returning) An OF with Winker and Castellanos fielding would be far less than ideal. I really like Winker, but Shogo could be ready for a bigger role. Winker has trade value and could strengthen the team in other areas by moving him. If the Reds make a big trade like many fans are hoping for, they will have to move MLB talent. They do not have enough top-end prospects to trade. If they do move the top prospects, they will deplete their farm system because it lacks depth. Remember, to acquire top-end talent you have to trade high value. Prospects out of the top 5 usually aren’t considered too high by many other organizations.
Goldstar or Skyline and Cut or Twirl
I have never even had Goldstar. No need to. Skyline fills my needs. Twirl