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Cincinnati Reds

The Best Bench in Baseball

The Cincinnati Reds have the best bench in all of baseball, and you don’t really have to squint that much to see it.

Dave Pemberton

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© Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the headline caught your eye, let me tell you why that is probably not an embellishment. The 2018 Cincinnati Reds Opening Day bench consisted of Adam Duvall, Devin Mesoraco, Cliff Pennington, Phil Gosselin, and Phillip Ervin. Duvall and Mesoraco were both traded by the deadline. Duvall had the worst year of his career and Mesoraco continued his decline. Pennington and Gosselin were both released by the end of May.

Cut to today. The Reds have the most depth on the bench since 1999. On paper the 2019 Reds bench might be better than that 1999 team that would help win 96 games. Many of them would even be starters on almost any other Major League roster.

Lets start with the infield. The obvious choices seem to be Derek Dietrich and Jose Iglesias. Both play nearly every infield position. They both bat around .260 AVG and .320 OBP. Both were mostly starters for there organizations for the past two years. Both seemed determined to stick it to there previous organizations. And both were a steal for the Reds to acquire.

Alex Blandino was the obvious choice to be one of the bench infielders prior to the signing of Dietrich and Iglesias. Blandino is still trying to overcome his injuries from last season. I am sure if he cant get healthy injuries will help him find a way to get playing time on this roster. His 2018 season proved he’s capable of being an adequate backup infielder in the majors.

Next we look at the outfielders who may start the season on the bench. Most reports have Jesse Winker in left field and Yasiel Puig in right field as Opening Day starters. Center field however is the only position up for grabs. This in combination with the talent the Reds have in the outfield provides the Reds with unreal depth at these positions

I can’t believe I am even mention this name as a possible bench player but Matt Kemp. He seems hell bent this spring training on being an everyday player. His age and history with injuries prove show that may not be in the cards. Kemp had a resurgent year with his former team the Dodgers making the All-Star team. While I don’t expect him to be an everyday starter I don’t think that leaves out the possibility of it happening periodically. Especially if his bat shows up again this season.

Scott Schebler is a left hander that can play anywhere you ask him too. His history shows his bat can be more than adequate when needed. Schebler was able to put up over 30 HR’s in 2017. For his career as Reds player Schebler has a .248 AVG and .323 OBP. Now Schebler has the most competition for work in his career. I expect him to elevate his game to meet the challenge. While not an everyday starter he excel off the bench.

Phillip Ervin. IS. MY. DUDE. I hate, hate, hate the fact Ervin is probably going to start the season in Louisville. He currently leads the Cactus league in HR’s. He’s talked about how new hitting coach Turner Ward has helped improve his mechanics at the plate. Even up until part of August of last season he was batting north of .300. He completely dropped off in September finishing with .252 AVG and .324 OBP. If we were judging based on current talent I’d choose him over Schebler in heart beat. However, Ervin still has minor league options making him the front runner not to make the Opening Day roster. This of course is unless they decide to control Nick Senzel’s contract an extra year by benching him for the first two weeks of the season.

Nick Senzel is the future of this organization. Most current projections show him as the Reds starting center fielder Opening Day. Senzel has made it clear he will do anything to get playing time. He’s rotated from third to short to second. Each step of the way finding an establish player in the way with Suarez, Pereza, and Scooter. MLB Pipeline has him rated as the sixth best prospect in all of baseball. Many believe he is very capable of winning batting titles in future. His beginning cannot wait any longer. Senzel has shown he is capable of being adequate in center field. A position up until this year he had never played. I am calling it now his bat helps him to win the NL Rookie of the Year. I hope the Reds find any and everyway they can to get him into the lineup. Whether that’s starting center field, pinch hitting, or filling in for the infield. I pray as a sign of good faith to Senzel they do not screw him over by trying to control his contract at the beginning of the year. We did that last season and we all remember how that worked out.

Lastly, Curt Casali seems like the shoe in for backing up Tucker Barnhart. Casali quietly assembled a impressive 2018 season. In 156 plate appearances he totaled a .293 AVG and .355 OBP for 2018. I by no means expect that from Casali this season but am interested to see how he progresses. If not the Reds still have Kyle Farmer the forgotten man in the big trade with the Dodgers this offseason to get his shot.

In summary the 2019 Cincinnati Reds have little to worry if they need to rely on there bench for support this season. There bench at it’s worst is adequate. Many of these players would be starting on any other team. The Reds have an abundance of talent in the starting eight for this team making it very difficult. As excited as I am about the starting lineup I am equally excited to see what many of these guys are going to surprise us with off the bench this year.

I grew up engulfed in baseball. My grandfather had season tickets for the Reds from 1970 until 2002. I was raised in a neighborhood that was essentially the Sandlot set in the 1990's but with even more kids. We played from the minute we woke up until it was too dark to see the ball. Then we'd spend the night at someones house playing baseball video games, talking about baseball cards, or watching it on television. I idolized Barry Larkin as fielder, hitter, and leader. I was fortunate enough to play baseball through high school. Now I am a registered nurse, married way out of my league, and have two amazing kids that will exceed anything I ever do in this life. I am fortunate enough to have a Reds season ticket package with my close friends and family. The Reds ballpark is my second home. Baseball has provided me with some of my most treasured memories shared over four generations.

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Cincinnati Reds

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.

Clay Snowden

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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.

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Cincinnati Reds

Non-Tender Candidates

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.

Jeff

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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.)

Brian Goodwin

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.

Archie Bradley

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? 

Robert Stephenson

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.

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Cincinnati Reds

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

Clay Snowden

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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

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