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Time for Reds to stop hoping and hit the reset button

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Remember when Reds fans and commentators used to talk about the future. The discussion was always about “the next good Reds team.” Some may have said “great” or “winning.” That talk has disappeared.

For the past month, the talk has been a feeling-sorry-for-ourselves lament in the mire of this awful start. I’m weary of talking about who bats lead off, who plays left field, who’s in the bullpen, who’s starting tonight’s game, etc., etc. Time is wasted on hoping for short-term Band-Aids. It’s about time we get over that and think about what comes next. What are the changes that might be made and should be made to reset the rebuild (assuming that’s even possible)? Let’s think about long-term solutions and focus on that because this team will lose 100 games at this rate.

The Reds have relied too much on hope. Hope that all of these young pitchers will come together as a solid starting rotation. Hope that Billy Hamilton will learn to hit more, walk more, strike out less and pop out less. Hope that Scooter Gennett can be a good infielder and hit for power again like he did last year. Hope that other teams’ castoffs will suddenly produce again at an acceptable major-league level.

Some hoped-for things materialize. We might be seeing that with Jose Peraza, Scott Schebler and Tyler Mahle. But at some point this team must cut the emotional ties it has to some of this hope and put the best 25 players it can on the roster and play the best nine it can every day.

Instead, of making my own wish — or hope — list, I hope it’s more productive to analyze what the Reds just might do if Dick Williams decides to have the same urgent need to improve the team that he said the players need to have the day he fired Bryan Price. The front office made a bunch of moves two years ago to start this rebuild. It’s time to kick it into phase two or hit the reset button.

Infield

Scooter Gennett has to be the first player to come out of the every-day lineup. He was picked up to be a utility player, and that’s what he is. Scooter is likable and can be an asset as a spot player and pinch hitter. But he’s not a starting second baseman.

Nick Senzel will be part of the next good Reds team, could be an all-star and is already a better second baseman than Gennett. Why is he still in Louisville? If he is not called up by the first of June, that will be further proof that this front office has no urgency. After a slow start he is owning AAA pitching. The Braves have a 20-year-old (Ozzie Albies) and a 21-year-old (Ronald Acuna Jr.) playing every day. Why isn’t 22-year-old Nick Senzel doing the same for the Reds?

When you have a player you think can be a difference-maker, get him to the majors. The quicker he gets here, the quicker he makes rookie mistakes, the quicker he becomes a good big-leaguer and the quicker this team becomes more competitive.

An infield of Joey Votto, Nick Senzel, Jose Peraza and Eugenio Suarez starts to look pretty good.

Outfield

The evidence is strong for Jesse Winker and Scott Schebler to be every-day players. Not so for Adam Duvall and Billy Hamilton. If that’s the case, then play the two every day who will be part of that next mythical good Reds team. Platoon the other two and quit hoping they both figure it out.

Who honestly thinks that Duvall or Hamilton will be regulars in 2020? But the other two? Yes, that is more than likely.

There is no one else ready today to be the third full-time outfielder. But just like the argument I’ve made for Senzel to get to the big leagues sooner than later, make room for Taylor Trammel or TJ Friedl or Jose Siri next year. If you do, you have a good shot of one of them being a solid big-leaguer by 2020. And with Winker you don’t have to bat them lead off.

And if the Reds are certain that 2020 is too soon (which I doubt), then find a center fielder in the offseason at least as a stop-gap to one of the youngsters.

Keep Hamilton as a fourth outfielder to do all the things he does well in situations where you need those things. Let Duvall go. He’s almost 30. Baseball history is full of guys who had a couple of productive season in their late 20s and were out baseball a few years later.

Starting rotation

Don’t mess with Tyler Mahle, Luis Castillo or Sal Romano.

Homer Bailey’s contract isn’t going anywhere, and he can be a solid back-end-of-the-rotation pitcher for a few more years.

Brandon Finnegan is coming off his best start, but is he better long term than Amir Garrett? I understood the necessity of Garrett in the bullpen because of injuries to David Hernandez and Michael Lorenzen. But this guy might be too good not to start. He was good enough last April.

And if this rotation doesn’t round into a competitive form by the end of this season, go get somebody to help.

Bullpen

Going forward keep the good ones and give the young ones a chance. Hernandez and Jared Hughes were good signings. But quit bringing in the Gallardos and the Quackenbushes in lieu of young guys who might actually be part of the next good Reds team. The bullpen needs reinforcement every year. Keep finding the good ones, not the also-rans.

This is probably where Finnegan belongs. He walks too many to be a starter and he’s inconsistent. At this point he shouldn’t keep his starting role because of what he did in 2016.

Manager

Get a young, forward-thinking manager who doesn’t manage like it’s 1965. Jim Riggleman isn’t that manager unless he’s willing to change. At 65 years old that’s not likely.

Analytics in the dugout is here to stay. The best managers pay attention to the math and get to know their players well enough to be able to make good lineup and situational decisions. They look at all of the evidence — math and otherwise — and make decisions everyone in the dugout can support. Not every move works, but raising the confidence level in those moves will make this team better.

No manager will make this team a winner today. But when the best 25 players in the organization are on the roster, it would be nice to have a manager who knows how to put that roster in the best position possible to win.

Then we just might be able to talk about the next good Reds team. But not until the front office stops hoping and starts playing the best players.

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Cincinnati Reds

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

Clay Snowden

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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.

Pitchers:

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.

 

Catchers:

Rocky Gale

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.

 

Infielders:

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.

 

Outfielders:

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.

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Cincinnati Reds

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.

Jeff

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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.

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Cincinnati Reds

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.

Jeff

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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Eugenio Suarez – He should be the Reds best hitter and I believe he will regain that title in 2021.
  4. Mike Moustakas – Moose has always been a run driver-inner and, if things are going well he will continue to do so.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.

 

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