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Cincinnati Reds

Trust is earned, not given

James Rapien

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The 2018 Reds weren’t going to be contenders. Most knew they wouldn’t win the National League Central or contend for a Wild Card spot. This year was about figuring out who could be part of the solution. The days of Bronson Arroyo, Alfredo Simon and Scott Feldman pitching meaningful innings for the Reds were over. This season was about continuing the rebuild and finding out who could stick around to help this team win in 2019.

I bought into that idea after they fired Bryan Price 18 games into the season. I believed this season could be a success, even after a 3-18 start – the worst in franchise history. I didn’t question their decision to promote Nick Krall to general manager in the middle of the season, although it was odd timing. This was the last season where the record didn’t matter and it was supposed to be about the young players getting experience.

Despite their early season struggles, I saw a team that was playing young prospects like Jesse Winker, Tyler Mahle and Sal Romano. They gave Alex Blandino opportunities in the big leagues and we all know it’s just a matter of time before Nick Senzel gets promoted from Triple-A.

I bought the idea that the Reds’ rebuild was doing better than their record showed. I can’t buy that anymore. Does anyone outside of the organization believe benching Winker was the right move? Sure, he was hitting .164 in his last 18 games. He’s struggling at the plate and has plenty of flaws defensively. Winker isn’t perfect, but he shouldn’t have been benched.

“I think if it was Schebler, we’d say the same thing,” Reds manager Jim Riggleman told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “If it was Duvall, the same question. Basically, I think none of them have really hit yet like they’re capable. Schebler and Duvall’s defense is probably a little bit ahead of Winker.”

The logic doesn’t make sense. Adam Duvall is hitting .208 in his last 18 games. He may be better defensively, but he shouldn’t be part of the Reds’ long-term future. Some believe they’re trying to get him into a rhythm so they can trade Duvall before the July 31 trade deadline. If they wanted to do that, then why didn’t he start from day one? Odds are Duvall’s numbers will go up a bit between now and the deadline, but is it worth benching Winker to slightly increase his trade value? How much is a team going to give up for an outfielder with a .181 batting average, who gets on base 27 percent of the time? Duvall will be 30-years-old on September 4 and he’s eligible for arbitration this offseason. A team may trade for him, but the Reds aren’t going to get anything of significance in return.

Benching Winker feels like a knee-jerk reaction to his recent struggles. The Reds probably realize Duvall doesn’t have any trade value. That means they benched a 24-year-old who is the midst of a slump, to hope and pray that Duvall gets hot and they can get something for him before the deadline. I don’t want my organization hoping something good happens. I want them to have a well thought out plan. If this season was about figuring out what these young players can do, why bench a player who should be a big part of the future?

I understand why Scott Schebler would play every day. Heck, I understand why the Reds want Billy Hamilton in center – he’s really, really good on defense. If you have a high-end center fielder, who can cover a lot of ground, couldn’t he make up for Winker’s shortcomings? How is Winker going to improve defensively on the bench?

Winker spent six seasons in the Reds’ minor league system. No one taught him how to be a competent outfielder? I don’t expect him to win a gold glove, but the idea that he is just bad on defense is unacceptable at this stage. Hamilton gets ripped apart for his struggles at the plate and rightfully so. He’s been a bad hitter for the Reds, but what has changed since he arrived in 2014? Devin Mesoraco is thriving with the New York Mets. He gave all the credit to his new hitting coach. The Reds’ are struggling to develop players.

Just thinking about it reminded me of something Barry Larkin told the Cincinnati Enquirer during the offseason. Larkin believes there’s a ‘lack of communication’ between the major-and-minor league sides of the operation.’

“Eric Davis is a Gold Glove, 40-home run, 120-run-producing, 80-stolen base guy. He doesn’t work with Billy Hamilton,” Larkin told Zach Buchanan of the Enquirer. “I’m a Gold Glove, 30-home run Hall of Famer. I don’t work with the big-league shortstops, nor any other player at the big-league level.”

It’s fair to wonder if Winker’s benching is a sign of major problems. Are the Reds making things up as they go along? Why are they struggling to develop minor league players? Winker and Hamilton aren’t the only examples either. Robert Stephenson is another player who hasn’t developed like he was projected to. Reds legend Johnny Bench questioned Homer Bailey’s delivery a few days ago.

This organization hasn’t given anyone a reason to trust them. Has anyone seen Dick Williams or Krall complete a successful rebuild? Does anyone believe owner Bob Castellini will take his Reds fandom out of the equation and put a winning baseball team on the field anytime soon? Benching Winker may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but it’s just one of the many questionable moves this organization has made throughout the rebuild.

This is the part of the rebuild that Williams, Reds ownership and Krall need to get right. They’ve traded away pieces, signed washed up veterans and have had to endure a bunch of losses. It’s not the time to deviate from the plan. It’s time for them to double down on these young players. Why bench Winker when you can let him work through his slump? He only has 315 Major League at-bats. He needs every rep he can get. They should get Blandino more playing time. That could mean moving Scooter Gennett to the outfield once in a while.

This team isn’t winning now, so why bench a player who may be able to help you when they’re actually ready to win? By the end of this year I want to know who can be a significant contributor in 2019. Duvall shouldn’t be in the conversation. Hamilton shouldn’t be in the conversation. Winker should be and that’s why I’m shocked that they decided to make this move.

Maybe I’m overreacting to the Reds’ decision to bench a young player who has struggled over the past month or maybe it’s proof that there are much bigger problems within the organization.

For more on Winker, listen to the Locked on Reds podcast below:

James covers the Cincinnati Bengals and Cincinnati Reds for ESPN 1530 and 700 WLW in Cincinnati. He hosts shows on both stations, including Cincy 3:60 from 12pm-1pm daily on ESPN 1530. He is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati. Feel free to email him your ideas, fantasy football questions and hot takes.

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Cincinnati Reds

LET’S GO REDS COUNTRY!

Now, in almost-March, we are looking forward to the 2019 season like a kid would the start of the summer.

Dave Pemberton

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This time last season I was praying for a sub par 77 win season from the Reds. By the time April had ended I was praying for the 2018 Cincinnati Reds not to go down in history as THE worst in franchise history. My group of friends and I decided to get a 20 game package last year and it was almost comical that they lost the first 8 games we attended. Besides the bit of offensive excitement this team showed in June and July, and solid bullpen performance throughout the year, it was a forgetful season. I think what worried me most was the discussion my friends and I had at the last home game of the season. Wasn’t this supposed to be the last year of “The Rebuild?” What did we have to look forward to in 2019? Besides that, how in the heck was this franchise going to be competitive with an almost stagnant front office making no moves.

Friday evening, December 21st, I was standing in line with my wife and kids, getting ready to see Santa Clause, when I received a text from a friend. No joke, I thought it was some edited photo. Just to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating I had my wife read what was in the photo. “Cincinnati Reds add Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Alex Wood in trade with Los Angeles Dodgers”. Never in a million years would I think that trade was a possibility. Then I thought I was really hallucinating when I saw was all the Dodgers got in return was Homer Bailey and a little known prospect. These aren’t some mediocre players, these are All-Star caliber guys that make you want to come to the ballpark, or at least tune in, every night to see what happens next. Puig has not even played a game in a Reds uniform yet but somehow managed to ignite Reds Country this offseason with his media blitz.  Dick Williams and Nick Krall are now clearly in control of the front office. Many articles had stated Castellini had decided to step aside of being involved in personnel moves this offseason. This 180 degree turn has proved to be almost magical for this franchise. The Reds were the talk of the offseason finding themselves associated with nearly any and all trade rumors and free agents. Williams and Krall were able to add Tanner Roark and Sonny Gray (with a contract extension at a team friendly deal) to the starting staff. They were able to acquire all of this new, exciting talent while holding on to their most valuable prospects in Senzel, Trammell, Greene, and India. These are the type of moves you try to make in a video game and the game rejects the offers because they are so absurd. They did so by not adding a ton of payroll to this team for the long term as well. Meaning in 2020 they Reds can still go out and spend some dough. Williams and Krall have made the 2019 offseason like some exciting Netflix series where you want to see what will happen next.

When I set my expectation for any of the teams I root for I try to be realistic instead of optimistic. This is the stark reality that comes with being a Cincinnati sports fan right now. I think the Reds go 81-81 for the 2019 season. I do feel if anything I am selling this team short with that expectation. Puig, Kemp, Wood, Roark and even Scooter are all in contract seasons. You see it all the time in nearly every major professional sport. When the opportunity to earn that big paycheck comes those players somehow magically turn out one of the best seasons of their careers. Winker back to full health for the first time in his entire professional career. Senzel if given the opportunity could become a Rookie of the Year candidate. Add to the mix you have Votto poised for a huge comeback season and a lineup that no team can pitch around, now. I don’t think it’s an unreasonable expectation that everyone, but maybe Barnhart, could potentially bat above .275 in the regular starting lineup. The bullpen, the one solid performer last year, comes back largely intact with even more depth. You add to that several young pitchers trying to make a name for themselves in what could be some their final opportunities (Stephenson, Finnegan, Disco, Reed, Mahle, Ramano, and Castillo). Plus, perhaps the biggest turn around, our starting rotation comprised of solid veterans and young guys on the cusp of catching there breakout seasons. No longer will this be a copy and paste rotation that changes almost entirely every couple of weeks with an ace that unhealthy and unmotivated.  I truly don’t think its a far reach to see this team as serious contenders in the playoff race come the end of September.

The conversation we had with our group of season ticket holders aka #RoughneckReds completely changed. In September we were looking forward to the 2019 season like getting your tags on your car renewed at the BMV. Now, in almost-March, we are looking forward to the 2019 season like a kid would the start of the summer. We can’t wait for it to start and hope to enjoy every minute of it. Until then I will continue to enjoy every second of the most exciting offseason in my lifetime. The Reds might not be done just yet making this team a contender for 2019. I cannot wait to see all you beautiful Reds fans down at the Findlay Market Parade, The Banks, and finally the ballpark. LET’S GO REDS COUNTRY!!!

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Cincinnati Reds

Which Non-Roster Players to Watch

The Cincinnati Reds will play their first spring training game of 2019 this Saturday. While there are stories and discussion such as Nick Senzel’s usage this year and who will be the opening day starter, I wanted to break down the non-roster invitees.

Clay Snowden

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© Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Reds will play their first spring training game of 2019 this Saturday. While there are stories and discussion such as Nick Senzel’s usage this year and who will be the opening day starter, I wanted to break down the non-roster invitees.
A spring training non-roster invite list usually is constructed of veterans that are trying for one last push to make an MLB roster or are trying to prove themselves coming off of an injury. It also includes promising young players who have high upside but have not been added to the 40 man roster. As of today, the invite list looks like this:

Pitchers:
Anthony Bass
Buddy Boshers
Oldrisamer Despaigne
Vladimir Gutierrez
Felix Jorge
Ian Krol
Alex Powers
Tony Santillan

Catchers:
Juan Graterol
Chris Okey
Tyler Stephenson

Infielders:
Christian Colon
Alfredo Rodriguez
Nick Senzel
Derek Dietrich

Outfield:
Aristides Aquino
TJ Friedl
Brian O’Grady
Jordan Patterson
Taylor Trammell
Mason Williams
Kyle Wren

The average fan is probably asking themselves….who? The group of pitchers is headlined by Tony Santillan who has landed in the back half (69 Baseball America) of some “MLB Top 100 Prospects” list. He won the Reds minor league pitcher of the year last year while playing in AA Pensacola. I would be very surprised to see him on the opening day roster, but he is a guy you should watch in spring and follow throughout the year. Vladimir Gutierrez and Alex Powers are both young players with upside. Boshers and Krol both have MLB experience and are lefties but with the recent Zack Duke signing and having Finnegan, Peralta, Reed, and Garrett all on the roster it is unlikely to see Boshers or Krol make the team.
The catchers have two players that the Reds have selected early in recent drafts with Chris Okey (2nd round, 2016) and Tyler Stephenson (1st round, 2015). Okey has struggled so far batting a mere .200 but is still developing. Stephenson’s career was plagued with injuries early on, but in 2018 he showed some promise batting .250 with 11 home runs and 59 RBI. At only 22, the young catcher will be in the minors this season but could be a promising part of the Reds future.
The infield has a name you will know; Nick Senzel. He is listed as an infielder but will be getting a shot to prove himself as the centerfielder of the Reds. Several things will have to happen for him to start on opening day. The Reds have some difficult decisions to make about his team control, a roster spot opening, and if he needs more time in centerfield. Dietrich was signed to a minor league contract but could make the team out of spring training. A veteran lefty bat that has played over 50 innings at 1B, 3B, LF, and 2B brings tremendous value to a team that could be carrying more pitchers than years past.
The outfield is crowded, and I do not see any of the non-roster guys making the team on opening day. You might recognize some names such as Mason Williams and Aristides Aquino (who both had at-bats with the Reds last year) but the name to know is Taylor Trammell. Drafted 35th overall in 2016 and has climbed the prospect rankings into the top 50. It was rumored that teams were trying to get him in the blockbuster trades this summer, but the Reds refused to include him. He likely won’t be in Cincinnati this year but remains a big piece of the future.

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Cincinnati Reds

Weekend Thoughts – Pitchers and Catchers

Jeff

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© Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

There isn’t a podcast over the weekends, but that doesn’t mean the Reds stop. This will be a weekly-weened column following Reds stuff, thinking about the Reds, and talking about the Reds. Just in case you need more reds.

Projections are upon us, with two really standing out. Fangraphs and PECOTA both have nice increases predicted for Cincinnati, as a reward for their diligent effort to rebuild in a hurry. Fangraphs says they’ll finish with as many wins as losses while PECOTA thinks they’ll be one win better, at 82-80. This is an awesome time of year…that we Reds fans have been robbed of the last four years. Sure, there were whispers of success right before spring training in each of those seasons, but most all of us knew it would be a long season ahead. Now we can actually begin to think of a chance at contention. When the typical thought for the Reds season is they will finish at the .500 line, then its not hard to imagine a little luck happening, and one or two cases of lightning in a bottle, then they’re right in the thick of Wild Card contention. Seriously, this is a possibility!

With this week just looking at pitchers and catchers, there will be a lot of the podcast dedicated to that subject. Just as a lead-in, though. Obviously, the biggest question will be who the Opening Day starter is. Probably question 1-B is who is the fifth starter. That question has a bit more light shed on it, with Anthony DeSclafani as the odds-on favorite. Still, someone could emerge. On the Opening Day starter idea, I think it’s a three-horse race between Alex Wood, Luis Castillo, and Sonny Gray. I do not have any idea who the favorite is there. As of right now, gun to my head, I’d pick Castillo. Definitely not putting money on it, though.

The other part of this week, catchers, got a little interesting over the last few weeks with the idea of J.T. Realmuto possibly coming here. Then Philadelphia snatched him up. Here’s the thing, that’s ok. Tucker Barnhart is a steady presence behind the plate and a streaky producer at the bat. His backup, Curt Casali, is a solid bat and newcomer Kyle Farmer is a versatile utility player with catching experience. They’re deep there. Do not confuse their interest in Realmuto with the idea that they were weak at the backstop. They just had an opportunity to turn something solid into something great. Here’s another thought that I haven’t seen much chatter on. I think one of the reasons the Reds didn’t go past offering Jonathan India is they feel good about Tyler Stephenson and his development. Sure, to have the best catcher, arguably, would be nice, but they have an abundance of backstops with a young gun coming up.

Pitchers and catchers report on Wednesday, in Goodyear. Enjoy your weekend, see you on Monday!

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