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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

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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