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?
Here are the WAR numbers for the four outfielders:
This decision was not Riggleman’s alone. He met with GM Nick Krall and special assistant Buddy Bell. #reds
— John Fay (@johnfayman) May 30, 2018
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.
It’s time for Homer @Reds to change his delivery. For 4 years I’ve watched and he just shows the ball too long. No deception. I just think the change would benefit him. The hitter sees the ball for 63 ft almost.
— Johnny Bench (@JohnnyBench_5) May 29, 2018
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:
Unappreciated Cincinnati Reds: Kyle Farmer
Numbers don’t tell the whole story when you look at Kyle Farmer. His value goes far beyond the box score.
On December 21st, 2018, the Dodgers and Reds made a splash in the offseason with a blockbuster deal. The Reds received aging all-star Matt Kemp, animated outfielder Yasiel Puig, lefty Alex Wood, and a versatile utility player named Kyle Farmer. While Kemp’s Reds career ended after 20 games and fan favorite (and now U.S. citizen) Puig’s career ended in a trade, Wood and Farmer very much could be part of the Reds future.
What Kyle Farmer brings to this team is far beyond the box score. David Bell has shown trust and confidence in Farmer and his ability to pinch-hit. Offensively Farmer has improved from his first two seasons in LA. Over two seasons with the Dodgers he only played in 59 games and had 88 at bats. A .250 hitter with no home runs his value might have seen minimal. Reds fans saw his value immediately in spring training when he would catch bullpens then play short and second. Due to injuries, he found himself on the 25-man roster to begin the season. Many thought he would be the first sent down but his pinch-hitting and versatility proved his value to be too high. Farmer has played first, second, third, catcher, and pitcher. I have to mention his pitching stat line: 1.1 innings 1 hit 0.00 ERA. Hell yeah. With Casali injured Farmer has stepped in as the team’s second catcher and Alex Wood’s “personal” catcher. As many of you all know Wood and Farmer have been teammates and friends for a long time. The familiarity they have only helps each other during the game. Farmer’s 7 home runs look good, but his other numbers could use some work. .248/.288/.438 and 45 K’s to only 5 BB are not great. Improving on the walk to K ratio would go along way for his development. If you watched the Cubs series, you saw a few great plays he made at second. He is no Jose Iglesias, but he can hold his own.
How does Farmer play into the Reds future? Well, it’s no secret that the catching depth is not the Reds strength. Tucker is under contract but Casali is on a one-year deal, with arbitration left. In the minors, Tyler Stephenson looks promising but after that it’s slim. Questions on where Jose Iglesias (if resigned), Galvis, Peraza, VanMeter, Dietrich, and even Blandino will get playing time could limit Farmer’s time at second base. Votto will get plenty of off days next season and Farmer could pick up at-bats at first. Dietrich, if brought back, might get the at bats against right handers. What if Alex Wood is resigned? You could keep Farmer as a pinch hitter/late game sub and have him catch Wood every fifth game. His ability to catch opens opportunities for Bell to pinch hit his backup catcher (Casali) and not worry about a “what if” situation when they need a catcher in late innings/extras.
While there are plenty of unknowns about this team as the offseason approaches, we do know that David Bell values versatility and Farmer brings just that. Maybe knowing that he really does deserve to be in the big leagues will help his confidence going into the offseason. Either way, he’s a fun player to watch and adds value to this Reds club.
Here’s a couple of home runs for you:
Series Recap: Chicago Cubs
Here’s what we learned about the Reds, moving forward in 2019, after the weekend against the Cubs.
The Reds split a series with the Chicago Cubs in August and the fans feel upset. As strange as it might sound, that’s a good sign. In recent years I would be excited about splitting with the Cubs in August. The upset feeling shows this team is different. Expectations have changed. What we saw over the past four games leads fans to believe the future is bright.
The buzz across Reds twitter Thursday was refreshing to see. Fans were more engaged and thrilled to see the Reds welcome the first place Cubs to town for a four-game tilt.
Well, the first game was not a good start. Wood had a rough start going only three innings, Gausman made his debut, Sims showed a strong outing and David Hernandez did much of what he has been doing all season; disappointing fans. Hernandez, like many announcers have said after a pitch he’s thrown, “He’s gone”. We did see Phillip Ervin deliver a 4-hit night, Aquino continues to catch everyone’s attention, and Kyle Farmer displays his versatility by pitching 1.1 innings surrendering one lone hit and throwing slightly slower than Aroldis Chapman.
Friday was a different story. Trevor Bauer gave up a homer to new Cub and new Reds killer Nicholas Castellanos then was smooth sailing as he went 7 innings. The Reds collected 6 hits with no one having more than 1 but it was enough to show they wouldn’t go away easily.
Was Saturday the best Reds game this year? If seeing Cubs fans mad ranks high on your list than it might have been. Everyone besides Sal Romano had a hit and Aquino is now *checks notes for confirmation* the best player to ever play the game. His three homers and going back to back with Senzel gave us a glimpse into the future. Sonny Gray’s 2 hits allowed matched his 2 RBI he had at the plate. Sal Romano earned the rare 3 out save and Brian O’Grady had his first big league hit. The Reds won and momentum for Sunday was at a level we haven’t seen this season.
Having the Ace on the mound was not enough to earn the win Sunday. Castilo went 6.2 innings with 3 ER but Michael Lorenzen could not get an out. Bryant’s homer gave the Cubs the lead and they didn’t look back. A disappointing and frustrating loss to say the least. Jeff Carr said it best: “This is kinda where the Reds are in 2019. They are fun, they are interesting, they are entertaining…they are not a playoff team.”
What we learned from this series:
– Aquino is not only fun to watch but he is a legit piece for the future
– Sal Romano and Lucas Sims will get a chance to show how they can play into 2020
– Ian Happ and Nickolas Castellanos are banned for the City of Cincinnati (waiting on confirmation)
– Kyle Farmer had some great defensive plays and is very important to this team (Farmer article coming soon)
– Angel Hernandez should be embarrassed
– The Reds missed an opportunity to climb the standing but didn’t completely fall out
All in all, it was a fun series and seeing the fanbase this interested and invested in August is refreshing. Still plenty to learn about this roster and what it could look like next year. Let’s see if the Punisher can hit one to the White House.
VanMeter, Aquino, O’Grady – What They Bring Now and in the Future
Theis trio of guys who have come out of nowhere, in 2019, now have a shot to stick on for the years of contention.
As spring training 2019 rolled around you were likely excited to see the Reds new slugger Yasiel Puig. Maybe you kept tabs on Sony Gray and his bounce back from a not so ideal year. Other prospects and veterans such as Derek Dietrich and Jose Iglesias were intriguing to watch as you tried to find out how the Reds would work the few extra pieces into the opening day roster. Three names probably not on your radar were Josh VanMeter, Brian O’Grady, and Aristides Aquino. Those three names are now getting a chance to prove their talent while also trying to earn a 2020 spot on the roster.
Josh VanMeter was left off the Reds “Top 30 Prospect” list this year. He had played well in 2018 for the Bats and started the year in Louisville where he found his stroke. .348 BA 14 HR 43 RBI .429 OBP. Not bad for what many had written off as a good minor league player and not much more. What I have noticed with his time in the show is his versatility and approach at the plate. He can play a few different positions and we all know how much David Bell values versatility. VanMeter has already drawn 14 walks in 88 104 PA (take note Peraza). He had 8 steals with the Bats but has already swiped 4 bags in his time with the Reds. The trade of Scooter shows the Reds will be looking for a new second baseman next season and VanMeter will have a shot to compete to be just that.
Aristides Aquino looked like he might have gone down as one of the obscure former Reds (@ObscureExReds) after getting one at-bat last season and striking out. Removed from the 40 man roster after 2018 returning to the Reds did not look likely. Signed on a minor league deal, he returned to Louisville to show he was still the sought-after prospect he once was. A change in approach and a slight change in his swing led to Aquino having a monster season with the Bats. .299 BA was up from his .227 career average in AA. 28 HR caught the eyes of many fans calling for him to get another chance. Since being called up he has made the most of his opportunity. Only 13 PA but he does have 4 hits and a home run. Being able to cut down on strikeouts have always been his flaw. The new approach seems to be working. A strong finish to 2019 would set Aquino up well for 2020 to be an option. He has been mostly a right fielder but did appear in 5 games in center for the Bats.
Brian O’Grady is a great story. An “older” prospect at 27 many might not have had him on their radar after he hit only .185 in 2017. 2018 looked much more promising as he bounced back in a big way to hit .306 in Louisville. 2019 has shown just how far he has come since 2017. .277 BA 27 HR 70 RBI 27 doubles while also stealing 16 bags. He hasn’t made his debut yet after joining the Reds yesterday (8/5) but his skill set will help this team now and hopefully in the future. In Louisville he played mainly first and center but also logged innings at third and left. With Dietrich injured O’Grady will step in and fill his void. A lefty bat off the bench who can play multiple positions.
While none of these three players are guaranteed a roster spot in 2020, I would imagine each will get his shot. Two are lefty bats that have stolen some bases and can play multiple positions and the other is a corner outfielder with a strong arm and pop. They will have to show they belong in spring training, but their auditions have already begun.