Tag: Cincinnati

3 Reasons to Be Optimistic for the Cincinnati Reds’ 2015 Season

The Cincinnati Reds are getting no love.

In the most recent season outlook, Grantland writer Ben Lindbergh’s NLC Preview uses a lot of data and makes mathematical projections, and not even the numbers are improving this team’s outlook. In case you haven’t got around to it, here’s an excerpt on why we can expect the Reds to suck in 2015:

Projected Record and Over/Under: 76-86 — PUSH. With [Joey] Votto injured, Ryan Ludwick and [Jay] Bruce banged up and slumping, [Brandon] Phillips declining, [Billy] Hamilton disappointing and [Zack] Cozart being Cozart, the Reds had one of the weakest lineups in baseball last season, despite [Devin] Mesoraco’s breakout and Todd Frazier’s dependable bat. Votto’s return, Bruce’s likely rebound and Marlon Byrd’s arrival should restore the scoring to a respectable level.

If GM Walt Jocketty keeps the roster intact, the Reds could rival the [Milwaukee] Brewers, but if he resigns himself to a rebuild and deals [Johnny] Cueto and Byrd at the deadline, Reds fans will be in for some bad baseball in the second half.

According to this outlook, if everything goes in the Reds’ favor, they should be good enough to compete with the Brewers.

It’s hard to knock something so objective. But, you clicked to read why we should be optimistic, and there are a few reasons, actually. The Grantland article makes several predictions that, if true, would probably cause the Reds to perform as poorly as everyone thinks they will. 

First, the article assumes Votto will miss about 40 days. That would be crippling. Second, the projections say Raisel Iglesias will finish with a 4.93 ERA. And finally, the rotation includes Jason Marquis right now, not Homer Bailey. While this is accurate, it shouldn’t be the case going past April.

The following is a short list of reasons to be optimistic for the Reds’ 2015 season:

1. The team has proven MLB talent. 

No one outside of Cincinnati cares that an almost identical roster managed 90-to-90-plus in three of the last five seasons. But the irrelevance doesn’t make those feats invalid. The roster is full of talent. 

Hardly anyone is talking about what the Reds offense could look like. But ESPN’s Doug Glanville is. He recently pegged the Reds offense as No. 2 in the National League in a live broadcast on SportsCenter.

With the arrival of Byrd, and hopefully prolonged health for the annual contributors, it’s hard not to be excited about the potential of this lineup, which features speed, patience and some power.

Everyone knows what they can expect from a healthy Votto, Phillips and Bruce. And then, of course, there’s Frazier and Mesoraco, who became contributors last season. But consider how the bench has performed this spring:

Brennan Boesch: .382/.379/.655
Chris Dominguez: .327/.333/.618
Kristopher Negron: .385/.475/.577

There are suitable options off the bench, a luxury the Reds haven’t enjoyed in a long time, minus former fan-favorite Chris Heisey, who is no longer with the team.

The Reds currently boast an MLB top-10 offense this spring, and at +36, only three teams in all of baseball have a better run differential. It’s not necessarily optimism at this point; it’s just what is physically happening.

2. The starting rotation has performed well this spring.

This is not by any means is an indicator for success. But it’s a lot better than a questionable rotation getting shelled before the season starts. The following is a list of ERAs currently held by the starting rotation:

Cueto: 3.86
Mike Leake: 0.64
Anthony DeSclafani: 3.51
Marquis: 3.46
Iglesias: 3.68

And one unforgettable detail is that this isn’t the 2015 rotation, just the one for April. The Reds still stand to gain Bailey and his 3.71 ERA from last year. His ZiPS projection is 3.54 in 173 innings, via Rotochamp.com, where you can see it next to every other projection, most of which all predict a good season out of Bailey.

We know what we’ll get from the front of the rotation because we’ve seen Cueto, Leake and Bailey for years. We know how good they are. We have absolutely no idea how MLB-good DeSclafani will be, or Iglesias.

I take their projections with a grain of salt only because they virtually have no MLB data to base anything on. They’re question marks. If even just one of them can replicate what Alfredo Simon gave them last season, the Reds will stand a good chance of winning four out of every five games.

3. 2014 can’t happen again.

Nothing analytical about this point, just pure subjective assertion. Everyone’s over the injury talk, and they should be—we’re like a week from Opening Day. Move on, but don’t forget a pivotal lesson we all learned: injuries to critical players have critical consequences.

We watched a team go from winning 90 games in 2013 to winning 76 games in 2014, with virtually an identical roster. Regardless of popular tough-guyisms bestowed upon us by local media, a team isn’t going to overcome the loss of that many vital contributors in a season.

Even local media that dismissed injury as a reason for 2014 are finding it harder to validate their previous convictions. Take this dramatic 180 from The Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty in his morning blog just this week:

I saw two more entities pick ’em to finish 5th in the Central. That’d be last, scorekeepers. SI.com and W. Leitch think that way. Leitch figures they’ll win 74. Ouch. I’m not known for bubbling optimism, and I’m no FanBoy, but … doesn’t anyone else believe this team can win 85-ish, not barter Cueto at the deadline and at least keep us interested through Labor Day? They can’t possibly be as hurt as last year, right? Jay Bruce had an aberration last season, not a definition, yes? Joey Votto will be back to his new self, getting OB 40 percent of the time, depending on others to provide the semi-meaningless RBI, yeah?

Why no love for the Redlegs?

Why no love for the Redlegs? A great question, as there were probably readers asking Daugherty the same thing last September when he wrote this:  

Do not go into the offseason believing this year was an injury-fueled aberration.

Do not believe that a healthy Joey Votto would have made a 15-game difference. Or even a 10-game swing. Ten games better would still put the Reds a game behind Pittsburgh, for the second wild card.

Do not think the season would have been a roaring success with Mat Latos healthy in April and May, with Homer Bailey whole now. Believing that health is the answer is a fool’s game. Who’s healthy this year might not be next year. 

This isn’t about any one columnist. I’m simply making the point that not even the most ardent and unforgiving of critics last year can stand by what they wrote. And we shouldn’t either.

The negative outlook surrounding the Reds, mathematically, incorporates data from a time when it didn’t matter. National analysts and computers only care about the data, which is never a bad thing. But that’s data from a bombed and depleted 76-win Reds team. That’s data on two pitchers, Iglesias and DeSclafani, who have virtually no MLB data on them. 

I think the outlook for this season is grossly underrated. And on that note, I must defer to Chuck D and Flavor Flav.

Stats courtesy of MLB.com, unless noted otherwise.

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5 Things We Learned About Cincinnati Reds in Spring Training

So long as no one asks any current or former Cincinnati Reds about anything related to hitting philosophy, the time is ripe to realign our focus back to the game. It’s almost time for real baseball, and there are a few observations we can make on what will soon be the 2015 roster.

Without dissecting everyone’s performance in faux baseball, let’s discuss some of the universal takeaways from camp. The following is a short list of five things we learned about the Reds in Goodyear:

1) Marlon Byrd can still swing it and the offense looks better. 

At 37 years old, there’s reasonable skepticism surrounding how much Marlon Byrd will contribute—especially coming off a year where he slashed just .264/.312/.445 and struck out a career high of 185 times.

In 33 at-bats this spring, Byrd is slashing a freakish .394/.444/.515. He has struck out six times and walked twice. He has 13 hits in 12 games played. And while he hasn’t homered, he does have three extra base hits. 

Because of his age and his mediocre performance last year, Byrd needed to have a good spring. Not literally, but you have to imagine he’s feeling good about it. And that’s important for a Reds team in need of power bats in the middle of the lineup. 

Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs.com wrote about Byrd’s potential as an older player helping another contender around last year’s trading deadline:

Down the stretch a year ago (2013), the Pirates plugged in Byrd and watched him slug .486. There’s a chance now for some team to get similar production over a broader window. In terms of long-term value, he might not be perceived to be Mark Trumbo’s equal, but in terms of short-term value, Byrd looks not even a little bit worse. 

Despite such a powerful slashing line, it should be noted that Byrd has just three RBI. In comparison, Todd Frazier has seven. RBI guys are indeed a special breed, and one wonders how someone slashing that well has so few. But then again, the RBI guy himself, Brandon “DatDude” Phillips, only has two.

Most notable? The Reds boast the fourth-best run differential in all of (faux) baseball. 

2) The Reds’ baserunning is still suspect. 

Hey, it’s spring training. This doesn’t even count. But none of us forget how dreadful the baserunning was last year, especially when it came to sending guys home. Here’s a quick revisit from C. Trent Rosecrans of The Cincinnati Enquirer on just how bad it was: 

BsR is FanGraphs.com’s base running component for its WAR calculations, and last season, the Reds’ BSR was 27th in baseball. The Reds were 28th in UBR. … Extra bases taken (XBT%) is the percentage of time a player advances more than one base on a single or more than two bases on a double. Last year, the league average was 40 percent, while the Reds took an extra base 38 percent of the time, ranking 24th in baseball.

You don’t have to understand the calculations, just look at their ranking in consideration of every other MLB team.

Pretty horrible.

So far in spring training, the Reds are second in caught stealing and dead last in successful steals. 

Furthermore, how many games did we watch the Reds run themselves out of last year? Ninth inning, two outs, man on—remember all of those? Check out how this particular game against the Cubs ended in spring training from Jeremy Conley of RedLegNation.com:

… The icing on the cake came in the 9th inning. A single, a wild pitch, and a ground rule double had the Reds back in the game at 2–1, with a runner on second and one out. A single by [Brennan] Boesch would have made it first and third with one out, with a decent chance at tying the game, but the Reds sent the runner on a shallow bloop single and got him gunned at the plate. 

Obviously, there’s a new third base coach. And again, it’s spring training, a perfect time to experiment and see what you’re capable of.

But the results were less than optimal. And while we didn’t learn that their baserunning still stinks, we haven’t learned that it’s much better.


3) The young guys can pitch. 

Reds manager Bryan Price has to be feeling a lot better about his starting rotation, mainly because of the performance of Anthony DeSclafani, the focal piece in return for Mat Latos. With virtually no MLB experience worthy of mentioning, skepticism was merited because this highly unproven prospect will ascend to the No. 4 role in what hopes to be a playoff contending rotation. 

In five starts, 24-year-old DeSclafani is 1-0 with a 1.83 ERA. He’s pitched 19.2 innings, second-most on the team in spring. He’s struck out 17 batters and walked only eight. He gave up no home runs and batters hit just a collective .231 against him.

Another young prospect is probably going to play a serious role in the Reds 2015 campaign. Michael Lorenzen, age 23, has certainly established himself as at least supplemental for a Reds bullpen in desperate need of a rebound year. Lorenzen‘s pitched 11 innings in five games and has a 1.64 ERA to show for it. 

Lorenzen‘s eight walks are probably why his WHIP is a disappointing 1.45. Batters are hitting just .209 against him, though, and considering he has seven strikeouts in the eight innings he’s pitched, he appears ready to help this team a lot sooner than originally thought.


4) The Reds will have a bench. 

Boesch is slashing a ridiculous .357/.341/.595. His three home runs and nine RBI are both team highs. Only the Chicago Cubs‘ Kris Bryant has more home runs than Boesch, so far.

If the Reds could get a line even close to what Boesch has done in 14 games of faux baseball, not only is the bench immediately upgraded, but he could potentially fill in and be very serviceable should the Reds incur any injuries to important contributors in the lineup. 

The 29-year-old can play anywhere in the outfield, which is especially important when your left fielder is 37.

Chris Dominguez has a good shot to make the club, too. He has the most at-bats on the team and is slashing an impressive .302/.311/.558. He has 13 hits in 18 games, including five doubles, two home runs and tied for a team-high nine RBI.

Dominguez and Boesch are the top two in at-bats, so the Reds are definitely wanting to see what they’re made of this spring. Expect both to be in uniform, and expect both to be serviceable when called upon. 

5) We have no idea how healthy Joey Votto is. 

Joey Votto has proclaimed good health endlessly, at no fault of his own, but until he plays a 162-game schedule without hitting the DL, the topic will linger. 

But unfortunately, Votto has only played in 10 games and has 23 at-bats. He’s slashing .261/.400/.391, so as we can see, he has not forgotten how to beat a pitcher.

His lack of playing time is enough to be curious, not that there’s any reason for concern. The point is, we didn’t learn anything about him, really.

He’s leading the team in walks, because of course, he is. He does have one home run, five RBI and five hits in his 23 at-bats.


Stats courtesy of MLB.com, unless noted otherwise.

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Most Disappointing Cincinnati Reds Players in Spring Training so Far

This is just a checkup. It’s only a glimpse into faux baseball, one where starters routinely exit after two at-bats and the final score is irrelevant. This is just to provide a sense of who isn’t quite performing well when nothing matters, so read into it what you will. 

Last year, Chris Heisey finished the spring batting .310, while Skip Schumaker hit .441. Spring training performances aren’t indicative of much, but it’s interesting to check it out.

What else are we supposed to discuss until April 6?


Todd Frazier

Todd Frazier has a lot to prove a year after slashing .273/.336/.459 and making his first All-Star Game/Home Run Derby appearance. Not only will he be tasked with meeting, at the very least, that kind of production, with 29 home runs and 80 RBI, but many fans see him as a potential vocal clubhouse leader of the team. So expectations on Frazier are reasonably high.

In just 13 at-bats in five games, Frazier is slashing .231/.214/.385. He has three hits, one double and four RBI, with no home runs. It’s worth noting he’s struck out three times in that span while recording no walks.

It’s also worth noting that Frazier has been suffering back spasms, which scratched him from the lineup already and is probably the reason for such a slow start. The Reds slugger has been batting third during spring, so they’ll definitely want to see him get more plate appearances.


Marlon Byrd

Byrd’s only played in five games and has nine at-bats, so it would take literally one afternoon to change his current slashing line of .222/.364/.222. 

The veteran left fielder does have two doubles in that short body of work, including a walk and a strikeout. Unfortunately, he just doesn’t have a big enough body of work to adequately assess. The two doubles in nine at-bats is promising. 

Anthony DeSclafani

Desclafani is going to get an abnormal amount of attention. As the possible favorite to take the No. 5 spot in the rotation, a solid spring training for him is pivotal to build confidence. So far, he’s off to a slow start.

And let’s be very clear: He’s pitched five innings in two games. But they’ve been far from pretty. He’s 0-0 with a 5.40 ERA, and hitters are batting .333 against him right now. He’s only struck out two batters.

To be fair, Johnny Cueto, Tony Cingrani, David Holmberg and Paul Maholm have five innings pitched as well—no one has an ERA over 1.80. The sample size simply cannot be taken seriously, but again, considering DeSclafani‘s lack of MLB experience, he’s going to be met with heavier skepticism if his spring training doesn’t improve.


Bullpen, Middle Relief 

When you finish the season as one of the sport’s worst bullpens, the goal becomes to rapidly demonstrate that it was a statistical outlier and by no means indicative of what the bullpen can really do.

So far, in early spring, middle relief is playing to a similar beat. Sam LeCure, J.J. Hoover, Manny Parra, Burke Badenhop, Pedro Villarreal and Daniel Corcino—each is currently carrying an ERA we’ve come to expect from this part of the bullpen. 

To reiterate: The sample size is hardly serious, but if you’re checking in on who is off to a slow start after the second week of March, you may not be surprised to discover the usual suspects.

LeCure and Hoover both have four strikeouts in six innings pitched, obviously something you want to see out of relief. But batters are currently hitting .333 against LeCure and .357 against Hoover. Hoover’s ERA is 9.00. He’s surrendered five hits in three innings pitched and has given up two home runs already.

Badenhop got shelled in his Reds debut. Against the Cleveland Indians, he surrendered five runs (four earned) on five hits in two-thirds of an inning. He’s given up eight hits in just 1.2 innings of work. Furthermore, both of his appearances were save opportunities.

There’s a reason why prospect standout Michael Lorenzen has a chance to make the Reds roster in a bullpen capacity. John Fay of The Cincinnati Enquirer asserts, “The decision is a bit of a complicated one because the Reds project Lorenzen as a starter. If he makes the team, it would be almost certainly as a reliever.”

Lorenzen hasn’t allowed a run in four innings of work and has four strikeouts compared to just one walk in that time. But his inclusion after spring training may depend more on the aforementioned than his own performance.


Hey. Like talking Reds? Same here. I’m @GroteT, or catch me creeping around the comment sections on Cincinnati.com. 

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New Year’s Resolutions for the Cincinnati Reds in 2015

The dropping of the crystal ball signaled the start of 2015, officially designating the disastrous season of 2014 as last year’s news.

When we discuss the Cincinnati Reds from this juncture, we discuss a new product. The Reds lack the potent starting rotation they once had, but they do offer some offensive prowess that many fans have longed for.

The Reds welcomed the new year by finally adding the coveted left fielder, even if it didn’t quite have the luster fans hoped for. Marlon Byrd brings 25 home runs and a .445 slugging to the lineup. Does a lineup featuring Brandon Phillips, Todd Frazier, Joey Votto, Marlon Byrd, Devin Mesoraco and Jay Bruce inspire any more confidence?

The list of resolutions becomes obvious. The Reds don’t have any dramatic resolutions like needing to shed 20 pounds or quitting smoking—just eating healthier or volunteering more would suffice. That’s because the crux of what the Reds need is just health, especially considering the departure of No. 2 pitcher Mat Latos.

Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Jay Bruce and Joey Votto officially account for new year’s resolution No. 1. Injuries can happen to everyone, but these four Reds are arguably the most important in uniform. These guys have to stay healthy if the Reds have a chance of competing in 2015. Bailey will be asked to pitch in a spot that, by now, he should be ready for. But he can’t deliver from the disabled list.

The second new year’s resolution would be a vow to get on base. The Reds finished with the third-worst OBP in baseball. When you consider the absurd amount of one-run games the Reds were in, OBP becomes even more vital. Nori Aoki would have been an immediate fix to this enormous problem, but the Reds opted for a better bat instead.

Votto’s presence will undoubtedly help the OBP, but you’d like to see guys such as Billy Hamilton, Phillips and Bruce all get their OBP closer to MLB average. Hamilton and Bruce both finished below .300. A sub-.300 OBP at the top of the lineup is crippling, so Billy Hamilton will have to grow up quick to stay there.

It’s not that the Reds weren’t making contact. Per Fangraphs.com, the Reds were No.7 in o-swing percentage, meaning balls swung on that were outside of the strike zone. They were No.1 in z-swing percentage, which accounts for balls swung inside of the strike zone. They swung a lot.

It could be a matter of plate discipline. The Reds are a very swing-happy team. Those who professionally cover the Reds often discuss Votto in a negative light, suggesting that his focus on OBP is misguided. What if the majority of Reds hitters were as selective as Votto? While it’s unrealistic to assume everyone adopt Votto’s tactics, a more selective approach seems needed for a team full of hackers.

Another resolution would be to cross the plate. Per C. Trent Rosecrans of The Cincinnati Enquirer, the Reds led all of baseball with 28 runners thrown out at home. Again, considering the amount of one-run games the Reds played in, improving this is paramount. The removal of Steve Smith and the insertion of Jim Riggleman might be all it takes.

Finally, the bullpen has to be better. The Reds finished the year with the fifth-worst bullpen ERA and the second-most bullpen losses. It’s possible that between the acquisition of Raisel Iglesias and the health of Sean Marshall, this might have already been improved from last year. 

Jumbo Diaz was a genuine surprise, and Pedro Villarreal may have earned a shot at joining the bullpen in a long-term capacity with a few decent outings before the season ended. 

The Reds at least offer a more potent offensive lineup, but this was the No. 3 starting rotation ERA in baseball, which was the reason the Reds competed to the extent that they did last year. The rotation, as of right now, is still a concern, so hopefully something is done to address that prior to Opening Day.

The lineup is better. Byrd’s age is irrelevant as long as his production is there. And it is. Byrd is still hitting for power (25 home runs in 2014, 757 OPS). He also brings with him an O-WAR of 2. His overall WAR finished at 2.7.

The Reds lacked pop last season, finishing a mediocre No. 18 in team home runs. They also recorded the second-fewest hits in all of baseball. So between adding Votto and Byrd and the health of Bruce, it’s almost absurd to assume the 2015 product will play similar to the previous one. That’s a lot of offense the Reds went without.

We can’t fool ourselves, though. After Cueto, Bailey and Mike Leake, it’s pretty slim on major league-ready talent. This could be a problem if not addressed before Opening Day. Hopefully, the shiny new lineup can mitigate the loss of Latos and Simon.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com

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A Fan’s Christmas Wish List of the Cincinnati Reds in 2015

Dear Santa,

Reds fan here. We haven’t been on the greatest of terms since Clinchmas, now over four years ago. Where have you been since? And what’s with all the coal in our red stockings?

What do you think about when you’re checking your list and you get to the Cincinnati Reds? Clinchmas was amazing, but that team got swept by the Phillies. Then after a deflating 2011 season, you put Mat Latos under the tree, and we witnessed arguably the best Reds team in over a decade.

But it was weird, Santa. Joey Votto suffered then an injury that’s affecting him now, and Johnny Cueto couldn’t come home for the holidays when we needed him most.

Weren’t we good? How could our behavior have been any better?

I got over it when you gave us Shin-Soo Choo the next year. Because it was all about the lead-off man. It was awesome; Choo finished with a .423 OBP that season. The Reds had a .323 OBP for the year, No. 6 in the game. But Cueto got hurt again. We got him back just barely in time to throw him right into a one-game playoff, where he not only got shelled but created a moment that will follow Cueto back to PNC Park in every start he will make there.

You lost me there, Santa. But I sucked it up. Maybe Pittsburgh had just stacked more karma than the Reds. I know not to be envious. But after 2014, I’m struggling to find any Christmas spirit.

You know what happened. No one likes talking about it, but you know it had a lot to do with injuries and the bullpen failure. Most reasonable Reds fans will admit as much, even if the local media won’t.

But baseball doesn’t wait. And since we could no longer afford 2011’s Christmas gift, we had to trade him away, along with another starter. And now what do we do? How does a team built on its rotation, the third-best rotation in baseball, have any success without its No. 2?

C’mon, Santa. It’s all tidings and good cheer until it’s time to sit down at the arbitration table, isn’t it?

Will you please bring us something for the back of the rotation? I know the Reds have tons of minor league talent nearing ready, but there’s no reason to rush them. Aaron Harang is out there. He threw over 200 innings and cashed in a 3.75 ERA. And he only made $1 million last year. Not asking for much.

Then there’s our bullpen, which you know was naughty. To be second in bullpen losses and have the third-worst bullpen ERA is to replace your eye drops with lemon juice. I know we were bad, so can you help us be better and maybe bring us another bullpen arm? If Raisel Iglesias is all, I won’t be mad, but a middle-relief guy would be decent, and if nothing else, maybe let Sean Marshall stay healthy?

Speaking of health, can you bring two bubbles? One for Votto and one for Homer Bailey? You understand.

This last request will come as no surprise, Santa. And you already know what I’m going to ask. It’s been years since we had a good left fielder to watch on an everyday basis. Instead of bringing us some cheap knock-off, better-as-a-pinch-hitter brand, can you just get us Nori Aoki?

I don’t care about all the talk surrounding his declining power numbers, or how he hit just one home run last year. Who cares? His OBP was .349 and .353 for his career.

This is serious, Santa. Honestly, it would be cool if you got me everything else, but this is like the Nintendo 64 when it was new. You could get me all the cool stuff in the world, but without the 64 centerpiece, Christmas is ruined.

CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman says Aoki is going to get anywhere from $7 to $8 million. Is that in the budget this year?

That’s all I got, big man. I want a back-of-the-rotation veteran starter, I want a middle-relief bullpen arm and I want a left fielder. And if it’s not too much, I’d like to be able to enjoy the 2015 Reds product, not its understudies.

And don’t give me any excuses this year. You can travel around the world in a single night, you can force yourself down chimneys, even in houses that don’t have one, and you fly reindeer. That’s great and all, but wake me up when Aoki is under my tree.


Stats courtesy of ESPN.com/MLB

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Reassessing the Cincinnati Reds’ Offseason Plan and Breaking Down What’s Next

Cincinnati Reds general manager Walt Jocketty finally made a significant play on the last day of the winter meetings, flipping Alfredo Simon for two of Detroit‘s top-10 prospects before swapping Mat Latos for two promising young talents from Miami.

When you also consider the departures of other names such as Jonathan Broxton, Ryan Ludwick, Jack Hannahan, Logan Ondrusek and Chris Heisey, in total, the Reds have shed about $30 million in payroll.

And yet, according to C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the payroll will still increase in 2015.

That’s not the greatest of news, given that the Reds have yet to acquire arguably the most sought-after position in all of Reds Country. At the time of publishing, there is still no starting left fielder.

Nori Aoki is still out there. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports says the Reds are still in on him:

C. Trent Rosecrans broke down the current financial make-up of the remaining roster, as it stands today:

The team still has five arbitration-eligible players on the roster for next season: Mike Leake ($9.5 million projected), Aroldis Chapman ($8.3 million projected), Zack Cozart ($2.3 million projected), Todd Frazier ($4.6 million projected) and Devin Mesoraco ($2.8 million projected).

That’s a total of $27.5 million added to the 11 players already under contract, who are due a total of more than $75.5 million, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

That doesn’t include the $6.5 million in buyouts to Jack Hannahan ($2 million) and Ryan Ludwick ($4.5 million). Those 16 players, along with the payments to the players no longer on the team, raises payroll to $109.5 million.

According to that article, that $109.5 million figure doesn’t include nine other players on the roster who will account for a minimum of $4.5 million, which leaves the payroll resembling last year’s.

That’s without a left fielder. So the smart money would be on the Reds increasing payroll, mildly, unless they’re still looking for ways to shed.

For $7 million or $8 million, Aoki has to be secured. Regardless of how underwhelming of an acquisition local media might suggest he would be, the Reds are in desperate need for high OBP guys. You can’t finish as one of the worst teams in OBP and not address that.

But even more worrisome than the vacant left field are the vacancies in the rotation. As of now, candidates for the two remaining spots would be Tony Cingrani, David Holmberg, Dylan Axelrod, Daniel Corcino and Anthony Desclafani, who was recently acquired in exchange for Mat Latos.

I don’t think you can pull multiple guys from this list—as it stands now, it’s likely that David Holmberg would fill a slot and possibly Anthony Desclafani, who did pitch briefly for the Marlins last year. Tony Cingrani seems like he’d work best in a bullpen capacity, considering a limited pitch selection.

But if the Reds are willing to go just a bit higher in payroll, there are veteran options out there. One familiar name in particular looks tempting: Aaron Harang, who made just $1 million last year. The 36-year-old went 12-12 with a 3.57 ERA for the Atlanta Braves last season. He pitched over 200 innings and makes for an easy addition to the back of the Reds rotation.

Elsewhere, right-hander Chris Young might also be a worthy addition. He resurrected a career marred by injuries when he posted a 3.65 ERA in 165 innings pitched for the Seattle Mariners.

Though he did have an alarming 5.04 FIP, it wasn’t a big deal in the pitcher-friendly confines of Safeco Field, and his price tag would make him a nice addition as a No. 5. He made just $1.25 million last season.

So from here on out, to complete the 2015 product, the Reds will need to find a left fielder and at least one veteran starter they can sign for cheap. The options are out there, it’s simply a matter of dollars and cents at this juncture.


All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted

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Re-Grading the Cincinnati Reds’ Offseason Post-Winter Meetings

In the early a.m. on Thursday, I gave Walt Jocketty a C- for his participation in the winter meetings. This was clearly before Mr. Jocketty‘s phone went nitro and things started to move.

But deadlines hold us accountable, and on this Friday morning, it’s time to revisit and re-grade Jocketty‘s short trip to San Diego.

The Reds committed Grand Theft Alfredo when they flipped Alfredo Simon, a 33-year-old who was discovered in exile after the Baltimore Orioles cut him in 2011.

Not only did Jocketty find a gem of a replacement starter for a plethora of injuries that would happen in 2014, but he turned this aged, free-agent scrapheap find for two of an organization’s top 10 prospects.

Baseball America ranked shortstop Eugenio Suarez and right-handed pitcher Jonathan Crawford as top-10 prospects for the Detroit Tigers at the beginning of this year. Crawford was No. 6, Suarez No. 8.

The Reds now avoid another arbitration contract and add two talented prospects to their minor league system. Crawford could turn into something special. In two minor league seasons—the short-season New York-Penn League and Low-A—the right-hander is 8-5 with a 2.73 ERA.

He struck out 85 batters in 123 innings pitched in Low-A and allowed only 39 earned runs.

Suarez may one day be the replacement for the offense-deprived Zack Cozart. In six minor league seasons, the right-handed slugging shortstop slashed .278/.362/.415. In 85 games with the Tigers last season—his rookie season—the 23-year-old slashed .242/.316/.336.

Cozart‘s OBP last year was .268.

Jocketty continued the budget cutting when he flipped No. 2 starter Mat Latos for right-handed starter Anthony DeSclafani and minor league catcher Chad Wallach from the Marlins.

DeSclafani was ranked as the Marlins’ No. 5 prospect by Baseball America. In three minor league seasons, DeSclafani went 26-16 with a 3.23 ERA.

He appeared in 13 games for the Marlins last season and went 2-2 with a 6.27 ERA. He gave up 23 runs in 33 innings pitched, struck out 26 and walked just five.

Michael Hurcomb of CBSSports.com writes that Jocketty sees DeSclafani in the 2015 rotation, saying, “We think DeSclafani will fit into our rotation this year. Our scouts were very, very high on him.”

Catcher Chad Wallach is just 23 years old, and in two years of minor league experience—mainly at Low-A—he slashed .293/.392/.399. It may be a while before we see him in Cincinnati, but the Reds organization looks to have acquired a competent bat. He was a fifth-round draft pick for the Marlins in 2013.

So, what to make of all these new faces? Jocketty moved two arbitration-eligible players for four manageable contracts.

The Reds’ 2015 rotation does take a hit. As of now, it’s Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake and we’ll assume DeSclafani and Tony Cingrani at the back end, but it wouldn’t surprise me if another starting pitcher was added from the wire.

You also have to think that all of this payroll shedding paves the way for the Reds to get the corner outfielder they want. Jocketty told the Cincinnati Enquirer‘s John Fay the following: “This is it for now, we’ve gotten close to where we need to be, and now we can concentrate on some of the needs we have.”

So look for more to come. While the 2015 Reds didn’t get any better, it’s promising to know the franchise can breathe. The moves in total saved about $15 million in payroll for Cincinnati (probably more because of arbitration).

I’m accepting late assignments for the holidays. After further review, Jocketty gets a solid B+ for the winter meetings this year. The 2015 product has gotten weaker—for now—but the franchise and its outlook beyond one season improved significantly.

A new era of pitchers will be breeding in the depths of Cincinnati’s minors, and names like Robert Stephenson, Ben Lively, DeSclafani, Cingrani and Nick Howard make for an exceptional contingency plan should Cueto and Leake depart.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless noted otherwise.

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Cincinnati Reds: 4 Reds Earning a Spot on the 2015 25-Man

The to-do list for the 2014-2015 Cincinnati Reds offseason seems to grow by the day as more and more rumors surrounding the dealing of Aroldis Chapman, Brandon Phillips and others circulate. And while a 72-84 record is bad enough to make the short to-do a whole laundry list of items, the truth is, there is still real talent on this 2014 product beyond the obvious talent. 

Some of the September call-ups are making the most out of their limited time in the big leagues. Some are demonstrating why they have had successful MLB stints elsewhere. While the 2014 campaign is a failure, the month of September has been a grand audition for what might be future cogs of this organization.

The following are four Reds who currently are either not signed through 2015 or who aren’t on the 25-man roster. The order will range from no-doubter to deserving-but-unlikely. 


All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Cincinnati Reds: 2015 Reds Bullpen More Vital Than Offense

Though the offense is seemingly everyone’s favorite topic when talking about the miserable season that 2014 has been, the bullpen may be the most crippling facet of this team that isn’t being discussed. That is not to say that the Reds offense is good; rather, it’s to suggest that the Reds offense is good enough to compete in the current landscape of MLB.

While the Reds have only scored 526 runs on the year—third worst in all of the sport—the Atlanta Braves, currently tied for the NL’s second wild-card spot, have scored even fewer runs. Furthermore, the St. Louis Cardinals, who are currently sitting on top of the NL Central now, rank just ahead of the Reds in runs scored (536). 

The Cardinals are the fourth-worst scoring team in baseball, and yet, the Milwaukee Brewers, the No. 3 offense in the NL, is now looking up at the birds. 

If offense is what really matters here, what are we missing?

On ESPN.com, you can follow the downward trajectory of offense by the dwindling amount of runs scored per year. From 2000 to 2009, the best offensive NL team would routinely have 800-plus runs scored. That hasn’t happened for five years now.

This year, on September 5, there is only one team that has over 600 runs, and they’ll be doing the same thing the Reds will be doing this September.

The point is, if you’re talking about offense when discussing the Reds, you’re talking about the wrong topic. Offense is the red herring of baseball.

A prolific offense is fun, but it’s not indicative of a competitor in today’s game. So naturally, if not offense, the focus shifts to pitching.

The Reds have the No. 5 starter ERA in baseball. The ability of this starting core is unquestioned. The bullpen is an entirely different story. With an ERA of four and an abysmal record of 10-27, I maintain that if anything has been the agent of chaos this year, it’s the bullpen.

That’s the story on the season. Not the offense. The injuries, while significant, weren’t enough to keep the Reds just 1.5 games out of first in the NL Central at the break. So with that mind, it’s promising that the Reds will have a new-look bullpen next season.

Anchoring the back of the bullpen will be the under-utilized closer, Aroldis Chapman. That much is certain, especially with the trading of Jonathan Broxton. As of September 5, Chapman has logged just 44.1 innings of work. While utterly depressing, that’s a topic for another rant.

Setting up for Chapman will be a close-up man who doesn’t cost $9 million. Jumbo Diaz has proven himself worthy. In 26.1 innings of work, Diaz has 27 strikeouts and has allowed just nine earned runs. He can hopefully instill the same confidence in himself that people had in Broxton.

The alternative to Diaz in late-innings will be the other multi-million set-up arm, the elusive Sean Marshall. Per Rotoworld.com, Marshall will command $6.5 million next season. Hopefully, he’ll return to health and be the left-handed specialist the Reds thought they stole from the Chicago Cubs.

If not Marshall, what about Ryan Dennick? His one major league inning of flawless work aside, he did have an impressive Triple-A season. Per MILB.com, in 49.2 innings of work, Dennick allowed just 13 earned runs. This lefty might be a capable option if Marshall doesn’t recover. 

Manny Parra will most certainly be back next season. Per Rotoworld.com, he’ll be making $3.5 million. In 33.2 innings of work, Parra has struck out 34 batters, a promising metric. Less promising are the 35 hits allowed in the frame, a .269 opposing batting average and a 1.51 WHIP. Parra struggled with back stiffness mid-year, so hopefully that can be attributed to those poor numbers.

The right-handers will look familiar. Per Rotoworld.com, Sam LeCure will make $1.85 million next season. This has not been a good season for LeCure. Batters are hitting .301 against him. In 46.2 innings of work, he’s allowed 55 hits, good for 20 earned runs. 

Logan Ondrusek is arbitration eligible next year, so he’ll probably return as well. Batters are hitting .278 on Ondrusek this year, which has led to an ERA of 4.30 in just 37.2 innings of work. His 1.46 WHIP instills virtually no confidence.

Unless J.J. Hoover has an amazing spring, it’s less likely we’ll see him next year, and more likely we’ll see the Cuban right-hander Raisel Iglesias. Although he could even end up starting should a starter be dealt this offseason, it’s more likely he’ll continue his role in a relief capacity, considering how awful the right-handed arms in the Reds bullpen currently are. 

Mark Sheldon of MLB.com asserts the Reds want him to eventually start. And while that’s true, the bullpen is in dire condition, and he might best be utilized, at least for next year, in the bullpen.

Tony Cingrani might be the first choice to replace any starter, considering that was predominantly his role this season before getting injured. 

Carlos Contreras may be the next right-handed arm, maybe in an early relief capacity. He has not fared well in the majors this year, albeit with very little exposure. He’s allowed 14 earned runs in 18 innings. At the same time, he’s struck out 18 batters in that time.

BaseballAmerica.com lists Contreras as the Reds’ No. 7 prospect. 

So would this bullpen inspire more confidence in 2015?

CL: Aroldis Chapman
SU: Jumbo Diaz
SU: Sean Marshall / Manny Parra
RP: Sam LeCure
RP: Raisel Iglesias
RP: Ryan Dennick
RP: Logan Ondrusek
RP: Carlos Contreras

The right arms on this list, minus Diaz and Iglesias, really leave much to be desired. The Reds might consider addressing the right arms in this bullpen before getting a left fielder.


All stats courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.

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Predicting What the Cincinnati Reds Lineup Will Look Like Next Year

While injuries and bullpen woes have been staples of the Cincinnati Reds‘ 2014 campaign, offense has been similarly woeful. We can’t say for certain whether it’s related to injuries to crucial players or not. Is Jay Bruce suffering his worst professional season in seven years because of the shift or because he had a knee surgery in May?

That much is uncertain. What is certain is that the Reds will probably look a little different next year. They’ll  more than likely drop $4.5 million just to give Ryan Ludwick his walking papers. Zack Cozart may finally have worthy competition next spring.

Per Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Reds plan on trading at least one starting pitcher this offseason. 



If that is indeed the case, it’s likely the team will deal for a new left fielder, assuming Devin Mesoraco isn’t occupying that corner of the outfield.

Per Cincinnati Enquirer beat writer John Fay, the Reds plan on having Mesoraco play different positions next season. The rationale is finding a way to keep his valued bat in the lineup, and with a very capable Brayan Pena, Mesoraco can be liberated to play elsewhere.

Regardless of whether any of the aforementioned actually happens, the 2015 lineup will look different than 2014’s. Here is the lineup that Bryan Price may post on Opening Day of next year:

  1. Billy Hamilton, CFHamilton isn’t going anywhere. Given an entire major league season to showcase his talent and potential, it’s fair to say Hamilton earned his, well, earned his red. Leadoff was a scary topic going into the 2014 season with the loss of Shin-Soo Choo. But when you compare their numbers, and consider the fact that Choo will miss the remainder of the year with an elbow surgery (per CBSSports.com), the Reds somehow got the better of this exchange.

  2. Joey Votto, 1BWhether you love or hate him, expect a healthy Joey Votto to pick up right where the healthy Joey Votto left off: the No. 1 run producer in the NL in 2013. His presence will be significant on a lineup that ranks near dead last in OBP.

  3. Todd Frazier, 3B—Frazier has demonstrated the ability to produce in timely situations and provide power for a lineup that needs it. There’s no reason he can’t bat third next year and hopefully have Hamilton and Votto in front of him more often than not.

  4. Devin Mesoraco, LFAn impressive 2014 campaign should be enough evidence that the Reds can rely on Mesoraco to hit cleanup. While he trails Frazier by two home runs for team leader in the category, it’s worth noting Mesoraco has played in nearly 30 fewer games.

  5. Brandon Phillips, 2B—It’s a better idea to bat Phillips ahead of Jay Bruce. As of August 28, Phillips has nearly 50 fewer strikeouts than Bruce. And while this year may be a statistical aberration for Bruce (he did have knee surgery in May and is coincidentally having his worst professional season in seven years), the Reds cannot afford strikeouts in the middle of the order with guys on base.

  6. Jay Bruce, RF—The Reds need this guy to come back strong. Whether he can beat the shift or not, Bruce has to cut down on the strikeouts and at least put the ball in play more. A promising fact is that what he’s doing now is largely inconsistent with his career slashing line of .252/.326/.470, so there’s little evidence to believe that next season looks like this one.

  7. Brayan Pena, CIf Pena can keep his present-day .259 batting average, there’s no reason he can’t be contributing from the No. 7 spot in the lineup. His OBP isn’t great and neither is his slugging, but this far down, it’s just nice to have a guy who can make contact and hit for an OK average.

  8. Zack Cozart, SS—Assuming Cozart is still the guy next year, and he may be because of his Gold-Glove-worthy performance this season, he’ll be right back where Reds fans are used to seeing him. Hopefully, the performances of both Rey Navarro at Triple-A and Kris Negron will be enough to get either some playing time, as both appear more capable at the plate than Cozart

  9. Homer Bailey, P—Because it is all but certain that one man between Mike Leake, Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos will be moved this offseason, let’s just stick to the one pitcher we know for a fact will be a Red next year.

Does this lineup inspire confidence for the 2015 campaign? There are a couple things that could be assumed with a higher degree of confidence:

  • Jay Bruce will return to his performance of the previous six years instead of the outlier he’s having this year.
  • Joey Votto will finally be healthy. He’s still leading the team in OBP despite playing 62 games on arguably one leg. With two legs, watch out.

Should both of those happen, there’s real hope for the above lineup. Should one of the starting pitchers be moved, it’s a safe bet that it brings in a capable bat in the outfield. That would of course remove Pena from the lineup as Mesoraco moves to the plate.

If said bat were acquired, whoever he his, if he can hit cleanup or fifth, it’s not far-fetched to imagine Bruce hitting seventh. For an NL lineup, that would be impressive. 


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