Cincinnati Reds offseason

Cincinnati Reds offseason breakdown

The Cincinnati Reds have been stuck in a period of stagnation, as they have failed to reach a .500 record since 2013 and have three consecutive fifth place finishes in the National League Central.

2017 season

In Bryan Price’s fourth season as the Reds manager, Cincinnati went 68-94 for a second consecutive year. Although the team as a whole was underwhelming, the Reds offense alone was very respectable, finishing 14th in runs scored and RBIs, 13th in home runs and 18th in batting average.

The team was led by Joey Votto, who played in all 162 games, and led the National League in walks, on-base and on-base plus slugging percentage. It is anticipated he will finish within the top three in the National League MVP vote.

Cincinnati Reds offseason

Joey Votto headlines a rebuilding Cincinnati club. (Photo by Al Behrman/AP Photo)

Other impact players included first-time All-Star Zack Cozart, Adam Duvall, Scooter Gennett, Scott Schebler and Eugenio Suarez, who each hit over 24 home runs and drove in at least 60 RBIs. Many baseball fans expected speedsters Billy Hamilton and Jose Peraza to take the next step in 2017, but both saw regression in their batting averages.

 

The main cause for the Reds’ struggles stems from their inconsistent pitching, as Cincinnati ranked 29th in earned run average, walk rate and quality starts. Only the Seattle Mariners used more starting pitchers than the Reds this season. Brandon Finnegan, Anthony DeSclafani and Tony Cingrani, who pitched a total of about 360 innings in 2016, only amassed 36 total innings due to injuries in 2017. This forced young arms like Amir Garrett, Luis Castillo and Sal Romano into action.

Garrett showed promise in his first three starts, pitching a total of 19.2 innings while allowing only four earned runs and striking out 21. Unfortunately for the rookie left hander, right hip inflammation forced him onto the disabled list in May. After returning from the DL, Garrett struggled mightily, finishing the season with a 7.39 ERA and 1.61 WHIP in 70.2 innings pitched.

Romano and Castillo were bright spots for Cincinnati, as they combined to pitched 176.1 innings with a 3.79 ERA. It is clear the Reds will rely on all three of these young arms in 2018.

The best pitcher on the Reds roster is closer Raisel Iglesias, who pitched a total of 76 innings, logging 28 saves with a 2.49 ERA and 10.9 K/9. He pitched more than one inning in 18 of his 63 appearances, showing his longevity in the bullpen. The Reds will rely heavily on Iglesias in 2018, as he is the only reliever on the roster to have two consecutive seasons with a sub-3 ERA.

Prospects to keep an eye on

Nick Senzel, Third Baseman

Cincinnati Reds offseason

In 187 minor league games, Nick Senzel is batting .315 with 21 home runs, 105 RBIs and 32 stolen bases. (Photo by Daytondailynews.com)

Ranked eighth among all MLB prospects by MLB.com, Nick Senzel promises to be a franchise player for Cincinnati. The former second-overall selection in 2016 has been flying through the minor leagues, advancing from rookie ball to Double-A in just two seasons.

In 187 minor league games, Senzel is batting .315 with 21 home runs, 105 RBIs and 32 stolen bases. I absolutely expect to see Senzel at the major league level in 2018, as he will likely replace Suarez or Cozart on the left side of the infield once one is dealt.

Jesse Winker, Outfielder

Winker played 47 games at the major league level this season, batting .298 with seven home runs and 15 RBIs. In 85 minor league games, Winker batted .314 with 24 extra-base hits and 41 RBIs.

The corner outfielder seems more than capable of playing an everyday role with the Reds. However, a log jam in their outfield may force Winker to start the year in Triple-A if they don’t move Schebler or Duvall by the start of 2018.

Dilson Herrera, Second Baseman

Herrera was acquired by Cincinnati in the deal that sent Jay Bruce to the New York Mets. The 23-year-old played in 68 games at the Triple-A level this season, batting .264 with 17 extra-base hits and 42 RBIs.

His season was cut short after season-ending arthroscopic shoulder surgery in July, but he is expected to be a full participant in spring training. There is a major log jam in the Reds infield, and Herrera will further complicate things for Reds management, although this problem of excess is one that all teams would love to have.

Team Needs

Cincinnati Reds offseason

(Photo by Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports)

The Reds certainly could use more pitching, as their rotation lacks an established arm with a proven track record. Only Homer Bailey and Bronson Arroyo have finished a season with double-digit wins and a sub-4 ERA in their career. Unfortunately for Cincinnati, they don’t have much wiggle room in terms of salary cap, as they will need to sign Gennett, Hamilton, DeSclafani, Suarez and Iglesias this offseason. All are arbitration eligible and should be retained though.

Also, the team will have to make a big decision regarding All-Star Zack Cozart, who is a free agent this offseason. The Reds will likely offer him a $17.4 million qualifying offer, which will allow the team to acquire a compensatory first-round pick in 2018 (if he were to sign a deal with another club for north of $50 million).

If Cozart were to accept the qualifying offer, the Reds would be unable to make any significant move in free agency. If they were to lose him, they would be without one of their key contributors from the 2017 season. A decision regarding Cozart will be a likely indication of the team’s direction moving forward.

Potential offseason moves

With the Reds not in a clear contending position, it is likely they sell some of their established players in order to continue developing their farm system. Trading Suarez and Duvall would open up every-day roles for the aforementioned Senzel and Winker, while moving players like Iglesias or Cozart (if signed) could get the Reds a good haul in terms of prospects.

I assume the Reds will be selling this offseason in order to continue bolstering their farm system, which currently ranks eighth in the MLB according to Bleacherreport.com.

Trend

In my opinion, the Reds are a team trending in the wrong direction in terms of winning right now. They had a mediocre 2017 campaign and seem to be looking to continue their rebuilding process.

If I were a Reds fan, I would be disappointed with management for not being able to put a winning team around superstar Joey Votto, as the Reds don’t look like they will contend for a playoff spot until the end of the decade.

However, with a top-10 farm system, the Reds long-term future looks bright.

 

Featured image by WTOP.com

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2017 Fantasy Baseball Center Field Rankings

Crying Tiers of Joy: 2017 Fantasy Baseball Center Field Rankings

I present to you my 2017 fantasy baseball center field rankings.

The top 25 center fielders have been grouped into four tiers, with the top and bottom player of each tier profiled below.

Honorable Mentions: Jacoby Ellsbury (NYY), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Jason Heyward (CHC), Kevin Pillar (TOR), Kevin Kiermaier (TB), Leonys Martin (SEA), Travis Janikowski (SD), Mallex Smith (TB), and Eddie Rosario (MIN).

Exceptions include: Ian Desmond (COL), who is out six to eight weeks after undergoing hand surgery this spring training.  

 

Tier 1

2017 Fantasy Baseball Center Field Rankings

Mike Trout or Micky Mantle? (Courtesy of the Huffington Post)

 

  • Mike Trout LAA

 

By this point, everyone should recognize that Mike Trout stands alone as the top player in fantasy baseball.  The two-time MVP is a perennial threat to bat .300, score 100 runs, produce 100 RBIs, and steal 30 bases. In leagues that take OBP or OPS into consideration, Trout’s value is increased even more so, as he has a monster career OBP of .405 and OPS of .963. The 25-year-old will be the first player taken in all 2017 fantasy drafts.

 

 

Tier 2

2017 Fantasy Baseball Center Field Rankings

Will Charlie Blackmon finish the season as a Colorado Rocky? (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

 

  • Charlie Blackmon COL
  • Trea Turner WSN
  • A.J. Pollock ARI
  • Yoenis Cespedes NYM
  • Christian Yelich MIA
  • Andrew McCutchen PIT
  • Lorenzo Cain KC

 

Charlie Blackmon surpassed career highs in nearly every category last season, while only appearing in 143 games. Blackmon had 29 home runs, 111 runs scored, 82 runs driven in, and stole 17 bases, while batting an astounding .324. The 30-year-old will continue to bat atop an incredibly strong Colorado Rockies lineup that is guaranteed to produce in 2017.

There has been talk about the Rockies potentially moving Blackmon out of Coors field if they are struggling at the trade deadline, although Blackmon’s talent is sure to translate to another park, team, and position in the lineup. He is well worth a pick in the top 20 as he has 30/30 potential with a career batting average of .298.

Lorenzo Cain is being severally overlooked and undervalued in 2017. The Kansas City Royals’ three-hitter is batting .300 over his last three seasons, while averaging 30 steals per 162 games. Cain managed to hit 16 home runs in 140 games in 2015, which I believe show that he has the potential for a 20/30 season.

The 30-year-old’s major issue is staying on the field, as he is yet to surpass the 140-game mark, although if he can stay healthy, he is a sure-fire top 20 outfielder in 2017.

 

 

Tier 3

2017 Fantasy Baseball Center Field Rankings

Dexter Fowler is headed to the division rival. (Gene J. Puskar, AP Photo)

 

  • Dexter Fowler STL
  • Adam Jones BAL
  • Adam Eaton WSN
  • Odubel Herrera PHI
  • Carlos Gomez TEX
  • Byron Buxton MIN
  • Keon Broxton MIL

 

Dexter Fowler will move from Chicago to the division rival St. Louis Cardinals in 2017. Fowler will bat leadoff for the always productive Cardinals, who are looking to back bounce from missing the playoffs in 2016.

The 31-year-old has a career .270 average, and will be a threat to score 100 runs and steal 10 to 20 bases. Fowler is a safe a selection within the top 150 players, as he is a lock for above average production in three out of the five major categories, while also offering average production in home runs and RBIs. The only caveat with Fowler is his inability to stay on the field, as he has only reached the 150-game mark once in his nine-year career.

Keon Broxton has yet to play a full season at the major-league level, although 2017 will be his year to break out. As a career .255 hitter at the minor-league level, Broxton clearly has room to improve, although he is averaging 15 home runs and 31 steals per 162 games.

The 27-year-old will receive his first opportunity to play an everyday role, as he will be the starting center fielder and six-hitter for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Broxton’s ADP of 225, according to fantasypros.com, makes him well worth a late round selection if you miss on a more proven commodity.

 

 

Tier 4

2017 Fantasy Baseball Center Field Rankings

Brandon Phillips, Jose Peraza will finally have an open spot in the Cincinnati Reds lineup. (Courtesy of MLBdailydish.com)

 

  • Jose Peraza CIN
  • Billy Hamilton CIN
  • Joc Pederson LAD
  • Randal Grichuck STL
  • Rajai Davis OAK
  • Jarrod Dyson SEA
  • Ender Inciarte ATL
  • Denard Span SFG
  • Tyler Naquin CLE
  • Cameron Maybin LAA

 

Jose Peraza is a top 100 prospect according to MLB.com, Baseballprospectus.com, and Baseball America. He will primarily play second base, and will presumably start the season batting at the bottom of the order, but a promotion to the leadoff spot could occur if he continues to find success at the plate. He has a career batting average of .312 at all levels and has stolen 244 bases in 611 career games. The 22-year-old offers tremendous value through his speed, contact, and versatility in 2017.

Cameron Maybin will move out west to join the Los Angeles Angels in 2017. Maybin is a career .259 hitter, although he managed to bat .315 last season in 94 games for the Detroit Tigers. He is a threat to steal 20 or more bases as well as provide runs with a solid average.

If Maybin can remain healthy, career highs in RBI’s and home runs could be in order as well, as the 29-year-old will bat primarily sixth to start the season.

 

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National League Central

2017 National League Preview: National League Central

The National League Central is one of the most top-heavy divisions in the majors. With the World Series champion Chicago Cubs, perennial playoff contenders St. Louis Cardinals, and the ever competitive Pittsburgh Pirates, this division is one of the toughest in the National League. The top team in the National League Central is a no-brainer, but 2-5 are another story all together.

5th: Cincinnati Reds

Projected 2017 Record: 70-92

National League Central

Joey Votto headlines a rebuilding Cincinnati club . (Credit: Al Behrman/ AP Photo).

The Cincinnati Reds seem to be on the tail end of a long rebuild with three straight losing seasons. Reds stalwart Brandon Phillips was traded in the offseason. Accordingly, infielder Jose Peraza will be the Opening Day starter at second base. He will join Scott Schebler, Tucker Barnhart and Billy Hamilton to form a solid young core for the Reds.

Veterans Joey Votto and Adam Duvall will support the offense while the younger players come along. Those two won’t be enough to carry a weak offense and a developing pitching staff.

The Reds will use 2017 as a tryout year and will be putting out lineups that will not be competitive. They say it’s always darkest before the dawn, but the sun should come up soon in Cincinnati.

4th: Milwaukee Brewers

Projected 2017 Record: 75-87

Its been half a decade since the Brewers tasted postseason baseball. Three of the team’s top 12 players by WAR in 2016 are gone, and their roles will need to be filled. Gone are solid relievers Tyler Thornburg and Jeremy Jeffress, as well as catcher Jonathan Lucroy. The Brewers will rely on a mix of veterans and prospects to lead them.

Up the middle, shortstop Orlando Arcia will pair with second baseman Jonathan Villar to form a young infield tandem that should provide a spark at the top of the order. They will rely on Ryan Braun and former KBO star Eric Thames to drive them in.

Veterans Junior Guerra and Matt Garza bookend a young rotation. Zach Davies, Wily Peralta and Jimmy Nelson all need to improve. The offense should be around league average, but the pitching staff will need to make solid improvements to make 2017 anything more than a rebuilding year.

3rd: Pittsburgh Pirates

Projected 2017 Record: 84-78

National League Central

Andrew McCutchen should return to form in 2017 (Credit: Jim Mcisaac, Getty Images).

The Pirates are coming off a dramatic offseason in which they almost traded away their franchise player Andrew McCutchen. He will enter the 2017 season in a new frame of mind and at a new position. He will move from center to right field, accompanying a reshuffle of the outfield.

Even with a realignment in the outfield, it remains the team’s strength. McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco form a robust top of the lineup. Jung Ho Kang and Francisco Cervelli also add to Pittsburgh’s solid offense.

The rotation is filled with former top prospects. Ivan Nova is the only non-home grown starter. Gerrit Cole is the ace, and it remains to be seen if the rest of the rotation can turn its promise into prosperity.

With a solid club all around, the Pirates could finish anywhere in the top two of the National League Central.

2nd: St. Louis Cardinals

Projected 2017 Record: 87-75

After two World Series appearances in the previous five seasons, the Cardinals failed to qualify for the postseason in 2016. This year’s team is full of talent and NL All-Stars all over the diamond.

On the mound, 25-year-old Carlos Martinez will lead the rotation. He will be backed by Mike Leake, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha and veteran Adam Wainwright. All five have at least one NL-All Star appearance.

Nevertheless, the talent isn’t limited to just the mound. Matt Carpenter headlines the lineup. The addition of Dexter Fowler provides speed St. Louis has been lacking. He will be joined by outfielders Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty to give the Cardinals an excellent outfield trio. Stalwart catcher Yadier Molina will be behind the plate for his 14th season in St. Louis.

A deep pitching staff is the strength of the Cardinals, but their offense is not far behind. They will compete for one of the two National League Wild Cards in 2017.

1st: Chicago Cubs

Projected 2017 Record: 105-57

National League Central

Kris Bryant and the Cubs should easily win the National League Central (Credit: Michael Zagaris/Getty Images).

Coming off a dramatic World Series victory, the Cubs are the de facto favorite in the National League Central, if not a favorite to repeat as World Series Champions. It’s easy to see why.

Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester sit atop of a solid rotation. Young starters Kyle Hendricks and Mike Montgomery will be joined by grizzled veteran John Lackey to round it out. The talent on the mound is good, but it’s what’s off the mound that has Cubs fans drooling.

Former top prospects Addison Russell and Javier Baez form one of the elite shortstop-second base tandems in the National League. In the corners of the infield, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and third baseman Kris Bryant are some of the top producers at their respective positions.

Supported by super utility man Ben Zobrist and right fielder Jason Heyward, the Cubs are stacked in the field. That doesn’t even include uber-prospect catcher Willson Contreras, who will play his first full season in the majors in 2017.

Chicago Cubs fans have plenty to be excited about in 2017, as a repeat title is well within reach.

 

 

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Why Dee Gordon is So Much Better Than Billy Hamilton

Photo courtesy of cincinnati.com

Photo courtesy of cincinnati.com

In 2015 only two players in all of baseball stole 50 bases. Dee Gordon swiped 58 for the Miami Marlins while leading the National League with a .333 batting average. Billy Hamilton managed to finish only one behind Gordon with 57 steals despite only hitting .226 and only playing in 114 games.

Both players’ top tool is without a doubt speed. Gordon and Hamilton are both former shortstops who moved from the position because of defensive concerns. Both players struggled to hit big league pitching early in their careers. Both players have virtually no power.

The difference between Gordon and Hamilton to this point is that Gordon has accepted his limited ability elsewhere and has decided to take advantage of his elite tool of speed.

Despite being a better base stealer and having more speed, Billy Hamilton has either failed to adapt or simply refuses to do so.

Hamilton actually walked in 6.2% of his plate appearances, while Gordon only walked 3.8% of the time. Neither of these numbers are particularly impressive, but, it does serve as an indicator that Gordon puts more of an emphasis on putting the ball in play.

Putting the ball in play is an obvious plus in any plate appearance for Gordon, who had a .383 BABIP in 2015. Gordon also struck out in only 13.9% of his PA’s while Hamilton struck out in 16.5% of his.

Perhaps most surprising was Hamilton’s BABIP of .264, a number that is alarmingly low considering his elite speed.

The biggest difference in the speedsters’ games is their propensity of hitting fly balls. In 2015 Hamilton posted a 37.8 fly ball percentage compared to Gordon’s 18.7%.

Having a tendency of hitting this many fly balls is a chief indicator in their differences in BABIP.  Gordon’s line drive percentage of 21.5 wasn’t much higher than Hamilton’s 19.6% so it would appear that Hamilton has the ability to do what Gordon did in 2015.

So the solution for Hamilton seems simple, put the ball in play on the ground. His speed will allow him to leg out more hits and his fly balls are not turning into extra base production anyway, as shown by his .289 slugging percentage last year.

If Hamilton could hit .275 his stolen base totals would be astronomical. In the minors in 2012 Hamilton stole 155 bases in a season in which he combined to hit over .300 across two levels. And last year he averaged a stolen base every other game despite only hitting .226.

If he changes his approach Hamilton could become a productive leadoff hitter and maybe even challenge Ricky Henderson’s single- season stolen base record of 130.

Instead, as things currently stand, he’s a number 9 hitter in a National League lineup who needs to prove he can hit above .230 or he might even lose his starting job.

If he does lose his starting gig though, look at the bright side, he would make one heck of a pinch runner.

NL Central Recap Week 2

rockies-cubs-baseball (1)

Photo Courtesy of  NY Daily News

Two weeks into the season, the NL Central is shaping up about how was expected, with the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, and Pittsburgh Pirates occupying the top three spots of the division, in that order.

In fact, outside of the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers being flip flopped at the bottom, my preseason prediction is looking pretty on point so far. Standings two weeks into the season almost always hold up in a six month marathon, so, may as well chalk my predictions up as golden now.

All jokes aside, let’s take a brief look into how each team performed in the young seasons second week:

Chicago Cubs: 9-3, 1st place in the NL Central (4-2 last week)

The Cubs swept their first home series of the year against their division foe Reds before losing 2 of 3 to the Colorado Rockies over the weekend.

Overall it was a good week for arguably the most impressive team in baseball to date. Kris Bryant hit his first 2 HR’s of his 2016 sophomore campaign, the club got Javier Baez back from injury, and Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester combined for 3 quality starts (albeit only with 1 win).

Intriguing stat line of the week: Lester combined to go 1-2 at the plate with a double, he even drew a walk. The impressive week at the plate brings his career batting average to an above replacement level .050. The double was Lester’s first career, regular season, extra base hit.  

Player to Watch: With Kyle Schwarber now out for the season Jorge Soler logged starts in 5 of the Cubbies 6 games this week. He hit 2 HR’s and was even batted cleanup on Saturday against the Rockies.

St. Louis Cardinals: 7-5, 2nd place in the NL Central (4-2 last week)

After a rough start to the season that saw them get swept in their opening series against the Pirates, the Redbirds did what the top 3 teams in this division will do perceivably all season, beat up on the Brewers and the Reds.

The Cardinals managed to get 2 series wins against their divisional counterparts en route to finding their way back to familiar territory above the .500 mark.

Intriguing stat line of the week: Jaime Garcia logged a complete game, one-hit shutout against the Brewers on Thursday while racking up 13 K’s. The oft-injured Garcia is off to a great start to the season and could play huge if he manages to stay healthy.

Player to watch: With Jhonny Peralta currently on the shelf, Aledmys Diaz is making the most of his opportunities at SS. The 25 year old could be your classic Cardinal standout, with the chance to come seemingly out of nowhere and become a productive regular.

Pittsburgh Pirates: 7-6 3rd place in the NL Central (3-4 last week)

The Pirates had a rough go of it in a home and home series against the Detroit Tigers, winning the 1st of 4 only to lose the last three. Then the trend continued, as the superior teams in the division once again prevailed with the Pirates taking 2 of 3 from the Brewers over the weekend.

3-4 is not exactly a week that will stand out to you at the end of the season, but, treading water in stretches is important in the long baseball season. Even without a winning record it should be viewed as a solid week for the Bucs.

Intriguing stat line of the week: Josh Harrison swiped 3 bags this week without being caught. Last year Harrison only stole 10 bags, while being thrown out 8 times.  

Player to Watch: Hailed as Ray Searage’s next prodigy, Juan Nicasio struggled in his 2-start week, giving up 7 earned runs in 10 innings. The most alarming number for Nicasio was the 7 walks he issued, a problem he has battled his entire career.

Cincinnati Reds: 6-6, 4th place in the NL Central, (1-5 last week)

Coming off a promising 5-1 start to the season, the Reds mirrored that performance this week going 1-5 and falling back to .500 at 6-6. The Reds got swept by the Cubs before dropping 2 of 3 to the Cardinals.

With some veterans scattered across their lineup, if the Reds want to have some shot at contending in 2016 they are going to have to put up more of a fight against the Cubs and Cards.

Intriguing stat line of the week: Billy Hamilton hitting a HR against Jon Lester and the Cubs. This is part of the problem with Hamilton, he puts the ball in the air far too often when that isn’t the strength of his game. Hamilton’s disappointing start (.185 BA with only 1 SB) will keep him at the bottom of the Reds lineup and may even eventually cost him his starting job.

Player to watch: Devin Mesoraco was missing in action for almost all of 2015 and again missed time last week with a lower body injury. Despite it being his right leg keeping him out of action it is a situation worth monitoring as Mesoraco is struggling at the plate after returning from left hip surgery last season.

Milwaukee Brewers: 5-7, 5th place in the NL Central (2-4 last week)

Much like the Reds, the Brewers ran into trouble with the top 3 teams in the division, dropping 2 of 3 to both the Cardinals and the Pirates.

The Brewers have the look of a rebuilding team, and although anything can happen in baseball, the Brewers need to put up more of a fight in their inter-division games to have a shot.

Intriguing stat line of the week: Ryan Braun and his monstrous performance on Friday against the Pirates. The former NL MVP went 3-5 with 2 HR’s and 4 RBI’s

Player to Watch: Domingo Santana continue to hit atop the Brew Crew’s lineup and is proving serviceable so far with a .261/.370/.413 slash line. Perhaps most impressively he has drawn 8 walks through 12 games. The youngster acquired from the Astros last July flashed big power in the Major last year and could play huge for the Brewers in 2016.