Spring training is coming to an end, and Opening Day is right around the corner. Cincinnati may be covered in snow now, but come March 29, weather is going to be back near the 60s.
Teams will start to make all sorts of moves to trim down the roster come Opening Day. The Reds are no different, but will have some hard decisions to make over the weekend as some lineup spots are still undecided.
Before we get to that though, let’s begin with some good news.
Eugenio Suarez is a Rich Man
Eugenio “Guy Fieri” Suarez started off the weekend by signing a new contract with the Reds. Suarez and the Reds agreed to a seven-year, $66 million contract with a team option for $15 million in 2025.
The Reds front office has had a mixed bag of results with their long-term contracts lately. The Reds hit on the Joey Votto deal and the early returns for the Tucker Barnhart extension look promising so far.
Reds fans will be the first to point out the money wasted on the Homer Bailey and Devin Mesoraco deals recently. Unfortunately, injuries derailed both of them, which nobody could have expected at the time of the extensions.
The good news is, Suarez’s peripherals point to success for many years to come. In the two and a half years with the Reds, he has increased his walk rate from 4.3 percent in 2015 to 13.3 percent in 2017. Suarez has a league average BABIP that shows his batting average of .260 is definitely sustainable. Combine the decent average with power to hit at least 20 home runs and Gold Glove defense, and that is a bonafide ball player. Now Reds fandom just has to start making sacrifices to the baseball gods to keep Suarez healthy.
Nick Senzel was demoted to minor league camp on Monday, March 19. Senzel is expected to start the season at Triple-A to begin the season, playing second base for the Louisville Bats. Senzel ended spring training with a .286 batting average with reps at third base and shortstop.
The Reds will keep Senzel down in Triple-A through most of April for service time reasons. This will give the Reds another year of control over Senzel before he becomes a free agent (2024 if held down). The Reds could keep Senzel down until mid-June to avoid paying a fourth year of arbitration, otherwise known as the Super Two deadline. This would save the Reds a decent chunk of money, as arbitration salaries tend to be a lot higher than non-arbitration salaries.
Senzel played both second base and third base in his collegiate career at Tennessee. The Suarez deal all but confirms that Senzel will be spending his Reds career somewhere in the middle of the infield. It will be up to either Jose Peraza or Scooter Gennett to prove that Senzel should take the other’s position this summer.
Spring Training Position Battle Predictions
Most of the positions were accounted for already heading into spring training. Bench spots, back of rotation and a couple reliever openings were the most notable battles this spring.
Utility infielder has been a notable war, pitting the likes of Brandon Dixon and Alex Blandino against each other. Dixon may have had the most impressive spring for a hitter not named Scott Schebler. Dixon amassed four home runs, 10 RBIs and a .342 batting average in 38 at-bats. Blandino has the first-round pedigree, but underwhelmed until his breakout 2017 season, splitting time between Double and Triple-A. Blandino is hitting .364 this spring in 33 at-bats, though with a lot less power.
The rotation battle has definitely been an intriguing one this spring. Anthony DeSclafani’s injury has opened up two spots at the backend for the Reds prospects to battle for. Amir Garrett has done everything possible to earn a spot, amassing 15 strikeouts in 13 innings accompanied with a 1.38 ERA and a 0.69 WHIP. Garrett struggled for most of 2017, but blamed it on a nagging hip injury that has been dealt with in the offseason. Sal Romano has been the best of the rest, with 15 strikeouts in 12 innings, but with a 3.00 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. Not bad at all, but is mired in the shadow of Garrett’s spring greatness.
Finally, the Reds have two unguaranteed spots in the bullpen still undecided. Journeyman Kevin Quackenbush seems to be a lock as he has yet to give up an earned run in eight innings. Prospects Jimmy Herget, Zack Weiss and Tanner Rainey have been very effective, but are likely going to start in Triple-A. The last spot is truly anybody’s guess, as nobody else has set themselves apart in the race.
Now for some quick hits to wrap up the article.
- Reds general manager Dick Williams did a reddit AMA (ask me anything) Monday evening. Most the questions were Reds related, but we also found out he is Team Skyline.
- Doug Gray, redsminorleagues.com writer, clipped together a video of super prospect Hunter Greene’s latest start. Greene made an intrasquad start on the minor league fields, throwing 29 pitches in two innings of work.
- Jim Day has made Reds fandom’s dream a reality. Gym Day with Jim Day is happening, with the inaugural episode with Joey Votto airing on Opening Day.
In case you missed last week’s article, the spring training week 3 notes can be found here. Fellow Game Haus writer, Jeremy Bhandari, wrote up a season preview for the Reds. All I will say is Jeremy has the Reds finishing better than last season.
In six days, the Reds will have filled out their first lineup card and handed it to the umpire. Even the most pessimistic of Reds fans still get excited for Opening Day. First pitch is at 4:10 p.m. eastern time against Max Scherzer and the Washington Nationals.
Featured image from MLB.com
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