Matt Harvey Traded to the Cincinnati Reds for Devin Mesoraco

After being designated for assignment on Saturday, Matt Harvey will be moving from the Big Apple to the Queen City.

The deal will be Devin Mesoraco and cash going to the Mets for Matt Harvey.

Both players have had injury plagued careers. Also they both received major contracts after a great season. Weirdly enough their careers are very similar in most respects and both teams needed upgrades at these positions.

Mesoraco had a 2014 season where he was an All-Star, batting .273 with 25 homeruns and 80 rbi. The Reds assumed they had their catcher of the future and gave him a major contract. Sadly hip and shoulder injuries derailed his career as he hasn’t played in more than 60 games in a season. He is signed through this season and making a little over $13 million. One can assume he will take over the starting catching duties for the Mets.

As for Harvey he had Tommy-John surgery after an All-Star year in 2013 and came back and had an even better 2015 but then needed shoulder surgery in 2016 and has never really been the same since. Like Mesoraco the Mets assumed that Harvey would be a perennial All-Star and even possibly their ace for a long time to come. He is also signed through 2018 for about $5.6 million.

Unlike Mesoraco, Harvey has had his off the field issues. He became a superstar in one of the biggest cities in the world. The pressure of being famous may have gotten to Harvey as there were issues with partying and other distractions. This culminated with different arguments about his role, his managers, and his team. With the move to Cincinnati one can assume the pressure to perform and constantly be in the spotlight will be alleviated.

This trade could work out very well for all involved. The Reds have struggled developing their young pitchers and if they can get Matt Harvey to even be half of what he was then they will be happy. New York as stated before was looking for catching help and if Mesoraco can stay healthy then he could be a very valuable asset as he joins former teammates Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce.

Mesoraco will join the Mets tonight and the Harvey will join the Reds when they travel to Los Angeles.

MLB april review

MLB monthly review: April

As the first month of baseball reaches its final act, we have seen fireworks, frustrations and everything in between. For some teams, the momentum created in April becomes a foundation for 2018. For others, the first few weeks have taught valuable lessons and revealed areas of improvements. But for the remaining few franchises, it has been a month they would like to forget.

Each franchise has its own situations to deal with. Whether it is rebuilding the club or fighting to remain at the top, the league has seen a multitude of scenarios unfold and their impacts on the diamond. However, those struggling the hardest cannot give up the fight now, despite how stuck in the mud they are.

Let’s take a look at some of the good, the bad and the not there yet of the MLB.

April Review: American League

The good

The Boston Red Sox have the best record in baseball as of right now. It seems that manager, Alex Cora, has led the squad for years, when in reality this is his first year as skipper. Boston stands among the best in the league in hitting, pitching and fielding.

Over in the AL West, the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Angels are neck-and-neck for the top. Houston stands superior at the mound, but LA is not too far behind in the batter’s box.

April Review

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Brandon Workman (Photo by Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

The bad

It is safe to say that the Kansas City Royals have seen better days. Falling far behind in the AL Central, the Royals have a lot of work to do to get back to their 2015 days, especially in their pitching. KC holds a 5.23 ERA as a unit, which ranks 27th in the league.

The Chicago White Sox are not fairing much better. The team has the honor of the highest ERA in baseball. Like the Royals, their batting prowess is not too bad, but both teams will have to turn things around quickly to keep up with the rest of the division.

The not there yet

The Toronto Blue Jays are off to a solid start that not everyone saw coming. Despite a 14-9 start and solid batting, Toronto still needs to improve its pitching department. The numbers are not too bad, but adjustments will need to made to keep up with the surging Red Sox.

Similarly, the Seattle Mariners of the AL West have pitching issues to deal with. As a unit, Seattle has recorded a 4.95 ERA. The Mariners can not solely rely on their offense to keep them in the race, especially with the competition in their division.

April Review: National League

The good

The Arizona Diamondbacks remain on top of the National League. The Diamondbacks boast the stingiest pitching staff and the second-most efficient fielding in the NL. If Arizona can clean up its batting chops, wins should remain plentiful this season.

Trailing behind them is the New York Mets. New York is solid in numerous departments and lead the NL East. But Mickey Callaway and company must make adjustments moving forward if they wish to remain at the top and play in October.

MLB april review

(Photo from wikipedia.org)

The bad

The Miami Marlins are receiving stormy weather this season, and a lot of it. Miami has the second-highest ERA in the NL, along with the second-lowest batting average. To be fair, the Marlins are in an astronomical rebuilding process. But already, morale is as scarce as victory for the fish.

Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Reds have the worst record in the MLB. That is mostly due to the fact the Reds have the highest ERA in the NL. The fact that Cincinnati is the only squad in its division with a losing record only makes the pain worse.

The not there yet

The Milwaukee Brewers have won their last eight games and find themselves on top of the NL Central. However, their fielding remains shaky as they hold the second-lowest fielding percentage in the NL, in addition to the most errors recorded. Their pitching staff will need the seven players behind them to execute to allow as few people on base as possible.

As the season continues…

With April winding down, many baseball fans are eager to see how their teams adjust for the weeks to come. Some hope their teams stay hot throughout the season, while others wish for a change in fortune. With five months of regular season baseball left to be played, there is still time. But teams will need to make adjustments as soon as possible to find success in future games.

 

Featured image from MLB.com

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Candidates to be the next Reds’ manager

Bryan Price was fired as manager of the Cincinnati Reds, after a 3-15 start to the season. Jim Riggleman was appointed the interim manager and a search for a permanent replacement for Price will be conducted later in the season. That leaves the question: Who will be in contention for the job?

Jim Riggleman

Candidates to be the Reds' new manager

Jim Riggleman (Photo by nydailynews.com)

Riggleman has been with the Reds’ organization since 2012 and has served a number of roles for the club. He has been a manager in the minor leagues and a third base/bench coach in the major leagues. He has been given the chance to manage the Reds for the rest of this season and if he impresses, could be awarded the job on a permanent basis.

As a manager in the big leagues, Riggleman has posted a record of 662-824. He has only had a .500 record in three different seasons and two of those were only partial seasons.

Getting the job will be a longshot for Riggleman, but he does have the first crack at it. The Reds aren’t expecting to win much of anything this season, but if he can show that the team can grow and improve under his leadership, he will be considered for the job.

Barry Larkin

The 1995 National League MVP has been a rumored candidate for manager of the Reds for years now. Larkin was born and raised in Cincinnati and played his entire career for the Reds. He was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2012 for his illustrious career.

Larkin’s only managerial experience was with Brazil in the World Baseball Classic. Although they qualified for the event, they did not win a game once the event started. Since 2015 he has been with the Reds as a coach in different capacities and has been credited with helping the development of Zack Cozart.

He has been a candidate for the manager position in past years for the Detroit Tigers and the Tampa Bay Rays. Since his retirement as a player, he has also been involved in the Nationals’ front office and a media member for ESPN.

This would be the time for the Reds to take a shot on a new manager, as the expectations aren’t high and Larkin would help nostalgic fans a reason to go to Great American Ballpark.

John Farrell

Farrell was fired as manager of the Red Sox two days after losing the ALDS in 2017. He posted a 586-548 over his seven seasons as a manager with the Blue Jays and Red Sox. He won the World Series with Boston in 2013.

He was hired as a scout for the Reds in March of this season. He doesn’t have a lot of ties to the Reds’ organization before being hired, but his son Luke did pitch in nine games for Cincinnati last season.

There is a large contingent of Boston fans who would not recommend Farrell as a manager, but for possible candidates, he does work for the organization currently, has above a .500 record and a World Series title, which is more than a lot of other candidates can say.

Joe Girardi

Candidates to be the Reds' new manager

Joe Girardi (Photo by sportingnews.com)

The Yankees decided not to offer Girardi a new contract after they made it to the ALCS last season, as they wanted a different type of manager. Girardi has a career record of 988-794 in his 11 seasons as a manager. His greatest accomplishment is winning the World Series with the club in 2009. He also managed the Florida Marlins for a season in 2006 before joining the Bronx Bombers in 2008.

Girardi had the task of managing a high-payroll, big market team and did have to go through a lot of different things. He had a player suspended for steroids(Alex Rodriguez), a Yankee legend’s (Jeter) play decline then retire, a lot of overpaid players and overbearing owners.

He is the most experienced manager that is also near the top of the Reds’ wish list and will be one of the first people called when the search starts.

Other notable contenders

Billy Hatcher- Hatcher has been with Reds for a long time as a coach but hasn’t ever seriously been considered for the manager position. He likely won’t get the job this time either but should get a look due to his tenure with the Reds.

Matt Williams- He is currently the third base coach of the Oakland Athletics, but has managerial experience with the Nationals. In his two seasons in Washington, he had a record of 179-145 and one postseason appearance.

Fredi Gonzalez- Gonzalez has managed both the Braves and Marlins but is currently the third base coach for Miami. He has a career record of 710-692.

Brad Ausmus- The Tigers decided not to extend Brad Ausmus for 2018 and he is now a special assistant for the Los Angeles Angels. In his four seasons with the Tigers, he was 314-332 with one postseason appearance.

Jim Tracy- Tracy is a scout for the Pirates, but is a former manager, who won the manager of the year award in 2009. He was born in Hamilton, Ohio and has a career record of 856-880, but hasn’t managed since 2012. He is not favored to get the job but has the local ties, which make him a candidate.

 

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Reds fire Bryan Price

The Cincinnati Reds have fired Bryan Price after a 3-15 start to the season. Reds’ pitching coach, Mack Jenkins, has also been let go in the organization’s sweeping changes Thursday morning.

Jim Riggleman will take over as interim manager for the time being, but a search for a new permanent manager will be happening at a later time that has not been announced by the club. He has been the Red’s bench coach this season. Riggleman has posted a 662-824 record over his 12 seasons as a manager of the Padres, Cubs, Mariners and Nationals.

Louisville Bats’ manager Pat Kelly has been promoted from the AAA level to bench coach to fill Riggleman’s place. Pensacola pitching coach Danny Darwin will move up from AA pitching coach, all the way to the Reds.

Price took over at the start of the 2014 season after the Reds decided they no longer wanted Dusty Baker in the dugout. In his four-plus seasons as manager, Price posted an overall record of 279-378.

After the 2014 season, Cincinnati went into rebuild mode and it looked like they were willing to stick with Price through the rebuild. The start to this season was not going well for the Reds and after 18 games, they decided a move was needed.

 

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Cincinnati Reds: Minor leaguers to watch

The Reds Opening Day has come and gone, but there is still another on the horizon. Minor League games officially begin today, April 5th. Going to minor league games gives Reds fans a chance to see some of the Reds best players before they actually play in the majors. Joey Votto, Homer Bailey, and Tucker Barnhart are just a few of the names to start in Dayton and work their way up to the Reds. The Reds minor leaguers this season are some of the best in baseball, as their farm is considered Top 10 in the MLB.

This article will give Reds fans a couple names of players to watch on each team. Some of the names will be more heralded than others. Each player outlined has a future shot to make the Reds, whether as a career starter or just as a role player. So without further ado, let’s begin with the Dayton Dragons.

 

Dayton Dragons

 

Reds minor leaguers

Packy Naughton pitched very well in rookie ball for Billings. Can he carry that momentum into his first full season in Dayton? Photo courtesy of Stephen Smith of Four Seam Images

The Dragons were the first team from the Reds organization to release their roster for the 2018 season. Early analysis is that the team is stacked with hitting talent up the middle and throughout the outfield. Recent drafts have had the Reds prioritize hit tool in their hitters, choosing contact over high upside power. This is not more prevalent than in the hitters that fill out the Dragons roster.

Jeter Downs (MI), Stuart Fairchild (OF), and Miles Gordon (OF) are some of the more heralded hitters to keep your eyes on through Dayton’s 2018. Jose Israel Garcia (MI), on the other hand, is more of an unknown quantity. Scouting reports vary on Garcia’s hit tool, ranging from above average to slightly below average. Gap power is prevalent now, which can turn into home run power as he matures (20 years old). What scouts can agree on, is the above average arm and speed that is prevalent. The Cuban infielder has the potential to be a 5 tool shortstop. He also could flame out without a major league start. Winning these kinds of lottery tickets pushes a team from wild card battlers to World Series champions.

The pitching staff has its share of unheralded studs, along with the most hyped prospect in the system, Hunter Greene. Every MLB fan has heard of Hunter Greene, so the focus here will be on Packy Naughton (LHP). A 9th round pick in 2017, the numbers do not impress from the Virginia Tech days. The numbers that do impress were the stints from his Cape Cod League days. Seven starts in 2016 led to a 1.67 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and a K/9 just a tick south of nine. Packy possesses three off-speed pitches to go with his fastball (curve, slider, and changeup) and increased command of them all as he got to Billings last summer. He may not move as fast through the system as some college pitchers, but he has back half of the rotation upside at least if the command sticks around.

 

Daytona Tortugas

 

Reds minor leaguer

Trammell certainly has a bright future in the Reds organization. It will be up to him to prove it is warranted. Photo courtesy of Sam Greene of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Daytona is home to the Reds High-A team, the Tortugas. The roster assembled has many awesome hitters and top prospects including Taylor Trammell, Tyler Stephenson (assuming healthy) and Dilson Herrera. The pitching staff will be headlined by Texan fireballer Tony Santillan and is filled out with less heralded but productive pitchers.

Two unheralded pitchers to check for in the box scores are Jesse Adams (LHP) and Scott Moss (LHP). Adams was an elite reliever for the Dragons last year, racking up 83 K’s in 70 IP’s. Ohio born, Adams kept a WHIP below one, a tool that could see him fit into a major league bullpen if the command keeps up each level in a couple years.

Moss did not put up a lot of stats in college due to being injured his first two years. The Dragons used him as a starter last season and all he did was strikeout 156 batters in 135 innings. Moss led the Reds system in wins (13) and was sixth in ERA (3.45). The Reds are taking it slow with Moss, despite him being 23 years old already because of the injuries. If Moss builds on his successful 2017, then there will be a rotation spot in the future for him.

The hitter to keep your eye on in Daytona is Taylor Trammell (OF). A two-sport athlete in high school, Trammell started slowly in Dayton but as the season wore on he put on a hitting clinic. Trammell finished the season with a .281/.368/.450 slash line, 13 home runs, and 41 SBs. If Trammell carries that momentum forward this season, he has the potential to be a 20 home run 30 stolen base threat from centerfield. Fantasy baseball players salivate over Trammell’s tantalizing upside and Reds fans should be no different. Already sitting in top 100 prospect lists, Trammell is the heir apparent to centerfield in the not too distant future.

 

Pensacola Blue Wahoos

 

Reds minor leaguer

Shed Long has already hit his way onto one all star team. Will he be able to replicate that success in 2018? Photo courtesy of Mike Janes of the AP

Double-A is often where prospects prove if they truly have the skills to make the MLB. College players tend to face their first true competition, as the major baseball conferences compare to playing in High-A. High schoolers who are prominent in the system tend to make Double-A around their age 22 season. This year is no different as the Reds have a fair number of players looking to take the next step and prove they have what it takes to not be written off.

The pitcher Reds fandom should keep their eye on is Vladimir Gutierrez (RHP). Another Cuban prospect, Gutierrez spent his first year in the system pitching at Daytona. Vladimir’s time may be described as inconsistent from start to start. The pitch mix consists of an above average fastball and curveball, with an average changeup to complement those two pitches. Gutierrez conjured up an 8.2 K/9 last year, with his fastball peaking at 98 mph.

Gutierrez was shut down in August last season as fatigue led to an innings limit. The Reds will give him every opportunity to become a starter with a devastating fastball. The more likely outcome, however, would be the chance to be the Reds’ second Cuban missile as a high upside closer.

Shed Long (2B) is a name Reds fans may start getting really excited about in the short term. A catcher turned second baseman, Long raked in Dayton in 2016 before moving up to Pensacola by the end of the 2017 season. Looking at his batting average for Pensacola last season, one would assume that Long struggled mightily in his first go around. In reality, Long increased his walk rate to an insane 11.9% and decreased his strikeout rate to below 20%. The argument can be made that Long was more unlucky than anything, as his BABIP was almost 100 points lower than it had been in both Dayton and Daytona.

Shed Long can be a cornerstone 2B, who regularly puts up 2017 Scooter Gennett numbers and ten steals to boot. The downside is he may be a surplus prospect depending on where Nick Senzel ends up in the Reds infield. Shed Long will be a major league regular, it is just a matter of whether it is on the Reds, or on another team via trade.

If you would like to know more about Shed Long, C. Trent Rosencrans wrote a nice long piece detailing Shed’s childhood and minor league career to date.

 

Louisville Bats

 

Reds minor leaguer

Jimmy Herget has already pitched for Team USA in the Futures Game. The only uniform left to don is a Reds one. Photo courtesy of Rob Carr of Getty Images North America

The Reds Triple-A team is loaded up with role players and Nick Senzel. Most of the players on the team do not expect to make major contributions to the Reds roster in the foreseeable future. The best pitchers on the squad are three relievers and Robert Stephenson. The rest of the rotation is just there as depth in the event of injury a la 2017. The same thing could be said for the hitters not named Senzel.

There are still players to highlight on this team though, starting with Brandon Dixon (INF). Dixon arrived and was put in Pensacola after the 3-team trade that sent Todd Frazier to the Dodgers. Very unheralded and unknown, Dixon was considered a throw in to accompany Jose Peraza and Scott Schebler. Ever since the trade, all Dixon has done is hit.

Between 2016 and 2017, Dixon has averaged 16 HR’s, 16.5 SB’s, and a .262 AVG. Dixon will strike out, there is no doubting that, as his K% has been above 25% both seasons. The man can slot into left field, third base, first base, and second base with relative ease. Reds fans will be ecstatic to have Dixon be a utility defender and the first bat off the bench in the near future.

Pitching-wise, the Bats rotation leaves much to be desired. Instead, this article will focus on Jimmy Herget (RHP), who has quietly become the Reds best relief pitcher prospect. Herget’s pro comparison is Steve Cishek and that is pretty apt. Herget has a funky sidearm delivery, with an arm slot that Herget changes ever so slightly each pitch. Herget will also incorporate different shimmies and hold his leg longer to try and throw off a hitter’s timing. The fastball-slider combo delivered a 13.35 K/9 in Double-A for Herget before dropping down to 7.79 K/9 in Triple A.

Herget will need a little more seasoning as the Bats closer. Keep an eye on his K/9 at the beginning of 2018, because if he gets that back to elite levels, then he will have hitters scared. The ceiling is high for him, as he could be groomed into a future Reds setup man. Reds fans got a taste of Herget during spring training, where he showed he could hold his own. It is only a matter of time before Herget makes his major league debut in the Reds bullpen this season.

 

Sam Auricchio Twitter: @SamAuricchio

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Reds spring training

Reds spring training notes: Week 4

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.

Reds spring training

Can Eugenio Suarez keep the positive progession going now that he doesn’t have to worry about getting paid? (Photo by Rob Tringali, Getty Images)

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.

Senzel Demotion

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.

Reds spring training

Has Brandon Dixon done enough to warrant a bench spot on the major league roster? (Photo by Sam Greene, Cincinnati Enquirer)

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.

Extra Innings

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.

 

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2018 MLB preview: Cincinnati Reds

2017: 68-94

Last Postseason Appearance: 2013

Last World Series Title: 1990

2017 Recap

For the third-straight season, the Cincinnati Reds won less than 70 games, and finished dead-last in the NL Central. August was the only month in which the Reds had a winning record. They finished below .500 at home, and a dreadful 29-52 on the road.

Much like the last few seasons, the Reds struggled on the mound. They finished 28th in total bases allowed, 29th in ERA and walks, and dead-last in home runs allowed. Although he threw just 76 innings, Raisel Iglesias had the best WAR among all Cincinnati pitchers.

Joey Votto is an absolute stud (SI.com)

While the offense as a whole wasn’t great, it would have been good enough to get by, had Cincinnati obtained any sort of pitching. Among the 15 NL teams, the Reds ranked second in steals, sixth in home runs, and seventh in batting average, OBP, and SLG.

The big reason Cincinnati’s offense was able to stay afloat was Joey Votto. Votto, the NL MVP runner-up, finished first in OBP, walks, and times on base. He also ranked fourth in OPS, fifth in WAR, sixth in batting average, and 10th in runs scored. The King of getting on-base, Votto has now led the league in OBP in six of the last eight seasons. In 2017, he joined Gary Sheffield (1996), and Jason Giambi (2000), as the only players in the last 30 years to have a season with at least 160 hits, 35 home runs, 130 walks, .450 OBP, and 165 OPS+.

In his seventh season with the Reds, Zack Cozart made his first All-Star team. The shortstop had a career year, slashing .297/.385/.548 with 24 home runs and 240 total bases in just 122 games. Eugenio Suarez continues to improve as a big-leaguer, as the 26-year old hit 26 home runs and increased his walk rate to 13.3 percent, which is his career-high at any professional level.

2018: Around the Diamond

With Zack Cozart now a member of the Los Angeles Angels, Jose Peraza, who appeared in 143 games for the Reds in 2017, will start at shortstop. Peraza looked great in 2016, hitting .324 with 21 steals, but regressed a tad over a larger sample size in 2017. He is very fast, but lacks offensive skills.

Peraza began 2017 as the starting second basemen, but was eventually benched for Scooter Gennett. This was a good move by the Reds, as Gennett finished the season slashing .295/.342/.531 with 22 doubles and 27 home runs, including a four-home-run game in June. With Suarez and Votto manning the corner-infield positions, Gennett and Peraza up the middle, and Tucker Barnhart, who won a Gold Glove and finished second in defensive WAR, behind the plate, the Reds should get decent production out of their infield.

Adam Duvall has hit 64 home runs over the last two seasons. (Sporting News)

Left to right, Cincinnati has Adam Duvall, Billy Hamilton, and Scott Schebler. Duvall has a lot of pop, as he hit 33 home runs in 2016, and 31 more in 2017. He doesn’t hit for a great average, and does not walk much, but he will continue to hit the long ball and drive in runs for the Reds.

Hamilton, who, last season, finished second in the MLB in steals and triples, is essentially a lock to steal at least 50 bases. That’s awesome, but as a career .248 hitter, Hamilton needs to improve his approach to add more value. When he was up 1-0 in the count, Hamilton hit just .238. His teammate Joey Votto, in the same situation, hit .347.

In his first full-season as a major leaguer, Schebler hit 23 doubles and 30 home runs. However, the 27-year-old hit just .233. The Reds fourth outfielder, Jesse Winker, a first-round pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, is having a fantastic spring. The most likely candidate to start at DH when they visit AL teams, Winker is hitting .400 with five doubles and nine RBIs in 15 spring games.

On the Bump

After missing all of last season with elbow issues, Anthony DeSclafani is back on the injury report with an oblique problem. He may miss the start of the season, which means this Reds staff, at least on paper, looks like an absolute mess.

The one bright spot is Luis Castillo. The 25-year-old righty from the Dominican Republic started 15 games last season, and posted a 3.12 ERA with 98 strikeouts in just 89.1 innings. Before being called up, Castillo had a 2.58 ERA over 80.1 innings of work in AA. He has thrived at every level, and could become the Reds ace of the future.

Joining these men in the rotation will be Homer Bailey, and lefty Brandon Finnegan, who missed a good chunk of last season with shoulder injuries. This Spring, Finnegan was forced to leave a game after feeling tightness in his forearm, which is never a good sign. The last spot in this pitiful rotation will most likely belong to Sal Romano, Robert Stephenson, or Tyler Mahle. Romano posted a 3.17 ERA over his last eight starts in 2017.

To bolster up the bullpen, Cincinnati brought in Jared Hughes and David Hernandez. These two, along with Michael Lorenzen, and Wandy Peralta, should all play key roles in making sure Iglesias has a chance to earn some saves. Iglesias struck out 92 batters in just 76 innings in 2017. Translation, he is really good and could be one of the best closers in the game if the Reds provide him with more save opportunities.

The Future

Sooner than later, the Reds will be competing in the NL Central. Yes, they probably wasted Joey Votto’s whole career, but the future looks bright in Cincy. The Reds have five members on MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects list, including Nick Senzel, who ranks seventh overall.

The Reds top prospect, Nick Senzel (Cincinnati.com)

Senzel, the second overall pick in the 2016 draft, is a tremendous hitter who hits the ball hard, walks a lot, and doesn’t strike out much. Last season, in 57 AA games, Senzel slashed .340/.413/.560 with 10 home runs and 34 RBIs. He has a fantastic arm, and looks to be an All-Star third basemen in the near future. Senzel looks like a younger version of Michael Young, who made seven All-Star appearances, and won a batting title in 2005.

Cincinnati’s top pitching prospect, Hunter Greene (No.21), has arguably the best fastball out of any prospect in the league. Green was selected second overall in the 2017 draft, and is just 18 years of age. He stands tall at 6’4” and his fastball hovers around 97-102 mph. A pure athlete, Greene would have been a first round pick as an infielder. His ceiling is incredibly high, but the Reds will have to give him time to develop.

Joining Winker as the other top outfield prospect for Cincinnati is Taylor Trammell (No.43). Tramell was recruited as both a football and baseball player for Georgia Tech, which explains his crazy athleticism. In 129 A-Ball games, Tramell hit 23 doubles, 10 triples, 10 home runs, and stole 41 bases. He can do it all on the diamond, and should have Reds fans feeling ecstatic about the future.

Tyler Mahle (No.84), has a 2.45 ERA in 14.2 innings of work this Spring. Last season, between AA/AAA, Mahle went 10-7 with a 2.06 ERA in 144.1 innings. Mahle looks as though he will eventually crack the Reds starting rotation.

2018 Prediction: 71-91

Early injuries to their already depleted rotation means that it will probably be another tough season for the Reds. However, Votto will continue to put up MVP-type numbers, and guys like Suarez, Hamilton, and Gennett will be worth following. Castillo could turn into an ace, and with the way Cincy’s prospects are playing, it will not be long until the Reds are relevant again.

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Reds spring training

Cincinnati Reds spring training notes: Week 3

It is time for the weekly Cincinnati Reds update. Thankfully, wins and losses do not matter at all for the Reds in spring training. This week’s update includes the inevitable injury bug, waiver moves, and profiling three of the Reds hottest hitters this spring to date.

The previous two weeks of spring training notes can be found here and here.

The Injuries Begin

Reds spring training

If DeSclafani could just stay healthy, the Reds may have a No. 2 pitcher on their hands. (Photo by Jamie Sabau, Getty Images North America)

Just as Reds fandom was starting to get excited for the beginning of season, injuries have started to hit the team. Anthony DeSclafani was hit with an oblique strain on March 11. According to Reds beat reporter John Fay, there is no timetable for DeSclafani’s return.

Unfortunately, that may be signaling the beginning of the end of a once promising career. DeSclafani was diagnosed in 2017 with a sprained UCL, followed by tendinitis to knock him out the rest of 2017. In 2016, he was hit with a strained oblique that knocked him out for half of the season.

As soon as the news released, Brandon Finnegan left the game with an arm injury. Finnegan has since quelled any rumors of lasting injury, saying it was just precautionary and nothing serious.

Finnegan would serve a better role in the bullpen with that wicked sinker. It would protect his arm more and he could be an elite lefty option to go with Michael Lorenzen and Raisel Iglesias. Regardless, Finnegan’s situation will be worth monitoring as the regular season looms.

Waiver Wire Fun

Dilson Herrera survived waivers before being sent down to minor league camp. He is staying as a non-roster invitee in the major league camp for the time being. The shoulder injuries that have plagued Herrera for the past season and a half must have scared away any potential waiver claims.

The Reds have been very aggressive on the waiver wire the past couple of springs. In 2016, the Reds claimed Dan Straily off waivers after the Padres designated him for assignment. Straily went on to throw 191 1/3 innings for the Reds that season, maintaining a 3.76 ERA and accumulating a 4.3 WAR. He was moved in the 2017 offseason for Reds future ace Luis Castillo.

In 2017, the Reds made another waiver claim, snagging Scooter Gennett from the Brewers. Gennett had a very productive 2017 season, hitting .295 with 27 home runs. Gennett will not be a free agent until 2020, giving the Reds another power hitter in a premium position for the next two seasons.

The Reds have not been shy about putting in waiver claims with rather successful results. Keep an eye out over the next week or two as teams start trimming down their spring training rosters.

Let the Outfielders and Tucker Rake

Reds spring training

Winker is off to a hot start this spring. Can he carry that into the regular season? (Photo by Gene J. Puskar, AP)

Jesse Winker has done everything Reds fandom could hope for. In 28 at-bats, Winker has a .357/.424/.607 slash line. Winker has shown some power too, with four doubles and a home run in his limited at bats.

Billy Hamilton’s slump (3-for-26) may see Winker lead off for the Reds on Opening Day to give Joey Votto somebody to knock in. Winker, Eugenio Suarez and Votto should be making Reds fans excited for the top part of their lineup.

Winker is not even the hottest hitter in the outfield either. That title belongs to Scott Schebler. Schebler is slashing .500/.531/.893 in 28 at-bats this spring.

Wick Terrell of Red Reporter wrote a very good article analyzing Schebler’s 2017 season. Schebler’s 2017 final stat line was hurt by one very bad month where he tried playing through a shoulder injury. He very well could be a .260 hitter with 30 home runs and double-digit steals if healthy this season.

Tucker Barnhart is also putting together a heck of a spring training. In 23 at-bats, Barnhart is slashing .435/.480/.957 and leading the team with four home runs. The man is already elite defensively, but if he puts together a decent offensive season to boot, you may hear his name start to circulate amongst the top catchers in baseball.

One must remember to take all spring training stats with a grain of salt. The last week or two of spring will give Reds fans something to look forward to as the battle for the last rotation spot (or two with DeSclafani’s injury) looms ever closer.

Make sure to tune in next week as I write my final spring training piece for the Reds. 13 days until opening day!

 

 

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Reds Spring Training

Reds Spring Training notes: Week 2

Vacancies loomed in both the rotation and bullpen heading into Reds Spring Training. As I previously wrote, it seemed Sal Romano and Robert Stephenson were the best bets for the final rotation spot. Those two, along with most of the Reds expected starters have been inconsistent this Spring. Not surprising, as players are tinkering with pitches and just trying to get back into the groove. The one rotation spot battle has become very interesting, however, as an unexpected contender emerged.

Amir Garrett’s Resurgence

Reds Spring Training

Amir Garrett has been off to a hot start this spring. Can he carry that into a spot in the Reds rotation to start the game? Photo courtesy of Ross D. Franklin of the AP

Before spring training, Amir Garrett was not considered a candidate for a rotation spot. Outside the first month of his MLB debut last season, Garrett struggled for the rest of the season in both the MLB and Triple A. Rumors surfaced over the offseason that Garrett tried playing through injuries through most of last season. Garrett may just be making the case that he deserves a rotation spot after all.

Amir’s first two appearances of the spring were just downright filthy. His stat line was five innings pitched, ten strikeouts, zero hits, zero walks and zero runs. Scouts have graded Amir’s fastball as an above average pitch, it was just whether his off speed stuff would come around. His slider and changeup were very effective in his first two outings.

Amir’s latest outing was on Wednesday 3/7. He did not look as effective, as he gave up two runs on three hits and two walks in two innings. The game ended with a score of Reds 12 and the White Sox 14, with four of the five Reds pitchers giving up at least a run. It is too easy to entirely write off a bad appearance in spring training, but if Amir comes back out guns blazing in his next appearance, Amir may be doing more than enough to secure a MLB rotation spot.

 

Brandon Finnegan Questions

Reds Spring Training

Will Brandon Finnegan finally be healthy enough to put together a strong 2018 campaign? Photo courtesy of Lisa Blumenfield of Getty Images North America.

Brandon Finnegan’s first start of the 2017 season, included seven innings of one hit, one walk, nine strikeout baseball. Reds fans were salivating at the prospect of Finnegan taking the next step and becoming a #2/3 starting pitcher. Alas, the baseball gods laughed at the Reds optimism as Finnegan was shut down for two months with a shoulder injury just two starts later. Finnegan tried to come back in June, but was shut down for the rest of the season after leaving in the fourth inning of that game.

Reds fandom continued to be uneasy as Finnegan was expected to be ready by spring training, yet did not pitch in a spring training game until March 2 (eight games into the spring). Finnegan did look solid in his first appearance, pitching two innings and giving up one hit (a home run) and a walk to go with his one strikeout.

Finnegan will be one to watch this spring, he had a spot in the rotation before spring training started. The emergence of Amir Garrett this spring may mean that Finnegan is duking it out with the slew of starters waiting in the wings for the next spot. Personally, I believe Finnegan would fit better in the bullpen, as his sinker-fastball-changeup combo would do wonders there. All that being said, if Finnegan continues to look decent this spring, the rotation spot should be his.

 

Veteran Relievers = Hit or Miss

Kevin Quackenbush has been the most effective of the Reds cheap minor league deal. Quackenbush has not given up a run and has six strikeouts in four innings. The problem of looking at relievers in the spring is sample size. Starters go multiple innings each appearance, relievers typically do not.

David Hernandez is right behind Quackenbush, giving up one run in three innings pitched this spring. The lone run was a homerun, which explains why Hernandez’s WHIP is still below one. The other veteran reliever, Jared Hughes, has only given up one run in four innings pitched. Both of them are essentially guaranteed bullpen spots as they both signed two years deals this offseason.

Now for the bad. Oliver Perez was signed to a minor league deal with an opt out if he doesn’t make the MLB roster. He probably will not, with five earned runs in three innings pitched and a WHIP above two. Vance Worley was a longshot bet to make the rotation but could have served as the long reliever/6th man. He has disappointed immensely. Four and one third innings giving up 12 hits and seven earned runs is not going to cut it. Things are not looking good for either Worley or Perez, unlike some of the other veterans.

Hughes, Hernandez, Peralta, Iglesias and Lorenzen are essentially guaranteed bullpen spots. That leaves two or three spots for the likes of Quackenbush, along with the plethora of talent knocking on the door from the minors. Guys like Jimmy Herget, Austin Brice, and Zack Weiss may start in Triple A, but have the talent to contribute in the near future.

 

Twitter: @SamAuricchio

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hamilton

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Billy?

(Optional Soundtrack for this post)

The Reds opened their season a day late due to the dreary Spring Break weather here in the QC, celebrating Good Friday with a 2-0 loss at the hands of the Washington Nationals. Homer Bailey spun up six strong innings in his first-ever Opening Day start, giving up just one run and pitching out of a couple of jams. On the other side of the ledger, the Reds offense managed seven hits and two walks but left all those baserunners stranded. Which kinda happens when you whiff 14 times. But hey, we’ll get em’ tomorrow, right? More interesting to this blogger was the lineup card turned in by Bryan Price and announced on the teams Twitter stream… Billy Hamilton batting 8th?

Billy

Opening Day lineup courtesy of the Cincinnati Reds

 

Leadoff Man Wanted; Must Get On Base, Wheels Optional

If it feels like the Reds have been flailing about for a leadoff hitter since Pete Rose left town, well you aren’t far off. Other than the brief glorious summer of 2013 when Shin-Soo Choo delivered a .426 OBP atop the batting order, recent Reds managers have had what can be best described as misguided neglect for the leadoff spot. Dusty Baker, in particular, seemed to have an aversion to putting runners on base ahead of his sluggers. Whether it was professional out machine Willy Taveras, pet project from his days in Chicago Corey Patterson, or the walk allergic fan fave Brandon Phillips, Dusty wanted his leadoff hitter to be a fast guy, preferably a center fielder or middle infielder who can steal bases and score from first on a single. If he were still managing the Reds there’s no way he would have submitted a lineup without the fastest man alive at the top.

 

 

Throwing Away His Shot?

Billy Hamilton burst onto Sportscenter well before his late 2013 cup of coffee. in 2011 he stole 103 bases in the minors and followed that up with a record-smashing 155 thefts in 2013, more than any player ever at any level of baseball. Wobbly cell phone footage of a vaguely human-shaped blur zooming around the basepaths was shared on social media by Reds fans drooling with anticipation. In his first full season sporting the wishbone C, Billy came in second in the ROY voting and flashed some serious leather in his new position of center field.

Sure, he did lead the league in times caught stealing. He also struck out 117 times on the way to a .250/.292/.355 slash line. The numbers can’t quite do the man justice. Google Billy Hamilton highlights and feast your eyes on acts of baserunning and fielding unprecedented in this great game. He’s probably the fastest player I’ve ever seen, both in the field or on the basepaths.

Too bad you can’t steal first base.

Billy Hamilton simply cannot hit or get on base well enough to turn those wheels into an offensive asset at the top of the order. His career stats after 2184 major league plate appearances are .247/.297/.335. In an era where the average fastball velocity is closing in on 92 mph, Billy Hamilton simply cannot hit the ball hard enough to scare major league pitchers or fielders. Pitchers can just feed him strikes and fielders can play in unafraid of balls going over their head. This slugging deficit feeds his on-base percentage deficit creating a death spiral, both of which conspire to neutralize his most valuable offensive asset. Even with his speed bunting for singles is a low percentage play. He’s an out machine and outs are a team’s most precious resource.

 

Enter the Winker

Jesse Winker, the Reds #4 prospect looks set to get most of the leadoff work as the long half of a left field platoon with slugger Adam Duvall. It looks like Scott Schebler will back up in center and leadoff. Neither player fits the Dusty Baker model of fleet out maker. Winker is especially exciting to this Reds fan. In 47 games last year, Jesse (needs a nickname) Winker slashed .298/.375/.529, building on a minor league career that promised the kind of professional hitter we haven’t had in left since the other Hamilton (Joey) was in town. Combined with Eugenio Suarez batting second, this Reds team might finally be poised to put something in front of Joey Votto other than empty basepaths with two outs. For some perspective, using Baseball References Split Finder I can drill down and discover that Joey Votto is a .347/.445/.591 hitter with a man on first and less than 2 outs, the second most fearsome since 2006. Unfortunately, he’s only 31st on that list with 1215 plate appearances qualifying in his career. If Joey Votto is up with less than two outs and nowhere to put him he’s the scariest thing since peak Bonds. Making that happen as many times as possible can have an outsized impact on an offense like the Reds.

Wither Billy?

Billy Hamilton is still an incredible player. He’s one of the best center fielders in the game. He saves so many runs with his glove that even in this strikeout and homer saturated run environment his glove carries his bat. Dropping him to the bottom of the order reduces the number of outs he sucks up, which extends games. Plus hitting the pitcher 8th creates some nifty strategic options, the kind of marginal runs created that teams like the Reds can’t scoff at. It’s an interesting and bold move by Price. Let’s hope it pays off.

 

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