Results tagged ‘ Cincinnati Reds ’
“The Book” says that pitchers need to protect their team, but what about when this happens.
When Ian Kennedy nearly took Zack Greinke‘s head off on Tuesday night in the Diamondbacks and Dodgers game in Los Angeles, it made me wonder the value in throwing and intentionally hitting another human being with a baseball at 90-plus miles per hour.
It isn’t because Zack Greinke makes a lot of money. It isn’t because someone shouldn’t have felt a buzzing baseball due to the aggravation and violence in the game to that point. It all boils down to the safety of an individual player.
After watching Brandon McCarthy have his skull fractured last season and Justin Morneau and other batters struggling with concussion-like symptoms from being beaned in the head, there needs to be some type of action taken to protect the individual player, and Major League Baseball should make an example out of Arizona right-hander Ian Kennedy.
There is a time and a place for intimidation, but not when a livelihood of another person is at stake.
The funny thing about the melee in Chavez Ravine on Tuesday was not the aggressive nature of Yasiel Puig and the fear that I had for the Diamondbacks when I saw his muscles and rage explode into punches, along with Ronald Belisario, but the fact that old, retired players, like Don Mattingly, Don Baylor, Charles Nagy, Matt Williams, and Mark McGwire seemed to be the instigators to the continued rumble. Maybe it was the “gritty” nature of Gibson’s Diamondback squad or the “gritty” philosophy that the Dodgers and Mattingly are trying to develop that led to this brawl, but should the coaches be the issue in moments like this? Is that embarrassing for baseball when they are?
I played baseball and I know that I hit people on purpose, mostly because I didn’t like them, but I was 13 and 14 years old, throwing about 70-75 miles per hour tops.
What Kennedy did crossed the line. Throwing at someone’s head is totally uncalled for, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is suspended for 12 to 15 games for his actions on Tuesday night. Anything less isn’t enough. It is time for pitchers who purposely throw at opposing hitters to actually feel the wrath of a suspension, not have their turn pushed back a day or two, but to really hurt the club by sitting, unused, on a 25-man roster, hurting their team by having to play a man short. When Carlos Quentin tackled Zack Greinke after being hit, breaking Greinke’s collarbone, I heard rumblings of how Quentin should have been suspended until Greinke was able to play again, something that Mattingly actually stated. What if Greinke was never able to pitch again? What if someone got hit in the face and a career was ruined, like Tony Conigliaro?
There are too many questions about what could happen to the batter when they are thrown at on purpose. It may be a part of “The Book”, but maybe it’s time for an updated volume.
After Miguel Sano was promoted to Double-A on Sunday by the Minnesota Twins, it brought to mind several other prospects who deserve a promotion due to their dominance at their current level. Below, you’ll find ten prospects who need or deserve a bigger challenge:
Robert Stephenson, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
When you see that 2.97 ERA, some would say that isn’t as dominant as what guys like Dylan Bundy or Archie Bradley have posted over the last two seasons; however, Stephenson has been absolutely dominant over his last six starts, posting a 0.98 ERA, a 0.65 WHIP, and a 50:5 K:BB over 36.2 innings. That is redefining dominance. Stephenson has now made 20 starts for Low-A Dayton and the only thing holding him back from a promotion seems to be the fact that he would be heading to the California League if he was promoted to the next level. The Reds could challenge him and see how he does, they did put Tony Cingrani there in 2012 (where he dominated), or move him straight to Double-A next year, similar to what they did with Daniel Corcino in 2012. Regardless, Stephenson looks like the Reds new top prospect, posting numbers that would make Cy Young winners blush.
Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs
Blame it on the four home runs that Baez hit on June 10th or blame it on the fact that his numbers are absolutely insane for a middle infielder…truly, you can blame it on the fact that Starlin Castro looks like a lost puppy, but the Chicago Cubs need to move Javier Baez up to Double-A. Certainly, Baez isn’t perfect. His plate discipline leaves a lot to be desired and he has made 26 errors in 56 games for Daytona, but what he lacks in harnessing moving balls, he makes up for with his tremendous bat speed, power, and overall skills when he actually connects. In eight June games, Baez is hitting .500/.559/1.167 with five home runs and 15 RBI. He’s on fire and he has the talent to be moved quickly. Baez needs to be challenged in Double-A and the Cubs need to see how he handles advanced pitching to help determine whether he could stay at short or move to an outfield corner.
Rafael De Paula, RHP, New York Yankees
The only thing dumber than the Yankees still having De Paula in Low-A at this point, is the fact that society didn’t find a way to stop Kanye West and Kim Kardashian from procreating. De Paula has dominated all season for Charleston, and at the age of 22, he is a man among boys in the Sally League. His 13.8 K:9 is absurd and his mid-90′s fastball is nearly unfair to the over-matched teenagers and organizational depth cesspools of the lower minors. With Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda nearing the end of the road, it is time for the Yankees to be aggressive with another prospect. De Paula needs to be moved to Tampa (High-A) as soon as possible, and, due to his stuff, early dominance, and age, an attempt at Double-A shouldn’t be out of the question.
Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
It isn’t very often that a 19-year-old in his first full season of professional ball would get moved up a level by July, but the No.2 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft is creating quite a stir in the prospect world. His power, speed, and plate discipline are beyond his years and Buxton appears to be ready for and worthy of a different challenge. The Twins are typically very patient and slow with their prospects, but they’ve already promoted Sano and their major league team (28-33) continues to tread water.
Preston Tucker, OF, Houston Astros
The Astros are in a pretty miserable place when it comes to their ability to contend, but they seem to have a tremendous rebuilding plan in place and their recent drafts and trades are perfect examples of what Jeff Luhnow has taken to Houston. They appear to have a nice player in their 2012 7th round pick, a senior signing out of Florida that is showing an excellent approach at the plate in High-A. While Lancaster is a notorious hitter’s paradise, as is most of the California League, the plate discipline, gap power, and consistency (.328 vs. LHP, .307 RHP) are impressive, and he would be a nice addition to Double-A, where he could join…
George Springer, OF, Houston Astros
Springer is also worthy of a promotion within the Houston organization and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he is wearing an Astros’ jersey by the end of the 2013 season; however, with Justin Maxwell coming back from his injury, a promotion to Triple-A is likely Springer’s first stop. The 36 extra-base hits and 18 stolen bases show the tools that he possesses, but his long swing could continue to cause outrageous strikeout totals, especially once he reaches the show. The No.11 overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft out of UConn will be an asset to the Astros at some point.
Cesar Puello, OF, New York Mets
There are four simple words why Puello needs promoted: The Mets Offense Sucks. The slugging right fielder has been on fire over the last ten games, hitting .463/.500/.976 with three doubles, six home runs, 17 RBI, and five stolen bases. There is one issue that may become huge within his development: he was listed on the Biogenesis documents; however, the time it will take between appeals and court cases will make that an unlikely scenario in harming his prospect status, which is getting more impressive with each swing.
Wil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Call me Captain Obvious but the Rays would be a better team by plugging Myers into a lineup that has won 11 of their last 16 and are slowly creeping up the AL East standings, even while their ace, David Price, is recovering from an extended absence due to tricep soreness. After struggling with his plate discipline in the early part of the season, Myers has improved his numbers in June (albeit in just 10 games), while increasing his power, having hit four home runs in just 41 at-bats this month. With seven players with 25 or more RBI already this season, who would go to make room for Myers? Myers will make an impact at some point this season, regardless of the current roster’s success.
Arismendy Alcantara, 2B/SS, Chicago Cubs
Alcantara is another good middle infield prospect within the Cubs organization. He is playing second and short in Double-A right now, but regardless of where he ends up, Alcantara will provide a little punch and speed for the rebuilding lovable losers. After having success at every stop during his minor league career, Alcantara should move up to see how he can handle Triple-A pitching, getting him that much closer to helping a starved Cubs lineup.
Carlos Pimentel, RHP, Texas Rangers
This is Pimentel’s third season in Double-A and he appears to finally mastered it, this time as a starter, after pitching well in a relief role in 2012 for Frisco. Still just 23 years old, Pimentel looks like another solid prospect again for a Rangers team that seems to always be in need of pitching help, whether due to ineffectiveness or injuries on the major league roster. Pimentel is posting excellent strikeout numbers and appears to be very difficult to hit. At 6’3″, 180 pounds, he has the frame to be a useful body in Texas, and he deserves a look in Triple-A before he gets a spot start of a longer look in Arlington.
Didi Gregorius. A 23-year-old shortstop for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Didi Gregorius. A career .267/.319/.375 hitter in over 2,080 plate appearances in the minor leagues. Didi Gregorius. Currently hitting .324/.385/.541 with 8 doubles, 2 triples, and 4 home runs.
Can he keep this pace up?
Gregorius’ highest OPS in an overall minor league season was in 2011, when he posted a .753 OPS between High-A and Double-A within the Cincinnati Reds system. Those numbers were a tad inflated due to his time in Bakersfield, a club within the California League, where he posted a .791 OPS over 203 plate appearances. He was always pushed by the Cincinnati organization, as you can see below, only spending one season with the same club, which was his first season in the Gulf Coast League, and even moving from the Pioneer League to High-A for 22 games at the age of 19.
|2009||19||2 Teams||2 Lgs||CIN||72||299||275||36||82||14||1||1||18||8||13||36||.298||.341||.367||.708||101|
|2010||20||3 Teams||3 Lgs||CIN||163||717||653||84||167||21||13||6||50||20||45||81||.256||.311||.355||.666||232|
|2011||21||2 Teams||2 Lgs||CIN||84||363||336||48||97||18||4||7||44||11||19||50||.289||.324||.429||.753||144|
|2012||22||2 Teams||2 Lgs||CIN||129||561||501||70||133||21||11||7||54||3||41||80||.265||.324||.393||.717||197|
Gregorius has a .926 OPS, as I write this, and, after 124 plate appearances with Arizona, we should wonder now why he CAN’T keep this up. The young shortstop has several statistics playing in his favor:
- A .364 BABIP: While 45 stolen bases over six seasons leaves a lot to be desired in the speed category, Gregorius clearly has solid gap power and an ability to put the ball where fielders aren’t. The friendly-confines of Chase Field should be taken into consideration for his ability to continue to drive the ball, as well.
- A 9.5 percent HR/FB rate: Considering the top five HR/FB rate in MLB are Pedro Alvarez (29.4), Bryce Harper (29.3), Chris Davis (28.8), Justin Upton (28.0), and Adam Dunn (26.1), Gregorius and his 9.5 percent HR/FB are right in line with “league average”, so he could very well continue to put together numbers like he has to this point.
- A 31.3 O-Swing percentage: Gregorius is a smart hitter, working counts (3.94 pitches per at-bat) and swinging at strikes (O-Swing is percentage of pitches swung at outside of the strike zone).
- A 22.0 line drive percentage: Gregorius would rank right around 67th (with Andrelton Simmons and Gerardo Parra) with his current line drive rate. While that isn’t the upper echelon of hard hitters, it is right around the 20 percent league average (according to FanGraphs)
Gregorius is still highly underrated in fantasy leagues, ranking 21st among shortstops in ESPN’s Player Rater. He is no Troy Tulowitzki but he does have a similar career line as Jean Segura (without the speed), whose .969 OPS through 210 plate appearances was legit enough for ESPN to rank him as the No.1 shortstop.
The time may be now to buy into Gregorius. While he has a small sample size showing what he has, there may not be much more time to get him cheap, and the Cleveland Indians and Arizona Diamondbacks sure seemed to find a lot of value in him this offseason when the three team deal with Cincinnati involving Trevor Bauer and Shin-Soo Choo was consummated.
With the season underway and some fans already looking forward to next year, even this early, it is a good time to look down on the farms for some names that you should get to know. Everyone knows who Wil Myers, Dylan Bundy, and Oscar Taveras are at this point, so these are players performing at elite levels who may not be household names…yet.
Aaron Altherr, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Altherr is a big, raw prospect who seems to be putting everything together this year in the Florida State League. He was nowhere to be found on MLB.com’s top 20 list for the Phillies prior to this season, while John Sickels, of minorleagueball.com, had Altherr in the “others” section as a player to watch. Considering what he was before this season, it is pretty shocking that the 6’5″, 190 pound outfielder has jumped to the numbers that he is putting up in 2013, but he was clearly a toolsy guy prior to this year. His lanky frame still had impressive speed and gap power, so as he continues to mature physically, Altherr could become an even more intriguing prospect. Given the nature of how the Phillies handled Domonic Brown, however, you have to wonder if they’ll handle a player similar is size with varying talent in the same manner.
Rafael De Paula, RHP, New York Yankees
The strikeout totals are stupid, and so is the fact that the Yankees have De Paula in Low-A ball at the age of 22. Domination doesn’t even begin to tell the story of what De Paula has done this season, and another guy that MLB.com left unranked, but came in as the Yankees No.13 prospect at minorleagueball.com, has flown up the prospect rankings in the early going of the 2013 season. De Paula was signed in November of 2010 out of the Dominican Republic and he has been handled with baby gloves ever since. In a recent Baseball Prospectus chat, Jason Parks had this to say about the Yankee right-hander:
“ Powerful build; arm speed is near elite; fastball can work 91-95l touch even higher; huge life; misses barrels; shows plus potential with both hard, power curve and changeup; command profile could push him to the ‘pen down the line, as could secondary development. He’s a big time arm.”
Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
I had a hard time buying into Archie Bradley, even with high rankings from MLB.com (No.24) and Baseball America (No.25) prior to the season. It had a lot to do with the 84 walks that he posted last season, as I like to see that a pitcher can harness his stuff before I consider him elite. However, this time I was way off, as the hits per nine (5.8), K per nine (10.1), and home runs allowed (just six in 136 innings) goes to show the type of stuff and dominance that Bradley possesses. A 95 mph fastball with sink and a strikeout pitch in his curveball have allowed Bradley to post a 63:16 K:BB in 42.2 innings in 2013, and he has already been bumped up to Double-A at the tender age of 20. He was highly touted for a reason and he seems to have found the command necessary to become one of the top pitchers in the minor leagues.
Rougned Odor, 2B, Texas Rangers
It’s tough being a middle infielder in the Rangers system these days. With Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler signed to long-term deals and Jurickson Profar waiting in Triple-A, the Rangers have created a logjam of talent in their system that will either waste away or get traded away. It also isn’t very fair for the guys who aren’t Profar to have to try to put up numbers comparable to his to be taken seriously. Which leads us to a very impressive young player. Odor was just 18 last season when he put up a .714 OPS with 37 extra-base hits and 19 stolen bases in full season ball, and he has improved his stats in the early going this season. Not only that, his running game is much more solid, having stolen 11 bases in 12 attempts after being gunned down 10 times in 29 attempts last season. His ceiling isn’t nearly that of Profar’s, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a solid major leaguer.
Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies
Franco has a lot of potential that is not obvious to his game yet, which is shocking when you consider he currently sports an .887 OPS as a 20-year-old in High-A. A third baseman with an excellent arm and solid glove, if Franco continues hitting the way that he has while showing improved plate discipline, the Phillies could have a superstar in the making. Franco doesn’t strikeout in bunches and he appears ready to turn some of those 32 doubles from last season into home runs this year. As he continues to mature, he will be a player to keep an eye on.
Carlos Contreras, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
The Reds have been all over the place in their handling of Contreras since signing him prior to the 2008 season out of the Dominican Republic. While they finally seemed to have figured out that he should start, Contreras finally seems to know how to pitch now, as well. He is putting it all together for a very bad Bakersfield team in the California League, and while the league is a hitter’s paradise, Contreras has been pretty dominant. He has a .179 batting average allowed to go with his 52:13 K:BB in 42.1 innings. He has a fastball that sits 92-96 and seems familiar with pressure after being a closer last season. We’ll see if he can maintain this production, but he looks like a live arm in the Reds system, which they need with Daniel Corcino pitching so poorly at Triple-A this season.
Jake Buchanan, RHP, Houston Astros
Houston has an interesting method of developing their pitchers, using tandem starting pitching at all minor league levels this season. Jake Buchanan is not one of the club’s brightest stars, nor is he expected to become one, but he really seems to enjoy how the Astros are doing things this year. A 0.93 ERA and 0.64 WHIP over 48.1 innings is pretty impressive, as is the .163 batting average allowed. With the major league roster looking like a mediocre Triple-A team, and a starting rotation with a 6.31 ERA, 1.74 WHIP, and .309 batting average allowed, it doesn’t hurt to know that Buchanan is having success in the minors for a team so desperate for pitching help. The 23-year-old could get a jump to Triple-A in the coming weeks to see if he can produce similar statistics there before getting a shot in Houston.
Rob Neyer‘s blog had an interesting story on Angels’ right-hander Robert Coello and his forkball-knuckler with a GIF of the pitch. It appears to have no spin and a lot of wiggle. It will be interesting to see what he can do, but the 7 strikeouts in 4 innings is a nice touch. At 28, he could take the R.A. Dickey rout through the bullpen, dominating the opposition due to the ability to harness a pitch that others just can’t figure out.
Here’s the the GIF:
Read the article HERE.
In 2012, Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo, and Mike Leake combined to start 161 of the Cincinnati Reds 162 games, with Todd Redmond starting the second game of a double-header against the Chicago Cubs on August 18. In 2013, the Reds haven’t been quite so lucky with pitching health, as Johnny Cueto lasted just three starts before a strained lat shelved him on April 13.
While losing a pitcher who has managed to go 29-14 with a 2.58 ERA over his last 390 innings would probably leave most teams in a panic, the Cincinnati Reds had the luxury of calling up Tony Cingrani.
Cingrani was dominant in the minor leagues in 2012 and the beginning of the 2013 season, posting an overall 11-4 record, 1.57 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and a 198:54 K:BB in 160.1 innings. While he managed to get by with his fastball, which he varies the speed on from 88 to 96 miles per hour, it appears to be enough.
After just three starts in Cincinnati, Cingrani is going to make life very, very difficult on Walt Jocketty and Dusty Baker. After posting a 28:4 K:BB over his first 18 innings (three starts) with a 1.50 ERA and 0.89 WHIP, who will have to leave the Reds’ rotation to allow the flame-throwing left-hander to continue to occupy a spot in the rotation?
Cueto will be welcomed back with open arms, Homer Bailey has finally become the dominant arm that the Reds hoped he would become when they drafted him, and Mat Latos is basically the 1(b) to Cueto’s 1(a) status as duel aces. That would leave Bronson Arroyo and Mike Leake.
Arroyo hasn’t been awful this season. While his 4.24 ERA is a little high, the 1.09 WHIP shows that he is limiting damage by not allowing many base runners. He is averaging just under seven innings per start, as well, and he seems to have a rubber arm, having made 32 or more starts each season dating back to 2005, the poster-boy for reliability.
Leake had a rough 2012, posting a 4.58 ERA and 1.35 WHIP, but he hasn’t really rebounded to this point; his ERA is 4.34 and his WHIP is up to 1.52. At just 25, Leake still has a very bright future, but he needs to figure out a way to keep the opposition off of the base paths. His BB/9 is at a career high this season (3.4) and his hits per nine innings is 10.2, the highest since his rookie season.
While sending Leake to Triple-A Louisville would allow the Reds to keep their starting pitching depth fresh, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that whoever gets bumped from the rotation will end up in the bullpen. Sean Marshall just returned from an early season disabled list visit, which will greatly assist a pretty brutal group in the bullpen, which was so dominant last year. Outside of Aroldis Chapman (0.73 ERA, 0.65 WHIP) and Sam LeCure (1.80 ERA, 1.20 WHIP), the Reds’ bullpen has combined to go 1-5 with a 5.24 ERA in 55 innings this season.
Would the Reds even consider sending Cingrani to the bullpen at this point? Because of his reliance on his fastball, it would limit his innings while shoring up the back-end of the bullpen, where Jonathan Broxton has been very unimpressive in setting up Chapman. The Reds could then handle Cingrani much like the Atlanta Braves handled Kris Medlen in 2012, allowing him to start from mid-June or early-July until the end of the season, getting valuable innings during a potential playoff run.
While the Los Angeles Dodgers looked to be loaded with starting pitching as spring training broke, only Clayton Kershaw has been worth the price of admission. With Zack Greinke out with a broken collarbone, Chad Billingsley tearing his already torn elbow ligament further, and Aaron Harang traded away, the Cincinnati Reds look to have the most starting pitching depth right now. While the St. Louis Cardinals have plenty of young arms (Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, and Michael Wacha, to name a few), the Reds have it all ready to go and ready to contribute.
Now…what do they do when Cueto returns?
Joey Votto is one of the top players in all of baseball. The 2010 NL MVP was rewarded for his skills last spring when the Reds gave him a 10-year, $225 million extension, which could keep the Canadian-born first baseman in the Queen City through the 2024 season.
Since the start of the 2008 season, his first as a regular, Votto has posted a 27.7 WAR, 6th in MLB (Albert Pujols, Evan Longoria, Chase Utley, Miguel Cabrera, and Ryan Braun rank higher), and a .419 on-base percentage, 1st in MLB. He has been very productive, driving in 444 runs, but when you consider how often Votto is on base and his WAR value, you would think that he would produce more runs, as those 444 RBI rank 23rd since the start of the 2008 season.
Certainly part of the reason why Votto ranks lower in RBI is due to his extended absences, as he has missed 106 team games since the 2008 season due to general illnesses, depression, and surgery on his left knee, which cost him 51 games in 2012; however, what if he swung more?
So far in the 2013 season, Votto has a .500 OBP, inflated by his 30 percent walk rate, and his .264 batting average seems likely to rebound due to his .351 BABIP, which is in line with his career .359 BABIP. His hitting ability was outlined in a recent ESPN the Magazine feature, when Votto said:
I’ve stopped caring about runs and RBIs. I care more about how high a percentage of productive at-bats I can have, how consistently tough and competitive I can be for the opposing pitcher. That’s my goal every single time I go up there. If I drive in 90 runs, I don’t care. I know a lot of old-school people wouldn’t believe I’d say something like that.
The apparent way to be more productive is to not swing. Votto currently has a 32.1 percent swing rate (career 44.9 percent), while posting a 14.4 percent swing rate on pitches outside of the strike-zone (career 25.2 percent), and a 57.9 percent swing rate on pitches inside of the strike-zone (career 70.2 percent). Only Lucas Duda has a lower swing rate in 2013, at 29.9 percent, but Duda’s career swing rate has always been low, as he sports a career 40.9 percent swing rate.
How can you produce if you don’t swing the bat? Sure, Votto is getting on base, but he has scored just 11 runs in his 40 appearances on the base paths (14 hits, 24 walks, 2 hit-by-pitch), largely due to the ineffectiveness of Jay Bruce (who has struck out 10 times in 31 at-bats with runners on base this season), while driving in FOUR runs in 80 plate appearances. Luckily, Brandon Phillips, who took over the cleanup spot after Ryan Ludwick‘s shoulder injury, has done a fantastic job, posting a .405/.452/.649 line with 17 RBI in 37 at-bats with runners on base. With Shin-Soo Choo and Votto in front of him, it is likely that Phillips will continue to produce some impressive counting statistics in 2013, but why shouldn’t Votto?
A productive at-bat is when a ball is put in play and moves other runners. Sure, you’re Little League coach and Moneyball says that a walk is as good as a hit, but what if Phillips falters in the No.4 spot? What if Jay Bruce continues to strikeout with runners on? What if Todd Frazier, who is currently the 4th most valuable position player in baseball (based on WAR) goes through a drought?
The Cincinnati Reds need Joey Votto to swing the bat because he is such a special player. Getting on base has value, but when you are as capable with the bat as Votto is, there is more value in the contact that he does, or can, produce. After all, Votto has struck out 16 times, tied for 8th most in MLB, while he is waiting for his pitch.
Is Joey Votto the best pure hitter in baseball right now? Possibly, but striking out in 20 percent of your at-bats doesn’t seem like a reasonable statistic for a hitter, possibly a slugger. It is time for Votto to become a slugger again not only for fantasy baseball players, but because the Reds would be much more impressive and capable of winning more often if he was the 37-home-run-of- 2010-version of Votto than the one-home-run-in-80-plate-appearances-2013-version of Votto.
- Joey Votto is not struggling (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- Joey Votto appears as cartoon (wcpo.com)
- Reds’ Joey Votto named ‘Face of MLB’ (wcpo.com)
- Votto is still productive despite slow start (mlb.mlb.com)
Yeah, I know it’s early. Yeah, I know the Reds are in first place in the NL Central. Yeah, I know that after getting beaten down by the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday afternoon that Cincinnati fans are concerned about their team. There are reasons to be concerned, but it starts with the club’s philosophies.
After the club traded for Shin-Soo Choo, people in Cincinnati knew that they had an upgrade to their leadoff spot. Choo is now a career .312/.397/.502 hitter when he bats first over his career, and his five hit-by-pitches and five walks have allowed Choo to post a .511 on-base percentage early in the 2013 season. His three home runs are tied with Todd Frazier for the team lead, as well, allowing Reds’ fans to say: “Drew Stubbs, who?”
Well, Drew Stubbs the fine defensive center fielder. Drew Stubbs, who ranked as the 6th best defensive center fielder in baseball since arriving to the Queen City in 2009, posting a UZR/150 of 3.7, just behind Austin Jackson and in front of B.J. Upton in the rankings. Drew Stubbs, who was 14th in MLB from 2009 through 2012 with 110 stolen bases. Drew Stubbs, who scored 285 runs in 486 games for Cincinnati, despite a .312 on-base percentage, and a .244/.321/.372 line in 873 plate appearances as a leadoff hitter.
Drew Stubbs was everything wrong about Cincinnati Reds baseball, at least, that is what it seemed like. His free-swinging ways resulted in 588 strikeouts in 1,791 at-bats or 32.8 percent of his at-bats. However, he did provide two things that Choo still can’t, speed and defense.
Shin-Soo Choo has a tremendous arm, which he needs when compared to Stubbs defensively due to his -42.8 UZR/150 rating, meaning: Choo would be nearly 43 runs below average defensively than the league’s average outfielder. It isn’t like Choo’s lack of defensive skills were the reason that the Reds lost 10-0 on Wednesday, but with Ryan Ludwick out for the next several months after surgery to repair his labrum and Chris Heisey hitting just .161/.188/.323 in 34 plate appearances, should the Reds go to super-prospect Billy Hamilton now?
Calling up Billy Hamilton would do three things:
1) It would start Hamilton’s arbitration clock early, making him Super Two-eligible due to service time, which means that he would be expensive quicker than most Post-June callups, and potentially reach free agency sooner.
2) It would allow the Reds to put Shin-Soo Choo in left field where teams have hidden other awful defensive outfielders over the years, such as Adam Dunn in Cincinnati and Manny Ramirez in Boston. He may not be a liability in left, which would allow him to continue to be solid offensively while playing every day.
3) It would make the Reds have Hamilton, Choo, Votto, and Bruce as left-handed hitters in the every day lineup.
That third thing is probably more reasonable as to why the Reds wouldn’t want to call up Hamilton right now, though the arbitration figures could also factor in, as it seems unnecessary to rush Hamilton with such a small sample size out of Chris Heisey. It is, after all, just 34 plate appearances, but it is hard to ignore Hamilton’s .364/.417/.545 start in Triple-A, while stealing six bases in six games for the Louisville Bats.
Billy Hamilton isn’t ready to leadoff at the major league level. Billy Hamilton isn’t ready to become a game-changing talent from the very moment that he steps onto the field at Great American Ballpark. Billy Hamilton isn’t going to post a .962 OPS over the course of a major league or minor league season. However, Billy Hamilton could ignite the bottom of the Reds order by hitting seventh, bunting over Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier for Ryan Hanigan to get RBI opportunities with his fantastic contact skills (Hanigan has a career 137:163 K:BB in 1,347 plate appearances and a 10.2 percent strikeout rate).
Billy Hamilton provides speed that would benefit the Reds defensively. Michael Bourn, the Cleveland Indians’ new center fielder, has a UZR/150 of 11.1 since becoming a regular in 2007. B.J. Upton is second with a 4.1 UZR/150. Hamilton is still making the transition from shortstop to center field, but his speed alone makes him a Bourn-like defensive talent in center, and his 264 stolen bases since the start of the 2011 minor league season makes him worth bringing up now to impact the lineup.
While questions about team-control, arbitration, and the presence of another left-hander in the lineup are worth considering, the Reds have very little to lose and plenty to gain by calling up Billy Hamilton right now and putting him in center. As the club heads to Pittsburgh and PNC Park, a notorious pitcher’s park, will defense become more important than potential offensive production? While Devin Mesoraco rots on the bench due to Ryan Hanigan’s ability to handle the pitching staff, the Reds have already shown their philosophy. Now is the time for Billy Hamilton.
- Ryan Ludwick’s Injury Could Hurt The Reds For The Long Run (mlbreports.com)
- No Billy Hamilton for Reds yet (wcpo.com)
- Billy Hamilton: I’m a game-changer (wcpo.com)
- Billy Hamilton isn’t Reds’ top prospect (espn.go.com)
- Choo – Trading Defense for Offense (natinosebleeds.wordpress.com)
It is still early in the baseball season, but with about a week and a half gone since opening night, we’ve seen a near perfect game for Yu Darvish and plentiful RBI for Chris Davis. While Darvish was expected to take another step towards stardom this season, Davis’ production is still quite a surprise to some, though power has always been a part of his game.
10 Days in, what are the biggest surprises of the 2013 season?
Carl Crawford, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: .458/.519/.542, 2 2B, 2 SB
Crawford isn’t necessarily setting the world on fire, but the fact that he has played in all seven games for the Dodgers is shocking, considering his availability for opening day was in question since he didn’t make his Cactus League debut until March 23. While he has just two extra-base hits out of his 11 total hits, the fact that Crawford is running (though he’s just 2 for 4 on stolen base attempts), and productive in a loaded lineup are reasons enough to begin to wonder if he can return to his glory days of Tampa, rather than the disappointment that he had been in Boston. If Crawford stays productive around Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez, the Dodgers will get out of the NL West basement rather quickly.
John Buck, C, New York Mets: .393/.387/.859, 4 HR, 14 RBI
After watching Ike Davis tear apart pitching in the second half, you may have expected him to be the leader of the New York Mets this season; however, it’s the guy who was supposed to just be keeping a roster spot warm for Travis d’Arnaud, the slugging catching prospect that the Mets acquired from Toronto in the R.A. Dickey deal, John Buck. Buck has been mashing to this point, ranking second in the majors in RBI (behind Chris Davis) and tied for second in home runs. With the Miami Marlins around, the Mets should feel comfortable about not finishing last in their division, but Buck has led the Mets patchwork pitching staff, dominated by Matt Harvey‘s emergence as an ace, to a solid start.
Jean Segura, SS, Milwaukee Brewers: .458/.500/.750, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 3 RBI
It’s too bad that Segura exhausted his rookie eligibility last year, otherwise, he’d be leading the pack in the early stages of the season for the title of NL Rookie of the Year. Segura had 151 at-bats last season (166 plate appearances), but he looks like he learned a little after hitting just .258/.315/.325 in 2012. The 23-year-old shortstop has a very interesting tool-set, with solid gap power and speed, which will allow for solid run production in a lineup with a healthy Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks, and Ryan Braun…the only problem is that getting all four of those guys on the field at the same time may be harder than finding a needle in a haystack.
Matt Harvey, SP, New York Mets: 2-0, 0.64 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, .093 BAA, 14 IP, 19:4 K:BB
I mentioned Harvey under Buck, but it is worth noting again…he has been nothing short of dominant. He’s allowed just 8 baserunners over two starts, and the strikeouts limit the scoring opportunities, as well. Harvey had a 2.73 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and a 70:26 K:BB in 59.1 innings last season. Like Segura, just missing rookie eligibility in 2013, but a dynamic starting pitcher for a team desperate for pitching in the Mets.
Jeff Samardzija, SP, Chicago Cubs: 1-1, 2.63 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, .125 BAA, 13.2 IP, 22:5 K:BB
The former Notre Dame wideout is leading the majors in strikeouts early in the season and appears to be heading towards super-stardom ..which is why I traded him for next to nothing in my dynasty league this offseason. He has a lousy team around him but the 28-year-old has some help on the way, and the Cubs have him under team control through 2015. While he may not win many games, his peripheral statistics could make him look a lot like Felix Hernandez in fantasy formats.
Ryan Hanigan, C, Cincinnati Reds: .043/.148/.043, 1 for 23, 2 RBI
The Cincinnati Reds are playing their 9th game of the season and Devin Mesoraco is making his second start of the season. As most people would like to do, you can blame Dusty Baker for his inability to find value in young talent, unless, of course, it is a pitcher whose career he can ruin. Mesoraco is a sinner for going 0 for 4 in his only start, drawing a walk in the Reds 7-6 extra-inning loss to the Washington Nationals. Apparently, he may only start in day games following a night game, which should be great for the 24-year-old’s development. Ryan Hanigan, meanwhile, will continue to get the at-bats, and the Reds have to hope that batting 8th in the order doesn’t allow clubs to assume that there are two easy outs every time through the lineup.
Halladay (0-2, 14.73 ERA, 2.45 WHIP) and Hamels (0-2, 10.97 ERA, 1.97 WHIP) have posted ugly numbers to this point. Halladay’s shoulder issues from last season and his drop in velocity, along with Hamels’ shoulder soreness early in his offseason throwing progr am could be to blame for their struggles. Certainly, the Phillies have to be concerned, especially after dealing Vance Worley and Trevor May to Minnesota for Ben Revere, eliminating their ready or near-ready young pitching to replace Shane Victorino, who left for Boston this winter via free agency. Both starting pitchers earn substantial amounts this season (Halladay makes $20 million and Hamels makes $19.5 million), so a turnaround would be necessary for Philadelphia fans to not want to ring the Liberty Bell with Ruben Amaro, Jr.’s skull.
Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants: .091/.130/.136, 2 for 22, 1 R, 1 2B
After Belt hit .293/.362/.423 in the second half of 2012 and .410/.432/.833 this spring, the Giants had to be hoping that they had developed a solid, middle-of-the-order addition to pair with Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval. Things haven’t gone as planned for Belt to this point; however, he has been dealing with some neck issues. The defending champions will hope that he gets that under control, as well as the skills that he showcased over the last couple of months during spring training.
Jason Heyward and B.J. Upton, OF, Atlanta Braves: 5 for 53 (.094), 2 HR, 3 RBI, 7 R, 19:7 K:BB
Heyward (.083/.267/.208) and Upton (.103/.212/.207) have combined for some pretty useless numbers. The Braves are 7-1 going into Wednesday’s game despite the lack of production from two of their stars. Needless to say, Upton’s pricey contract came with big expectations. We’ll see if his big payday after leaving Tampa isn’t going to take the same trip that Carl Crawford endured in Boston.
Carlos Marmol, RP, Chicago Cubs: 12.27 ERA, 3.00 WHIP, .444 BAA, 1-1, 1 for 2 in save opportunities
Considering the short leash that the Cubs had on Marmol, you have to wonder if it was even worth giving him a chance to prove himself or build trade value when there was a 70-30 chance that he was going to implode. And…implode he did. Kyuji Fujikawa has already replaced Marmol as the Cubs’ closer, and his 8.10 ERA is solid since he is 2 for 2 in save opportunities. It’s a process, Cubs fans, and you should be used to that by now.
Brett Myers, SP, Cleveland Indians: 0-1, 12.19 ERA, 1.94 WHIP, 7 HR allowed, 10.1 IP, 4:2 K:BB
When the Indians signed Myers, they wanted him to be a solid innings eating starting pitcher, allowing them to slide him into the No.3 spot in the rotation behind Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez. Myers was to provide solid depth due to Masterson and Jimenez lacking in their ability to throw strikes, resulting in high pitch counts and short outings. However, Myers was a risk since he had pitched out of the bullpen for the Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox the last two seasons, and while he had transitioned from starter to relief and back to starter before in his career, guaranteeing Myers $7 million to do that again could leave Indians fans scalping themselves every fifth day. Myers has allowed SEVEN home runs in 10.1 innings, or about six every 9 innings. Some batting practice pitchers don’t average that stat. Myers is either hurt or should retire, but there isn’t any in between on those choices, and a neck injury from watching home runs could be to blame.
Well, after finding a groove as a relief pitcher in the playoffs last year, the Giants gave “The Freak” another chance in a starting role this season. He has only allowed a .175 average in his two starts, and if he wasn’t shutting down those that do hit the ball, he’d have an ERA right around Halladay’s. The free passes need to stop if Lincecum is going to re-establish himself as a valuable pitcher, and he needs to do that if he hopes to score a big contract as a free agent this winter.
Since this was announced on Monday, which was April 1st (aka April Fool’s Day), it feels like this isn’t happening; however, after it was made official, giving a career .275/.342/.353 line an eight-year, $120 million seems like a nightmare, especially after the club was unwilling to give Josh Hamilton an extension or make the first offer when he hit free agency this winter. After allowing a player who has averaged a .305/.363/.549 line to leave for their biggest rival, they gave Andrus $15 million per season on an extension, all while Jurickson Profar waits for a position to open up in Texas.
Andrus is a fine player. Since arriving in 2009, he has posted a 13.0 WAR, which is sixth among shortstops during that time. He leads shortstops in stolen bases (123), he is second to Derek Jeter in runs scores (341), and he is 21st among shortstops in OPS (.695). TWENTY-FIRST.
Andrus provides a solid batting eye (8.4 percent walk rate vs. 13.2 percent strikeout rate) to go along with his solid speed, which allows him to utilize his skills on the base paths to score runs in a very potent offense. While he can get on base and score runs, his defense is where his true value develops.
Andrus’ UZR/150 rating is 7.8, fourth among shortstops since 2009 behind Brendan Ryan, J.J. Hardy, and Alexei Ramirez. His .971 fielding percentage is 15th among shortstops since 2009. Of the three players above Andrus in zone fielding who have higher fielding percentages than Andrus, only Alexei Ramirez has a higher OPS. If Ramirez can field better and post better numbers at short, is he worth $15 million or more per season?
Ramirez is 31 and doesn’t have the favorable upside that Andrus possesses, but we’ve seen speed become useless several times before. In 2004, Cesar Izturis had his best season at the age of 24:
While he didn’t post numbers close to what Andrus did prior to his age-24 season, he displayed solid gap power, speed, and, of course, impressive defensive skills. He won his first and only Gold Glove in 2004, posting a .985 fielding percentage and a 3.8 WAR.
Compare that production to Andrus’ career stats:
Is there a whole lot of difference in the abilities of these players, outside of the fact that Andrus’ had four seasons completed prior to his age-24 season, which will be the 2013 season? Certainly, Andrus is better than Izturis, but would anyone have paid Izturis $15 million per season if every one of his seasons had been as solid as his 2004 season?
Luis Castillo was an excellent second baseman early in his career for the, then, Florida Marlins. Sure, he wasn’t a shortstop, but he had the same type of skill-set, possibly better, with more speed and on-base skills, while Andrus seems to have more gap power. Once Castillo hurt his feet, though, his 50+ steals potential was also hurt, and he became a 20 stolen base, empty .300-hitting middle infielder. If Andrus gets hurt or loses speed, where is his value? He can’t cover as much ground defensively and his ability to create runs with his legs is gone, as well.
Shortstop is a very tough position, but the value of defensive metrics have taken over the player’s ability to help the club in other ways, specifically with their bat. Cal Ripken, Jr., Barry Larkin, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra, and Miguel Tejada did a dirty, dirty thing to the position, allowing solid contribution across the board to become a reasonable expectation. Today, only Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Reyes seem like those types of dynamic, offensive-minded shortstops, and for that reason, they appear to be worth exorbitant contracts.
The Rangers aren’t the only team that feels that defense is very important, though. When the Cincinnati Reds turned Didi Gregorius and Drew Stubbs into Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Donald in their trade with the Cleveland Indians this offseason, that was one thing, as Choo is a free agent after the 2013 season, but when the Indians flipped Gregorius to the Arizona Diamondbacks with Lars Anderson and Tony Sipp for Matt Albers, Bryan Shaw, and, potential ace, Trevor Bauer, the new value of shortstops in baseball was apparent. Slap-hitting, defensively skilled middle infielders now have quite a bit of value.
So, if Gregorius, a career .265/.317/.370 hitter in the minor leagues, had that sort of value, then what is Xander Bogaerts worth? Bogaerts, a Boston Red Sox farm hand, hit .307/.373/.523 with a 4.13 range factor and .959 fielding percentage as a 19-year-old over High-A and Double-A in 2012. Gregorius had a range factor of 3.96 and a .964 fielding percentage as a 22-year-old over Double-A and Triple-A in 2012.
Furthermore, if Elvis Andrus is worth an eight-year, $120 million contract, then shouldn’t Troy Tulowitzki fire his agent? His extension for the 2015 to 2020 seasons gives him roughly $19.67 million per season, which isn’t nearly enough considering Andrus can’t carry his compression shorts with cup, since jock straps aren’t used anymore.
The good news for Andrus is that he has an opt-out clause after the 2018 season, allowing him to reach free agency during his prime, potentially earning more money if he reaches higher levels of production; however, if he under-performs or gets hurt, the Rangers don’t have an opt-out clause. The question now is: Was this a good contract for the Texas Rangers?
With Ian Kinsler signed through 2017 (with a 2018 team option) and Andrus locked up, where does Jurickson Profar go? What if Kinsler has another poor season, as his .749 OPS in 2012 was the worst of his career? Can they trade him? There have been leaks of Kinsler getting moved to left field or first base, but what happen to Mike Olt, another Rangers prospect, who is blocked through 2015 at third (possibly 2016, since Beltre has a vesting option)? Can Kinsler hit enough to play left? Do the Rangers trade Olt? Does Profar move to center even though Leonys Martin is hoping to prove himself there in 2013? Should they trade Profar?
The Rangers have committed to defense by signing Andrus and they have committed to spending a lot of money on mediocre offense. After letting Josh Hamilton walk, not addressing their No.5 starter situation this winter, and building excellent talent that they seem to be unwilling to commit to from their minor league system, the Rangers, who have made three straight playoff appearances, seem to have no clear direction to their roster makeup going forward.