News broke Monday afternoon that the Cincinnati Reds have traded Neftali Soto to the Chicago White Sox after eight years with the organization. Soto played most of those eight seasons in the minor leagues including the last three with the Louisville Bats. The return on Soto is cash.
Soto was a key player for the Bats last season hitting .302 with 23 doubles. For an offense that really struggled to score runs, Soto was the shining moment in the lineup, when in it. He will move on to the White Sox, hopefully for a major league roster spot and if not, you can possibly catch him at Louisville Slugger Field when Charlotte comes to town from July 27-30.
This move leaves an open spot in the Bats infield to begin the season. Soto played first base much of last year, so replacing him will be tough. A couple of options come to mind, infielder Chris Dominguez, utility player Brennan Boesch, and infielder Josh Satin. Depending on who makes the Opening Day roster the Bats could have a solid corner infielder in either of those options.
Soto ends his Reds career, as of now, with a .274 minor league average, 107 home runs, and 439 RBI. His major league career never got going as he played in 34 games and recorded 44 plate appearances.
A plethora of moves were made on Monday, all of the players optioned to Louisville, of the pitching variety. RHP Dylan Axelrod, RHP Carlos Contreras, RHP Daniel Corcino, LHP Ryan Dennick and LHP David Holmberg were all optioned to Louisville. RHP Jon Moscot, OF Felix Perez and C Ramon Cabrera were optioned to the minor leagues and they could end up here in Louisville as well.
This time of year there are always question marks when it comes to the Opening Day roster on minor league clubs. The only benefit for Triple-A teams is that you can make a pretty educated guess on who will be filling out the roster the first game of the season. That being said, with the moves made today, the rotation is beginning to take form for the Bats.
The no brainer’s in my opinion are David Holmberg and Dylan Axelrod. Both had a shot to make the major league Opening Day roster so they should definitely be in the starting rotation here in Louisville. Carlos Contreras and Daniel Corcino are interesting names to keep an eye on. They are interchangeable and either both could be in the rotation or they could split up and one take a bullpen role.
I mentioned Jon Moscot being sent to minor league camp, that doesn’t necessarily mean he will end up here in Louisville, but that would be my guess. He has spent parts of the last two seasons in Pensacola, finishing his 2014 here in Louisville. He would be the fourth pitcher I would lock into the rotation on Opening Day.
The final spot in the rotation will most likely fall to Josh Smith. He pitched here all of last season and has been spending Spring Training in minor league camp. He led the team in wins (10), innings (159.0), and ERA by a starter, (4.70). He was a good option last season for manager Jim Riggleman, the only issue was the high pitch count early on the game forcing him to be relieved after five innings on most nights.
The final name out of the players optioned to Louisville is Ryan Dennick. He should be back in the bullpen where he showed great success last season, earning him a September call-up and making his major league debut on September 2, at Baltimore, pitching one inning and striking out a batter. He led the International League in appearances (57), and posted a team leading 2.36 ERA during the season.
The rotation is by no means set in stone until players break camp on April 5, but by what we saw today in the moves being made, we can make an educated guess on who will be taking the ball to start games this season in a Louisville Bats uniform.
News broke at about lunch time from Goodyear, AZ., that Tony Cingrani would be moving to the bullpen and the Reds would be stretching out the arm of Raisel Iglesias for a potential starting role.
Cingrani is going to the bullpen; #Reds will stretch out Iglesias to start. Probably biggest news of spring so far from camp.
— John Fay (@johnfayman) March 16, 2015
This move could have been made for several reasons, but in my mind it is because Tony Cingrani has a limited number of pitches he can throw (2) and Iglesias has four he can throw for a strike. It was just a matter of time before Cingrani ended up in the bullpen as a Red, anyway. He throws his fastball nearly eighty percent of the time and his secondary pitches aren’t as sharp. That’s not saying Cingrani couldn’t be a starter in the future, but right now, the place for Cingrani is in the back end of the bullpen.
As for Iglesias, he has a great assortment of pitches, but his control is a red flag. He has shown control problems in Cuba, but he must have showed enough command in the Arizona Fall League and so far this spring for the Reds to stretch him out.
Price made it sound Iglesias could make Bailey’s starts, then return to the ‘pen or minors. Blog coming shortly. #reds
— John Fay (@johnfayman) March 16, 2015
The most recent tweet from John Fay makes a lot more sense for Iglesias. He hasn’t thrown a ton of innings and according to baseball-reference he hasn’t thrown more than 82 innings, and that was in 2012. If that is indeed the case, having him pitch in Homer Bailey‘s spot to begin the season would be the right move and then send him to the minors to continue to build arm strength.
We will have to wait and see how all of this falls out, but Iglesias making at most four starts to begin the season in Cincinnati and then heading to the minors makes the most sense at this point.
The first player optioned to the Bats out of Spring Training is outfielder Yorman Rodriguez, news came out on Tuesday. Rodriguez will play his first games with Louisville this season after jumping from Pensacola to Cincinnati in September last season, making his major league debut.
The backstory on Rodriguez is fascinating. The 22 year-old has been in the Reds organization since 2008 when he was signed for a then-Venezuelan amateur bonus record of $2.5 million on his sixteenth birthday. He has since been a player to look at as a top prospect in the Reds organization. He is making his seventh appearance in the Baseball America Prospect Handbook, this season as the tenth best prospect in the system.
Yorman missed time in 2014 with an oblique injury but still put up worthy numbers. In 119 games he posted a .262 average and a career-high .331 on-base percentage. He isn’t going to hit a lot of home runs, but he has the ability to put the ball in the gap and run for days. He has plus speed on the base paths and in the outfield.
Baseball America sees him at his best in right field, because of his limited range in center field and plus arm that would fit best in right. The speed that he possesses was shown last season by stealing a career-high 12 bags for Pensacola. He has major league experience, but having him in Triple-A in 2015 will be a treat for the fans in Louisville that come out to the games looking for a highlight reel play.
Spring Training games began last week and every camp from West Palm Beach, FL to Goodyear, AZ is brimming with optimism. While Spring Training is a marquee moment for most baseball fans, it can also be a minefield of red herrings and fools gold. Here are some quick tips to help you enjoy Spring Training to its fullest.
- Watch the games. Although Louisville just got another uppercut from Old Man Winter this week, the sight of green grass, whether it’s on your TV or your computer screen, reminds us all that spring is around the corner. For many, Spring Training is the first true reminder that winter will end eventually, and there is no better way to get through the last few weeks of it than by watching baseball on TV.
- Pay attention to playing time. Spring Training is a time for non-roster invitees to prove they can still play at a major league level. It’s also time for the kids to log some innings against proven big leaguers.
Non-roster invitees, especially pitchers, will take any opportunity they can get in the spring and a lot of managers will give the veterans a fare shake at the few available roster spots. For the Reds, Paul Maholm and Jason Marquis are the veteran players to watch as they try to pitch their way onto the Reds Opening Day roster.
Prospects are in a similar boat. They are trying to make the most of every opportunity they get in big league camp and impress the powers that be. Spring Training gives teams and fans alike a chance to see the young minor league talent that they may not otherwise get to see during the regular season. And it gives minor league fans an opportunity to see the players that may be making stops in their towns throughout the summer. John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer wrote about the big impression Nick Travesio is making in his first Reds camp this spring.
- READ! It’s Spring Training for the writers too and you can find some excellent stories about your favorite club and its newest players during the spring. A perfect example is the story Mark Sheldon wrote for reds.com about the Reds’ newest reliever Burke Badenhop. The 32-year-old righty will be playing for his fifth team in five years and is coming off one of the best seasons of his career.
- Don’t’ expect to see great baseball. Most players resume baseball related activities around Christmas or New Years, but are nowhere near “game-ready” when Spring Training opens. Hitters are going to strike out a lot and pitchers are going to walk a lot of batters. Ground balls are going to be kicked around and outfielders are going to take some weird routes to fly balls.
So, instead of focusing on mistakes, watch with a more critical eye to see what players are working on.
Pitchers may be working on developing new pitches or turn secondary pitches into strikeout pitches. Hitters might be taking more pitches to work on two-strike hitting or swinging at more outside pitches to work on hitting to the opposite field. Everybody is working on something at this time of year. Try to pick out what it is that players are tweaking and see if they are having any success.
- Don’t expect the stats to mean anything. Last spring Neil Paine, at FiveThirtyEight, identified the best and worst spring performers in 2014 by finding the players who outperformed their projected wOBAs during Spring Training. I was intrigued by Paine’s suggestion that Spring Training numbers may actually mean something so I decided to check up on the hitters he highlighted. In the charts below, I compared those 20 hitters’ spring 2014 wOBAs to their actual 2014 wOBAs and the league average wOBA of .310. Although I would have loved to see a correlation between spring numbers and regular season numbers, the end results are conflicting.
Spring 2014 Best Performers Player 2014 Team Spring 2014 wOBA Actual 2014 wOBA Diff from MLB average wOBA (.310) Nick Castellanos DET .484 .307 -.003 Kolten Wong STL .514 .299 -.011 Mike Moustakas KC .615 .281 -.029 Brad Miller SEA .566 .290 -.020 A.J. Pollock ARI .503 .372 .062 Dustin Ackley SEA .496 .305 -.005 Austin Jackson DET .544 .292 -.018 Skip Schumaker CIN .471 .269 -.041 Brandon Moss OAK .571 .339 .029 Andrew McCutchen PIT .666 .412 .102 Spring 2014 Worst Performers Player 2014 Team Spring 2014 wOBA Actual 2014wOBA Diff from MLB average wOBA (.310) Yasiel Puig LAD .147 .379 .069 Corey Hart SEA .209 .266 -.044 Ryan Sweeney CHC .098 .285 -.025 Junior Lake CHC .166 .264 -.046 Yoenis Cespedes OAK .145 .326 .016 Travis d’Arnaud NYM .206 .313 .003 Jose Tabata PIT .105 .289 -.021 Ruben Tejada NYM .142 .292 -.018 Abraham Almonte SEA .267 .272 -.038 Jose Reyes TOR .228 .321 .011
Only three of the spring standouts were above-average offensive players last year and four of the most disappointing spring performers actually turned in above average performances. Of the 20 players highlighted, only seven of them had regular season performances that correlated with their Spring Training results. So it is fair to say that Spring Training statistics matter in the way that a broken clock is right twice a day.
- Don’t ignore it! The baseball may be bad, the statistics may not mean anything and you may not know half the players on the field, but don’t ignore Spring Training. Jobs are won and lost and careers begin and end in the spring. Season-long storylines plant their roots the day pitchers and catchers report. It is a reprieve from a harsh winter and a sign that summer is around the corner.
Spring Training serves a purpose for the players so it should also serve a purpose for the fans. Take the time to read up on your favorite club and players and see what adjustments players are trying to make for the upcoming season. Most importantly though, just enjoy watching some baseball again because it’s been a long winter.
The Reds bats were in mid-season form on Tuesday when they took on the Cleveland Indians in the first game of the spring. Behind impressive offensive days from multiple players and great pitching the Reds were victorious, 10-0, at Goodyear Park.
Everyone seemed to chip in a little bit as Cincinnati knocked around six extra-base hits on their way to the win. Brandon Phillips got it started in the first with a double off Indians starter Zach McAllister. He would later come around to score the first run for the Reds in 2015 on a single by Devin Mesoraco. That would be all the Reds needed on this day.
The Reds trotted out winter signee Jason Marquis for the opening start. He didn’t disappoint a bit, throwing two hitless innings, walking two and striking out three. The Reds used seven pitchers in all in the win. J.J. Hoover pitched one inning and all three outs came via the strikeout.
Even the reserves had good days at the plate, as winter signees Brennan Boesch and Chris Dominguez each had two hits, in their two at-bats. Dominguez had a single and a double, while Boesch had two singles. All ten of the runs the Reds scored on Tuesday were driven in by someone different. Four of the RBI were with two-outs which may not mean anything at this point, but those will come in handy during the long season.
The Reds will be back in action tomorrow afternoon against the Indians for the second of three in-a-row. Right-hander Anthony DeSclafani will get the ball for the Reds. He came over to Cincinnati in the trade that sent Mat Latos to the Miami Marlins on December 11. He will square off with Cleveland right-hander Josh Tomlin.
After a tough 2014 campaign, the Reds now face a pivotal 2015 season. The National League Central has become one of the most tightly contested divisions in baseball and it is not going to get any easier for the Reds in the coming years.
The Cardinals, well, are the Cardinals and are going to be competitive for the foreseeable future. The Pirates have quickly become one of the most stable organizations in the National League after years of futility. The Cubs are prospect rich, have money to spend and appear to be on the verge of sustained success. And the Brewers were in first place in the division for 149 days last season, from April 5 through August 31.
Meanwhile, the Reds had their worst year since 2008, limping to a 76-86 record and fourth place finish in the division. Joey Votto missed 100 games, Jay Bruce had a down year and Billy Hamilton struggled mightily in the second half en route to the Reds worst offensive season in more than 30 years. When it was all said and done the Reds scored just 595 runs, the third fewest in 2014.
The Reds pitching staff was league average last season, but Walt Jocketty, the Reds’ General Manager, was forced to trade Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon in the offseason to alleviate a tough contract situation. Johnny Cueto, Latos, Mike Leake and Simon are all due to become free agents after the 2015 campaign and Jocketty had to decide who he was most interested in keeping long-term. The reality was that the Reds would not have had the funds to retain all four–it’s going to be tough enough to retain both Cueto and Leake as it is–so he decided to get something in return for Latos and Simon rather than lose them to free agency in 2016.
So, with all that said, 2015 could be a year of soul-searching for the Reds. As the NL Central becomes increasingly competitive the Reds will have some tough decisions to make regarding the team’s future. Do they stay-the-course and commit to their in-house talent in an effort to extend their competitive window? Or do they look to trade aging assets if they are not competitive at the trade deadline?
Fortunately for Jocketty, those decisions do not need to be made today and, in large part, will be made by the performance of his team. The Reds outlook for 2015 is murky, and uncertainty at the major league level means this is a critical year for the Reds’ player development affiliates, especially Louisville.
Former Bats RHP Dylan Axelrod, LHP Tony Cingrani and LHP David Holmberg are competing with Cuban signee RHP Raisel Iglesias, 24-year-old RHP Anthony DeSclafani (acquired from Miami in the Latos deal) and two veteran non-roster invitees, LHP Paul Maholm and RHP Jason Marquis, for the last two spots in the Reds rotation and maybe one spot in the bullpen.
Regardless of which players land the final spots on the Reds pitching staff, the Louisville roster will have a lot of near major league ready talent. That is the point of Triple-A after all, but it will be important for the Reds’ player development staff to figure out just how close these players are to being every-day major leaguers.
Obviously the minor league rosters will not be set until early April, but there will surely be some intriguing names in the Bats Opening Day lineup. Some top prospects, like RHP Robert Stephenson and OF Jesse Winker, may follow in the footsteps of the Bats’ new manager, Delino DeShields, and make their way from Pensacola to Louisville at some point this season.
Cactus League play begins on Tuesday, March 3 and it is already clear that this is an important year for the future of Reds. You better believe that Jocketty and his staff will be watching the Bats closely in 2015, and you should too.
Baseball America released their top 100 prospect list last night on MLB Network and as expected some Reds were on that list. There were really no surprises as right-handed pitcher Robert Stephenson and outfielder Jesse Winker made the list. The name I was hoping to see did end up making it and that is right-handed pitcher Raisel Iglesias.
My piece this morning talks about Raisel Iglesias so if you want analysis on the Cuban signee, you can read that here as he ranked #58 on their top 100, the third Reds player on the list. As for Robert Stephenson Baseball America tabs him as having the best fastball and curveball in the system and is #23 on their top 100.
One strong statement J.J. Cooper makes is this:
A member of an excellent 2011 high school pitching class that included Jose Fernandez, Dylan Bundy, Archie Bradley, Daniel Norris, and Henry Owens, Stephenson has arguably the best pure arm strength of that group though he has moved more slowly up the ladder than some of his peers.
Stephenson isn’t the perfect pitcher, no one is, and his flaws showed in 2014. He was still shoving at 99 mph at times, but his numbers didn’t reflect that. He led the Southern League in strikeouts (140) and second in opponent average (.224), but his main flaw was that he led the league in home runs allowed (18) and walks allowed (74) which led to the second worst ERA in the league (4.74).
Cooper goes on to say that their is nothing wrong that experience can’t fix and I agree 100 percent. He is still young and was a high school draftee. He has plenty of time to develop and become a better pitcher. He will most likely spend the first part of the season at Pensacola, but we could see him in Louisville quickly if things go as planned.
Jesse Winker came in at #47 on the list of 100. BA calls him “the best pure hitter to come through the [Reds] system since Jay Bruce.” Winker has the ability to take walks, 54 last season, and hit for power. He hit 15 home runs combined over two levels last season and had 20 two-baggers.
The main thing Baseball America had to say about Winker is his advanced approach at the plate and understanding the strike zone. In my mind he is another Joey Votto type hitter, which I love, but some do not. He can hit home runs but his swing is more geared toward the gap-to-gap doubles that I love to see. BA projects him as an above-average hitter with average power. Put that with the ability to take walks and know the zone and you have an excellent offensive player.
The Reds match up pretty well when it comes to top prospects. The Reds don’t have a ton of top tier prospects like the Cubs and Twins, but the Reds are middle of the pack system wise. They are 16th for the second straight season and ahead of the Atlanta Braves (29), Cleveland Indians (23), Milwaukee Brewers (21) and Tampa Bay Rays (17).
On Wednesday I wrote about the bottom third of the Reds top 30 prospect list from Baseball America and the new players on the list. Today, I will reveal the newcomers from the top 20. A little bit of a longer list, but it will be worth it to read about some of the new players the Reds have soaring through the system. Each player will have analysis that comes from the Baseball America Prospect Handbook.
At #18 is Taylor Sparks. Sparks is a third baseman out of UC Irvine who was drafted in the second round of this past years draft. He is already in the top 20 because of the raw skills he has. The best thing about his game is his athletic ability and plus defense. His range is excellent and it goes well with his quick first step at the hot corner.
Out of all the players the Reds drafted in 2014, Baseball America tabs Sparks as the best power hitter of the group. He swings and misses quite a bit, but when he connects, he has the raw power to make the ball travel. The only downfall is his strikeout numbers. In 55 games and 198 at-bats, he struck out 84 times, to just 31 walks.
Just ahead of Sparks at #17 is Gavin LaValley. LaValley is also a third baseman but can also play across the infield at first base. He was also taken in the 2014 draft, but as a high school player. He just turned 20 in December and has above-average hitting ability according to BA. He has the ability to hit to all fields and shows quick hands, but on the defensive end he struggles. He plays a lot of third base now, but scouts see him moving to first base because of his lack of range at third.
Coming in at #16 is a player the Reds got this winter in a trade with the Detroit Tigers. Jonathon Crawford is a first round draft pick from 2013 out of the University of Florida. He has a plus fastball that sits 92-94 and can touch 96. He has a biting slider that is his out pitch, but the one downfall is if his slider isn’t working hitters can sit on his fastball. His fastball shows downward movement as well. He can possibly make the jump to Double-A Pensacola this season.
The next player at number #13 is a player that if you follow the minor leagues at all you will know his name. Kyle Waldrop had struggled to make a big jump because of his decent outfield fielding ability and pull heavy hitting arsenal. In 2014 he became a more complete hitter, using all fields and knocking around 55 extra-base hits. He shows gap to gap power and not necessarily home run power. It will be key to see if he continues on this new path in 2015.
Alex Blandino comes in at #11 and he is also a 2014 draftee, a first round pick out of Stanford. He made the rare move from third to short out of college into his first pro ball experience. He had some mishaps as expected because of his lack of range, but he can make up for it with an above-average arm. He is a pull-heavy hitter, opening up when he swings and leaves the outside part of the plate wide open. BA sees him being above average hitter, with average power.
We now jump into the top 10, where you will only see two new names, both of them pitchers. The first is Anthony DeSclafani at #6. He came over to the Reds in the trade with Miami for Mat Latos. DeSclafani will fight for a spot in the Opening Day rotation after seeing innings with the Marlins last season. He isn’t an overpowering arm as he sits at about 92-94 with a slider that gets outs. He go to pitch for a ground ball is his two-seam that sits in the low 90′s. He has tried bringing back his curve and working on his changeup. If he can get either one of them to be an even average pitch that he can throw for strikes consistently, he will be a four-pitch pitcher.
The final newcomer to the Reds top 30 prospects by Baseball America is international signee Raisel Iglesias at #2. Iglesias signed a seven-year deal with the Reds starting with the 2015 season. BA sees him in the bullpen to begin to gain arm strength and innings since he didn’t pitch much in 2014. He did throw seven innings in the Arizona Fall League allowing an opponent average of .045. He sits 92-95 and has the ability to throw four pitches for a strike.
Just like Aroldis Chapman his best secondary pitch is his hard slider that he can turn into a curve with a different arm slot early in the count for a get-me-over strike. He, like many Cuban pitchers, changes his arm slot and that is what worries scouts because of his lack of strike-throwing at times.
That wraps up the newcomers into the Baseball America Top 30 prospects for the Reds. I hope you enjoyed learning about these players as much as I did and I recommend the Prospect Handbook for any minor league fan.
Every year about this time publications release each team’s top ten prospects with some analysis on each player. At Baseball America they release a Prospect Handbook each season and this year I was able to get my hands on one. It is 511 pages of prospect greatness, but I will be focusing on the new names into the Reds top 30 today.
More than one-third of the names on the top 30 this season were not on the list in 2014. You will see what number they land at on the list and also a quote from the staff at Baseball America on that said player. Without further ado lets get started.
Coming in at #27 on the list is brand new Red Chad Wallach. Wallach came over in the trade for Mat Latos to the Miami Marlins and has shown good skills in his time in the minors. BA had some good things to say about Wallach, including his ability to be a good game caller. He reworked his swing before 2014 and came back and hit .321 with a .430 on-base percentage.
One spot up at #26 is Tyler Mahle. The seventh round pick in 2013 found immediate success at Billings, but isn’t the type of pitcher to overpower you. He sits at 88-92 with plus control, according to BA. If he can gain “a tick” on his fastball he has the ability to project as a back end starter. He does have plus control, only walking 23 batters in 111 innings the past two seasons since being drafted.
Up the list a bit at #23 is Wyatt Strahan. The 2014 third round pick is in the top 30 for the first time after his first pro season. BA had some good things to say about Strahan as well. “He generates swings and misses with 94-96 MPH fastball up in the zone, but is at his best when he throws a 92 MPH two-seam low in the zone, with plus sink.” When I see the last part of that sentence on a scouting report I get excited because of the ability to throw ground balls. If he’s not a huge strikeout pitcher and relies on balls in play to get outs, the balls on the ground are the best route to go.
This next name, Bats fans will recognize as left-handed pitcher David Holmberg is in the top 30 at #21. He spent most of last season with the Bats, excluding a couple of stints with the Reds. He struggled a bit at the beginning of the season, but came into his own down the stretch and saw success. Holmberg doesn’t throw extremely hard, so he has to rely on his change up to get outs. BA sees him in Triple-A again this season, and as a possible depth option for the Reds. He saw his walk rate go up last year, but not because “he’s lost his feel for throwing strikes, but because his lack of stuff forces him to nibble.” We will see if his conditioning will help his velocity this season and possibly see a few more strikeouts and a lot less walks.