The Louisville Bats will begin their season on Thursday, April 9 at Louisville Slugger Field against the Toledo Mud Hens, the Triple-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. This will be the third straight season in which the Bats and Mud Hens have opened the season versus one another with the Bats winning the past two. Last season at Fifth Third Field in Toledo, Louisville pitcher Jeff Francis threw six shutout innings to lead the Bats to a 3-1 win. Francis earned IL Pitcher of the Week honors for his performance.
The Mud Hens finished one game ahead of the Bats last season, but both were under .500. The Bats seem to have what looks like a very talented group by players announced already and the predictions I am making for the Opening Day roster for new manager Delino DeShields to shuffle around. DeShields will manage his first game at Triple-A on April 9 after spending six seasons throughout the Reds system.
DeShields’ starting rotation could go in a couple of different directions, but should end up with Josh Smith, David Holmberg, Dylan Axelrod, Michael Lorenzen and Jon Moscot. If you ask me that is a group of five that can get through a lot of innings and give the Bats a chance to win on a nightly basis.
As for the position players, Yorman Rodriguez will make his Triple-A debut during the opening homestand, most likely. You, the fan, can also look forward to seeing another season of Tucker Barnhart behind the plate calling games. It has been said that pitchers love throwing to him and as we saw last season he calls a pretty good game behind the plate. Also, Donald Lutz will begin the season with the Bats after spending most of last season in Louisville. There is a lot to be excited about heading into the opening homestand.
Going off of the 2015 IL Preview that was sent out earlier this week, the Mud Hens look to have three players back into their projected starting lineup that started for Toledo on Opening Day in 2014, (First baseman Jordan Lennerton, center fielder Daniel Fields and DH Mike Hessman).
Again, taking a look at the IL Preview and the Mud Hens projected lineup, you the fan have a chance to see three of the Tigers top 10 prospects according to Baseball America. Dixon Machado, the projected shortstop, is the tenth best prospect for the Tigers who was signed back in 2008 out of Venezuela. He played in 90 games at Double-A in 2014 hitting .305 with 23 doubles and stealing eight bases. He stole 23 bags in 2012 with High-A Lakeland, but the eight last season was the highest since.
We jump way up to the second spot in the top ten for the next best prospect projected to be with Toledo. The second best prospect is right-handed pitcher Buck Farmer. Farmer spent time at four different levels last season including making his major league debut. He spent the majority of the season at Low-A West Michigan, pitching in 18 games, all starts, striking out 116 batters in 104 innings. At the Triple-A level in 2014 Farmer pitched two games, one of them against the Louisville Bats. This start came on August 28 in Louisville as he pitched seven innings, allowed one run on six hits, struck out two and walked one.
The top prospect for the Detroit Tigers and projected to be in the Mud Hens lineup is outfielder Steven Moya. Moya signed with the Tigers back in 2008 out of the Dominican Republic. Baseball America has Moya as a 70 power grade after hitting 35 home runs and 33 doubles in his first season at Double-A Erie last season. He played over 100 games for the first time in his career after a separated shoulder cut his 2013 season short. He is a big swing and miss batter striking out 161 times last season. Look for him this season and hopefully on Opening Night at Louisville Slugger Field.
Once the Bats and Mud Hens complete a four-game series, Columbus will come to town for their first two games against Louisville in 2015. Columbus won 13 of the 20 meetings in 2014 on their way to a West Division Championship. The Clippers project to have another stellar lineup, led by the Indians top prospect Francisco Lindor. Lindor sits atop the Indians prospect list for the second consecutive season and projects to be the Indians short stop by the end of this season, at the latest next season.
Baseball America tabs Lindor as the Indians best average hitter and defensive infielder among their prospects. We saw it a couple of times last season with Lindor making some beautiful plays at the short stop position. He has a great mix of speed and arm strength, which makes it hard to get anything by him on the ground.
Joining Lindor in Columbus will be third base prospect Giovanny Urshela and outfield prospect James Ramsey. Urshela is the 11th best prospect by Baseball America in the Indians system. If the Indians should need help at third base, Urshela should get the first crack at the job. He hit .276 with 13 homers, 27 doubles and six triples last season for Columbus. He is a high contact hitter only striking out 51 times, while walking 30 times. He likes to put the ball in play and has seen some success because of it.
Ramsey is the 12th prospect in the Indians chain after coming over from the Cardinals system during last season. He did most of his damage in Memphis last season hitting an even .300 in 67 games with 13 homers. Baseball America expects him to split time in centerfield this season for Columbus.
Those are the players you should be looking for when coming to the ballpark during the first homestand of the season (April 9-14). We hope to see you out at Louisville Slugger Field for the opening of it’s 16th season in downtown Louisville!
If you completed the Bats Brain Buster Quiz, we really appreciate you taking the time to do so! I am sure you are wondering how many you answered correctly, so without further ado, here are the answers.
1. Who is the last Louisville Bats player to have 20 home runs and 20 doubles in the same season?
Mike Hessman - He recorded 25 home runs and 32 doubles in the 2013 season playing in 121 games for the Bats.
2. Who recorded the first Louisville stolen base at Louisville Slugger Field?
“Neon” Deion Sanders - Sanders stole a base in the first inning of the second game played at Louisville Slugger Field. In the top of the first Norfolk’s Jason Tyner stole a base keeping Sanders from being the first player to steal a base at LSF.
3. Who leads the Louisville franchise in games played?
Corky Miller - The Louisville legend Corky Miller claimed the record of most games played during the 2014 season with 548. His #8 was retired on August 31, 2014, becoming the first number to be retired by the Louisville franchise.
4. Who holds the Louisville franchise record for highest batting average since 1982?
Norris Hopper - Norris Hopper hit .347 during the 2006 season putting him atop the list just beating out Raul Gonzalez’ (2002) .333 average.
5. Who is the most recent Louisville pitcher to strike out 15 batters in one game?
Homer Bailey - Homer Bailey struck out 15 Toledo Mud Hens on 4/26/09 at Fifth Third Field.
6. Who is the current Louisville Bats pitching coach?
Ted Power - Power is entering his 10th season as the Bats pitching coach. He took over his current position in May 2006.
7. Who is the last Bats player to win Minor League Player of the Year?
Jay Bruce - Jay won the award in the 2007 season.
8. Who is the last Bats player to hit for the cycle?
Chris Dickerson - Dickerson hit for the cycle on July 26, 2007 at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
9. Who is the lead radio announcer for the Louisville Bats?
Matt Andrews - Matt took over as the lead radio announcer in 2010, after having been the No. 2 radio announcer since he joined the Louisville Bats in 2003. His No. 2 is Nick Curran who will be beginning his third season.
10. What team did the Louisville franchise play in the first game at Louisville Slugger Field?
Norfolk - Louisville played Norfolk to open up LSF on April 12, 2000 with Norfolk winning the game, 8-5.
The Cincinnati Reds will be taking the field in four days on April 6 against division foe Pittsburgh and the game will count towards their end of season record, finally. With that approaching Bryan Price and the Reds had to cut the roster down to 25 players. The final cuts were announced earlier on Thursday, with one move shockingly being made.
Right-handed reliever Sam LeCure was released, cleared waivers and was sent outright to Louisville. Bryan Price was not happy about having to make the move, as he said,
The LeCure thing, I never could have seen that coming when we began Spring Training, Price said. I think it breaks all of our hearts that heâs not on this ball club right now. We anticipate him being back. I think we feel he’s not at his best where he needs to be to help us right now. We’ve got to get him back there. He should be a big part of our team this season. We’re all just a wreck about him not being with us at this point in time. I’m very confident that he will be back with us.
LeCure is owed $1.85 million and by being on the Bats he is able to keep that money instead of testing the free-agent market. As you read above, Price expects LeCure to be back on the Reds roster at some point this season. The main issue for LeCure wasn’t his velocity being down but in Price’s words “his fastball command.” “He’s a fastball pitcher with a lot of good accessory pitches -curveball, slider and changeup. His bread and butter we’ve seen over the last five years is being able to locate that fastball with that off the body comebacker on lefties and freeze down and away on the right-handers.”
LeCure hasn’t pitched in the minor leagues since 2011 on rehab where he pitched four games for the Bats, allowing one run in six and two-thirds innings. The last time he pitched full time at the minor league level, he was a starter for the Bats in 2010.
Also part of the cuts was Michael Lorenzen, as he was sent to minor league camp and will end up in Louisville as well. He spent last season in Pensacola making 24 starts with a 3.13 ERA. Lorenzen was in the discussion for a possible major league bullpen role during camp.
— Michael Lorenzen (@Lorenzen55) April 2, 2015
Both of these moves cleared space for a couple of players to make the major league roster. Veterans Jason Marquis, Kevin Gregg and Brennan Boesch all made the Opening Day roster. Joining them will be infielder/outfielder Chris Dominguez. It will be the first time the former University of Louisville Cardinal, Dominguez has made an Opening Day roster after making his major league debut last September with the San Francisco Giants against the Colorado Rockies.
Brennan Boesch is coming off a batting title in the Pacific Coast League where he hit .332 for the Salt Lake Bees, the Triple-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He wasn’t just a batting average player for them as he hit 25 home runs and 25 doubles on his way to a 2014 All-Pacific Coast League spot as the designated hitter. He also played 27 games for the Angels hitting .187 with two doubles and two home runs.
Jason Marquis is a veteran that will begin his 15th major league season when he takes the mound for the Reds this April. He last pitched for a major league team in 2013 for the San Diego Padres making 20 starts. He finished 9-5 with a 4.05 earned run average. He spent last season in the Philadelphia Phillies organization making eight starts for the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, the Triple-A club.
Finally, the last veteran to make the club is Kevin Gregg. He will begin his 13th major league season in 2015, having last pitched for the Miami Marlins in 2014, making 12 appearances. The Reds will be his sixth different big league team that he has played for.
All of these moves leave the roster at 28. The final three names are Homer Bailey, Jason Bourgeois and Sean Marshall and they will begin the season on the Disabled List, leaving 25. Below is who is left in camp, so you can see the Opening Day roster for the Reds in 2015.
News broke on Tuesday afternoon that the Cincinnati Reds had released four-year Louisville Bats outfielder, Felix Perez. Perez has been apart of the Reds organization since he signed as a non-drafted free agent on May 15, 2010.
His first full season in professional baseball was in 2011, when he played at two different levels, in Carolina and Louisville. All but nine games that season came at Double-A Carolina where he hit .257 with four home runs, 16 doubles and drove in 32 runs. He was promoted to Louisville for nine games to end the season.
In 2012 Perez was a full-time player for the Bats in the outfield and hit a career-high .301. He upped his doubles total to 25 and RBI total to 35. He played a solid season in 2013 setting then career-high’s in multiple offensive categories setting him up for another career year in 2014.
Perez indeed did have another career year last season, finishing the season with a career-high in home runs (12), RBI (74), hits (129), doubles (36) and runs (62). His 74 RBI were the most recored in a single season since infielder Danny Dorn also recorded 74 in 2011. The 36 doubles, which were the third most in the International League, were the most since C Devin Mesoraco also had 36 in 2011.
He was second on the team with 34 multi-hit games, six of which were three-hit games, and third on the team in runs and hits. He is sixth in franchise history in hits (375), only 96 away from the record holder Aaron Holbert. He was also 14 doubles shy of tying Corky Miller’s franchise record of 99.
Perez or better known by his walkup song Chacarron, will be missed in Louisville, but we wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors in baseball!
If you ever miss hearing his walk-up song, just come back to this post and listen to it over and over again!
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.