(Ed: You may have noticed that we have featured a few new contributors over the last month or two. Today, we are finally getting around to publishing the latest from another newcomer. We’re happy to welcome Spencer to the fold.)
Another trade deadline has passed without the kind of blockbuster deal that many Reds’ fans so desperately want to see. But we did make a deal — sending Jonny Gomes to the Washington Nationals for a couple prospects — even if the return was a couple of guys whose names Cincinnati Enquirer beat writer John Fay claimed to not be able to recall.
Clearly, the biggest upside of the trade was clearing a roster spot for promising youngster Yonder Alonso, who has been everything we could have hoped for since receiving the call. But Gomes did have value as a right-handed platoon guy. Was the return really so paltry?
Redleg Nation recently caught up with the respective position coaches of the two newcomers — left-handed pitcher Chris Manno and left-handed outfielder Bill Rhinehart — to find out.
Of the two, Manno, the 22-year-old closer for the low single-A Hagerstown Suns, probably has the most upside.
The second-year pitcher out of Duke has certainly been impressive this year, albeit at a low level of play. In 43.1 innings of work as the team’s primary closer he has posted a 1.04 ERA with an impressive 69 strikeouts and only 15 base on balls
“The one thing he does is throw the ball over the plate and attack the hitters,” said Suns’ pitching coach Chris Michalak. “He’s not going to hurt himself.”
While he isn’t going to draw any comparisons with Aroldis Chapman — his fastball tops out in the low 90s on a good day — his youth and frame indicates that he could fill out and develop a bit mormore power. He is listed at only 170 lbs. and 6-foot-3 on the Suns’ Web site, though other sites list him as short as 6-foot.
He also has the advantage of having four pitches he’s developing — a fastball, curve, change up and cutter — and a deceptive delivery that keeps hitters of balance.
“It’s a little bit of a hitch and he hides the ball,” Michalak said. “His delivery reminds me of Sid Fernandez the way he hides the ball.”
It also doesn’t hurt that he seems to have the right attitude and work ethic. There are a ton of talented youngsters in the minors; often the ones that make it do so by virtue of those two qualities.
“There’s no doubt that Chris works hard and does what you ask him to do,” Michalak said. “While he was at Duke he was a starter, but we needed a lefty in the bullpen. He took that opportunity and ran with it.”
Rhinehart, the lefthanded outfielder also acquired in the trade, has enjoyed a breakout season for the double A Harrisburg Senators, batting .283 with an impressive .963 OPS and 39 bases on balls to only 59 strikeouts in 284 at bats.
The only problem? Rhinehart is 26 years old, in his fifth year in the minors, and has never advanced beyond double A. While his numbers this year are good, his batting average is 20 points ahead of his career average of .262, and his OPS is nearly 200 points above his career average of .792, and 284 at bats just isn’t enough to say definitively whether he has turned the corner. While he has a solid career fielding percentage of .987, he has limited range that has resulted in his spending considerable amount of time at first base.
If he is to contribute, it is likely to be as a left-handed bat. So is there any reason to believe he can continue his recent string of success at the plate? His batting coach for the Senators, Troy Gingrich, thinks so.
“I still think he can play in the big leagues,” Gingrich said. “He’s a good fastball hitter and he’s always had the power.”
The difference this year has been a better eye at the plate, Gingrich said.
“In past years he has been streaky,” Gingrich said. “He has been staying more consistent this year, not getting himself out.
“One thing we did was maybe rush him when he was younger, and I think that set him back. But he’s at a point now where he can coach himself on his own swing, and that’s a big advantage.”
It seems that at best he would be a platoon guy, which isn’t terrible considering that’s all we gave up. But you have to wonder if he can remain patient at the plate when he faces better stuff at the higher levels. In his career he has more than twice as many strikeouts (369) as walks (183).
Manno, on the other hand, has real potential to be a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen. He is still very young, and there is a world of difference between low single A and the big leagues, but any lefty with a few pitches, a great attitude and a track record of success is a welcome addition to the club.
Still, the biggest reason this move was made was to clear a spot for Alonso, and that’s a good reason (as he has shown). Both these guys should have a chance to make a jump next year, though — obviously — I wouldn’t expect either of them to be on the opening day roster. At least now, though, you might be able to remember their names.