John Fay has an excellent article up this morning about the Reds’ financial picture. It’s based on a long interview with Reds’ CEO Bob Castellini. If you’re interested in taking the pulse of the top leadership for the organization, I strongly recommend you read it.
Fay’s reporting confirms that the Reds can, in fact, afford nice things. As I’ve been saying for a couple of years, the local sources who uncritically repeat the talking point that the Reds don’t have enough money for this or that haven’t carefully studied the new revenues washing up into baseball, even in Cincinnati.
For example, Castellini talks positively about the ability of the Reds to sign Mat Latos and Johnny Cueto to extensions. Castellini also discusses a few details of the national broadcast contract. I particularly enjoyed reading Castellini’s remarks about negotiating the Reds’ next local TV agreement.
“We will maximize the value of our rights when we’re able,” Castellini said. “We will consider every option.”
His reference to “every option” might include a competitive bid from Time Warner/Comcast or possibly a stand-alone regional sports network. Either way, I bet the Reds end up with ownership equity in their new broadcasts. That’s a positive financially, because franchises don’t have to share revenue they earn from owning the broadcast. That’s considered “media revenue” not “baseball revenue” and therefore beyond the scope of the revenue sharing provisions of the CBA.
In the midst of taking a shot at media reports (including blogs, I suppose) criticizing the lack of action by the Reds this offseason, Castellini also puts attendance figures into context by comparing Reds’ season ticket sales to those of the Cardinals. I’d have never guessed this (my emphasis):
“The Cardinals have a huge ticket base because they deserve it,” Castellini said. “They win year-in, year-out. But when we bought the Cardinals in 1996, they had fewer season tickets than we have now. But they brought back that winning tradition. You have to contend.”
Castellini gets it. You have to spend money (wisely) to generate revenue. Baseball franchises can’t cut corners and expect to thrive.
Fabulous reporting by John Fay.
The biggest unknown in the Reds 2014 season is young Billy Hamilton. He is being handed both the centerfield and leadoff jobs to begin the season. Reds fans are both hopeful and nervous. Watching Hamilton run is a religious experience and the only question is if he will bring enough of a bat to carry his weight in the majors. Here are my projections.
2013 Slash Line: .256/.308/.343 (AAA)
2014 Projection: .255/.315/.330
2013 WAR: 0.6 (Choo – 5.2)
2014 Best Guess WAR: 2.0
Projected Difference: -3.2 WAR from Choo
2014 Floor: 0.0 WAR
2014 Ceiling: 5.0 WAR
I want to start the discussion by saying that no one should expect Hamilton to replace Choo. That’s simply not fair. They are radically different players with radically different skill sets. Choo was a finished player while Hamilton is still developing. So while it is very unlikely the Reds will get as much out of center as they did last year, that does not mean Hamilton is destined to be a bust.
Hamilton, at this point, is all about potential. So let’s discuss what we know and don’t know about him.
What We Know:
Hamilton will lead the league in steals if he plays every day and he will hit for zero power. It’s all about the legs. He’s a rare player who might be more likely to hit an inside-the-park homer than the conventional trotting variety. The only real hope for improvement is that as he ages, he gains a bit of strength. Just a touch more power would do him a great deal of good. He did crack a .400 SLG at two different minor league stops, but what we should hope for is that he can get it north of .350.
What We Don’t Know:
How much he will walk and how good his defense will be. In two minor league stops in 2012, Hamilton walked a lot. Like Joey Votto-level a lot. Last year, he was more Todd Frazier. This is the big key to his value. If he walks like Frazier, he’s probably not a total disaster, but many will be questioning his effectiveness. But, if he can even find a middle ground between Frazier and Votto, then the Reds will really have something. A 10 percent walk-rate probably means an OBP north of . 340, and with Hamilton’s speed, that is an excellent place to be.
He figures to be above average in center with projections generally ranging from just above average to, gold-glove level. My money is on him being closer to a gold-glove than average.
What we’ve heard in spring training so far, is encouraging. If Hamilton really does focus on taking walks and getting on base, this could be a big year for him. In the end, we have to hope the potential pays off soon.
No one’s 2013 season went wrong more quickly than Ryan Ludwick’s. He blew out his shoulder sliding on the first day of the season and that was that. He came back late in the year, but was far from fully recovered and even farther from productive. In 38 games, Ludwick managed to be worth almost a full win BELOW replacement. That is not good.
So what should we expect from Ludwick this year? Let’s take a look.
2013 Slash Line: .249/.293/.326
2014 Projection: .250/.310/.415
2013 WAR: -0.8
2014 Best Guess WAR: 0.5
Projected Difference: +1.3 WAR
2014 Floor: -2.0 WAR
2014 Ceiling: 2.5 WAR
I realize this projection is going to raise some hackles, so let me try to take the arguments one at a time.
1. No, he is not going to be above average. Ryan Ludwick was a really good ball player for exactly one season. That season was six years ago. Other than that he has had either one (FanGraphs) or zero (BBRef) seasons above 2.5 WAR. And even that one FanGraphs season was just a 2.6.
2. Yes, it is possible he’ll hit better than this. But look, shoulder injuries can be rough on power and all of Ludwick’s value is tied up in his power. This projection has him as basically a league average hitter. He may be a bit better than that. However he is also 35 this year, and that is not an age when players typically come back like gangbusters from serious injuries.
3. He is really bad at defense. Like really bad. He figures to be at least a full win below average for a left fielder, which like saying a particular sloth is slow for a sloth. He’s not good in the field.
So, basically, if Ludwick were a league-average fielder at shortstop, he’d be an all-star. But, as he plays left, he figures to be more or less replacement level. There is also a real possibility that his offense doesn’t come back at all, in which case, he turns into a total disaster in left.
There has been a lot of handwringing about the Reds’ bench this year, but don’t be surprised if Ludwick ends up as the least valuable player on the roster. It probably won’t happen, but it might.
Confession, I like Zack Cozart more than his performance merits. I don’t know why, I just do. Maybe it’s just nice to have a regular shortstop for the first time since Barry Larkin.
But he’s not a great player. This is his age-28 season, and at best, he rates as a 2.5 win player. That’s solid. Every winning team has those guys, but he’s average and average is as good as he’s every likely to be. Here’s my best guess for him…
2013 Slash Line: .254/.284/.381
2014 Projection: .255/.290/.390
2013 WAR: 1.9
2014 Best Guess WAR: 2.5
Projected Difference: +0.6 WAR
2014 Floor: 1.0 WAR
2014 Ceiling: 3.5 WAR
Cozart is a player with a reasonably high floor and a low ceiling. His defense is good enough, that it’s almost impossible for him to be valueless, but his offensive skills are limited enough that he’s very unlikely to ever put up an all-star caliber season.
I refuse to list WARs that don’t end in 0 or 5, but I was tempt with Cozart. I think he’ll be somewhere between 2.0 and 2.5, but closer to the latter than the former. His offense gets the “he’s still young” bonus for one more year.
Mostly, we should all be happy that he figures to hit seventh or eighth, which is where he belongs on any good team, and that he’ll be out there grabbing everything that comes his way at short.
One game into the spring training season, I’ve already seen some lineup complaints. This, it seems, is what Bryan Price intends to send out most days:
1. Billy Hamilton
2. Brandon Phillips
3. Joey Votto
4. Jay Bruce
5. Ryan Ludwick
6. Todd Frazier
7. Devin Mesoraco
8. Zack Cozart
Certainly, some players will slide around. Hamilton needs to prove himself. Yada yada yada.
Do I think this is ideal? No. Here’s the lineup I’d use if I were in charge:
1. Brandon Phillips
2. Joey Votto
3. Todd Frazier
4. Jay Bruce
5. Ryan Ludwick
6. Devin Mesoraco
7. Zack Cozart
9. Billy Hamilton
All that lineup does is acknowledge the studies saying the most important spots are 2nd and 4th. And then it goes in roughly descending order of OBP with Hamilton as an extra leadoff hitter at the end of the lineup.
But here’s the thing. It doesn’t matter. The difference between what I think is ideal and what will be used is so small it’s almost entirely meaningless.
What I really care about? Price doesn’t seem inclined to bunt all the time. He doesn’t seem to want to hit Cozart second. He seems rational, especially given that he does have egos to manage and I’m just somebody assuming players don’t care where they hit.
So yeah, you won’t hear me complaining about the lineup this year. It’s not worth it.
If you read the 2013 Redleg Annual, you know that it was a unique product, full of great insights and wonderful writing about our favorite baseball club. If you didn’t read it, you have some explainin’ to do.
Well, the Redleg Annual is back, and better than ever. For the low, low price of three American dollars, you can get an e-book packed full of everything you need to know about the 2014 Cincinnati Reds. Edited by our good friend Joel Luckhaupt, the Annual includes:
- Profiles for each of the projected 25-man roster.
- Discussions about many of the team’s great players including Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Billy Hamilton, and Sam LeCure.
- Articles from many of your favorite writers on the web including Mo Egger, the gangs from Red Reporter, Redleg Nation, Reds Minor Leagues, Chris Sabo’s Goggles, C-ing Red, and more!
That’s right, several of your favorite Redleg Nation editors contributed…and I did too!
Really, it’s a superb publication, and a unique one, as well. I promise, you’ll love the quality of the writing about our favorite National League baseball club. It’ll get you even more excited for the upcoming season. Go buy a copy!
We won’t have a game thread for every spring training game, but we will for this one. The game just started. You can hear it on the radio (WLW) live or watch it tape delayed at 5 p.m. (Eastern) on the MLB network. Not sure what’s available online. Billy Hamilton has just worked a walk, stole second and taken third on a wild throw. First reference to “havoc” by the radio broadcast.
Here’s manager Bryan Price’s (!) line-up. Alfredo Simon is the starting pitcher.
- Billy Hamilton (CF)
- Brandon Phillips (2B)
- Joey Votto (1B)
- Jay Bruce (RF)
- Ryan Ludwick (LF)
- Todd Frazier (3B)
- Zack Cozart (SS)
- Devin Mesoraco (C)
- Brayan Pena (DH)