1. I’d move Aroldis Chapman to the starting rotation and send Mike Leake to AAA. Chapman will eventually be a starting pitcher (right?) and now seems like the appropriate time to make the move.

While Chapman has been very valuable in the pen, he has more unique value in the starting rotation. Logan Ondrusek, Jose Arredondo and even JJ Hoover show that it’s possible to find strong set-up pitchers. Chapman has been brilliant in the pen, but the step down there would be relatively small. If Bill Bray and Nick Masset (remember him?) could come back healthy, that would help. But I wouldn’t wait.

Chapman has conquered his control problems by dropping his mph. That transition would have been necessary to be a successful starter anyhow. And he hasn’t seemed to lose any K/9 effectiveness. Compare the relatively small drop-off in the bullpen from moving Chapman to the rather large gain in the starting rotation. Chapman did very well as a starter in Spring Training.

2. I’d end the policy of assigning the catchers to specific pitchers. Dusty Baker has now settled in to a rigid system of using Ryan Hanigan with Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto and Bronson Arroyo, while having Devin Mesoraco catch Mike Leake and Homer Bailey. I’d move to a strict alternating pattern, with the exception of leaving Hanigan with Arroyo. Whether Mesoraco should be catching more is a separate issue. This change would keep their number of games the same as now – Hanigan 60%, Mesoraco 40%.

Hanigan is undisputedly better at calling games and working with pitchers. That’s understandable given his experience. He seems to give the pitchers confidence and encouragement. All five starting pitchers need this, not just the top tier. Arguably the top tier needs it least of all. Hanigan did not catch Cueto much in past years. Having Hanigan catch every pitcher would evenly distribute his positive qualities among them. It might also generate an interesting dynamic with Devin Mesoraco since the latter could watch Hanigan call every starter, including the ones that Mesoraco would be calling next.

This move would also help Mesoraco learn all of the starting pitchers. Eventually he is going to be our everyday catcher, that seems obvious. Whether that transition takes place this year, next year, or the year after. At some point, he is going to be Mat Latos’ catcher, Johnny Cueto’s catcher etc. He should learn how to work with them now. Having Hanigan around is a valuable resource for this process. So have the transition take place while Hanigan is around and healthy.

3 & 4. I’d commit to Chris Heisey in LF and Todd Frazier at 3B. I’d give them each a month of solid playing time to see if they can become major league position players. They are each old enough (Heisey, 27; Frazier 26) that the organization needs to be making long-term decisions on them. They have each shown enough potential, Heisey last year, Frazier last September and this Spring Training, that they merit a shot. Playing them off and on isn’t giving them a fair test. This isn’t for their benefit, this trial is essential to see if the Reds have long-term answers at LF and 3B. We’ll never know the way the Reds are using them now.

I don’t want to beat a dead horse on Scott Rolen (37) and Ryan Ludwick (33). Their numbers — and not just this year — speak for themselves. I wouldn’t release them.They could provide solid, experienced depth on the bench and as pinch hitters.

5. I’d move Jay Bruce to the cleanup spot. This has less to do with the deficiency of Brandon Phillips than it does with the emerging wondrousness that is Jay Bruce. The lefty-after-lefty concern is trivial compared to the compelling advantages of giving Bruce more at bats and giving Joey Votto more protection from walks. I also think Phillips is a better hitter when he’s not trying to pull the ball all the time and I can see where batting fourth would tempt him into doing that.

I wouldn’t rush Phillips back to the top of the lineup, though. I’d give Zack Cozart the chance to see if he can lead off and also see if Drew Stubbs continues to thrive batting ahead of Votto. If yes on both of those, I’d leave Phillips below Bruce or 6th. If either Cozart or Stubbs regresses, I’d move Phillips into their spot.

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

Join the conversation! 35 Comments

  1. I agree on all counts

  2. Who is the number 1 starting option to bring up from Triple A assuming they don’t convert Chapman into a starting role? Chapman has been extremely valuable in the bullpen. Tough call there really. They need to make their mind up. Even if they do switch him into the rotation, he would probably need some time to be stretched out as they say right?

    I like the idea of letting Heisy and Frazier play everyday for awhile. But chances are that Baker will keep sending Ludwick and Rolen out most days.

    The bullpen looks solid. Cueto and Arroyo have been very good. Latos is a question mark. And Bailey and Leake…the jury is still out.

    I like these suggestions for the most part, but I’m kinda concerned that this team just isn’t as good as they’ve wanted us to think. I think they’re fortunate to be over .500 and that actually gives me hope, because there are teams like Boston, Philly, and the Angels who have great expectations but stink right now.

    St. Louis has more stability then the Reds in most areas of their team. I’d look to trade Rolen and Bailey if they have some value as the season goes on.

    I look at St. Louis and they are better at every position then the Reds except for 1B and 2B. Bruce is off to a great start, but Beltran is still a little better. Unless some of the Reds young guys blossom (Latos, Frazier, Cozart, Stubbs) we better just hope to stay in the race to grab maybe one of the wild card spots.

  3. All reasonable comments. I aprticularly agree with Number 2. Stictly limiting it by pitcher seems an odd way to do it.

  4. I agree mostly. I wouldn’t put Chapman in the rotation until July. I still think Leake might be a serviceable starter, but it’s time to give him that good solid year (or two) of minor league instruction he’s never had.

    And as much as Rolen needs to be eased out, I’m not sure that many teams in MLB would be handling things much differently – aging potential HoFers get deferential treatment most places, not just in Cincinnati. I agree with others who’ve said that it might be Rolen himself that ends up making that call.

  5. Catcher preferences go back to arrogant and self-important Steve Carlton’s time but I don’t know that any Reds pitcher other than Arroyo has ever been that public about it.

    I never heard of many (if any) other pitchers who made a big deal of it and I didn’t follow the teams closely enough to notice.

    Naturally, in our youth, we had Bench and if you asked for somebody else, well … OK, suit yourself.

    I thought it made some sense for the Latin pitchers to want Ramon … but otherwise, it seems the pitcher is either calling his game or the bench is calling it. The catcher just catches the ball.

  6. I rarely ever comment- but this post requires it.

    YES! x 5
    When can you start?

  7. I seem to remember that Phillips only wants to bat 1-4?

  8. Agree with all five, though I might consider giving Cairo some time at 3rd and Frazier some time in left if Heisey isn’t doing anything within a couple weeks. Cairo may not be a legitimate everyday player, but he’s certainly a better option than Rolen at this point. Also, unless Cozart, Stubbs, Frazier, and Heisey are all on fire, I’d like to see Hanigan hitting second or sixth, or at worst seventh, and NEVER behind guys who can’t run. Aside from getting on base a lot, he’s a great hit-and-run guy, but you’d never know it because he’s rarely in a position to do it.

  9. You have been paying attention to everyone’s posts on this sight. At one time or another every item you suggest has been addressed by a poster here and all agree with your assessments and suggestions. As an added bonus, Frazier is inserted in tonight’s lineup at third.

  10. Cairo is not an upgrade at 3B, no matter how badly Rolen hits.

  11. Graet post and ideas. The only quibble is on my team Ryan Hanigan is The starting catcher. Only games Mes catches is day after night games. Hanigan deseves it and has earned it. Right now his all around game is superior to Mes and there are other holes that do not allow Mes to learn “on the job”. When and if, we fall out of contention, I’m down with the 60-40% either way it breaks down.

    The best: 30-days of Frazier and Heisey. Why the hell not? Who is better: Rolen, Cairo or Luds? I think not. They are our only hope in those slots unless a deal(s) is made.

  12. Frazier clearly playing with a sense of urgency and if Dusty (yeah, well…) is smart, he will recognize that and take advantage.

    Eventually, Frazier will level off but for the moment, he’s hitting doubles as if he wants to stay in the big leagues. I think that’s enough reason to keep him in the order, at least 4 days a week.

    What’s going to happen is that no matter what Frazier does, the message is … gotta wait your turn.

  13. So, will the lineup be the same tonight except for Hanigan?

  14. Rolen is out of the lineup. Mark Sheldon reports it is health (shoulder) related.


  15. Wow

  16. @Steve Mancuso: Hmmmm … Rolen headed for the DL?

    Solves a problem for public perception.

  17. Well, that may be that for Rolen. If the surgery has reversed, has not been effective of he’s re-injured it’s been a marvelous career. He’s trying not to say it as an excuse but, it’s been obvious something is gone with his abilities. Maybe not his attitude but, the leader in him has come to the forefront and admitted there is a problem. Who come up to take his place on the roster when he’s put on the DL?

  18. @George Culver: Um, we need a left-handed hitting infielder with some speed.

  19. @Johnu1: How about a switch hitting infielder with some speed?

    I agree on all five counts. I’d call up Soto and Phipps, lose Cairo and Ludwick, move DiDi and Billy Hamilton both up, then at the all star break(if he’s doing well) bring up Gregorious and lose Valdez. BP, Votto, Arroyo, Hanigan, Bruce and some of the bullpen guys should be more than enough leadership. It’s time to quit trusting in veterans who don’t have anything left to offer.

  20. From the Mark Sheldon blog post:

    “It’s a tough question because it’s an easy excuse,” Rolen told MLB.com, regarding his shoulder. “I’m responsible for my at-bats when I go out on the field. I have not contributed. I have not been productive in any capacity.

    “I’m not helping anybody right now. I’m not helping the ballclub right now. I’m probably hurting the ballclub right now with the way I’ve been swinging the bat and have been playing.”

    At least he is honest about it and knows he isn’t “hitting”. I really hope he makes the HOF.

  21. @hermanbates: Let’s not force people through the minors…I think a 2014 or late 2013 call up should be expected for Didi and a 2014 spot is expected for Hamilton.

  22. @hermanbates: I guess the sarcasm font was turned off on that one … about the speedy infielder.

  23. Agreed. Agreed. VERY MUCH AGREED x 2. Agreed.

  24. Regarding: Rolen
    Maybe the Reds can pull him from the 25-man roster and keep him in the clubhouse somehow. It is a pity to see him break down.

  25. This is probably not relevant, but the Brewers today had catcher Jon Lucroy hitting second in the lineup, ahead of Braun and Ramirez. All three are righthanded hitters. Lucroy is hitting .341. Three hits today.

    Just pointing that out.

    • This is probably not relevant, but the Brewers today had catcher Jon Lucroy hitting second in the lineup, ahead of Braun and Ramirez. All three are righthanded hitters. Lucroy is hitting .341. Three hits today.

      Just pointing that out.

      The toothpick knows this is against the laws of nature.

  26. Rolen on 15-Day DL. Not to say I told you so but—I TOLD YOU SO! All of you barking for Frazier and I said, don’t worry, sometime in May, Rolen will go on the DL. This is blessing. As for the 5 Changes: can’t argue with any of your suggestions. The obvious is moving Chapman to the Starting Rotation and Bruce hitting Cleanup. No brainers except to Dusty.

  27. @sezwhom1: Mike Costanzo, a career minor leaguer, will get a few PH chances. Lefty hitter, plays 3B and 1B.

  28. Excellent post! I couldn’t agree more.

  29. @Johnu1: I got the sarcasm. I was trying to make a joke as well. Guess the funny-retort font was turned off.

  30. I agree with everything, except for the minor point about Bruce “protecting” Votto. Pitchers pitch around Votto because he’s exceptionally good at hitting the ball. Putting Bruce behind him probably wouldn’t change anything. That being said, Bruce deserves to hit cleanup purely on merit, so yes – bat him there.

  31. It doesn’t matter who hits behind you the elite players will still be pitched around or just walked. The key is having someone hitting behind them that will make the opposition pay for avoiding MVottoP!

  32. If you expect Chapman to do so well in the rotation, why do you want him shut down in September?

    • If you expect Chapman to do so well in the rotation, why do you want him shut down in September?

      Good point. Chapman has thrown 109 IP in 2010 and 63 IP in 2011. So what’s the most you’d let him throw this year. Probably about 110 I would say as you build him back up to starting. He has 17.2 IP already this season after 32 games. So if you put him in the rotation now, he’d get 26 starts at 5 IP per start to total 130 IP plus the 17.2 he has now would give him 147.2 IP total for the season. So yeah, they’d have to shut him down sometime in August probably to keep him around 110 IP for the year. I suppose they could do something like keep him in the pen for the first 100 games to have him at about 50 IP, then give him 12 starts for another 60 IP to finish the season out in the rotation at right about 110 IP for the season. Then maybe dare give him another couple of post season starts hopefully. That’s about the only way I can see them getting him back into the rotation. Even then, going into next season you can only put him down for 140 IP next year, so you might want to do something similar and start him out in the pen again. They’ve put themselves in this position with Chapman. It’ll be interesting to see if they ever make a decision on it and what it will be.

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About Steve Mancuso

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky's Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve's thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.


2012 Reds


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