[Tom Diesman is out of town this week. We asked Warren Leeman (known here and the far eastern territory of Russia as Shchi Cossack) to pinch hit. Thanks, Warren!]

With the Big Club’s season over from a competitive perspective and the minor league season winding down, a look back through the 2015 minor league season and a look forward to 2016 and 2017 for the minor league contributions at the major league level is appropriate.

Reality Superseding Hope

Yorman Rodriguez had been proclaimed by many as an OF solution to fill the LF void or supplant Billy Hamilton in CF if Hamilton continues to lack on-base skills. That ain’t happening. Y-Rod has stabilized his improvement from last season, hitting .269/.308/.429, but the toolsy OF, signed as a 16 year old, is now a 23 year old (still youngish) playing in AAA with a 5% BB% and a 24% SO%. His ceiling looks more like a utility OF than a major league starter. He is not nearly ready for a role as a major league utility OF.

Kyle Waldrop flashed a shiny .902 OPS in 2014 at A+ and AA getting many fans excited. It looks like 2014 will turn out as nothing more than a spectacular outlier season for the 23 year old playing in AAA. Waldrop’s 0.615 OPS with a 4% BB% and a 24% SO% speaks to a career minor league OF rather than even a major league utility OF.

Brennan Boesch destroyed the PCL in 2014 with a 1.017 OPS and has manhandled the INT with an .829 OPS in 2015. When given recent opportunities to produce at the major league level, Boesch hasn’t fulfilled his AAA promise, putting up an OPS+ of 48 in 191 PA. I see no reason to expect any different results heading into 2016.

Jason Bourgeois cannot hit, has never been able to hit and is now a 33-year-old aging OF with a 44 OPS+. This compares with his career 71 OPS+, buffered by one marginal season (89 OPS+) in 2011. Reds management is demonstrating poor judgment (again!) by including Bourgeois on the 25-man or 40-man rosters.

Fun While it Lasted

We all like a good Cinderella story. Kris Negron was a true Cinderella heading into 2015. I love the way Negron plays. I love the defensive flexibility he offers the Reds as a super utility player. When the chimes rang at midnight, Negron simply couldn’t hit (14 OPS+ in 2015) for the Reds and he hasn’t hit (.189/.255/.299) since his demotion to Louisville AAA. I hope Negron turns it around and gets another shot, but I also hoped to make a significant contribution towards winning a Nobel Prize when I was younger.

Can It Continue?

Ivan De Jesus should have made the 25-man roster coming out of spring training in 2015. The fact that he was jilted in favor of players such as Boesch, Chris Dominguez and Skip Schumaker speaks to the decision-making of the Reds rather than the capability of De Jesus. De Jesus has filled the super utility role vacated by Negron and has added a 101 OPS+. He has provided hitting (.736 OPS) and some pop (4 HR) along with a SO% of 20% and a league-average BB% of 8% in his 123 PA for the Reds after a 10% BB% and 20% SO% in 209 PA at AAA.

I still dream of Negron and De Jesus in utility roles for the Reds. But if De Jesus can continue with his performance into 2016 and 2017, he would become a cornerstone of the Reds bench going forward. From 2012-2015, De Jesus put up a AAA OPS of: .759, .837, .745 and .762. The dude can play and provide relief at every defensive position except catcher. De Jesus will play for league minimum through 2017 and will remain under team control through 2020. This off-season, I would get De Jesus serious work in CF and begin developing him as an emergency backup at catcher.

Not Yet, but Soon

It’s all about the walks. Robert Stephenson will take the mound for the Reds, possibly as early as 2015 when the September extended rosters are added. Stephenson is not ready … yet (see Homer Bailey). Do not rush him to the 25-man roster. There are simply too many other options to explore for the 2016 starting rotation. Stephenson is still the best bet for a future staff ace. Let him continue to work on mastering his control before promotion to the 25-man roster. Stephenson’s 4.9 BB/9 in 2014 and 4.8 BB/9 in 2015 will not play at GABP. If and when Stephenson halves his walk rate, he should be on the shuttle from Louisville to Cincinnati post haste.

Under the Radar

Seth Mejias-Brean has a career OBP of .373 as a RH hitter, just what the Reds need at the top of the order, hitting in front of Votto. But Mejias-Brean hasn’t hit a lot of HR (39) and doesn’t steal a lot of bases (26) in his 1700 plate appearances. He simply doesn’t fit the Reds’ narrow, antiquated profile. Mejias-Brean has put up a 2012 OPS (.925), 2013 OPS (.837), 2014 OPS (.773) 2015 OPS (.737), strong defense, a career BB% of 12%, a career SO% of 17% and career ISO of .150.

Seth Mejias-Brean is a base clogger and he clogs a LOT of bases. He has hit .252/.362/.376 in AA this season. While his BA is down slightly this season, his OBP is consistently high, like every other season in his professional career. Since the Reds will not compete for the NLCD title or playoffs in 2016, they probably won’t need Mejias-Brean in 2016. But he should be in AAA and ready for a call up if needed and he may be the answer for offensive needs in 2017. That’s the year the Reds hopefully will move into the 21st century with new leadership in Baseball Operations.

If Not Now, When

The man we have waited for is ready, more than ready. Jesse Winker started the 2015 season slowly with a .736 OPS in April. I hesitate to call Winker’s performance in April poor or substandard but it was certainly below expectations for the Reds #1 prospect. Then Winker’s performance tanked in May (.592 OPS).

Was the pressure of high expectations causing Winker to press? Could Winker have had a negative reaction to the Reds stashing him in AA while others were promoted to AAA?

The good news is Winker is back, with a vengeance. He homered in five consecutive games las week and is hitting .277/.375/.436. That’s still below his career line of .291/.393/.473, but trending up with an OPS of 1.250 in August.

The Reds won’t need Winker in 2016, even though he is ready.  The talent in Winker’s bat must be maximized and the timing of his promotion to the 25-man roster handled carefully. His arbitration clock should be managed to avoid Super Two status. The target should be full offensive production going in to 2017. Young Mr. Winker’s time has arrived.

Looking to 2017

I’m excited about the Reds moving forward. In my heart, I haven’t given up on their chances in 2016, but my head is resolved to look past 2016 to 2017. A young starting rotation can be scary and exhilarating. Raisel Iglesias, Homer Bailey (once he is rehabbed and healthy) and Disco could all be legitimate #2’s. A line of quality prospects has formed behind those three pitchers ready to stake a claim.

Questions remain: What can Aroldis Chapman fetch this off-season if he is marketed? Will the Reds reach outside the organization in a trade (Burns or Santana) or tap the FA market (Fowler) for the leadoff hitter they desperately need?

I’m anxiously awaiting the 2015 September roster expansion and spring training in 2016 as we begin to see the answers to these roster questions.

Join the conversation! 41 Comments

  1. I am optimistic that we will get a top 3-4 draft pick if there is a silver lining in all of this. I would say we are battling it out with 7 other teams jockeying for those top 8 spots in the draft; however, we have a pretty brutal schedule remaining and certainly are struggling for runs and relying on a lot of rookie arms the rest of the way.

    We have 9 games against the Brew-crew, but I wouldn’t bet my house on us coming up on top in that and the rest of the season is pretty rough going (Cubs, Cardinals, Pirates, Giants, etc.). Our next series against Arizona is probably the only other series that looks not horrible on paper.

    We won the supplemental draft lottery and it looks like we can get a top 3/4 pick if things project out the way I think… make a few smart trades this winter and we could really have a massively stockpiled set of prospects (we could even repackage a pitching prospect or two to help get a bat or two).

    Anyway, here’s hoping – combine that with jettisoning Jocketty and Price and I would feel better about watching a young and developing Reds team (alongside a handful of good veterans) even if we aren’t going to challenge in a brutal, brutal NLC for a couple years.

    • I am hoping the same. I was less than happy they started winning some games after the deadline, but fortunately, they have started losing close games again. We need a top 5 draft pick. No sure things, of course, but the talent in the top 5 is usually near MLB-ready and highest ceiling. We need a player that immediately becomes our #1, #2 or #3 prospect.

      I hope the Reds somehow end up in the top 5 picks, but I see it being closer to 7 or 8 given several other terrible or bad teams also packing it in.

  2. I really like this article and its point blank info. He uses the stats and then tells what they mean for the prospects and also the future of their careers. Only question, when do you suggest bringing Winker up? Sept., 2016, 2017?

    • If it were me, I’d give him a cup of coffee when rosters expand in 16, then bring him up full time after the super 2 cutoff in 17.

    • I have a diffenert viewpoint regarding Winker’s promotion than others expressed on an earlier post this week. I do not believe options will ever factor into Winker’s career so they can be discounted entirely. I also believe Winker will be completely ready as a full time starter at the major league level in 2017 or he will never be the player at the major league level that many of us hope he will be. My only concern is his arbitration schedule.

      I start his major-league service time clock in September 2015 when the roster expand. If the Reds need a 40-man roster spot to add him to the 40-man rost, there are plenty avialable (Boesch, Bourgeois & Schumaker come to mind immediately). Winker starts the 2016 season in AAA (burning one of his available options). The Reds do not need him at the major league level in 2016. If Winker performs at the AA level during 2016 as well as I expect he will, Winker is promoted to the 25-man roster late in 2016 (all star break?) after his service time will avoid super2 isssues and have him as a full time Reds starter for 2017-2022.

    • I don’t worry too much about the arbitration or free agent schedule. I do agree you don’t play him one game too many and then blow an entire season of control, that is simply practical and good business. That said, if having him playing in MLB full time in 2016 makes him better for 2017, do it.

      One thing to worry about is keeping prospects back too long and draining confidence and morale. We aren’t there yet with Winker, but when we get there, promote him and don’t look back. Live with the Ks or slumps and let him learn against the best MLB has to offer.

      • I think a big thing to take into consideration when deciding on Winker’s time frame is whether or not the team is realistically trying to compete in 2016, 2017 or later. If contending in 2017 before Bruce, Frazier and Phillips (likely) leave for free agency is the goal then you bring Winker up this September to get a taste of the big leagues. He then starts 2016 in AAA and gets called back up for good once his Super-2 deadline has passed. He would then have almost a full year of MLB experience and be able to fully contribute to a hopefully contending team in 2017.

  3. Nicely done. I’m not as optimistic on Seth Mejias-Brean as you. He has the potential to be a solid hitter but nothing stands out. He feels like the classic up-and-down kind of player to me. I do love the plate discipline though. I’m a little higher on DeJesus than you however. I think he can be a little more than a utility guy. That’s most likely where his future lies but I could see him at 2B in 2018 as a 1st year arb-eligable guy. I’m pretty much with you on all your other evals. I’m not a MiLB expert though.

    • LW, I agree 100% on DeJesus possibly being capable of more than a utlity role going forward. It infuriates me that Price repeatedly (or WJ) runs Byrd and Schumaker out to LF rather than planting DeJesus in LF every day to see what he can do. I do not see DeJesus as an veryday starter in LF, but it provides the opportunity to complete an evaluation of exactly what they have in DeJesus for future needs. Shoot, he could possibly fill a Zobrist role for a starter wherever he is needed. The same holds true for Suarez, but Cozart’s unfortunate injury forced Price (or WJ) to play Suarez every day and the results have been promising.

  4. I’m a pretty avid reader of redsminorleagues.com and I like and agree with most of what you have written. However, I’m still not super excited about the reds’ chances in 2017. I think that will be the start of their rebuilding. I’m not sure if Blandino will be ready to replace BP by then (assuming BP is still hitting at league average level). Frazier will have to be traded for prospects, we have no idea if Mesorocco can continue to play catcher.

    I feel really good about the Reds’ pitching prospects. Early in the season, I thought Iglesias wouldn’t be able to start because he was getting beat up the 3rd time through lineups. Now it looks like they should have a solid top of the rotation of Bailey, Disco & Iglesias. Stephenson might be ready to start after the super 2 cutoff (probably will be). Lorenzen could factor in the rotation or as a bullpen arm. Moscot should be back healthy by then. Plenty of pitching depth in the minors (Garrett might be ready for a cup of coffee in 17).

    So my worry on 2017 really comes down to bats. It looks like whoever we have at shortstop should be at least league average. Frazier will be in his last year of team control. Votto will continue to be the king of OPS. Bruce will be Bruce. Phillips will probably still be capable of playing decent defense, who knows how his bat will perform. Who knows if Billy Hamilton will ever get on base at even a league average rate. It is not a sure thing that Winker will hit in the major leagues.

    Bottom line, the reds might be ok in 2017, but I worry about their hitting even more than at present.

    • Your question about BP’s bat is a legitimate question and I know in my head his numbers are going to go in the toilet. This as we wait for the other shoe to drop, statistics tells us his glove should be in a sharp decline. Well guess what statistics maybe it will start tomorrow. I have read more comments than I think are warranted on here about his drop off in power. IMO he is hitting to the spot in the order. He has hit lead off for the last 2 and a half months he isn’t driving the ball and driving in runs but he is getting base hits. They drop him to the clean up spot and what doe he do right on schedule long ball. Yes that timing was a fluke but I do think his lack of power is because of a different approach while hitting at the top of the order.

      • BP certainly is one to change his approach based on circumstances; his spot in the lineup being one of those circumstances.

      • I’d buy that theory if his OBP wasn’t just .038 points higher than his BA. Imagine if he could really change his approach when slotted in the leadoff spot…

    • Hitting will be shaky, no matter what happens. The key to 2017 if whether the dozens of pitching prospects start ripening fast enough. We could have a disaster of a lineup and still contend if some of these oodles of pitchers mature into quality SPs and RPs. Obviously, we’ll have a couple of good hitters and some holes in the lineup, so we shouldn’t be the worst hitting team in the league. All we need to be is so-so or just below that if we have a top 10 MLB pitching staff (and we should be getting there). We’ll have an FA addition or two, maybe some good ones, and lots of cheap, young depth.

      If you exclude FA signings, then yes, 2017 will be a tight schedule for 22 year old pitching prospects to be 24 year old really good MLBers. We have to assume FA will bring in a good hitter or pitcher or two and make us an above average pitching team and an average hitting team (i.e. a contender).

  5. I’d like to think that a year of watching and learning from the sidelines along with resting his body will set Bailey up to emerge as the leader of the rotation by 2017. He is likely never going to be a dominant universally acknowledged ace but he could still be a legit #1 along the lines of what Harang was for several years.

    However I think 2016 will largely be the year of figuring out the starting rotation of 2017 (hopefully) behind a recovered and rejuvenated Bailey. I agree that Disco and Iglesias appear to be pencilled in for 2016 and beyond but after them, I think it is still a scrum.

    The Reds seemingly are going to have to trade pitching for position talent. We can only hope they get it right and don’t trade an eventual Cueto type for a stop gap OF.

    • Jim,

      With the hoard of pitching prospects cluttering up the Reds’ prospct roster, a trade of prospects for an established or MLB-ready bat with a professional plate approach seems logical, but I can’t see WJ pulling the trigger on such a deal. In his two big impact deals, Latos and Choo, WJ relinquished hitting for pitching (Latos) or hitting for hitting (Choo). WJ just doesn’t relinquish his crown jewels. pitching prospects.

      I offer up a more realistic option, signing Fowler to a 4-year, $50MM FA contract. With Fowler playing LF in 2016 and under contract through 2019, the Reds have two huge black holes (leadoff hitter and LF) filled. At the trade deadline in 2016, 2 situations should have reasonably certain data. Hamilton will of will not be a long-term answer for the Reds and Winker will or will not be the player we expect. If Hamilton is not the answer as the Reds’ CF going forward, Fowler shifts to CF and Winker takes over in LF for 2017. If Hamilton has proven capable of getting on base and staying healthy, Fowler stays in CF, and Winker takes over RF with Bruce being traded for the significant prospect haul that a young, 3-4 WAR, power-hitting, LH RF with no health concerns would garner. If both Hamilton and Winker still have issues or questions, then the Reds have major problems no matter what and better hope that the pitching staff can carry the vast bulk of the load or some other young prospects have established themselves (Ervin, Blandino, Sparks?).

      • I agree you old cossack you. Fowler would be a great FA target. We will have to overpay for him, but in a down year for him, it might be reasonable. I would do the deal you proposed in a heartbeat.

        The guy is only hitting 250ish but his OBP remains huge 350 plus. How would you like a guy who has already scored 80 runs this year hitting in front of our big four in the middle of our lineup.

        He sure looks good in front of the big 3 cubs

        I could have sworn that tom gray would have commented on how great a pick up DeJesus is by walt already, but your point is again so spot on:

        “jilted in favor of players such as Boesch, Chris Dominguez and Skip Schumaker speaks to the decision-making of the Reds rather than the capability of De Jesus.”

      • Cossack,
        If I understood Doug (Gray) correctly in the Q/A thread a couple of days back, he doesn’t have that high of an opinion of any Reds position player from high A up right now, excluding Winker who he even seemed unsure of in terms of eventual ceiling and impact. So. I’m thinking they need to do something more far reaching to balance the ledger between pitching and offense. Perhaps they sign somebody like Fowler and also pick up a guy or two in trade who goes immediately onto the 25 man MLB roster.

        They have gotten themselves into the somewhat pleasant situation of having a glut on legitimate pitching prospects. However even allowing for typical flameouts due to injury and lack of development, it appears to me that the only way they are ever going to see real cumulative value out of this group is making some astute decisions rather early on to flip some of the guys for position talent.

        • I agree with your premise 100%. I just don’t see WJ making such a move or if he does, making an effective move. I harken to his pre-2015 comments about needing a high OBP hitter and then trading for Byrd. I think WJ recognizes the problem but I don’t think he really gets it.

      • How about Winker, Fowler and Bruce with Hamilton as a super-sub 4th outfielder? You need 4 outfielders in this day and age and BHam can play against lefties and day games after night games and let Fowler ,Bruce, and Winker play 140 games. BHam starts 65 and is insurance for the inevitable injury and a great late inning replacement/pinch runner. Dejesus and Saurez round out a flexible bench. Give up on Hamilton as an everyday player with an OBP of .350. He’s NEVER done it and NEVER will. He was artificially fast forwarded to the big leagues because of his marketability with his absurd speed.

      • I really like this idea of a free agent outfielder like Fowler. I admit to having no idea if that contract is reasonable for either the player or the team though.

        Other free agent options include (per MLB Trade Rumors):
        Gerardo Parra – played all 3 outfield positions, 28 years old, career 280/330/409 hitter, 320/361/510 this season
        Denard Span – center fielder, 31 years old, career 287/353/394, 304/367/430 this season
        Alejandro De Aza – played all 3 outfield positions, 31 years old, career 268/329/408, 268/323/447 this season

  6. The starting staff next year and beyond looks promising with power arms everywhere.I think the ones that don’t start could help in the pen but I am really concerned about our offense.Our core is on the decline and even though they still have talent we have to start replacing them with younger less expensive players.Problem is that we have been terrible in developing position players primarily because Walt has focused on pitching,

    • Payroll will drop well enough by 2017 to allow for a solid FA or two and fill a few lineup holes. Pitching prospects will be the key to contending. If this hoard of pitching can produce 2 or 3 good starting pitchers (to go with Bailey) and 3 or 4 good bullpen arms, we’ll contend no matter WHAT is going on with the lineup. The only way we don’t is if EVERYONE is injured. We’ll only need 2 or 3 solid/good hitters to have enough offense to contend with above average pitching staff (a hopeful assumption).

  7. Marlon Byrd traded to Giants for AA reliever Stephen Johnson.

    If we trade for ALL the pitchers, other teams will have to trade us position players, right?

    • Th”e Giants announced that they have acquired veteran outfielder Marlon Byrd and cash considerations from the Reds in exchange for Double-A right-hander Stephen Johnson.”

      The Reds get the reliever and cash? What’s wrong with the reliever?

      • No, the Giants get the cash. We paid them to take Byrd so his option wouldn’t best because the Reds organization was incapable of preventing that from happening on their own apparently

      • The Giants get Byrd and cash. The Reds get the reliever. The cash is probably part of the cash the Reds received when they obtained Byrd.

        • thanks, read too quickly, that makes a little more sense …

        • Agreed. Likely the Reds sent the portion of the remaining salary that prorated out as being paid to the Reds by the Phillies when Byrd came over, i.e. as I calc it, Byrd has probably ~$2.2M still due him for 2015; so, the Reds probably send a little over $1M. The option is now the Giants issue to resolve.

  8. Looks like Ryan LaMarre is called up?

    • good, looking forward to him getting a shot

    • Bringing up LaMarre so he can sit behind Boesch and Jason “infield fly rule” Bourgeois. At least you get a nice per diem, kid.

    • Three years ago, I was enormous;y high on LaMarre’s prospects to contribute at the MLB level as a starting CF or utility OF. Injuries have simply derailed his development. He is still a solid defensive CF, but he’s now a 26-year-old putting up mediocre offensive numbers at best in AAA.

      • LeMarre has never looked good in the minors and wasn’t that well regarded when drafted. His scouting report had the feel of a big overdraft by the Reds. He was fairly mediocre hitter in college back before composite bats were nerfed and everyone was hitting .300+ and every team had a 15+ HR hitter.

        He can’t hit enough to be a starter. He could be, maybe, a solid role playing OF, if he can figure out how to pinch hit well (take walks, take pitches, etc).

  9. Cos,
    Do you see the Reds (and WJ) pulling off another Mat Latos-type of trade this winter for a young, controlable top of the rotation arm? And a bat? I keep seeing Kevin Gausman from the O’s in the tea leaves. Gausman doesn’t have the experience Latos had at the time of the trade, but the arm velocity is a little better. O’s might be in a more of a re-boot process this winter than the Reds with as many free agents as they have.

    • I think WJ might make such a move, but it would be a mistake. The Latos trade was the right move at the right time. The Reds were ready to compete and lacked a front-line starter to put them over the top. The Reds also has trade chips in blocked and duplicate positions. Such is not the case now. The Reds are not able to compete and one front-line starter is not going to put them in a position to compete. The Reds also don’t have the trade chips necessary to complete such a transaction unless Bruce or Frazier are moved and then the Reds are creating more holes to fill and will be less competitive for longer.

      I think the pitching needed is in-house. We just hve to let it simmer and work out the starting and bullpen roles through trial and error. That’s how the Reds need to dedicate the 2016 season. There is a slight possibility that everything falls in place for 2016, but not likely. The 2017 season should be the launching pad. Having WJ making the decisions between now and the end of 2016 makes me very nervous for the future of the franchise.

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