A Minors Obsession

Minor League All Questions Answered

There’s not a whole lot going on as far as the minor league front goes. Without much to write about this week, I’ve decided it would be a good time to see if you guys had any questions that you’d like answered. I will be answering questions throughout the day if you leave them in the comments section before 9pm ET.

You will need to follow a few simple rules to participate:

Alright, onto the rules for the All Questions Answered part of today.

  1. Try to avoid questions that will require me to look up answers (such as: Who was the last guy to steal 25 bags and hit 25 home runs in the system).
  2. Try to avoid overly long answer-type questions. I tend to give thorough and detailed answers as it is, so please don’t have me type out a novel.
  3. Each user can ask up to three questions.
  4. Ask your questions before 9PM and I will be sure to answer it. If you ask after 9PM on Tuesday, then I can’t guarantee that I will answer your question.

I probably won’t begin answering questions until around 11am, but feel free to filling up the comments with them before that.

45 thoughts on “Minor League All Questions Answered

  1. We have a host of young arms vying for two to three rotation spots. For the young guys with upside that don’t make the rotation out of spring training, would you prefer they end up in the Reds bullpen or minor league starting rotation?

    Do the Reds have any say/control whether their players (including minor leagures) play in the World Baseball Classic? Would the Reds look at minor leagures playing in the WBC as a positive or negative?

    • Personally, I’d rather they go to Triple-A to continue starting. While some teams have had success in the whole “bullpen at first, then rotation” thing – it doesn’t happen too often anymore (not counting when guys come up in say late August/September, then move to the rotation the next year). Arms are just trained/conditioned differently for the two roles. With that said, I think there’s a chance we see this happen in the next year or two – but, some guys are going to move there permanently simply because there won’t be enough total spots.

      I don’t believe they have a say in whether one can play or not, unless there’s an injury/recover involved, but I’m not 100% on that. With the Reds, when it comes to minor leaguers specifically, I’d imagine they see them participating as a very big positive. They want these guys playing in competitive environments and that sure beats what you get in spring training. The competition level, generally speaking, is higher as well.

  2. How are the Louisville Bats looking this year? We’ll probably watch about 20 games.

    • You never really know. If you asked me this a year ago I would have said they looked deep and strong. But, the Major League roster fell apart due to injuries, which mean the Bats lost any and all depth to the big league club and left them drained, too.

      With that said, at least early in the year I think they will be good. The starting pitching should be full of young, powerful arms. Garrett/Reed/Stephenson/Romano, Travieso/Davis/Stephens are all possibilities to be there. Offensively you should still see Winker, Renda and Herrera. New adds could include guys like Vincej, Ervin, Elizalde, Dixon. The bullpen should also see some quality arms.

      For the first time in quite a while, the team should have many more “prospects” than a mix of young/old guys. I’m sure there will still be some guys in their late 20’s, early 30’s – but not as many as Louisville has seen in the recent past.

  3. Most analysts and scouts agree the Reds farm is deep, but lacks that game changing talent at the top.

    1. If you could choose 1 current prospect from any organization that would be the cream of the crop, who you taking?
    2. Who’s a realistic such target the Reds could bundle some people for and what would that package look like?
    3. I’ll save this one for later

    • I agree with the statement. The Reds have outstanding depth, and to be fair, I do think there’s some true game changing kind of talent in the system – the issue is all of the guys that could be that have big question marks on their resume still. Even Nick Senzel, though his big question mark is more “he hadn’t done it above Low-A yet” than any actual questions about his game.

      1. Andrew Benintendi. I wanted him out of the draft in the worst kind of way and thought it was crazy that he wasn’t higher rated that year. The guy’s overall game is outstanding.

      2. Honestly, I have no idea. I’m not a huge “make up a trade” kind of guy. This is a cop out, I guess, and you can ask another question if you want (or if you’ve got a few guys you’re interested in – name them and I’ll try to come up with what I think they’re worth in trade).

  4. Last week, the Texas Rangers were rumored to be talking to the Reds about pitching and CF Billy Hamilton again.
    Who do the Reds have at AAA, or even AA, in CF to replace Billy Hamilton if he is traded, or even injured for an extended stretch of games this year?
    With the success that AA Pensacola had last year, and semi-success that AAA Louisville and A+ Daytona had also, because of promotions which team should we expect to be more successful this year?

    • 1. Jose Peraza is the only guy I think that could be an every day center fielder from the Reds AA/AAA/MLB rosters right now. The Reds probably would have Arismendy Alcantara as the back up on the bench right now, but I’m not sure he’d play every day at this point. In Triple-A there’s Phillip Ervin (well, I’m assuming he’ll be in Triple-A to start the year). He’s a fringe center fielder defensively. Beau Amaral can absolutely play there defensively, but he’s struggled to hit in the upper minor leagues.

      2. Counting on Triple-A is always harder because they are effected by the big league team far more often. Injuries alter their roster several times a month, usually. With that said, Louisville looks strongest to me at this point.

      • I keep forgetting about the Alcantara signing. That’s a good call, for a backup, but not everyday. Irabarren in a pinch maybe too. Peraza was very shaky in CF last year on the few occasions he played there.
        Seeing how thin they are at CF and BHam’s propensity for injury, it seems that the Reds front office is very tardy in addressing a need here.
        So my 3rd Q:
        Do you think the Reds should use the same logic they used in signing Drew Storen, to sign a versatile minor free agent to backup CF and other positions too, like a 28 year old Brock Holt? Someone who is in a rebound position and who’s standard stats were down, but other more analytical stats were still good.

        • I don’t think so. Ervin can probably cover you there and he’s on the 40-man roster. You’re giving up some defense, for sure – but that’s going to be the case with Hamilton going down in almost any scenario. Between him, Peraza and Alcantara, I think the Reds probably feel comfortable enough right now with CF backup options.

  5. 1. Who are some of the prospects that you believe are at a make or break point this season?
    2. If the future in the middle infield is Peraza and Herrera, how much of a step back defensively is that from Cozart and BP?
    3. Who’s your pick to make a big step forward this season like Aquino did last year?

    • 1. For the most part, I’d say any true reliever in AA/AAA had better make their statement in 2017 – because with the glut of starters at those same levels and not enough rotation spots, this may be the last chance to get a shot to establish themselves in the big leagues and lock a spot in before they go from competing with 4-5 other guys as relievers to competing with about 10 guys as reliever options.

      2. Probably a decent one from the prime of Cozart and BP, but those two haven’t been in their prime for a few years now. We’ve seen BP step back for several years in a row now. Herrera is a bat-first second baseman.

      3. While I don’t see anyone having such a huge power breakout like Aquino did, here’s a few names to keep an eye on that could take steps forward: Montrell Marshall, Jake Turnbull and Taylor Trammell. Trammell, of course, is already a top end prospect, but I could see him really taking that next step – particularly in the second half of 2017 (he will be in Dayton, and most guys take some time to adjust to that league early on – between the very cold April’s and just the overall adjustment to the big step up in competition from rookie ball).

  6. “Make a trade” question was a tough one, Doug. I don’t blame you for copping out

    To kind of spin the same question a different way, which position do you think the Reds will need to add at when they decide they are going for it again? I.e. who are they banking on now to contribute on the next contending team that won’t pan out and force them to go get someone else?

    • I think right field and starting pitching are the biggest issues. While the Cincinnati Reds have tons of starting pitching depth, if you’re truly going to compete, you tend to need that go-to guy in the playoffs. Maybe Homer Bailey is that guy – he’s pitched very well in limited playoff action. But, he’s only around through 2019 and he’s certainly a question mark at this point given the last two seasons. I like DeSclafani and Finnegan, but they don’t have that Bailey “upside”. While some of the prospects may, they are still young and very, very unproven.

      Right field is where the team is probably hoping they can place one of Duvall/Schebler/Aquino (with Winker in left). There’s questions with all of those guys at this point.

  7. Which reliever without MLB experience has the best chance to break camp with the Reds after ST?

    If you had to predict, will Long and Aquino put up better than league average offensive stats (OPS+, wRC+) in AA this year? (Assuming good health)

    Name three returning starters (15 GS) in A+ or above you’d pick to fast track as relievers.

    • Barrett Astin. He’s got enough stuff, he throws lots of strikes and he is a guy who can also fill a multi-inning role.

      Well, Long is very likely starting in Daytona, so who knows what he does in Pensacola. He may not even get there this year.

      Aquino – that’s the huge question…. can he handle the more advanced pitching of the upper levels? His plate discipline has been a big problem in the past, but he certainly stepped forward in that regard in 2016. Still, it’s a real big jump up to Double-A. I think we will probably see him struggle a little bit in 2017, maybe early on, as he makes the adjustment. The power should play, but Pensacola played as a park that hurt power output in 2016 with the new, deeper fences in left and left center.

      Keury Mella, Rookie Davis, Jackson Stephens. This is more so because I’m just not sure there’s room for them as starters with the rest of the depth there is.

  8. Were you surprised the Reds didn’t lose any players in the Rule 5 draft?

    I’m reading that the Reds might be in the market for a catcher. If that’s the case, why pick up catcher Stuart Turner from the Twins in the Rule 5 draft? Are the Reds thinking about carrying three catchers even if Mesoraco fails to return? (Barhart, journeyman catcher, Turner?)

    • Downright shocked. The Reds had a hard throwing lefty with incredible numbers and a plus secondary offering go undrafted. They had an elite groundball rate pitcher who dominated Double-A who also topped out at 98 MPH in the Arizona Fall League go undrafted. Very weird.

      Turner was picked up as insurance for Mesoraco. A guy to look at in spring training and hope he can hit enough – the defense is there. They are going to bring someone else in to compete with him for that emergency role. If Mesoraco isn’t ready to start the year, it’ll be Barnhart and one of Turner/journeyman. If Mesoraco is ready to start the year, I’d bet it will be Mesoraco and Barnhart on the big league roster, with the journeyman in Triple-A as depth, and Turner going back to the Twins.

  9. Hi Doug.

    1. Do I think Shed Long can push Herrera for the second base job in a couple years or will he be nothing more than depth?

    2. If the Reds ultimately decide to do it, when do you think they’ll covert Mella to be a full time reliever? From what I’ve read I believe he can thrive there (my opinion of course)

    3. Who do you think will be the September call ups for the 2017 season?

    • 1. I think it’s possible. Long has tools to work with – there’s some speed, I like the bat. There are still some questions he’s got to answer though, so he’s a ways off at this point still.

      2. I think he’s a reliever in the future, and one that could be a very good one. If it doesn’t happen at some point in 2017, I would think 2018 is the time.

      3. Pretty much just the guys on the 40-man. They aren’t going to start clocks early if they don’t have to.

  10. 1. I think it’s possible. Long has tools to work with – there’s some speed, I like the bat. There are still some questions he’s got to answer though, so he’s a ways off at this point still.

    2. I think he’s a reliever in the future, and one that could be a very good one. If it doesn’t happen at some point in 2017, I would think 2018 is the time.

    3. Pretty much just the guys on the 40-man. They aren’t going to start clocks early if they don’t have to.

  11. 1. What happened to Robert Stephenson’s curveball? I am no scout and I only saw him pitch in the minors once. But I have never seen the plus curveball, much less the plus plus that some reports said he had. The split/change looks like a much better pitch at this point.

    2. Who do you think will be more valuable as a red? Herrera or Peraza.

    3. I am slowly being driven insane by the usage of the word “stuff” to describe a pitcher’s repertoire. Is that really the best we can come up with? This is supposed to be the thinking man’s game and we use the word stuff to describe things? Its almost as bad the the horrible, time honored baseball tradition of taking the first syllable of a player’s last name and adding a y to get his baseball nickname. I cringe every time I hear someone say Godly, Salty, or Brucey.

    Can’t we do something about this? For my sanity? We could use the word mojo. Or pizzazz. I like that word. Or we could come up with a different word every year and vote on it like civilized human beings. Anything but “stuff”. I can’t take it anymore Doug. Thoughts?

    • 1. Well, he’s stopped throwing it as often as he used to. That’s left it a little more inconsistent. With that said, if you head over to Fangraphs and look at the pitch values for his pitches – his curveball graded out VERY well. While we are dealing with a limited sample size with Stephenson, if we look at value per 100 curveballs thrown, his curveball would have been the 8th best curveball among qualified starting pitchers in baseball last year. (edited this to correct the data)

      2. I like Herrera’s bat more, no question. But Peraza’s got better defense, plays a more valuable position and tons more baserunning value. So that would lead me to think Peraza is the answer here.

      3. His repertoire?

  12. 1. Is it more likely that Jesse Winker is called up directly after the reds get an extra year of service time (Mid April) or later in the year (June or July)?

    2. Where do you see Nick Senzel starting and ending the year in 2017?

    3. Could we see a spike in the offensive production of Phillip Ervin in his promotion to triple A considering Pensacola played so pitcher friendly last year?

    • 1. I wouldn’t expect him until at least late May unless there’s a serious injury to Duvall/Schebler. I believe the Reds want to see what those guys have.

      2. I wouldn’t be surprised if he started in AA, but Advanced-A is a real possibility, too. I’d only expect him to play at two levels no matter where he starts.

      3. Yes, but Louisville hasn’t always been known to play as hitter friendly. It tends to go back-and-forth, though never too an extreme of friendliness. Ervin hit very well on the road last season.

  13. An three in one…. What do you think we’ll be saying about the respective seasons of R.Stephenson, Amir Garrett and Cody Reed come October of 2017 (barring injury)? What will they achieve and where (MLB/ minors)?

    • 1. Good to see them all grow, but let’s hope they take another step forward in 2018. (I expect them all to step forward from 2016, but don’t see any of them taking an enormous leap yet, either. If one of them does take a big leap, I’d expect it to be Reed because I trust him to throw more strikes than the other two).

      2. I think ERA’s between 4-4.75 for Reed and Stephenson in the Majors is in line. That’s a big wiggle room area, for sure. I think Garrett probably spends most of the year in Triple-A while the big league rotation gets figured out. Price has said he doesn’t see him as a relief option out of the gate, and I think that will hold true for most of the season. Look for him to work on the offspeed stuff – trying to be more consistent with the slider – improving the change up.

  14. Let’s talk shortstops:
    1. The Reds have indicated that they think Rodriguez can add strength and develop a major league bat. How will they handle him and his development this year to make that happen? Where does he start, finish?
    2. Vincej: if you combine his numbers for AA and AZ Fall League, his totals for last year look like about a .290 average, .345 OBP, and .750 OPS. Fools gold or real? Will the Reds give him serious AB’s in Louisville to determine the answer, or is he too far down the prospect list?
    3. If Peraza doesn’t pan out, how big a problem is that? Are our question marks with the minor league prospects typical – and one will somehow answer them well? Or are the Reds likely to struggle at the position for the foreseeable future?

    • 1. I can’t say how they will handle him, but here’s what I’d do: There’s no chance I’d start him higher than Dayton. He struggled to hit in Cuba. He struggled to hit in the DSL last year (small sample, and it was split in two because of injury – but still). Being overly aggressive with him isn’t going to help him develop. He has already “bulked up”, so to speak, since he was in Cuba. He’s got some actual size to him, so it’s more about skill development than anything else at this point.

      2. Fools gold if you think .750 OPS. Vincej’s a glove first guy – and while there’s some bat speed there and he’s an ok enough hitter, he’s not going to be known for his bat. The power simply isn’t there and the ball flying in Arizona against a bunch of tired starters and relievers isn’t going to change that one for me. I hope what happened in Arizona is a sign that he figured something out, but it’s a small sample size in a place where the ball absolutely flies. Odds are that it was just him seeing the ball very well. He will get plenty of at-bats wherever he’s playing (I’d place him in Triple-A, but if somehow Peraza winds up back there, that pushes Vincej back to Pensacola).

      3. If Peraza doesn’t pan out, it could be a while until another legitimate shortstop emerges. Vincej seems more like a utility guy. Same for Daal. Trahan has a small chance to be a starter, but he seems to profile as a utility guy as well. Then there’s Alfredo Rodriguez and those enormous question marks. Behind him is Hector Vargas, who has some tools to work with, but seems to be allergic to walks (though he is also allergic to striking out). Shortstop, aside from catcher, is the toughest place to fill on the diamond. The guys that can hit usually can’t play enough defense and the guys that can play defense usually can’t hit enough. The Reds have options, but Peraza seems to easily be their best hope at this point.

      • I’d like to tack on that Peraza not “panning out” is extremely unlikely, assuming your definition of “panning out” is sufficiently metered. And to me, “not panning out” means he needs to be replaced ASAP.

        A guy who plays at least average defense at SS, has a high contact rate, and can run, will generally always be at least an 0.5-1.0 WAR player. Again, not the best outcome, but to me, that represents his absolute floor. At those numbers, he could play SS for the next 5 seasons for a grand total of probably $5-6M dollars, including arb raises.

  15. 1) What is your prediction for Tony Santillan for the 2017 campaign?
    2) What is your prediction for Tejay Antone for the 2017 campaign?
    3) When Senzel makes the Bigs, how will the Big League roster change to make room for him?

    Thanks for this.

    • 1. Prediction? PAIN. (If you don’t get the reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSPNQ82Sq4E)

      Santillan made strides in 2016, but saw struggles at times with the strikezone (notably when I was present at the games). I think he’s got some of the best stuff in the organization, so hopefully he’ll take another step forward in the control department. With that said, if I’m predicting – up-and-down season where battles with the strikezone pop up. Dominant when he’s on, but could have a few 2 or 3 inning starts where he walks 4-5 guys.

      2. Heads to Pensacola and eats up a bunch of innings in a solid, but unspectacular way. Ground balls and no walks. It’s not sexy, but it gets the job done.

      3. That’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it? I believe it’s going to lead to either a trade of Suarez, or perhaps a slide of Suarez to second base if his bat picks up and Herrera doesn’t claim the spot by then.

  16. 1) It sounds as though over the past couple of years, Robert Stephenson’s stuff has dropped off a notch. Is this due to him trying to improve his control or also something physical, and could he realistically regain some of it (as in, another tick on his fastball)?

    2) What do you think Sal Romano can become in a realistic best-case scenario? I agree with the impressive scouting report, but he has yet to really dominate any level I think, so just am a bit curious what he could be as obviously the stats don’t say everything.

    3) I’m by no means giving up on him, but has your opinion on Tyler Stephenson changed drastically since he got drafted? I realize he’s struggled with injuries (and of course is a young catcher), but even beyond that, has he seemed a bit more behind the learning curve than you, and the rest of the evaluation community, believed when he got drafted?

    Thanks!

    • 1. He’s given up some velocity to improve control. It hasn’t exactly worked out. There are some mechanical things that have been brought up as well that may be causing slightly lesser velocity, but it’s also one that’s been done on purpose for control (not the mechanics, but the take something off). I do believe that he could regain the velocity in the future if he’s able to figure out the strikezone. Homer Bailey did something similar earlier in his career.

      2. Best case scenario: 220 innings, 3.15 ERA, 200 strikeouts. And while he hasn’t dominated for an entire year yet, let’s look at his second half in 2016: 81.1IP, 2.32 ERA, 11BB, 74K, 3 home runs allowed. Dominant. Started throwing the change up more, made a few changes to how he used his pitches and the results were incredible.

      3. Not really. I wrote in early April that defensively he looked worse than I had heard/expected based on two or three looks at him. But, when he came back from his concussion in May, he looked much better behind the plate for the two weeks he played before he injured his wrist. I do think the power will take longer to develop than I believed when he was drafted based on what the reports said versus what I’ve been able to see over the last two seasons, but I do think there’s plenty in there.

  17. Can you elaborate on the Bob Steve change up since he was drafted. He was a 95 mph fastball and good curve as a draftee who needed a third pitch. I’ve read the Reds didn’t like his changeup initially- too much like a splitter- and worried about arm injury risk( Which Homer throws) and forced him to change his grip and Bob Steve wasn’t happy…..Then Bob Steve allowed to go back to his preferred change up grip and splitter like and then blow ups with Deshields and continued ineffectiveness. Was this the source of Deshields questioning his professionalism and calling him stubborn? His curve looks good, but his fastball is 91-93 and not the 95+ we thought and his change up is all over the place???? If he cant throw a fastball 95, and his change up isn’t any better than when he was drafted…..how can he possibly be a starter.

    • When he was in high school, he threw a splitter instead of a change up. Reds said no, got to drop it. Then had to try and learn a change up – which didn’t go as well as they had hoped. Eventually, once he reached Double-A, he was taught a slightly different way to throw the splitter and the Reds allowed it. It’s been with him ever since.

      Stephenson’s “blow up” with DeShields wasn’t a blow up at all. It was simply DeShields using the public forum to say “you need to start listening to us” when it comes to making adjustments.

      His change up/splitter is arguably his best pitch – some scout won’t even argue and tell you it is his best pitch. In the big leagues this year it played as an above-average offering. It wasn’t quite as good as the curveball was, but still an above-average offering when it came to results.

      The fastball was the problem, though he’s more 92-95 than 91-93. I think part of the reason, much like Michael Lorenzen in 2015, was that he falls behind too much and guys can sit on it. Unless it’s 100+, if guys know it’s likely to come, it’s easier to hit. Falling behind so much makes it predictable.

      Has to throw more strikes, but he’s got 3 above-average pitches right now and two of them are already playing at the big league level as above-average and plus. Got to throw more strikes and get the fastball to actually play better.

      • Thanks for the clarity. By blow up, I meant media play and life of the story.

  18. I saw Micah Johnson hit the DFA wire today. He’s he someone the Reds should pursue and try to use his speed in CF. I’m thinking maybe a potential 4th/5th outfielder that’s speed could be used in late innings? Thoughts?

    • If the team thinks he can play both second base and center field, it’s worth a shot. I haven’t seen enough of him to know if he can do either of those things well enough.

  19. 1) Doug, what has happen to alex blandino as far as prospect. Is he showing he not able to hit at all. I thought he was one of those defense fisrt guys when drafted but seem to have falling off cliff.
    2) Please refresh my lack of knowledge on jump from A+ to AA why is it considered the biggest jump/cue to MLB potential.
    3) I know we’ve got a little bit of time to worry bout this… but at what point do reds start thinking about a first base prospect

    • 1. You had it backwards – Blandino was always a bat first guy. He was played at shortstop, but just about everyone expected him to slide to second because he didn’t have the range for short. 2016 was a struggle – he got injured in the spring while playing in the WBC qualifier and he never got things going. The hope is that his struggles were entirely related to that, but last year when he got to Double-A in August he really struggled to hit, too. So maybe he’s just at the point where his skills have topped out. Don’t write him off just yet, but I think that 2017 is a big season for him in terms of being either a guy in the Reds plans or being a guy who is simply minor league depth.

      2. In Double-A is where you really start to see veteran types of pitchers/hitters for the first time. You also start seeing more guys with real, actual stuff who know what to do with it on the mound. Guys with a plan and the ability to execute that plan more frequently.

      3. Five years from now.

  20. What’s up with Alex Blandino? I thought he was one if our better middle infielder options. Any chance he could earn a bench role in spring training even though we already have a bunch of infielders?

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