2017 Reds / Three Down

Three Up, Three Down: April 11, 2017

Well, I can safely say I don’t think many of us were expecting THAT out of the first week of Reds baseball. The Reds just wrapped up an impressive win over the Pittsburgh Pirates with a very good baseball game across the board in the hitting, pitching, and defense categories.

It’s been a common theme throughout the season – these young Reds players seem to be progressing. And although a lot of the young players on the Reds are looking great, there are a few who have struggled to open up the new season. Let’s see who’s hot and who’s not:

Three Up

1. (Most of) The Reds Bullpen

What was a historically awful bullpen in 2016 looks to have converted into a strength for the 2017 Reds. Through the first 27 ⅓ innings, the Reds bullpen have given up five earned runs. Five. Three of those earned runs came in an awful appearance by Robert Stephenson, who couldn’t find the strikezone in his 1.2 innings of relief.

The potency of this bullpen was perhaps best displayed Monday night against the Pirates. After a dominant first start, Brandon Finnegan fell into some trouble early. With the bases loaded in the third inning and nobody out, Bryan Price put his money where his mouth is and called for Michael Lorenzen to come in to pitch in relief. Lorenzen, Cody Reed and Wandy Peralta would go on to retire the next 21 batters in a row and lead the Reds to a 7-1 victory.

The combination of Lorenzen, Reed, Peralta, Drew Storen, Blake Wood, Tony Cingrani, and possibly the best Reds pitcher, Raisel Iglesias, have been nothing but dominant to start the season. It’s a combination of youth and ability that we haven’t seen in Cincinnati in some time. As we’ve already seen, there will be some bad days from this pitching staff. But if all of the guys listed above find some stability like Iglesias and Lorenzen have, this may be the best bullpen in the majors at the end of the season.

 

2) Amir Garrett

Amir Garrett would not be outdone by his teammates in the bullpen. The Reds’ 2016 Minor League Pitcher of the Year went out in his first major league appearance and gave the Reds a big league start. Garrett went six innings, giving up two hits, two walks, and struck out four. More important than the stat line was the eye test for Garrett. The tall lefty looked calm, confident and in control in what had to be one of the most nerve-wracking moments in his life. The velocity on his fastball left a little to be desired, but the control and quality on his secondary pitches more than made up the difference. It was only one start, but you had to love what we saw from someone we’ve been talking about for such a long time.

 

3) Eugenio Suarez

The last spot on the Three Up list came down to Zack Cozart, Adam Duvall and Eugenio Suarez, but at the end of the day, Suarez got the nod. His 220 wRC+ leads all Reds batters, and he’s the owner of a couple of good looking home runs.

Perhaps more importantly, Suarez’ defense at third base seems to have made a giant leap forward, which has already paid dividends for the Reds in the form of a very clutch double play on Sunday afternoon. Suarez also has the more realistic BABIP of the three sluggers in contention for this spot, sitting at .385 as compared to .438 for Duvall and .529(!!) for Cozart. A gray #7 Reds jersey might just be the next piece of clothing I purchase.

 

Honorable Mentions: Zack Cozart, Adam Duvall, Brandon Finnegan, Scott Feldman

 

Three down

1. Robert Stephenson

I’d rather not talk about Stephenson’s 1.2 innings of relief, but we’re here, so let’s dive in. It was painful to watch the guy experts have been naming the Reds’ top prospect for almost half a decade struggle so badly. Stephenson just couldn’t locate his fastball, seeming to try to power it past hitters and flying open far too often. Stephenson actually had more control over his breaking ball, and turned to that in order not to completely collapse on the mound.

It’s the kind of outing you’re hoping is a one-time thing, but it’s also the kind of performance we’ve heard of Stephenson having in the minors on more than one occasion. Here’s to hoping whatever is going wrong with this kid’s mechanics or mindset can be corrected, and that he’ll get back on track to being the Reds’ most exciting young pitcher.

 

2) Bronson Arroyo

We didn’t know what to expect going into the 40 year old Bronson Arroyo’s first start since 2014. And in fact, I think you could view his start as a win from a few different perspectives. However, at the end of the day, Arroyo’s two walks and five earned runs in four innings of work was just not enough to give the Reds a chance to win. It also didn’t accomplish the job he was hired to do, and that’s eat innings. Bronson will need to show that he can come in and throw strikes for 5 or 6 innings in order for his reunion tour to be deemed a success.

 

3) The Reds Bench

Despite the two home runs from Scooter Gennett, the Reds bench has gotten a pretty awful start to 2017. Arismendy Alcantara is hitless. Patrick Kivlehan and Stuart Turner both have a hit each. And the only two hits Gennett has had are the aforementioned home runs. The depth in the minors is such that the bench doesn’t necessarily matter as far as filling in for potential injuries go, but through the first week, the Reds once again have one of the worst benches in baseball.

 

Dishonorable Mentions: Joey Votto, Jose Peraza, Rookie Davis

 

Who’s on your Three Up, Three Down list? Leave a comment below, or tweet at me either at @JordanBarhorst or @redlegnation. We’d love to hear from you throughout the week to help build next week’s Three Up, Three Down.

 

45 thoughts on “Three Up, Three Down: April 11, 2017

  1. I might go with Lorenzen, Garrett and Duvall on the 3 up but no complaints with Suarez instead. Three down would be Stephenson, Peraza, and Arroyo.

    • Peraza has been as advertised, he will end up at .300/.320/.390. Now you may say that is not good but that was always the reality.

      • Yep. Agreed. I’ve always pegged Peraza as a low-risk 1.5-2.0 WAR player (assuming his defense is “above-average” as advertised). I see almost no scenario where he turns into a 3.0+ WAR player.

        Although, toss in Schebler and the Frazier deal really doesn’t seem all that bad, considering Super Todd hasn’t been good since he left and both Peraza and Schebler are dirt cheap for awhile.

        • I think the Frazier deal is turning out to be a good one. He was expensive and I hate to see it, but Frazier has obviously been struggling for Chi (though he somehow did drive in a good number of runs last year). I see Schebler as an emerging, solid OF who can take walks and hit for some power.

          I think Peraza will grow offensively as he matures. I thought he showed some power last year (a couple of long HRs at SD and Mil, I think). His play at SS has been good. A very nice play gunning down Marte last night from fairly deep in the whole with the bases loaded.

        • Not really. Plenty of guys hit .300 w/o getting into the HOF.

          It’s not that it is “good” or “bad,” its just that batting average tells such a small portion of the story that it is close to useless as an evaluation tool.

          Who is better? The guy hitting .295 or the guy hitting .275? No way to know. The guy hitting .275 could have 47 home runs, which the guy hitting .295 could have 3 homers.

        • Assuming Peraza develops some ability to steal bases efficiently (which he hasn’t yet), yes, I think Pierre is a good comp if you cut some of the walks.

          Overall, I think a Pierre career (23.9 fWAR) represents something like the 90th percentile projection for Peraza.

          HEY, they even have the same initials.

      • Yeah, it’s refreshing. I keep wondering how many of the good decisions are the consequence of not having Walt suggest bad decisions. Might also want to give Williams a credit. We initially took his comment regarding the use of the pitching staff as tongue-in-cheek. Turns out there might be a bit of bite there…..

    • Votto will be Votto, tiny sample size. After last year no one can say that Votto can’t comeback from a slump!

      • Votto will be Votto until he isn’t. At some point father time is going to slow down his reaction time and bat manipulation skills to a point where he can’t successfully spoil pitch after pitch after pitch until he gets a pitch to hit or draws a walk.

        @ZachENQ wrote about what appears to be a marked change in Votto’s plate approach so far this year:

        http://www.cincinnati.com/story/sports/mlb/reds/2017/04/10/joey-votto-swinging-more-missing-less/100307144/

        The gist is that Votto is swinging at many more pitches both inside and outside of the strike zone than he has in the past. He is often putting the ball in play much earlier in the count. Perhaps he has begun the process of reinventing himself for back side of his career?

        • I tend to thing he’s being aggressive so he can get through the “find my swing” period more quickly. Perhaps he thinks “if I’m going to suck anyways, might as well swing so I can get out of the hole asap!”

          Also, even though he hasn’t been making great contact, sometimes grounders and fly balls turn into hits. None of Votto’s have. So, with a bloop or a seeing-eye-single, he’d have an .800 OPS and no one would care.

          • And Votto has had some serious smashes to the right side that have found leather, not just fly balls and weak grounders. He’s deliberately pulling the ball more than I’ve ever seen Votto pull the ball, but that would follow swinging early at pitches on the inside part of the hitting zone rather than letting the pass or fouling them off.

          • Yeah, that’d make sense. They’re pounding him inside – why not try to put a few of those in play instead of fouling them off?

            His adjustment last year was adjusting to inside pitches – fouling them off. Now he’s trying to put them play, and it doesn’t look like he’s far away from doing just that.

          • Let’s hope you are correct. There are a lot of expensive years left on his deal for him to be turning into a hitter who looks to drive the first hittable pitch he sees in every AB.

          • Oddly enough, pitchers actually stopped throwing Votto inside as much last year in the latter part of the season. It was working, and they just stopped doing it.

          • He might also be experimenting with ways to overcome the approach most pitchers are taking with him. That could have been part of what happened last year. Or not.

      • Agreed. I’m not worried about Votto, but he’s definitely ‘down’ from what he usually is. If/when he bounces back, look out.

        • Joey Votto didn’t have a great night at the plate. But his 1st inning AB was masterful. Glasnow had him down in a 1-2 count. Votto worked Glasnow over and earned a walk on a 8 or 9 pitch AB. Votto thoroughly discombobulated Glasnow and the walk parade was on. BHam got the inning going with a single and a steal, but it was Votto’s AB that did some real damage that inning. That AB just took Glasnow out of his game. The Reds took the lead and didn’t look back.

          • I agree about Votto’s first AB last night. I think it took something out of Glasnow, either physically, mentally, or both. I think he had him 0-2 and then couldn’t get him out.

  2. I posted this in the game thread before I saw this post: I think Suarez is primed for an Edwin Encarnacion type of offensive breakout this season. 30 HR, 35 doubles, and an OBP >.350 is within reach, IMO.

    • He’s definitely looking good. Typically don’t know if a player has that kind of power until he shows it, but last year was encouraging. I really like Suarez – I’m hoping to see more and more of him at SS so he’s not forced into a utility role or traded when Senzel is ready.

    • I’m a huge Suarez fan but Edwin Scissorhands is 30+ pounds bigger then him. I think Suarez gets in trouble with trying to be a power hitter at times and needs to work on spraying the ball around and let the power #s happen naturally! I’d like to see .280 and 25/90 and everyone would be happy!

  3. If all Scooter does is hit home runs while he is here, averaging one a week, he’ll be on my ‘3 up’ list.

  4. Interestingly enough, Suarez has a perfectly symmetric batted ball profile at the moment…

    37.5% grounders
    25.0% line drives
    37.5% fly balls

    He’s also running the highest Hard% of his career, fwiw.

  5. Michael Lorenzen leads all of MLB in RE24 for relievers at 4.74. There are only 5 other guys above 3.

    As a reminder, RE24 is a stat that gives incremental credit to the player based on how they effect the base-out states (there are 24 base-out states). For example, going from having a runner on first with 0 outs to having the bases empty with 2 outs (a double play), lowers the run expectancy (RE) of the inning for the opposing team. The difference in the old RE and the new RE gets credited to that pitcher, whether it be positive or negative. Add up that calculation for every single play while the pitcher is on the mound and you get his RE24. Lorenzen has been better than any other reliever in baseball. (And only 4 starters have more RE24)

    • Great info, Patrick, and confirms my eyeball test. Lorenzen has always had a great arm, but he seems to be learning how to pitch very quickly.

    • Brian Price had a quick hook on Finnegan last night ( applause!!!!) and Finnegan made a quick facial gesture of shock and disappointment on camera when he saw Price coming out and then seemed almost distraught in the dugout. I wonder with the uncertainty with Disco and Homer on the DL and so many young pitchers scratching and clawing….both in the rotation and bullpen and minors…. if indeed 2017 is indeed a pitching tryout situation with the goal of keeping all options open. Price is a good pitching coach and maybe he hasn’t decided yet who is who. Could Reed and Garrett and Lorenzen be starters in 2018 and Finnegan be back in the bullpen????? After last night, Lorenzen is the de facto best pitcher but also the leader of the staff on the Reds. Could 2017 be a year where he builds his innings mileage without declaring it and if all goes well he becomes a starter in 2018? I’m fine with Iglesias being the anchor in the bullpen. What to do with Stephenson. Wow.

  6. I like all your selections and points regarding those selections this week Jordan.

    I am looking forward to Stephenson’s next outing. Can he turn the corner with a solid performance and throw strikes like Reed or will his command continue to be an issue and his downfall. My gosh, if Stephenson can join the party out in the bullpen, look out!

    One of the solutions to the bench would be the promotion of Mesoraco when he is ready. If the reds keep Turner on the 25-man roster after promoting Mesoraco, then either Mesoraco (as a RH pinch hitter) or Barnhart (as a LH pinch hitter) become superior options off the bench with Turner available as a superior defensive replacement at catcher if needed. That immediately makes the bench immensely strong and more lethal.

    • Im with you….I just cant think Stephenson is going to go quietly…gotta think the competitive ness comes out soon.

  7. Stuart Turner has done a good job at catching when he has been spelling Tucker Barnhart. No, he has not hit, and he is probably over matched against Major League pitching. But he has played VERY WELL as a catcher.

    The relief work last night was just a little bit on this side of unbelievable. I would like to see Reed repeat what he did last night a few more times. At times, he seemed a little wild, and at times he seemed overpowering. If he can get in a good groove with his release point and repeating his pitches, then he slides into the rotation when they pull the plug on Bronson.

    What happened to Finnegan last night should be a cautionary tale about “optimism” for all the young guys in the rotation. I hope that Rookie Davis bounces back tonight and gives them at least 6 innings. And also watch out for Amir Garrett tomorrow night, if his control escapes him as it did Finnegan last night.

    Bryan Price said something in the post game interview about Lorenzen regarding him being a starter: he’s still a “young man” and his future might be anything, but they “need” him this year in the bullpen. The door may be open to him starting at some point in the future, was my take on Price’s comment.

    • That was my take too when I heard Price make that comment about Lorenzen….not this year but wasn’t ruling out him starting in the future.

  8. I’m sure the Reds have several guys that could be good setup men to replace Lorenzen if he went into the rotation. I think the problem is they don’t want to put guys like Romano into relief when they still have starter potential! I wonder if they could go out and get a guy? Raisel could be the fire department multiple innings guy and Storen is the 9th inning guy. They have a chance to be much better this year and it would be a travesty to let a couple of unnecessary holes in the rotation do them in!

    • I think Peraza and Wood could both be multiple inning relievers. The difficult situation we are dealing with is the trust factor from the GM and manager. That lack of trust is a carryover from the WJ & Baker. we simply don’t have enough experience with the DW and Price regime to overcome that lack of trust.

      I’m actually fine with Lorenzen pitching from the bullpen the entire 2017 season, as long as he pitches 100-120 innings and there is a real committment to move him back into the starting rotation next season. We are hearing that they are open to doing that, but we’ve heard that before. I just want to see Lorenzen with a real, legitimate shot as a starting pitcher for the Reds.

        • I’m just tired of the stopgap Marquis, Simon, Arroyo, blah blah blah. Its almost a guaranteed loss every time and it saps any momentum the team can put together!

          • To be fair, Simon and Arroyo both saw success in a Reds uniform, but i know what you mean. Luckily it seems like we’re about to start erring on the side of youth, rather than erring on the side of veteran “leadership”

        • After seeing Peraza’s throw from SS last night, maybe he COULD pitch too, lol.

          • That was a strike for sure. Something about that play gave me the warm fuzzies inside.

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