2017 Reds / Three Down / Three Up

Three UP, Three DOWN

This past week has been a week of evening things out for the Cincinnati Reds. After getting off to a hot start, the team struggled in a series against the Milwaukee Brewers, dropping three of four in the first home series since opening up the season at Great American Ballpark.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the sweep of the division rival Pittsburgh Pirates in their home park, but the story of the week was definitely the struggles against the Brewers. For all intents and purposes, the Brewers are a team the Reds are supposed to beat. However, I think it was a good grounding moment for the fans. You never want to see your team lose, but the fact of the matter is that this team is much closer to a .500 club than they are a serious playoff contender. They did show the fight and guts required of teams who want to be taken seriously, which is a great thing to see at such an early point in this rebuild.

Without further ado, here’s a list of who’s hot and who’s not for our Cincinnati Reds this week.

Three Up:

1. Zack Cozart

After narrowly missing last week’s Three Up list, Zack Cozart makes his first appearance on the hot list for the 2017 season. And boy, does he deserve it. Cozart is currently second in the league in batting average, fourth in OBP, and fourth in slugging. Unfortunately for Reds fans, he’s also second in Batting Average on Balls in Play with a staggering .517 BABIP. Cozart’s career BABIP hovers right around .278, so that .432/.488/.730 slash line will definitely be tapering off eventually.

The team couldn’t have asked more from Zack Cozart to kick off 2017. He’s built his trade value instantly, and should be a hot commodity for the first team with an everyday shortstop go down to injury.

2) Amir Garrett

If a magical time-travelling Reds fan had come to us at the beginning of Spring Training and informed us that Amir Garrett would be the Reds’ best and most-reliable starting pitcher through mid-April, I think most of us would have questioned his sanity. But, that’s where we are. Granted, every other starting pitching option for the Reds has fallen apart in at least one of their starts, but Garrett has had two very solid and seemingly repeatable appearances to begin his rookie year.

I can’t stress how easy he’s making things look out there. Despite giving up two runs, Garrett’s second start might have been better than the six shutout innings he pitched the first time around. Relying on a rookie with limited success at the AAA level isn’t a comfortable spot to be in as a fan base, but for now, I think we can #CountOnAG.

3) Cody Reed

After walking four batters in his first appearance of the year, Cody Reed has been absolutely locked in since. He’s yet to give up an earned run, even in that four walk appearance, and has retired the last 15 batters he’s faced. This seems to be related to an improvement in his mechanics, specifically his follow through, and reducing the recoil after he lets loose.

Whatever you’re doing, young man, keep doing it.

Honorable Mentions: Eugenio Suarez, Raisel Iglesias, Robert Stephenson, Wandy Peralta, Drew Storen

Three down

1. Brandon Finnegan

After a tantalizing first 7.0 innings, Brandon Finnegan has started two more games, but has only managed to make it through 3.0 innings. In each appearance since his dominant Opening Night start, the young Reds pitcher has shown almost zero ability to find the plate. Finnegan’s first inning on Saturday was so bad that manager Bryan Price pulled him before he could do any more damage.

The official word on this outing was a shoulder problem, and indeed, Finnegan was placed on the new 10-day Disabled List shortly after the game. The Reds have shut him down for 2-3 weeks – here’s to hoping what we saw in that first game can make a comeback, and what we saw in the four innings after that was related more to the injury than Brandon’s abilities.

2) Joey Votto

This feels sort of like deja vu, doesn’t it? In 2016 Joey Votto got off to easily the worst start in his career. In 2017, he’s at it again. It’s been noted by people watching him closely that his approach at the plate looks completely different than it has in years past – and indeed, Votto’s 85.5% zone swing rate (the rate at which he swings at balls in the zone) is at an all-time high, and well above his career average of 68.5%.

I’m not going to even try to analyze what Votto is doing at the plate. Whatever he’s experimenting with has caused his traditional statistics to drop well below league average. I’m not anticipating that this will be the case for very long. He’s already looking to be on the upswing, and as we saw last year, Votto is capable of pulling himself out of rough patches like this and putting up monster numbers shortly after.

3) Arismendy Alcantara

It’s becoming clear why the Cubs had to pass on Arismendy Alcantara. There’s no doubt that Alcantara’s raw ability is tantalizing, but it’s becoming painstakingly obvious that he’s got no place on a major league ballfield currently. Not only has he been abysmal at the plate (1 hit through 13 plate appearances, good(?) for a .083/.154/.083 slashline), but a costly error in Sunday’s game extended Sal Romano’s major league debut by 15 unnecessary pitches, and almost definitely affected the young pitcher psychologically. To have Alcantara getting at bats while capable backups Juan Perez and Tony Renda are putting up solid numbers in Louisville is puzzling, to say the least. We’ll see just how long this experiment can last for the Reds, especially in a year when getting ABs for crucial rebuild pieces should be the most important goal on the list.

Dishonorable Mentions: Jose Peraza, Bronson Arroyo, Sal Romano

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.

22 thoughts on “Three UP, Three DOWN

    • Yeah, he was in contention for sure. I wrote about him in my column last week, and wanted to give Cozart some love this week. If Suarez keeps it up, he’ll be a stalwart in this column this season.

  1. I suppose the long term for Finnegan depends more on health than anything else, so I won’t comment there. Votto will be fine – he’s already looking better and he is, after all, Joey Votto. But Alcantara is a different story. I suppose the third guy off the bench doesn’t affect game outcomes much, but he already played a big negative role in the Easter game. Catch the pop up and field the grounder and the Reds save at least one run (ahead of the Braun home run) and maybe more (based on a complete change in stress level for Romano). Add to that the inability to get on base (also looking at you Billy Hamilton) and the top of the order did not do the Reds offense any favors. Alcantara does not look like a major leaguer. I predict – and hope – he will be in Louisville very soon. He certainly shouldn’t be in the starting lineup before then. Time for the front office to correct that mistake.

    • In spring training, Alcantara was facing a lot of young pitchers who were trying to get pitches over the plate, and not pitching according to a scouting report. So he had some degree of success at the plate. But now, as pointed out here:

      https://redlegnation.com/2017/03/26/one-big-hole-in-arismendy-alcantaras-game/

      teams know how to pitch to him, and have for some time. He hasn’t shown any ability to adjust. I feel like we’re now the latest team to learn what the Cubs and A’s have already learned about him.

      • I sure hope the Reds are more patient with Alcantara than Reds fans are. He’s only 25 and possesses some high end talent. Sure he still needs to make some adjustments to his game, but what better place to do so than with this club? His speed/power and versatility make him a very intriguing talent, and he did rebound with a solid AAA season last year after a rough year and half with Chicago/Iowa. It’s going be a much longer season than I anticipated if we are go to have no more patience than this with our young players.

        • I am more in line with Tom’s thoughts. I do not think it was a mistake putting Alcantara on the 25 man. He has versatility and can serve as a backup to many positions. That has value to a team with a pitching heavy roster.

          Having said that, Alcantara has to bring his glove if nothing else. The Reds can live with light hitting from a backup (who has played sparingly BTW) but that player had better bring it everyday in the field. Sunday was brutal. If he can’t correct that issue, and soon, then he does need to be sent down.

          • I don’t believe Alcantara has any options left to exercise ( I may be incorrect and the Old Computer won’t let me verify), so ‘sending him down’ would mean granting him the option to pursue FA. The problen with keeping him on the 25-man roster is that he is not going to gain any experience through very limited playing time. Without that playing time, there is very little chance for any improvement. Without the improvement there is very little chance for increased playing time…the Catch 22 for aging minor league players with upside remaining but not major league ready.

          • I should have checked on this before, but you are correct, sir. He is out of options. It does put the Reds in a bit of a quandary with him. I guess my thinking still stands. If he can’t provide good defense off the bench, then there is no value to keeping him. I’m basing this on the assumption that he is never going to become a good enough hitter but I do think he has it in him to be a good/at least adequate defender at a number of positions.

            So, if the Reds don’t want to continue with this experiment, the question becomes who is the next best option to fill this role?

          • Alcantara is out of options; but, he does not have the service time to refuse an outright. As an international player, he may have been granted those rights contractually; but to do so would forfeit the full season of salary which was guaranteed to him when he made the 25 man active roster. So, it is unlikely he would do so.

            He would however need to clear MLB waivers before being outrighted. Claiming him on waivers when the A’s were sending him through to clear 40 man roster space is how the Reds ended up with him.

          • Correct, Jim. I think his status plus positional versatility certainly weighed into the decision to claim him and put him on the 25 man once the team broke camp. He could theoretically spell a number of positions and allow the team to carry an extra pitcher.

            The Reds will still want (need) to carry an extra pitcher given the number of young pitchers they have. But they will also be faced with a tough decision on what to do with Turner once (if) Mesoraco returns.

            I don’t see a clear cut replacement for Alcantara just yet. So I think he probably stays unless he continues to be god-awful in the field.

  2. When you look at the three losses to Milwaukee last weekend, you also have to look at who started those three games. Feldman, Arroyo the first two and Romano the last one. The first two we never really had a chance (Yes I know Feldman had one good start) when you are trotting out guys who have no stuff, yes occasionally you stake gold but it is usually fool’s gold. In Romano’s start, I don’t think he pitched that poorly, you could tell he was struggling with his emotions, but he was pitching well. You can’t blame him for pitching carefully around Thames, but when you get the next hitter to pop up weakly in foul territory you should be two thirds of the way through the inning and be able to breathe. I do agree that it is too early to give up on Alcantara but he has no place on major league roster right now. Don’t give up on him but send him down to the minors. To be in the majors you ought to at least be able to either hit or field.

  3. Glad to see Reed make the thumbs up list and Stephenson make the honorable mention for the thumbs up list. Both of those pitchers should be in the starting rotation immediately and stay in the starting rotation until the situations with Disco and Bailey are resolved. I think Adleman could probably be best used in the starting rotation right now too, just to try and get more innings out of his starts than the current cast is providing.

    • Bob Steve 13Ks in 6.2!! He’s got the stuff if he can throw enough strikes? I don’t if its just the new radar readings or what but his velocity is up and his stuff definitely looks more elite then last year! He’s came in throwing 96-98 and a nasty curve but you can’t walk every other guy!

  4. Alcantara is definitely in a hole because Scooter has been doing some damage and he doesn’t appear to be the pinch-hitter type. I like pinch-hitters like Selsky that can take some pitches and don’t get up there and get themselves out by being over anxious! They could give him a shot in the outfield when Billy needs a break but overall I’d much rather have Irvin on the roster!

  5. Give an honorable mention “thumbs up” to Tim Adleman as well. He deserves it for his relief stint on Sunday, We’ve dumped on Adleman enough over the past two seasons. Let’s at least note when he was good, actually very good.

  6. Believe it or not, Votto has a 112 wRC+ since Opening Day.

    Having 3 homers in only 51 PA (since Opening Day) does a lot to buoy a low batting average and relatively low OBP.

    His .189 BABIP is obviously low, but he’s hitting a lot of weak-to-medium fly balls and grounders, so we shouldn’t expect a high BABIP. But we should expect it to be higher than .189.

    His April has, so far, been no where near as bad as last year, thankfully!

  7. I wasn’t suggesting the Reds drop Alcantara, just demote him. The Cossack is right. He won’t improve if he doesn’t play, and he won’t play if he doesn’t improve. That only gets fixed at AAA. If the Reds can only keep him by keeping him on the 25 man roster then he needs to go. Maybe now three teams having issues with him will give him a shot to clear waivers and head to Louisville. If not, how can he ever be of value in Cincinnati?

    On an unrelated note, props to the whole bullpen so far. I saw a post on the MLB site confirming what our eye test had already shown – the Reds bullpen was the most effective in MLB last week. Who would have taken odds last fall on that happening for ANY week this year? If the top of the order starts getting on base, and as the starting pitching questions start to get answered I do think this team can win more than it loses this year. That’s exciting.

    • If we were just taking bets that the Reds BP would be tops for ANY week, I would take that bet. It’s a pretty small sample and the Reds do have several good pitchers in their pen right now.

    • Starting pitching questions….well Arroyo is 2+2=5 for starters. He’s not an answer in any shape or form. Best outcome for the Reds is to win 10-9 tonite in a massive comeback after BA gives up 3 bombs in 3 innings and some Oriole knocks the beer out of some guys hand in the upper deck! Give Price no reason to further pursue this silliness with Arroyo! A rotation of Lorenzen, Reed, Garrett, Bob Steve, and Feldman would atleast give them a shot to contend! If they’re going to roll Rookie or Romano out there then why not Castillo too? He’s older then some of them and throws high 90s with control! Otherwise the pen is going to wear down well before the AS break even!

      • “after BA gives up 3 bombs in 3 innings”

        I wouldn’t be shocked to see 3 bombs to the 1st 3 batters….. sigh/ ….. smh

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