2017 Reds

Is it Time to Turn Our Focus to 2018?

Let’s take a trip back in time. I’m talking about going way, way back to June 8th – some twelve long days ago. If you’ll remember, back on June 8th, the Reds were putting the finishing touches on a four game sweep of the rival St. Louis Cardinals. Sitting at 29-30, just one game under .500 and into the month of June, fans throughout Reds Country were starting to allow themselves to dream about what the rest of the summer might have in store. Could the rebuild be ahead of schedule? Could we be looking at the core of the next contending team?

Well…to answer these questions as politely as possible, not quite. Perhaps, in a salute to the Mamas and Papas of yesteryear, the Reds went out west and were “California Dreamin”. Their run of nine games against teams from California ended on Sunday (Father’s Day no less) with zero wins and nine losses.  A respectable and dare I say it, hopeful, record of 29-30 had quickly turned into 29-39 and last place in the sluggish National League Central. With an upcoming schedule leading into the All Star Break containing contending and division leading clubs such as the Nationals, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Yankees, and Cubs, it’s easy to think that things may get worse before they get any better.

Here’s one way to attempt to describe the current state of affairs. If the Reds were a house, they’d have a completely finished basement (the offense), with recently refurbished hardwood floors (the bullpen), but with a leaky roof containing so many holes you don’t know where to start (the starting rotation). The first 59 games of the season allowed each of us to dream just a little, but the reality of the current situation is here to smack us in the face – the time has come to start thinking about 2018.

Now I realize that turning the focus to 2018 in the middle of June might not sit well with the most enthusiastic and hopeful of us – but hear me out on this one.  Going back to spring training, the prevailing message and thought throughout the organization was that 2017 was the year to throw things at the wall and see what would stick. This was the year to take an organizational inventory to start determining who might be a member of the next contending Reds team.

In an earlier article I wrote about Adam Duvall and whether or not he was a core piece or a tradable asset.  Opinions varied.  Other questions from spring training that may be starting to be answered include:  Can Billy Hamilton build on last year and hit enough to continue being considered a regular? Is Jose Peraza a piece of the future starting middle infield or simply a spare piece? What do they have with Scott Schebler? What do they have with Eugenio Suarez? Who from the young arms would rise up and stick in the rotation?

While it may be too early to answer definitively some of these questions, I’m willing to bet that quite a few of you are already forming your opinions (and so too are the powers that be within the organization).

The 2017 season is, was, and will continue to be about building for sustained success in 2018 and beyond. Already along the way we’ve seen promise from an offense that not only never quits, but one that is never out of any game. We’ve seen a revamped bullpen complete a 180-degree turn from what we witnessed (like in a crime) in 2016. Some of the players mentioned above are already making tremendous positive strides.  Suarez with his developing, dangerous bat and improved defensive comfort zone.  Schebler currently sitting among the league leaders in home runs. But on the flip-side of that spectrum, we’ve seen much of the same Billy Hamilton that we’ve seen the previous couple of seasons.  The jury is still out on the ceiling for Jose Peraza.  And the starting rotation (until recently) was being (loosely) held together by the likes of Scott Feldman, Bronson Arroyo, Tim Adelman, and Asher Wojciechowski.

Going forward throughout the summer, one of the things I expect to see is a dramatically different starting rotation.  The rotation should include a healthy Homer Bailey and Brandon Finnegan (and maybe Anthony Desclafani in August), a continued open audition among the likes of youngsters Cody Reed, Robert Stephenson, Amir Garrett, and Sal Romano, and perhaps a glimpse or two of hot-shot young right handers Tyler Mahle and Luis Castillo.

Additionally, this summer should include the full-time return of one Jesse Winker.  Having made his debut earlier this year, Winker’s return to Cincinnati into a regular outfield rotation (which may or may not be at the expense of Hamilton) will allow another piece of the future to be evaluated. Will his return shift Schebler into spending more time in center field? Is it time to consider a trade? What’s the market?

And finally, during this current period of franchise history, the summer of 2017 would not be complete without a watchful eye on those who may very well be on their way to Cincinnati at some point in the future (Mahle, Castillo, Shed Long, Nick Senzel, etc.) and those who may soon be on their way out of Cincinnati (Zack Cozart, Feldman, Storen, and perhaps someone we’re not expecting?).

As Pete Rose stated so enthusiastically on Saturday, “the Reds don’t re-build, they re-load.”  Well, while the re-load continues, it’s quite likely that the 2018 season is about to begin…

50 thoughts on “Is it Time to Turn Our Focus to 2018?

  1. I love Billy Hamilton because he can easily affect the outcome of a game but if I were the Reds and they received a good offer for him he would be the first outfielder traded. I know a lot of people aren’t on the Duvall bandwagon mostly because of age and OBP but I just don’t see enough growth from Hamilton on the offensive side to keep him starting every day. With this being said I would quickly trade any one of the OF’s if the return was good enough given we can get Winker everyday once one is gone. I would just prefer to deal hamilton as I think he may net the best return.

  2. The Reds won’t get much for Hamilton because he will do the same for other teams that he has done here. No team wants an starting outfielder with no offense. Putting Hamilton on the bench, putting Schebler in CF, and Winker in RF will give us a chance to see if Winker is part of the future and whether Schebler can handle CF. Since the Reds won’t get any thing of value for Hamilton it might be best to keep him as a 4th/5th outfielder, defensive replacement, and late inning pinch runner. Could Suarez play CF?

  3. No one is untradeable, unless they have a no trade clause, but Schebler would seem to be pretty close.

    He has already outperfomed his FanGraphs predictions for the entire season, and he is cost-controlled through 2022. He won’t become a free agent until his age 32 season. The Reds are going to get his prime years at a (likely huge) discount to the market rate.

    Trying out Schebler in CF, Duvall/Winker in the corner OF spots and Hamilton as the 4th outfielder/late appearance guy would be a way to jump start 2018 in the second half of this season.

    Someone on the game thread last night compared to Schebler to Charlie Blackmon. Their wRC+ are virtually the same, the question is whether Schebler can play adequate enough defense in CF, as Blackmon does.

    • Blackmon does not play adequate defense in center field.
      He is close to gold glove status.
      I live out in Colorado so I see several rockies games on TV.
      Charlie is very good in center. Plus Coors field is huge.
      If he could place close to Blackmon’s level, it would be a God send.

  4. As much as it pains me to admit it, I truly thought the Reds had the pieces to compete for the wild card but they couldn’t whistle past the graveyard any longer and got exposed on the west coast. If Bailey and Finnegan were healthy all year we’d likely be at .500 and some would be talking about leveraging our minor league assets to be buyers at the deadline to compete in a winnable division.

    Assuming the starting pitching will get reshuffled, here’s what I need leading up to the trade deadline:

    1. A reasoned answer to why certain young players (Schebler/Peraza/Garrett/Davis) are given as much on the job training as they need yet others (Reed/Stephenson/Lorenzen) are non-starters even though the performance bar was Bronson Arroyo and Wojo.
    2. Better plate discipline from Peraza. He’s 23, but is showing no signs of the light going on. If that work needs to be done in AAA, so be it.
    3. An outfield rotation that cuts into Hamilton’s playing time in order to get Winker 3-4 starts per week.
    4. Alcantara DFA’d. A 25-1 K/BB ratio is absolutely brutal. Let 26 year old Zach Vincej be your backup middle IF.

    • I don’t think I would lump Schlebler and Peraza in with Garrett and Davis. Schlebler has had a very good year so far and his splits show that he can be an everyday player. He’s the type of player you would want to give more opportunities to. Also, both Schlebler and Peraza weren’t immediately holding back any higher ceiling guys. I just think it’s criminal that with all the injuries to the rotation, Reed and Stephenson have one start between them.

      • I completely agree about the starting pitching decisions, but the only thing I can think of is perhaps there is some bigger picture plan in place that we just can’t see right now. Who knows? In DW we trust…

    • Yes, but the wild card spots in the NL seem to be so far out of reach that I see only the NLC division winner advancing. And then only for one round if the current pace of play continues.

    • I’ll try:
      1. Schebler, Peraza, and Garrett earned an opportunity based upon how well they performed in the second half of last season. With the exception of Peraza, they’ve all shown it was warranted. I guess a case could be made that Gennett needs to be the everyday 2B, but Price has managed to get him a lot of AB as the utility guy. Davis got a chance because Reed showed in the Spring that he still can’t get MLers out and Stephenson hasn’t shown he can get guys out consistently since he was in Dayton. Lorenzen was a RP in college, and got himself hurt the first chance he ever had to start. I’d keep him right where he is and make him the closer if/when a team desperate for a reliever (see Washington Nationals) makes a desperate offer for Iglesias.
      2. Agree. But Herrera’s playing terrible in Louisville and Shed Long is probably still a year away. He hit .300 last year when he played regularly. Just got to learn to take a walk and doubt he’ll pick that up in AAA.
      3. Winker’s the 4th best outfielder. No one thinks Schebler can play CF. Even with Billy having a bad year so far, he’s far superior to Winker in all the five tools accept hitting and power (although I’d say they’re equal in power).
      4. Eh… Alcantera/Renda/Vincej. Pick one, put him on the bench. All are probably ML bench players, none of them matter in the long run.

      • Regarding #3, the 5 tools aren’t all equivalent in terms of value. For example, the combination of the hit and power tools are significantly more important than speed/glove/arm combined.

        Billy’s speed with decline as he ages, as will his defense. Winker’s hitting will improve until he starts his decline.

        If I had to have 1 player for 6 years (if both CF and RF were open), I’d pick Winker to put up more WAR than Hamilton form now through 2023.

      • On number #2 Herrera has started to turn the corner. Below is his slash line thanks to one of Doug’s posters on his site.

        Dilson Herrera is .321/.357/.547 in June

  5. From day one of this year our focus should have been to do everything we could to find out who will be a part of this team on day one of next year.Everybody knows how I feel about not giving our young pitchers a chance early on with all the injuries so I won’t go there.The real villain or villians that put a halt to our rebuild plans is the Cubs and the rest of our division.If the Cubs had played like the Cubs and the Cards had played like the Cards etc etc then we wouldn’t have become delusional and started talking playoffs.Adding to that was offensively guys have stepped up and so has the pen and defense.These happenings stopped the rebuild process in my opinion and started folks saying yes we can yes we can even with our starters being the worst in baseball.Sadly it will continue because with Homer and Finny returning we will get better so here we go again.Best thing that could happen is we are 15 to 20 games out at the break so we can stop this nonsense and really focus on 2018.Sultan I like everything you said especially if Winker replaces Alcantara on the team.

    • We can rebuild AND compete this year. Not an advocate of trading prospects for veterans to compete, but an advocate of using our best prospects and finding out what we have in competing this year when we are only 6.5 games out. It has been really shameful of the front office to waste 20+ starts between Bronson and Bonilla/Wojo/coupleotherAAAmarginallowceiling guys.

      The likelihood we are this close in 2018 or 2019 are slim….even if the Reds as a whole are better. Cubs are having a down year, they are likely to reload on starters via free agency while their bats recover from WS victory letdown, and the Cards are likely to do the same for their offense, plus replacing Wainwright and adding a couple bullpen pieces. Milwaukee might have shot ahead of the Reds with the new guy sporting a ridiculous OBP replacing Villar and Villar himself might rebound from a terrible start (BH and Peraza by comparison have done better) plus the find in Thames.

      Best practice for Reds mgmt going forward, find out what we have overseasoned in AA (Mahle & Castillo & Ross) and hopefully experience in the second half 2017 what Colorado has learned 1st half 2017.

      • I think the Brewers are legit and if they buy at the deadline can actually win this division. The Cubs pitching has been terrible not to mention their defense has taken a step back. Take a realistic look at who that team is….. Don’t get me wrong the Cubs are good but lets count the number of players who statistically had a career year for them last year. Lester, Lackey not totally but 3rd best ERA of his career, Fowler 2nd best season using OPS, Kyle Hendricks by far, Zobrist had one of his best seasons, Rizzo, Arrieta 3rd best season ERA-wise. I guess I just caution saying that the Cubs are an unstoppable machine because last year was a perfect storm for a lot of players and they will have to either blow a ton of money in the free agent market for pitching or gut their farm system to replace a lot of those aging pitchers…. (Lester, Lackey, Arrieta). So if you want to crown em’ crown em’ but I’m waiting to see where we end up before I just say cash in every season for the next forseeable future.

        • +1

          Cubs always kill us but they have MAJOR holes! Their pitching is getting old and they had Zobrist/Heyward 4th/5th recently for several games. They’re horrible! Zobrist is almost done. Schwarber/Russell/Baez no longer look like future stars. I think the Reds/Brewers can compete down road if things come together and Milw has a good shot this year although I think they’ll fall a little short.

          • The Cubs very well could turn out to be mortal from here on out but they still have a super young group of cheap, potential core players. They were very good in 2015 as well, it wasnt necessarily just a one year thing last year.

  6. I don’t mind trading Hamilton but Schebler is not a centerfielder. Can he play centerfield yes, reasonably well but if you have Duval (who is arguably better than anyone thought) on one side and Winker on the other, that is a lot of ground to cover. A lot of those outs in left and right center will be doubles. If you trade Hamilton you need to have someone who can play center and perhaps that could end up being Peraza.

    • Fowler isn’t that great in CF and they won the WS. I think Schebler would be ok. He isn’t a base stealer but he can really run. GABP has to be one of the smallest outfields as well. Schebler in CF wouldn’t be perfect but Billy has been terrible this year and Prusty insists on leading him off come hell or high water.

          • Come on, guys. Price is auditioning for his next job after the Reds.
            He has to show he can stick by the book and win with an uninjured, better team (“better” defined as whatever team will give him a job).

    • The Reds play at least 110 games in stadiums with small outfields which depreciate the value of CF defense, i.e 81 at GABP and 9/10 each at Wrigley, StL, and Milwaukee. Go around the league and I’ll bet there are at least a dozen more games in stadiums outside the division which also have smallish outfields. A 4th or 5th outfielder well used in the larger parks is probably preferable to throwing away so much offense for defense in the small parks.

  7. I haven’t been too disappointed in the 2017 season except for a few glaring exceptions. The decimating injuries to the starting rotation , resulting in starts by Arroyo and Wojo were unfortunate but also unavoidable. The relegation of Stephenson and Reed to the major league bullpen and then the failure to utilize them even in a regular bullpen role is just a gross head-shaker. Projecting Rookie Davis as a major league starter based on nothing more than a good spring training was beyond understandable. With the injuries to the starting rotation, starts by Garrett and Romano were understandable but undesireable.

    Giving regular playing time to Duvall, Schebler, Hamilton, Peraza and Suarez were intended to accomplish exactly what has been accomplished to this point and playing Winker at AAA was fully justified to begin the season.

    I don’t see any changes from the game plan that resulted from the early success of the team and I don’t foresee any changes in the gameplan as a result of the tanking of the past two weeks. What I do expect to see is the game plan evolving based on information gained during the first half of the season.

    Suarez, Schebler & Duvall have all proven that can play at the major league level as starters. Hamilton has proved he will never be more than he has been and the Reds need to plan accordingly. Peraza has proven he is not major league ready offensively, but with Cozart on the DL and probably ready to be traded at the first good opportunity (and that opportunity may have already presented itself), Peraza will continue to play at the major league level as a starter until a better option arises.

    Going forward in 2017 represents the expected evolution of the plan. Winker needs regular playing time at the major league level so the Reds can determine if Winker can play as a starter at the major league level, just as they reached that determination for Schebler, Duvall and Suarez. Mesoraco has proven physically recovered and durable, if not yet providing the monster production of 2014. He needs to move into a starting role with Barnhart providing regular rest rather than a full platoon situation.

    Feldman, Adleman, Storen & Wood need to continue to be showcased in positive roles (i.e. keep Storen and Wood out of high leverage situations and be ready with a quick hook for Feldman and Adleman) in anticipation of suitors. Fill any remaining starter positions with the most qualified starting candidate already on the 40-man roster (sorry Mahle), but keep all starting prospects pitching as a starter at AAA (here’s looking at you Castillo) until they are the next man up as a qualified starting candidate at the major league level.

    • I agree with all that. I would add Barnhart to the shopping list. I love Tucker, but Turner might be Tucker 2015 and you could get nice trinkets for Tucker today. Mesoraco can’t be sold in a down year…his would be offseason or next July.

      So by default, Tucker becomes available on my list, especially with the catching talent we have upcoming. I would also take a flier on extending Mesoraco now, based on 2 years of inactivity and a part time basis in 2017. He is an All Star, and may have a Cozart year next year. If I could pick up another year or 2 from Devin I would be excited, just like I would if Cozart added a year or 2 but that ain’t happening now

      If you would have told me that Duvall was going to hit 275 and have a 320 OBP at the beginning of the year, I would have said book it. It now appears that he still has upside to me. Everyone kept saying that he cannot take a walk, and would not improve his OBP. I wonder what they will say when he reaches 330 or 340?

      Billy is a prime example of someone who needed to play baseball in College. He has not developed, and cannot bunt. Had he gone to Oregon State, well at least he would have been able to bunt by the time he got to the bigs. Kwan bunts at will and has a 455 OBP. Votto like. Billy is just not getting there. That first pitch last night was a waste. He needs to get sat sometime like a college coach would instead of all of the coddling. Hopefully that will happen with Winker up.

      Love you Billy, but at some point, you have to improve to be part of this 2018 plan

  8. I don’t see anyone including the variable that the Reds need to sell tickets and have good ratings.

    Use that as one of the filters and some other decisions make more sense

    • Its an entertaining team when they’re not down 3-4 runs by the 4th inning every other game! If they sniff .500 next year then attendance will improve!

    • Making a decision based on only current sales is short-sighted. Building a lasting winner and selling more tickets in the future is probably better than hamstringing yourself to sell a few tickets in the present.

      The team isn’t in danger of going bankrupt, so they should be building to the future. Current ticket sales shouldn’t weight into the equation at all. IMO.

    • Tickets are sold and good ratings are both achieved by putting a winning product on the field, period.

  9. With 57% of the season to go and the Reds six and a half games out of 1st. place and only one and a half games out of third place in the NLC, I would prefer to concentrate on the present season.

    • Just being realistic. They could always go on a heater but I expect them to deal Cozart and that’s going to hurt them in the short term both on the field and with leadership/chemistry! Too much youth and unknowns but I hope I’m wrong

    • Let him take his time in the minors, and not be rushed.
      I was talking to some Reds fans at Coors field (playing LA), and I told them I was thinking 2019.
      (I would love next year, but I am being realistic)

  10. The biggest mistake the Reds could make this trading deadline is dealing Tim Adleman. The Reds have several “high ceiling” sp prospects- with very low floors. Adleman has a career 4.11 ERA & a career 1.22 WHIP. He’s 11 for 24 in quality starts. Stephenson or Reed won’t eclipse those stats in their first 24 starts. It’s unlikely Romano or Lorenzen can either. Garrett has a shot, but he’ll need to get better and get better soon. We’ll all be happy when the Reds can field 5 or 6 starters who can perform at a higher standard than Adleman, but that time is not this season & maybe not the first half of 2018. He’s a cheap keeper.

  11. I don’t see focusing on 2017 or focusing on 2018 as having to be mutually exclusive.

    As long as they don’t make a deal that is going to be a net negative in the future, putting the best team they can on the field for the rest 2017 should also help them in 2018.

    If they are so far away that they need another top 5 draft pick then we are talking about competing in 2020, 2021 or even later.

  12. When you watch a team everyday it’s easy to miss incremental progress. In 2015 they won 64. Last year 68 and this year they will likely win about 75. The overall talent level across the organization has improved sharply and the division is seemingly getting weaker. We get caught up in things like line up construction and miss the many good things that are occurring.

    My hope is that they finally have built an overall organization that minimizes the boom bust cycles and they’re close to sustainable competitiveness

    • I agree BUT in 2015 we could say “Wait til Reed gets here and Garrett. Wait til Bob Steve puts it all together. We can put them together with Disco and we’ll have something” Well they came and completely SUCK so far. Disco looks like he might not be a big enough guy to be a workhorse and just unlucky but he’s extremely iffy. Homer could breakdown for good on any night. The pitching gas tank in the organization seems 80% empty.

    • After today’s loss they are on pace for 68.45 wins. Not actually an improvement from last year.

  13. I thought that was always the plan anyway. 2018, I think, was the original target year for our supposed return to contention. To tell you the truth, I’m beginning to have doubts about 2018 bcuz of the starting rotation. Some of the guys we’re counting on to be part of the rotation next year have lost time this year due to injuries. Maybe half a year (give or take AND assuming they stay healthy the rest of the season-which has proven difficult) is enough time to work out the kinks (which includes fixing any command and/or execution issues that will likely arise from being down so long). It’s just that, this year was supposed to be the year of sorting, but the injuries to the starting pitchers MIGHT of pushed the year of sorting back to next year. I suppose everything could magically come together next year and we could possibly contend for a playoff spot but it seems as if there could be too many variables in play with the potential starting rotation one of which being any young pitchers who don’t get a shot this year possibly getting a shot in the rotation next year and the usual young pitcher struggles that come with young pitchers. I know some of you see a light at the end of the tunnel but I’m having trouble seeing it. I don’t think the end of said tunnel is going to be reached next year. But I could very well be wrong.

    • I think the next 80+ games this season are going to be critical to sorting out how far away they are from contention – especially in the rotation

  14. It was time for this 1-2 years ago. Anyone with any sense knew last season and this season weren’t going to be “the seasons”. And, frankly, from what I’m seeing from the starting pitching, there’s nothing to say next season is going to be the season, either.

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