We are nearing the end of the minor league season now and as we all start thinking intensely about next year, I think it’s useful to take a look at what has and has not been said about the various young players. This may tell us something about what to expect next year.
In the time I’ve been around the clubhouse in Louisville, I have noticed that, when talking to people within management, there are generally 3 types of player comments you get. The most common is the asked-and-answered question (I’m perfectly happy to talk about this player), the asked and dodged question (I don’t want to talk about this player), and the volunteered player (you aren’t paying as much attention to this person as you should be).
The one that should primarily concern Reds fans is the asked and dodged questions. We opened the season anticipating the arrivals of Stephenson, Garrett, and Reed. Even though Stephenson is in the rotation right now and having generally encouraging results, his peripherals aren’t very good and, unless I’ve missed something, there has been no talk of a spot next year being assured. In fact, there hasn’t been long term talk at all. The same is true of Reed and Garrett. There’s no talk. And no talk means there’s nothing to talk about. Add to that the rumblings that the Reds may go looking on the free agent market this winter, and questions start to arise about what they are still expecting from these players.
Romano, however, seems to be making headway. He’s had several good starts and even his bad starts haven’t been disasters. He looks like a serviceable fourth or fifth starter. There’s also been at least a little talk about him.
In the infield, it seems easy to tell that the Reds aren’t any more sure of what’s going to happen than we are. They’ve been moving Blandino around the diamond in AAA lately (one assumes this is to try to make him a utility player), but having watched him there, he doesn’t seem like a solution at short. What is interesting is that, when asked about Senzel, there is usually talk of his “athleticism,” which is often used as a code word for someone who can be moved if need be. Given that, I’d expect Suarez to stay at third with Senzel sliding over to second. HOWEVER, Suarez did get a little pinch time at short recently and he at least CAN play there in theory. And I haven’t even mentioned Scooter Gennett.
The problem is shortstop. Suarez, Senzel, Gennett, and Blandino make sure the Reds are more than covered at second and third. But their only good defensive options at short are Cozart, who would be expensive and risky to keep, and Peraza, who hasn’t hit well, in general. Peraza HAS been hitting (and walking) much better lately. If he can continue you that, it would make everyone’s life much easier. And Infield of Suarez, Senzel, Votto, and a Peraza getting on base at a league-average (or better) clip wouldn’t draw any complaints. Peraza’s approach has been visibly different lately and I’m certainly hoping it sticks.
In the outfield, don’t worry about who’s starting from one day to the next. Winker is going to play next year. Schebler is healthy and Winker is still in Cincinnati. He’s going to be there until the end of the year and he’s going to be in the outfield more often than not next year. The Reds seems to be leaning more toward some kind of outfield rotation that gives everyone at bats, and we may end up with Schebler as a fourth outfielder who still ends up close to 500 PAs.
That’s a lot of reading between the lines, of course, but I really do think you can often tell more from what teams don’t say.