As the Cincinnati Reds mercifully open their season-ending three-game series against the Pirates tonight at 6:40 Eastern time at Great American Ball Park, pretty much everyone is glad that this forgettable season is coming to an end.

It’s the fourth straight season with 90-plus losses, a team record. There are some positive signs buried in the avalanche of disappointments, but after year four of the “rebuild,” there is no confidence that this team is closer to turning things around than when the rebuild began in 2015.

In the game previews of this three-game season-ending series, we’ll focus on what we know and what we have learned about the Reds in this fright show of a season. Unfortunately, the primary lesson learned was …

Today, we’ll look at the position players, tomorrow the pitching staff and Sunday the front office and on-field management staff.

We learned …

Jose Peraza has taken advantage of the opportunity he has been given over the past three years, and prior to tonight’s game is tied for the sixth-most hits in all of major league baseball, 181. Yes, his 29 walks are meager, but consider that with hits and walks combined, he’s been on base 200 times this season. Peraza has avoided long slumps, and has hit the ball with much more authority as the season progressed.

Scooter Gennett was not a one-year fluke. In his second full year with the Reds, he’s hitting .313 with an outside shot at the batting title, depending on what he and Christian Yelich do this weekend. Gennett’s defense improved somewhat this season over his shaky 2017. He’ll never be Brandon Phillips defensively, but he’s the Reds leader in WAR at 4.1 (according to ESPN’s statistics). This year, that makes him arguably the Reds’ Most Valuable Player.

Louisville Bats third baseman Nick Senzel (12) (Ken Inness/MiLB.com)

Many in Redleg Nation still clamor for Peraza and-or Gennett to be traded in order to make room for top prospect Nick Senzel. Consider that in trading either player, you had better get some exceptional value since you are discarding one of the team’s hit leaders. Peraza’s defense at shortstop is not good, and that is being gracious. He’s probably best-suited for second base, honestly, making him one of four players at the major league level or on the cusp for whom that is the case. But moving either Peraza or Gennett without receiving equal value would in many ways reverse two of the primary gains made in the rebuild so far. Clearly, these two are not the double-play combo on a championship-caliber team. But they can hold the fort until moves can be made or players emerge from the farm system who sparkle both on defense and offense.

I hear many of you saying, “Well, what about Senzel?” He would be fine, if Dick Williams can trade one of the National League’s 2018 hit leaders and receive equal or greater value – notably, a top starting pitcher with years of team control. If you were an opposing team, would you trade a top pitcher with years of team control left for either Gennett or Peraza? I thought not. Any trade that does not accomplish that sets this team further back instead of moving it forward.

Eugenio Suarez showed his ability as a game-changer at the plate throughout most of 2018, but his horrendous September hitting slump has put a bit of a damper on the optimism. Defensively at third base, he regressed in a big way. Even so, MLB.com named him the team’s Most Valuable Player, which is hard to argue with. His WAR is 4.0, according to ESPN’s ratings.

Joey Votto showed signs that age might be catching up with him. He still gets on base with the best of them (.417 OBP), but the hitting power waned considerably. He probably belongs in the number two position in the batting order, opening up the number three hole for someone with more pop.

Jesse Winker showed signs of realizing the promise he showed during his minor league career with a .299 batting average and .405 OBP. He’s likely to be the starting right fielder, provided he recovers fully from his shoulder surgery.

Scott Schebler was a player I thought would have his breakout year this season. But what we learned in 2018 is that in three years as a semi-regular and regular outfielder for the Reds, he has WAR ratings of 0.5, 1.2 and 1.1. He’s also shown a pattern of missing considerable time due to injury. The Reds have four more years of contract control, but he’ll turn 28 years old next week. The chances are pretty decent that what we’ve seen is what we’re going to get from Schebler moving forward.

Billy Hamilton is … Billy Hamilton. Like Schebler, we’ve probably seen what we’re going to get. In a year in which he has appeared in 150 games and has 547 plate appearances, he has a WAR of -0.1, despite his defensive excellence. Hamilton contributes LESS than a replacement level center fielder, but receives the playing time of a regular. He simply cannot hit, and his defense and speed don’t adequately offset the damage his complete lack of contribution at the plate does to the team. Of course, we know the owner of the team wants to retain him forever – which is most definitely not in the best interests of this team becoming competitive. Hamilton can contribute effectively as a late-inning pinch-runner and defensive replacement, but that’s about it.

The catching corps of Tucker Barnhart and Curt Casali, as a unit, ranks above average offensively and defensively. Casali was a great pickup from the Tampa Bay Rays minor league system. This is one position that is well-fortified looking ahead to 2019. Dick Williams might be able to use one of these two in a trade.

My best guesses about this group…

  • Senzel will wind up in the outfield at some point in 2019, along with Schebler and Winker. Senzel will play outfield in the Arizona Instructional League so he can get a crash course in the finer points of left field, for starters. If he shows well in left field, he may be moved to center. If he can play a decent defensive center field and hit the way he has shown in the minors, that will be a significant upgrade in the 2019 lineup. Hamilton should stay only as a late-inning replacement and bench fill-in. Another year of 150 games from a player with a -0.1 WAR cannot be allowed to happen again.
  • One of the catchers, along with Schebler and Hamilton, should all be made available in trades. Gennett and-or Peraza should be made available in trades that bring back starting pitching with a positive track record and some years of team control. Nobody on this entire roster should be considered untouchable if quality starting pitching can be obtained. Without it, this team is destined for the divisional dregs indefinitely.

Starting Pitchers

Name IP ERA xFIP K% BB%
Nick Kingham 72.1 5.23 4.60 20.5% 7.1%
Anthony DeSclafani 110 4.91 3.88 21.9% 6.2%

This appears to be a fairly evenly matched matchup, at least based on the statistics. DeSclafani has been one of the many big disappointments of this season. It was hoped that after he went through the inevitable readjustment period after returning to the major league rotation following his many injuries, he would begin to show some of the consistent excellence he exhibited in the past. Alas, it has not reappeared. There is no clear indication that it ever will, unfortunately.

Bullpen

Hail, hail, the gang’s all here. All members of the well-stocked bullpen should be available if needed today after two off-days in the previous four.

Starting Lineups

Pirates Reds
LF Adam Frazier LF Scott Schebler
CF Starling Marte SS Jose Peraza
1B Josh Bell 1B Joey Votto
LF Corey Dickerson 2B Scooter Gennett
C Elias Diaz 3B Eugenio Suarez
3B Colin Moran C Tucker Barnhart
2B Kevin Kramer RF Phillip Ervin
SS Kevin Newman P Anthony DeSclafani
P Nick Kingham CF Billy Hamilton

24 Responses

  1. Matt Hendley

    Reds are gonna….be done on Sunday….thank god i need the break

  2. Klugo

    Unfortunately, I couldn’t agree more, Lance.

  3. Kettering Reds Fan

    Tom Mitsoff as the closer!

  4. sezwhom

    In the grand scheme of things, it’s a moot point but Riggleman continues to roll out the same crass lineup which can barely score one run anymore. If he gets the job next year, I will throw in the towel. While I’m at it, I’ve seen enough of Hamilton too.

  5. Sliotar

    “Nobody on this entire roster should be considered untouchable if quality starting pitching can be obtained. Without it, this team is destined for the divisional dregs indefinitely.”

    -Teams made playoffs this season, needed improved SP to do so, and did so without trading away untouchables (Braves, A’s). Sign cheap, veteran FA SP and let kids develop further.

    -Trading for top SP with years of control is always going to be an overpay (see Chris Archer)

    -Why undo the purpose of the tank years and good drafts the last 3 years (according to rankings) being a forced buyer?

    There is a window coming…it’s just not likely to be 2019.

    Everyone has an opinion at RLN, but if Dick Williams thinks trading away bonafide top prospects is the way to go, this team will get old before it gets good and will be the dregs indefinitely.

    (Get out the checkbook if you want to try something dramatic this winter).

  6. Tom Haxby

    Here is a suggestion for a really bold move. Trade Eugenio Suarez for a lot of starting pitching and put Senzel at third base. Why not? Eugenio has regressed defensively and for whatever reason is now an automatic out in the middle of the lineup. Injury, indifference on a losing team, worn out? I dunno, but he is only slightly above average playing half of his games at GASP. With Winker, Votto, Peraza and Gennett getting on as much base as much as they do he should have 130+ RBIs. Heck, I would even trade Gennett for good arms and a stop gap shortstop. Move Peraza to second where he belongs. Hamilton should be traded too, but we won’t get much for him. Even a surplus infielder from the minors should be trade bait. Something has to be done to improve the pitching. And finally, ditch Riggleman. Playing as poorly as they have since the All Star Game does not bode well going forward.

  7. Sliotar

    SF Giants inserted a spot starter…over a week ago…so they would have 3 good starters available for Dodgers series starting tonight. Just to try and spoil LA’s playoff chances.

    That’s an organization with pride. And a real rival.

    Where the Reds are at the moment, I am not sure they have too much of either.

    Go Redlegs.

  8. Hanawi

    You are vastly overvaluing Peraza and Gennett. No one would give up a starting pitcher with years of control for either. Peraza is probably the worst defensive SS in the game and probably needs to switch positions. Gennett has one year of control and plays an easily replaceable position. I doubt anyone even offered much at the trade deadline this year.

    • Sliotar

      Well stated.

      I hope the Reds do not bid against themselves, if they are offering Gennett an extension.

      Zach Cozart literally had zero interest last winter, at the numbers his agent was wanting…until the Angels owner decided to give him what he wanted in an attempt to compete with the Astros.

      Did not work out well for the Angels. At all.

      • Matt Hendley

        Cozart was in a new league and then was injured, when healthy he was good just not healthy often, Gennett will be good, take advantage of a good year by peraza and trade him, then Play Herrera at SS.

    • BigRedMike

      I concur. This was a great game thread write up and evaluation of the hitters.

      Not sure that I would agree that trading Gennett or Peraza would set back the rebuild. The Reds need to be improving each position if possible as Tom noted.

      Hard to imagine there is a team in MLB that would give up a cost controlled SP for those two.

  9. roger garrett

    We have been so bad these last few weeks I honestly believe we could take the guys we have in the dugout,chose up sides,and nobody would win the game.

    • Mike Adams

      Nah, one side would win through a comedy of errors.
      But I agree there would not be a whole lot of hitting going on.

  10. DX

    Who would play SS of the Reds traded Peraza. Please don’t embarrass yourself and suggest Suarez or Senzel.

    • Matt Hendley

      Every one wants a spot to play Herrera, let him see if he can earn it there. Suarez can play it in a pinch… also senzel can play a game or two as well… use terhan or whatever glove option we have up for the other. Also please dont embarrass yourself by telling other people not to embarrass themselves by not making a comment that has been a topic of running conversation for the last 3 weeks. Dumbass

      • Sliotar

        No place for name calling here.

        Everyone here is a friend in my book, even if we never agree on one thing regarding the Reds.

        If one hasn’t disagreed respectfully with someone over something over 162 games, then one isn’t posting enough.

        The opinions here are the best in “Reds Country” by far, or what is left of it with 17 losing seasons in 22 years.

    • BigRedMike

      So now Peraza is on the list of Reds players that they just could not afford to lose. Amazing how much Reds fans and the organization over value the existing players. There a no possibly replacements for Peraza in all of MLB?

      • Tom Mitsoff

        They can afford to lose him if they trade him for something of equal or greater value. I argue that the player with the sixth most hits in all of baseball this year has value beyond what his detractors believe, and that his development as a hitter has been one of the real plusses of this otherwise very heartbreaking rebuilding period.

  11. Matt Hendley

    Unbelievable, I bite my tongue every day with some of the dumb stuff that gets said in these threads, such as every effort to trade a 25 million dollar player that is not good (bailey) or a 25 million dollar player who has a full no trade clause and literally says every year that he will not waive it.(Votto). I listen to everyone say we need to spend more money for good players, and then when we have all stars, all people want to do is trade them (all 3 2018 were mentioned within the last 24 hours). everyone understanding of the farm system ends after 2 players, (trammel and Senzel) and oh my goodness everyone and their mother is all over a certain body part of one Christian Yelich. So forgive me if I think that the Athletic ability of the #2 prospect in all of baseball is enough to overcome not having a natural affinity for the position. I would consider it “embarrassing myself” if i actually was being serious about the use of Dilson at Short.

  12. Indy Red Man

    Has any Reds team just rolled and quit like this one? I watch a few innings now and then and its not just a lack of hitting. Pathetic?

    What kind of manager could they attract? Its like applying for public relations manager at Papa Johns or Comcast.

    • Tom Mitsoff

      You have hit on a very important point. How can they possibly sell the re-hiring of Riggleman to the shrinking fan base in light of the way the team has (not) played the past month?

      They can probably attract any manager who is out of work, depending on how much they are willing to pay.

  13. Shchi Cossack

    We now have the ultimate barometer, even beyond the abysmal fannies-in-the-seats attendance, to gauge the lost fan support for the Reds. We have an entire game thread without a single game comment in the entire thread. BC should be absolutely ashamed of what he has done to the MLB organization he acquired in 2008.

  14. Matt Hendley

    Ok, so question if we are taking any steps to win, what about luke heimlich. For those not familiar he is a U or Oregon grad a LHP with starter stuff that would be starting within months of getting signed. He has baggage though and it isnt small.