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.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 Ã¢â‚¬Å“rebuild,Ã¢â‚¬Â 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, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 …
Let’s not kid ourselves, this #Reds situation is a complete and total mess.
Ã¢â‚¬â€ Lance McAlister (@LanceMcAlister) September 27, 2018
Today, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll look at the position players, tomorrow the pitching staff and Sunday the front office and on-field management staff.
We learned Ã¢â‚¬Â¦
Jose Peraza has taken advantage of the opportunity he has been given over the past three years, and prior to tonightÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hitting .313 with an outside shot at the batting title, depending on what he and Christian Yelich do this weekend. GennettÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s defense improved somewhat this season over his shaky 2017. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll never be Brandon Phillips defensively, but heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the Reds leader in WAR at 4.1 (according to ESPNÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s statistics). This year, that makes him arguably the RedsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Most Valuable Player.
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 teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hit leaders. PerazaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s defense at shortstop is not good, and that is being gracious. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Well, what about Senzel?Ã¢â‚¬Â He would be fine, if Dick Williams can trade one of the National LeagueÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 2018 hit leaders and receive equal or greater value Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 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 teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Most Valuable Player, which is hard to argue with. His WAR is 4.0, according to ESPNÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also shown a pattern of missing considerable time due to injury. The Reds have four more years of contract control, but heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll turn 28 years old next week. The chances are pretty decent that what weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve seen is what weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to get from Schebler moving forward.
Billy Hamilton is Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ Billy Hamilton. Like Schebler, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve probably seen what weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 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 thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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.
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.
Hail, hail, the gangÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all here. All members of the well-stocked bullpen should be available if needed today after two off-days in the previous four.
|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|