The Cincinnati Reds made two decisions last November that didn’t seem to mean a whole lot at the time. The first decision was to not protect Josh VanMeter from the Rule 5 draft on November 20th. That was the final day in which teams could add players to their 40-man roster and keep them from being selected by another team. The Reds chose to only add one player, Jimmy Herget. 10 days later the team decided to non-tender Aristides Aquino a Major League contract for the 2019 season. That removed him from the 40-man roster and made him a free agent.

No one was really surprised by either move. Aristides Aquino had struggled mightily in two seasons in Double-A Pensacola. Between his two seasons he hit a combined .227/.293/.421. Josh VanMeter was solid in Double-A and Triple-A, but overall his numbers didn’t jump out at you.

Let’s start with Josh VanMeter. As noted just above, his numbers didn’t jump out at you overall. But as I’ve discussed here, there, and everywhere – there was a clear change in approach, and in results, in the second half of the season. From July 8th through the end of 2018 he hit .301/.359/.566 in Triple-A over 192 plate appearances. Knowing what we know now, that seems silly. But at the time there was some risk that the Reds were taking that maybe other teams wouldn’t notice just how different, and good that VanMeter had been over the final two months of the year in Triple-A.

Turns out the Reds got real lucky when it comes to Josh VanMeter and the Rule 5 draft twice. The first time was when they made a selection in the Rule 5 draft for the Padres in December 2016. In return the Reds picked up VanMeter from San Diego. Then having all of the other 29 teams decide that he wasn’t worth picking up and giving a shot in the Majors to start the year last December to end the Winter Meetings was the other.

When it comes to Aristides Aquino, he had obviously struggled in Double-A when he was non-tendered. As John Fay wrote over the weekend, for a short period of time, he was a minor league free agent in the offseason. That was very short lived. He signed in less than a day with the Reds after he was non-tendered. He mentioned to Fay that he wanted to remain a Red, but any team could have offered him a Major League deal and it probably would have gotten him to go there (he could have been optioned to the minors even if he signed such a deal). But that didn’t happen. And with hindsight, it’s great for the Reds that it didn’t.

There was a little bit of luck involved with not losing Aristides Aquino. The struggles in Double-A were very real. While other teams were likely interested in his services due to the big time power potential, and his laser-rocket arm, his performance at the plate probably wasn’t going to make another team go wild and make a big-time offer for his services. There was probably a bit more luck involved with retaining Josh VanMeter. While the overall numbers in Triple-A last year were solid, but unspectacular. But down the stretch he crushed the ball as a 23-year-old at the highest level of the minors. He also showed that he could play multiple positions. Somehow he was hidden in plain sight.

As they say (whoever they are?!): Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. But the Reds were certainly a bit lucky, at least to some extent, with both Aristides Aquino and Josh VanMeter last November and December. But they also were good.

Donnie Ecker worked with Aristides Aquino in spring training to re-work his stance at the plate. That change has led to an impressive Triple-A season where he hit 28 home runs in 78 games. And it’s now led to him setting records for home runs hit to start a career in the Major Leagues. The Reds were lucky that no one else talked Aquino into signing with them. But they were also good when it comes to the work they put in to help him tap into his potential, too. It started in the spring, and he took that to Louisville and worked with the staff there to continue with the changes.

With Josh VanMeter, the changes started when he began to try and hit the ball in the air with more frequency. He noted back in April that he made some mechanical adjustments in the second half of last season to try and do just that. And it has paid off and in a big way. The Reds were lucky no one took him in the Rule 5 draft last December. But they were good at their jobs in helping VanMeter develop into the hitter that he is today.

Being lucky helps. Being good helps. But if you can be both lucky and good? That’s the best of both worlds. The Reds certainly have to be feeling good right now with how the last 10 months have worked out. Both of these players and all parties involved are reaping the benefits of luck, good coaching, and tons of hard work put in by the players.

26 Responses

  1. another bob in nc

    “The harder I work the luckier I get.” – Often attributed to Thomas Jefferson.

    • ToBeDetermined

      another bob in nc
      Love it. 🙂

    • TR

      When you visit Monticello it’s obvious that Thomas Jefferson was a very wealthy man and that the great work he did was not of a physical nature.

      • Doc

        You might want to check a Thomas Jefferson biography, of a man who spent more than he brought in and was not cash flow wealthy but only in that he owned a lot of inherited land, and slaves.

      • rex

        amazingly offspring plants of his original garden still grown where he planted them

  2. Pete

    Doug, in my opinion this is easily your best work. Great insight and details.

    • Reaganspad

      Doug has been a bandwagon of one on AA over the years. Most people were wondering how with his stats he would still make a prospect list, until he didn’t. But I found that Doug’s comments on AA were both sober and insightful. I believe the FO reads this site… or maybe it is all a big coincidence that Doug was so right on in this eval. it would have been easier for him to be on the bandwagon, but that is how truly great this content is


      • Pete

        Something I’ve been meaning to say for awhile: Doug Gray takes some awesome pictures, really bordering on art sometimes.. Attaboy Doug!

      • Mike

        Thomas Jefferson once hit a grand slam in the bottom of the 9th…AND STILL LOST.

  3. matthew hendley

    Also important that around the same time other more ‘impressive’ reds names had already hit the FA market as well. Creating the virtual smokescreen so to speak. Billy H for instance. It was an interesting move to actually non tender him (Aquino) rather then just option him.

  4. Steve Schoenbaechler

    That part, the minor league instruction part, is what I hope the Reds are really concentrating on for “long term” success. Because, with this club, we aren’t going to outbid every club out there for any FA we want. We are going to have to rely on the minor league development. Minor leaguers have 2 roles: 1) replace major league talent, and 2) tradebait. If we don’t develop the minor leaguers, we lose those two big aspects in making the big team. That matched with not good resources in signing any FA talent we want, we don’t have much of a major league team.

    Regardless of what the FO does to set the team up for next year, “short term”, I hope they are doing the minor league development for long term. That’s where I believe Krivsky and O’Brien had it right, concentrate on that aspect. It took at back seat there for a while with Jocketty, seemingly. I hope we are back on track.

    • Jefferson Green

      This. Strongly. To see players blossoming with instruction is the essence of development, and it will be critical to future successs – and it also happens to be really fun to root for.

  5. jbonireland

    Great comments. It seems to me when our new pitching and hitting coaches were brought in I read an article that they would be given more resonsibility for changing the minor league philosphy. It may be that moving from the Jocketty approach to the Williams approach is moving the club forward. Let’s hope that this continues in the future.

  6. ToBeDetermined

    Thanks for the insight.
    I bet that happens a lot in all kinds of areas of our lives. Where we are just about to give up on something and throw in the towel and find that if we make a tweak here a tweak there and some hard work it can be all worthwhile.

  7. Jim Walker

    I think it is amazing given how many issues the Reds have had developing positional talent that Saturday night’s lineup which defeated 1st place divisional team featured as 4 of the first 5 hitters guys who started the season at AAA.

    As a group they went 5/15 including 2 HRs plus 2 BB, amassing 11 total bases, each scoring a run and driving in 4 of the Reds 6 runs in the game. And to boot there was a 26 year old prior 1st round pick with a current .830 OPS sitting out injured.

  8. Don

    Great writing and insight Doug.
    I appreciate all the fine content on this website.

    No JVM tonight, Galvis out and Iglesias hitting in #2 spot and Peraza starting at 2n hitting 6th, Farmer at 1st in 7th and Barnhart in 8 hole.

    Starting game with no backup catcher on the bench.

    Never going to find out if JVM can hit MLB lefties with this being done.

    • Pete

      Peraza batting before Farmer & Barnhart? I really hope the Reds have a new manager next season. Bell over-manages. I’d give him a pink slip and a on-line version of Strat-O-Matic. He is Buddy’s son and Gus’ grandson, so it might be out of the question. This is depressing. Would not only like to see JVM but Brian O’Grady in there. Opportunities lost.

      A laid-back manager like Jack McKeon might not be a good idea but probably better than a busybody like Bell. At least he is letting relievers go more than an inning…….

      • Pete

        Eric Lauer’s spits:

        BA: .339
        OBP: .388
        SLG: .532
        K/9: 4.50
        BB/9: 2.89
        WHIP: 1.82
        HR/9: 1.61
        xFIP: 5.79

        BA: .257
        OBP: .309
        SLG: .396
        K/9: 8.20
        BB/9: 2.49
        WHIP: 1.26
        HR/9: 0.93
        xFIP: 4.39

        At least Lauer is consistent, he’s worse against RHB in every category.

      • TR

        At the age of 88 I doubt Trader Jack would be interested in the job.

      • RedsMonk65

        I am disappointed too, to see JVM and O’Grady sitting. And what in the world has happened to Da Wink? If his shoulder is that bad, he should go on the IL, and the Reds should bring up somebody else. Short-handed bench already, one player is hurt and your emergency catcher is playing first base? Meanwhile O’Grady twiddles his thumbs. Doesn’t make any sense. He comes in to PH late in the game, it’s likely in a high pressure situation. Why not let him start and get a feel for things in the Show?

        Then again, what do I know?

        Now watch the Reds win 15-2.

  9. matthew hendley

    SMH, must be a day off for Galvis, that can be the only explanation. DD starts his rehab assignment today as well. With Votto out you know O’grady will return to the minors when he returns

  10. David

    O’Grady is being treated like JVM was earlier this year; occupying space on the 25 man but not playing much.

    I think they are giving Peraza one last chance to prove himself.
    With Galvis, JVM and resigning J. Iglesias, Peraza is expendable.
    Plus, Senzel could play second, too, if they had a real centerfielder (Jose SIri someday).

  11. RedsMonk65

    Senzel is a late scratch because of the HBP on the shoulder yesterday.

    Now it is:

    1. Ervin — CF
    2. Iglesias — SS
    3. Suarez — 3B
    4. Aquino — RF
    5. Peraza (!) — LF (!)
    6. Farmer — 1B
    7. Galvis — 2B
    8. Barnhardt — C

    Almost line a spring training lineup. And 2 of 4 people sitting are hurt. Geesh.

    • RedsMonk65

      Correction : Senzel elbow is ailing, not shoulder

    • jim walker

      What a turn of events. Got to say I am a bit surprised to see Ervin in CF instead of Aquino who was playing at least some CF at AAA.

      Given Lauer’s reverse splits, It is curious that Peraza plays LF over JVM. Maybe JVM is dinged up too?

  12. VaRedsFan

    Can’t we get the coach that helped JVM hit the ball in the air work with Winker?