There was something else planned for today here at Redleg Nation, but technology hasn’t been working as I had hoped and it’s delayed something I was planning on having ready. With that said, I figured that it would make for a good time to sit around today and answer any and all questions that I can about the Cincinnati Reds, baseball in general – or really, I guess anything you want to ask since this is an “Ask Me Anything” topic. The rules are pretty simple:

  • If you ask before 8PM ET, I’ll do my best to provide an answer to the best of my abilities.
  • Please don’t ask questions that are going to require actual research (such as who was the last Red to hit 35 home runs, steal 25 bases, and have 17 or more outfield assists in a season).
  • Share the time. There will probably be plenty of others that have questions, too. Try to limit yourself to a few questions rather than 10.

That’s about it. What we’ll do is take questions below in the comments section, and once they are ready to be answered we’ll move them up in to the article and answer them here – deleting them from the comments section. Easy peasy. Let’s get to it.

If the Reds season began today, what would your starting lineup look behind Luis Castillo?

Not that this exercise is exactly fun, but I think that there are two likely scenarios that play out for Opening Day. The first involves Eugenio Suarez being healthy and ready to go. The other one does not. So let’s roll out the lineup for each – and let’s be clear, this is based on what I would do, not necessarily what I believe the Reds will do:

With Without
Jesse Winker (LF) Shogo Akiyama (CF)
Joey Votto (1B) Joey Votto (1B)
Nick Castellanos (RF) Nick Castellanos (RF)
Eugenio Suarez (3B) Mike Moustakas (3B)
Mike Moustakas (2B) Jesse Winker (LF)
Nick Senzel (CF) Nick Senzel (2B)
Freddy Galvis (SS) Freddy Galvis (SS)
Tucker Barnhart (C) Tucker Barnhart (C)
Luis Castillo Luis Castillo

Who’s going to be the closer? Raisel Iglesias or maybe someone else? And do you think they will keep that role for the whole season, unlike Iglesias losing it on and off last season?

I think that going into the year the job is certainly going to be for him. I do think that there will be some flexibility in the role, but not a ton. Some days we may see Lorenzen or Garrett – but I believe that by-and-large, when it’s what we all think is a “typical” save situation, Iglesias is getting that nod. Whether he keeps it or not depends on his performance, as well as the performance of others in the bullpen. That said, I’m of the belief that he’s the best reliever the team has.

I admit I’m confused on the way the Reds are constructed this year. How do you think Bell will keep everyone happy and productive? Is there anyone that has been traded in the past year you would have kept?

David Bell is going to have a tough time trying to find *enough* playing time for everyone, if everyone remains healthy. That usually isn’t the case, unfortunately. But looking at the outfield, you’ve got to think that Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker, Nick Castellanos, and Shogo Akiyama are locks in the outfield. Finding all of those guys 500 at-bats will certainly be tricky. It will be even tougher if the team comes to the determination that Akiyama can’t really handle center field, which then pushes three guys into the corner spots without much flexibility in playing one of them in center when Senzel needs a day off, or could be used as the DH in interleague play, or maybe slides in to second base to let Moustakas DH or just get a day off.

With that said, I think that the plan, and the hope, is that everyone does stay healthy and productive. And if that plays out, you’ll mostly seen Nick Senzel in center field – it seems that everything points to him being the best available option there – but some days Akiyama will get starts there. And then in the corners we’re likely to see Castellanos out there most days, with Winker in left. I think everyone right now kind of has some questions about how the playing time will be handed out. My best guess is that, assuming health, Castellanos gets the most time overall, followed by Senzel, with Winker and Akiyama getting a bit less than the other two.

In a vacuum, of course you want to have kept everyone traded away. But Shed Long would be blocked as a second baseman. Jeter Downs, in my opinion and that of plenty of scouts I talked to while he was still with the Reds, was a future second baseman and not a shortstop. So he too would have been blocked in the organization. Taylor Trammell may not have been blocked necessarily since he could play left or center – though some scouts don’t think he can handle center because of his arm (I disagree with that because I saw Johnny Damon play center field for quite a long time). He’s a fantastic person, and a very good athlete, but he’s also struggled at the plate for the last 18 months. I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned it around, though.

And then there’s Josiah Gray. I didn’t get to see him pitch last season, but did in his debut season. Good fastball, outstanding location with it. Secondary stuff needed work to stick as a starter, but you could definitely see it. From a Reds organization perspective only, Gray is probably the one you would think of as wanting back the most. He’s not blocked, and the system is shallow right now in starting pitchers. With all of that said, I appreciate the ideas behind why all of those guys were traded. The Reds were trying to drastically improve. The Dodgers trade didn’t work out – but not for any single reason that anyone could have foreseen. I’m a “judge a trade based on the information available when it was made” kind of guy. I won’t hold it against the Reds that the trade didn’t work out – they made a good, rational decision. Sometimes those things just don’t work. It happens. I much prefer that scenario than one where a deal makes no sense at all, but happens to work out because that’s eventually going to be really bad for your franchise because it shows poor decision making skills that are likely going to continue to show up.

Assuming everyone is healthy, how many starts do you think Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel, Shogo Akiyama, Nick Castellanos, Aristides Aquino, and Phillip Ervin get a week?

Fair or unfair, Aristides Aquino has an option and can be sent to Triple-A. I think that’s where he’s likely headed unless he just looks otherwordly in spring training and some others look very poor, or there is an injury situation that opens up more playing time for him.

To me, the outfield situation feels pretty clear – assuming everyone is healthy: Nick Senzel, Nick Castellanos, Jesse Winker, and Shogo Akiyama are going to get nearly all of the playing time in the outfield. Whoever the backup outfielder(s) are, they aren’t going to get more than maybe one start a week in the outfield. Maybe they will get pinch hitting chances, maybe some defensive replacement chances, perhaps some pinch running opportunities if they present themselves – but starts? Not many. I’d think that among the “main for”, none of them likely goes a week with fewer than three starts if they’re healthy.

We clearly have outfield depth and insurance in case of injuries. I’m worried about infield depth. If Suarez or Moustakas spend time on the IL this year, will Senzel be the most likely replacement at 2B or 3B?

The Reds front office has stated that Nick Senzel won’t be playing third, at least early in the season, as the throw is the toughest one and he’s coming off of the shoulder surgery. At second base, it’s possible. That could free up some of the outfield playing time. I think it may also depend on the timing, and how long someone may be out. Josh VanMeter could potentially slide in at second base. Same could be said for Alex Blandino or Kyle Farmer.

Assuming we don’t trade for an upgraded starting SS, who is the Reds main backup at SS when the season begins – Farmer, Blandino, other?

Right now it seems like it would be Kyle Farmer. David Bell said this to Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer a few days ago about Farmer:

I think people underestimate how he plays that position. I would have no hesitation having Kyle play an extended period of time at short. We don’t have the depth at that position as we do at pretty much every other position. It’s a consideration. We’ll get a lot of guys playing time over there.

I imagine that they will also consider Alex Blandino there. But realistically, I’d imagine the front office has their fingers crossed that Freddy Galvis can play 150 games this season.

So with Nick Senzel/Shogo Akiyama, and Curt Casali locks to make the bench, the Reds have three bench spots up for grabs, presumably two infielders and a 5th outfielder. Who do you think gets those three spots?

As noted above, options can sometimes come into play. Among those presumably not a roster lock that are either out of options, or can’t have an option used on them are: Mark Payton, Scott Schebler, and Phillip Ervin. Personally, I think that Ervin earned a spot on the bench last year. And given what David Bell said about Kyle Farmer and shortstop, as well as his ability to catch – which allows you to use Barnhart/Casali as a pinch hitter when the other one is catching – put both Ervin and Farmer on the roster.

That leaves just one spot for Aristides Aquino, Travis Jankowski, Josh VanMeter, Alex Blandino – all of whom have options, or the remaining guys from the list above. Aquino is the only one from the group of outfielders that doesn’t/can’t play center field. For that reason, I think that unless an injury opens up more playing time, he’s heading back to Triple-A. Everyone else has flexibility to play multiple spots on the field. That last spot is going to come down to spring performance, probably.

Are the Reds trained in the mental aspects of the game? Are they taught to deep breathe, relax and focus on each pitch, each swing, each play?

I can’t speak directly to the preciseness of things like that. But I can note that in the farm system the Reds employ, and have for quite a while now, Frank Pfister, as their mental skills coach. He was a former minor league player in the organization, and after his playing career moved into this role. He doesn’t stay with one team, but goes around to all of the farm club teams to work with the players throughout the year. I know that’s not the exact answer you were looking for, but it’s also the best one that I can offer up.

To my knowledge, here are our outfield options:

– Shogo, L/R
– Aquino, R/R
– Castellanos, R/R
– Ervin, R/R
– Senzel, R/R
– Winker, L/L

To my mind, there is no way that we can get all of these guys sufficient playing time. Which, if any, is the most likely to be traded before April?

Contractually, I’m fairly certain they can’t trade Akiyama or Castellanos before April. I also don’t think they’ll trade Senzel before then either – I really do think the organization believes he’s the best center field option they have moving forward. That leaves Winker, Ervin, and Aquino. I think Winker has a job, and I think the team believes that they actually can get enough playing time for the “core four” as I’m now going to call them. That leaves Aquino and Ervin. Ervin is out of options, while Aquino is not. To me, that suggest that Ervin is the most likely since there’s a chance he’s beaten out, but still has value to another organization who would like to acquire him.

What do you think the chances are Derek Dietrich sticks around if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster?

I don’t know that he does, or doesn’t, have an opt-out in his contract if he doesn’t make the 26-man roster. If we work on the assumption that he does, I don’t think he sticks around. Where would he play? And on that note, I don’t think he’s got a real uphill battle to make the team as it is. He’s going to need a real big spring, and maybe then still need some help to make the team. His ability to play 1st/2nd/corner outfield certainly helps, but not being on the 40-man makes it a lot tougher.

Does the team, as it looks in spring training, look significantly better to you than last year’s team, as it was built in spring training? The expectations for the 2020 team doesn’t look much different than the 2019 one. Seems like, as usual, health is going to be the biggest determining factor. Am I wrong?

I’ll say that you are both right and wrong. Health certainly is going to be a big determining factor. On paper, the 2020 team projects a little better than the 2019 team does. PECOTA, for example, had the Reds at 81-81 when spring training began in 2019. This year they’ve got them at 86-76.

From where I sit, I think that health is going to be a very large factor if we are talking starting pitching. Right now I feel comfortable 1-6 in the rotation. But once you get beyond Tyler Mahle, there are some real concerns when it comes to the depth available. There are some guys with good arms in that Double-A and Triple-A area, but they’ve all got performance questions from 2019 hanging out their heads, too. Position player wise, outside of shortstop, I believe there’s a ton of depth to help mitigate injuries if they were to happen.

If you could melt down the Pete Rose statue, what would you make out of the melted bronze?

Personally, I wouldn’t make anything. I’m a terrible sculptor. But I’m not really sure what I’d request to make from that specific bunch of bronze. I would absolutely love to see Barry Larkin get a statue out there, though. Just not from the same bronze. The guy is a Hall of Famer, and I know he’s only been in for a few years, but let’s not wait too long on this one, ok Reds?

The Brock Holt buzz has died down. Is the Dietrich AAA signing an indication that the Reds have moved on from pursuing Holt?

It was 10 days ago, but Nick Krall told Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer that no moves were imminent. To me that suggested the team had kind of moved beyond Brock Holt for one reason or another.

What are the 2 or 3 individual player statistics that you think are the best indicators of whether this team makes the playoffs?

The number of starts made by Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Trevor Bauer. If that number is more than 80, it’s going to be a good sign for their playoff viability. I’d also say Joey Votto’s slugging percentage. The higher it is, the better this team is going to be on offense. He’s not going anywhere in the lineup if he’s healthy, and he’ll almost assuredly still get on base plenty – but if he can find some of the power he’s lost in the last two seasons, it would be a big boost.

Given Votto’s numbers trend in 2018 and 2019, and if Senzel and Akiyama play at the levels expected, will he be happy batting down in the order- probably 6th?

I can’t speak for Joey Votto. But I’d guess that he’s be disappointed if he weren’t hitting well enough to hold onto the #2 spot in the lineup based on the things he’s said about what he expects from himself.

Why no consideration for a backup at first? Can any of the outfielders fill in there in the event of a Votto injury or just to give days off? Using Tucker Barnhart or Farmer is OK for a single game in an emergency but neither is ever gonna hit close to what you want out of a first baseman.

I think that the backup first baseman could be Nick Castellanos if the team needs more of a long-term injury fill in. You could also go with Josh VanMeter, who is likely to outhit Barnhart or Farmer if you didn’t want to go down the Castellanos to first base route.

Where do you think Tyler Mahle and Jose De Leon wind up to start the year off, barring injuries? They seem to be starters 6 and 7, at least to me. Any chance they get tabbed for the bullpen or is more likely they get starts in Louisville?

Assuming everyone is healthy, I think that Tyler Mahle heads back to Louisville to start. If for nothing else, he provides starting depth early in the season. The further out from the start of the year we get, the more likely the team could be willing to call him up and pitch him out of the bullpen if needed. With De Leon, I think he’s the kind of guy that long term is probably a reliever anyways – so if he stands out in the spring, I could see him pitching out of the bullpen from the start of the season in the big leagues.

What do you expect attendance to be this year? Obviously team performance will be a huge factor, but lets say theoretically they are in the playoff hunt the entire year. Do you think the reds break the 2 million mark?

2 million, yes. Last season they were at 1,808,685. That means that they would need an additional 2362 people per game to get there. As long as they don’t start out 1-8 again, I think that will be a reasonable expectation for attendance. People are excited, and the team is good (on paper). Heck, several places have them as the division favorites. Winning does matter for attendance, but usually you don’t really start to see that boost until you’ve won for two years in a row and then you really start to see things jump in that third year. So while I think two million is attainable, I don’t think it goes much higher than that unless something magical happens beyond just winning plenty of games.

It seems like the front office is trending toward making better personnel decisions and building a contending club. Do you have confidence this front office can sustain a winning club for years, or do you see a continuous cycle of rebuild/contend?

I believe that if given the right resources (re: Money) that they can build a sustained winning baseball club. It’s almost impossible to build without that – you have to be better than just about every other organization at drafting, developing, trading, and also be lucky that none of your key guys get hurt along the way in order to do it without actually spending money. I have faith in the front office to the point that I believe that they can identify the talent. Being able to keep it around, or acquire it requires money – and that isn’t entirely something that they can control.

Do you think Michael Lorenzen will attain the “two way player” tag this year?

No, and I don’t think it will be particularly close. It’s tough to see how he’s going to get the 12 starts he needs in the outfield or at DH given how the outfield looks right now.

Baseball’s waning popularity seems widely reported but as a lifelong fan of the game it’s hard to personally notice it. What stands out to you as proof the game is or isn’t in trouble over the long term?

It’s a little tougher for me, too, given that my entire work-life revolves around baseball. But really, the number of kids involved in the game speak for themselves – they just aren’t playing baseball as much as they used to, and they aren’t following the game like they used to.

Another thing that stands out to me is that so many kids are being priced out of the game anymore. If you don’t have a $250 bat, it’s tough to compete with the kids who do. If you can’t play travel ball, which costs thousands of dollars a year, you aren’t likely developing your skills at a level you would otherwise be doing by facing tougher competition. Can’t afford private lessons in the winter? You’re getting left behind. The game is simply much tougher to participate in from a playing perspective than it was when I was playing 15-25 years ago.

Who dumped a truck load of Fizzies into the Reds swim meet? Who delivered the medical school cadavers to the Reds Alumni Dinner?

We’re going with baseball themed answers here. It was Jim Bowden who dumped the fizzies. It was former interim pitching coach Danny Darwin who delivered the cadavers. You know, because he’s Dr. Death.

Will Hunter Greene be pitching in Advanced-A by mid May. How many innings will he throw and games will he start in 2020?

I think June is a bit more realistic. But I honestly have no idea what the plan is for him as far as starts and innings go. It’s going to depend on 1, when he takes the mound, and 2, how he feels once he starts letting things go in real games. I’m sure that he, the doctors, and the Reds have a much more precise plan on everything – but they aren’t sharing those exact kind of details yet. And even if they were, those details are always on a bit of a moving scale. Right now, Hunter Greene is 10 months and one week from his Tommy John surgery. While there’s no reason to believe that his rehab process isn’t going exactly as planned, things can and do lead to set backs at times.

What do you think the Reds do if Anthony Desclafani starts out hot? Say he has 10 wins by all-star break. Do you think the Reds try to sign him long term? Do they trade him?

If he starts out hot and has 10 wins by the All-Star break, and he’s not been one of those wild Josh Beckett 17-wins with an ERA over 5.00 kind of years, they won’t be trading him because the odds that he’s doing that well and the Reds aren’t in the playoff race are very small. As far as trying to sign him long term, that’s a possibility. A lot of stuff goes into that, though.

Is there something that the Reds see in Freddy Galvis that many people outside the organization don’t see? Many have called for a trade for a premium shortstop like Francisco Lindor. Do the Reds think Galvis can turn into a premium shortstop or do they think that trading for a shortstop would be a waste of money?

I think the Reds see Freddy Galvis as a league average shortstop, who has strong defense and power in his bat, but will struggle to get on base. But the reason so many have called for acquiring a guy like Francisco Lindor is that he’s an elite, game-changing caliber player and it was at a position that the Reds had somewhat of a need at. Players that are as good as Lindor usually don’t become available. When they do, people are going to lose their minds with the hope that they could be had. Without him, the Reds are ever so slight division favorites. If they got him, they would be clear favorites.

Not to be a downer, but legitimately curious. Do you ever get tired of the Reds and older generations talking about the big red machine? I get it, they were amazing, but we are approaching half a century since their relevancy. Over half of your fan base wasn’t even alive when they were around. Time to move on?

I get tired of the comparison’s, but not simply talking about them. As you said, they were amazing and I’m all about that history and hearing more about it. But I don’t care to hear about the comparisons to those teams and the current teams.

Is it annoying to get a question right before 8pm?

No.

I think these could be a breakout year for Cody Reed, and if so he could make a significant difference in the bullpen. How likely do you think he is to make the opening day roster, and to make a big difference for the Reds?

I think that Reed is almost a lock to make the roster. First, he’s out of options and that’s going to come into play if he has even a solid spring. But second, I think he’s pretty good and would make the team even if the options weren’t in play. I think he’s got a shot to be a legit late-innings reliever this year as long as he’s healthy.

What’s the current projection for Tony Santillan? Is he in line to potentially replace Trevor Bauer or Anthony DeSclafani if they leave in free agency after this season?

In 2018 Tony Santillan took a big step forward when it came to his control. A problem with walks that had been with him since he was drafted went away as he put together a real strong season split between Advanced-A and Double-A. But in 2019 the control issues came back some, and he got hit around a bit in Double-A. Now, some of that could be due to the fact that he had a few injuries during the season that he was dealing with – nothing was too serious, but he made a few short trips to the injured list during the year before the final one cost him the last month of the season. If those injuries, that seem to be behind him, at the main culprit as to why his 2019 season went backwards, he could be in line to step up in 2021. But I think we’re going to have to take a little bit of a wait-and-see approach and hope that’s what it was, rather than count on it.

That’s all, folks. 4400+ words. Thanks for coming by and asking all of the questions (and reading the answers).

9 Responses

  1. Doug Gray

    It’s 8pm. Cutting off questions below this comment. Thanks for stopping by and participating, everyone.

  2. Sliotar

    While we are excited about the Reds being all in this season …. an early spitballin’ guess on the plan for SS in 2021?

    (Assuming a trade for C Seager or Lindor or other can’t be finalized or will not afforded financially.)

    SS feels like such an organizational black hole for now, in contrast to many good steps recently taken in minor league planning.

    • Sliotar

      Ha. Missed the deadline by that much (Maxwell Smart).

  3. VaRedsFan

    I love the AMA’s…
    I’m late to the party, but if there were to be an overtime period…

    What do you think of David Bell as a manager (in-game strategies, playing time, bullpen usage, lineup construction, pulling the starting pitcher)? Well all know the players do the hitting and pitching. Does Bell have what it takes in the areas that he can control?

  4. Indy Red Man

    “Not to be a downer, but legitimately curious. Do you ever get tired of the Reds and older generations talking about the big red machine?”

    I bet they rarely talk about the Reds in Oregon. Tell this old fogey more about kickstarter….maybe I can start a fund to buy you a 1 way ticket on Greyhound))

  5. Gonzo Reds

    Good stuff Doug as always. Think going into spring training Van Meter has to be the favorite for that last bench spot since he can play multiple positions and showed enough at the big league level last year after having lots of success at AAA. Blandino might have been that same guy had he not gotten hurt but right or wrong he’s now behind JVM in the pecking order plus don’t think Blandino has JVM’s power potential.

    One thing no one is talking about… looking at this bench… who’s our first pinch runner off the bench? Thinking this is where Lorenzen may still get some run. 🙂

  6. Linkster

    Great Stuff Doug! I will say that there is no way Shogo is not starting opening day. Winker and Ervin are your outfield bench. Farmer and Dietrich will be the infield bench. Barnhart/Casali platoon. DeLeon and Reed make it with Sims as RP. DFA for Shebler. The Reds will have a lot of really good players they can call up from the minors if needed.