Last week I reached out to those people who support the site over at Patreon (click that orange Patreon banner above for more information) for questions for the mailbag. That’s just one of the perks that come along with helping support the site and keeping it going. Let’s jump into the questions.

With the minor league season nearly complete, what 3 players have improved their prospect status the most this year? Would you protect Herget, Gabby Guerrero or Brian O’Grady this fall? Are you surprised Senzel is not on the Red’s AFL roster?

This question was submitted before the news came out that Gabriel Guerrero was being promoted to the Major Leagues. For me, I could have made the argument either way with protecting him or letting him walk as a free agent. The argument for it is that the power is absolutely real and he’ll provide you strong defense in the corner outfield spots and can cover center in a pinch. The argument against it would be that you probably have the outfielders you need 1 through 4 as it is right now with whoever your center fielder is going to be (whether that’s Hamilton or another player from outside the organization for 2019), Jesse Winker, Scott Schebler, and Phillip Ervin.

The 5th outfielder could be Guerrero, or someone else – but the argument would be that either way, he’s probably the 5th guy in that scenario. But, if you don’t protect him he does become a free agent and can leave. That has to play into the discussion. I think the Reds made the right call at this point. If push comes to shove and they need the roster spot later in the offseason, you can reassess the situation then.

With Brian O’Grady the arguments are similar. He’s probably an emergency center fielder only. But he can play in the corners, and he’s got plenty of experience at first base too, if you need it. His plate approach is better than that of Guerrero’s, but the power isn’t quite the same. But, it did play better this year – particularly in Triple-A. In his 42 games with the Bats he hit .306/.365/.563 with nine doubles, two triples, and eight home runs. He’s a lefty with a little bit of pop. There’s some position flexibility there, but only as a corner option. Speaking of options, though, he’s got all of his remaining.

So it comes down to whether or not you think that another team would select him. I believe there’s a chance he could be taken, but it could be a small chance. It would be a calculated risk to leave him unprotected. But, as with Guerrero, at least for 2019, you’re looking at a likely 5th outfield option to begin the season. With Guerrero being added, that puts the 40-man roster with a current set of eight outfielders. Nine outfielders would be a ton. Do you go with O’Grady over Mason Williams? Over Aristides Aquino? I imagine everyone else would be safe, unless traded.

In a scenario where I’m the person in charge of roster moves, I believe I’d call up O’Grady today. And I’d find someone at the back end of the 40-man roster to place on waivers and find a way to get him some playing time – even if it’s just as a pinch hitter almost every day. See what happens. And much like with Guerrero, if you need that roster spot in the offseason because plans change, reassess things then.

With Jimmy Herget things are a lot simpler. Yes. Protect him. He’d be taken by another team and the odds that he would stick on the roster are almost guaranteed. Not that he would need to be hidden on a roster, but in the unlikely scenario that he just struggles big time, you can hide a reliever a lot easier than you can hide a position player.

Onto a little bit easier set of questions. The three players that I think improved their stock the most this season. The first guy that jumped to mind was Tony Santillan. He entered the year as a well known prospect among Reds fans. The arm was never in question – he’s got it. But he battled consistency, particularly in the throwing strikes department. This year he walked all of 38 batters in 149.0 innings. Last season he walked 56 in 128.0 innings. The biggest weakness he showed in the past disappeared.

Jonathan Willems had a .571 OPS in 2017 for the Arizona League Reds. He was mostly unheard of, even by those who followed the organizations farm system (but wasn’t their job). He went to Greeneville, and while there was some inconsistency there – he did OPS .770 and showed big steps forward at the plate. The power really jumped out as he hit 13 doubles, four triples and eight home runs in 55 games played. The tools were there and he impressed scouts quite a bit. There are still some questions to answer – he’s walked eight times with 56 strikeouts this season. And he’s struggled with errors in the field. But, he’s athletic and has tools. When you’re looking at a 19-year-old who took big steps forward and looks the part who struggled in the past, he fits the bill of a “took a big step forward” guy.

The third guy is probably Brian O’Grady. In 2017 he was a 25-year-old who had an OPS of .660. Unless you’re an elite catcher or shortstop with the glove, that’s the kind of line that puts you in line as a possible release candidate. To his credit he went to work in the offseason to rebuild his swing, and the results noted above speak for themselves. I’ll add in a fourth guy, too. Ryan Hendrix. The first half he struggled again with his control. But he showed elite stuff. However, over his final 20 games, dating back into June, he walked 7 batters with 37 strikeouts in 21.1 innings.

As far as things go with Nick Senzel not being on the AFL roster, I wasn’t surprised. What did surprise me, though, was that the Reds named a player for all eight spots that they have. They did not have to do that and could have left a spot open for a later decision. That is what I expected, and I expected it to basically be a place holder for Senzel. Nothing is stopping them from adding him at a later date, though. With where he’s at in the rehab process, they don’t seem to know if he will be ready or not just yet.

It seems like a lost year with all of the injury’s this season. Who moves up to challenge for a spot on the team in 2019?  

Of those not on the team today, the only guy that really jumps out is Nick Senzel. The big question there is where exactly will he play? There’s a whole lot of dynamics. Mostly they revolve around Scooter Gennett. If he’s back in 2019 that means that Senzel, assuming health for everyone, isn’t going to have a spot to play on the infield. But he’s also never played any outfield in his college or professional career. It doesn’t sound as if the Reds are completely against the idea of playing him out there, though. With Jesse Winker and Scott Schebler as options in the corners, there’s not exactly a place to play there, either.

Could there be a situation where at least for 2019, Senzel plays a little bit of everywhere and gets 5 starts a week at 3 or 4 positions? Or would they send him back to Triple-A until a spot is more clearly available? I’m not sure that as things sit right now that anyone has that answer. Including the Reds.

I believe that in the second half you could see a few guys possibly make their way into the conversation. Tony Santillan could push for a spot in the rotation if one is opened up. Center field could be looked at by Taylor Trammell or Jose Siri if they perform well. Perhaps some of the relief options take a step forward and push their way into the bullpen.

What moves do you make this winter to make this team contend next season? Which of the players currently on the 40 man do you expect to be gone by end of spring training?

Assuming that the team is actually going to spend money, they need to go out and sign a quality starting pitcher, or trade for one. And I don’t mean someone like Scott Feldman. Getting someone like, say, Dallas Keuchel. Not an “ace”, but someone who should be an above-average starting pitcher that you feel comfortable relying on every five days. And honestly, I’d be looking to acquire another young starter via a trade. The Reds farm system is deep and I believe they could make a trade – even if it’s going to hurt and require a Senzel/Trammell caliber prospect, and not take a huge hit long term. I believe that another season like 2018 where the team simply is never remotely close to competing would be an absolute disaster for the franchise in the city.

When looking at the 40-man roster, I’d say these guys are probably the bottom group who could be open for being waived: Mason Williams, Aristides Aquino, Blake Trahan, Gabriel Guerrero (when added – technically as I type this the move isn’t official), Brandon Dixon, Austin Brice, Brandon Finnegan, Jesus Reyes, Jackson Stephens, Robert Stephenson. As always, who is brought in will be key. How many spots they need will determine who goes. Also, the positions of who is brought in could determine that.

Based on any sources or information you might have, do you think the Mets are still interested in trading deGrom and/or Syndergaard for young position players? If so, do you think Senzel (or a package headlined by Senzel and then maybe Siri) could get that deal done?

I don’t have any sources for that kind of information. But, I did read something in the last week that the Mets really weren’t interested in trading those guys at this point. I don’t think that Senzel would be enough to headline a package for either of those guys at this point. Maybe if he hadn’t gone through all he’s gone through this past year things would be different. I get the feeling that all of that has altered his trade value a little bit. Given what deGrom has done this season I believe you’d be looking at a package of about the top 4 prospects to get it done. And that’s too steep of a price to pay for the Reds. But, maybe I’m completely wrong, too.

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Doug Gray is the owner and operator of this website and has been running it since 2006 in one variation or another. You can follow him on twitter @dougdirt24, or follow the site on Facebook. and Youtube.

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