Let’s kick of May right and dive right into plenty of topics on the Cincinnati Reds and their farm system. If you’ve got questions I will do my best to get you the answer. There are a few rules for today:

  1. Each user gets up to three questions.
  2. Ask questions before 6:00pm ET and it will be answered.
  3. Avoid questions that will require me to do real research to get the answer (ie: Who was the last 30 HR/40 steal guy in the system)

That’s it. Just leave your questions in the comments below and once I answer it, it will be added to the post and deleted from the comments section. Let’s get to it!

Let’s just say the Reds are in contention mid season, who would you target as a trade candidate? Which positions?

It’s far too early to think of specific people to target. We have no clue who will actually be available. Position wise is pretty tough, too. You don’t know what you’re going to need when July rolls around. You can almost always use pitching, but the Reds also have one of the best ERA’s as a team in baseball right now….. As things sit right now, maybe you look shortstop? The outfield is going to hit with Senzel, Winker, and Puig. Suarez and Votto on the corners aren’t being benched. Gennett should be back and if the team is trading for players, Gennett isn’t going anywhere (in 2019). Injuries change things – but right now, a position to target isn’t overwhelmingly clear.

Do you see the Reds trying to or actually reaching an agreement with Nick Senzel on a long term extension?

If the Reds want to sign Nick Senzel to an extension right now I believe he’d be open to it. While he hasn’t stated anything about it, there’s probably a very good reason he switched agents this spring. That said, you’ve got to make it work for both sides.

Do you see the Reds moving Robert Stephenson back to the rotation? Or leave well enough alone?

I think that right now it’s probably too early to push him back to the rotation. But long term, if he keeps doing what he’s doing, you have to consider it. He’s dominating with the fastball/slider combo out of the bullpen. But it’s not like he had a problem with a third pitch. His splitter has been a very good pitch for him in the past at the Major League level. It’s always been about the fastball and throwing strikes with it. If he’s going to do that out of the bullpen there’s no reason he couldn’t do that from the rotation.

What’s your draft board look like?

It doesn’t exist yet. But tomorrow will be a draft update day with some rankings (not mine) and information on plenty of guys.

What’s your expectations for Nick Senzel for rest of season, stats and games played?

There’s no reason to think he won’t play the rest of the season. It’s not like he’s had recurring injuries and his shoulder is falling apart or something like that. I think he’s going to hit and hit well. Let’s call it a 115 OPS+ in the Majors. Solid average, solid power, solid on-base skills. Probably a few ups-and-downs, like almost everyone has – but at the end of the year he’ll be an above-average hitter with more than most expect value on the bases. And the defense will be better than many seem to think.

What’s your thoughts on Louisville’s pitching and who gets the first call up?

There’s a lot of potential bullpen help on that team. Not sure there’s much rotation help, though. In their rotation you’ve got guys like Lucas Sims, Keury Mella, Jose Lopez, and Vladimir Gutierrez – but they are probably more guys you can slide into the bullpen than someone that’s going to jump into the rotation and do some damage. In the actual bullpen in Louisville you’ve got a lot of potential good options. Cody Reed, Sal Romano, Jimmy Herget, Matt Bowman, Jackson Stephens, Jesus Reyes, Anthony Bass… there are options, for sure. I’d put money on Cody Reed being the first to be called up.

Does Jonathan India have a shot to play short in the majors and will he be granted the opportunity to show us?

Nothing is impossible, but I would say that the odds of it are very low. There are some people who have liked what they’ve seen from him in the few times he has played at shortstop. But if the Reds thought he had a legitimate shot to play there, why wouldn’t he be playing there? He’s at third base right now. That’s where Eugenio Suarez plays, and will play until the time that India is 30.

Is the outfield Nick Senzel’s permanent home or will he be moved back to second next season?

This is one of my favorite things to think about, and it’s a multi-faceted answer. And some of it probably has very little to do with Nick Senzel. As you allude to, second base could be a future option. The Reds clearly had it in their plans as they moved him there in 2018. And Senzel took to the position and looked very good there. He can 100%, without question, play that position and play it well.

When it comes to the outfield, we will have to see, I guess. But I’m on record that he can handle center field just fine. And center field is a far more valuable position than second base. So in my mind, in a vacuum, if he can play center field, that is where you should keep him. But, this isn’t in a vacuum. The Reds have guys in Taylor Trammell and Jose Siri who can play center field. Siri could also play in right field, while Trammell would be limited to left or center.

At second base you’ve perhaps got to consider Josh VanMeter (which, if you missed my article on his breakout and what’s helped lead to it, you should go read that) in the immediate future. In the longer-term, but still probably close future, you are going to also have Jonathan India.

That’s kind of what’s so great about Nick Senzel. He can play just about anywhere you need him to. While there’s almost no way I’d make him a guy who plays 3-4 positions a week, that he can play everywhere means you could put him somewhere other than one spot on the field if you have another good option to play in center, or at second – but those other guys can’t play somewhere else.

So, all of that said – where Nick Senzel winds up is likely a combination of a lot of other guys, how they develop, and when.

Your thoughts on Joel Kuhnel and Ryan Hendrix, their majors ETA, and their ceiling.

Both guys have big time fastballs. Both have touched triple digits. Kuhnel’s got better control of his pitches. Hendrix has the better breaking ball that’s going to give guys at any level absolute fits if he’s got the ability to locate it. Both guys could be back end of the bullpen types (8th inning/9th inning) in the long run. I’d bet Kuhnel could be in the Majors first, but if Hendrix is showing better control it wouldn’t surprise to see him first, either. Second half this year in a vacuum for either – but with neither on the 40-man, and as noted in the question above with the Bats pitching situation – they may not get that chance.

Given Josh VanMeter’s production and what you’ve seen, how would you now grade his overall tools?

I think that you would have to upgrade his power grade with the new approach. Back in January I wrote a full report on him and went 40-hit, 45/50 power, 45/50 speed, 50 defense at 2B, 45 arm. Certainly bump the power up to 50/55. Maybe the hit up to 45.

Michael Siani is off to a rather slow start. Could you talk a bit about it? What are you seeing with him?

At this point he’s hitting for no power, and he’s got a low BABIP (.232). Neither of those things are helping at all. He’s also got fewer than 100 plate appearances this season. His OPS is just .467, which obviously isn’t good. I wouldn’t worry much, though. He’s 19. There are things to work on, no doubt. But he looks like the guy from a raw tools perspective he was expected to be. The defense is ahead of the bat at this point.

In regards to the FSL and how pitcher friendly the league is, is our perception colored by how pitcher friendly Daytona is? Or is it the entire league as a whole?

Daytona’s actually hitter friendly, at least compared to the league as a whole. It’s a very small ballpark by comparison to the Major League spring training parks that the other teams are using in the league. The league, though, is incredibly pitcher friendly. With pitchers in the league I pretty much only try to pay attention to walk and strikeout rates. With hitters, it’s kind of the same, but adding in power – guys that hit for it, really pay attention. Guys that don’t, try to dig a tad deeper into why, but don’t worry too much if they don’t (unless it’s a situation where they show literally no power).

What adjustments have you seen from Alfredo Rodriguez early on that may have led to his early season successes? If his adjustments/success is legit, what are the chances Alfredo Rodriguez is a Cincinnati Red by sometime in 2020?

Rodriguez is hitting .291/.361/.345 in 62 plate appearances for Double-A Chattanooga as I type this. He’s still hitting for absolutely no power. But he is walking more than ever before, and he’s striking out less than ever, too. His BABIP is also significantly higher than it has been in the past (.340). At this point, with the sample size, I’m not sure there’s been much of any adjustment/changes. While guys are always tweaking things here and there, it’s not apparent that there’s been some overhaul. I’ll say that the chances of him being in Cincinnati in 2020 are small.

Other than Nick Senzel (and possibly Josh vanMeter), are there any players in the organization whose play may force a promotion before the Reds usual midseason promotion time?

Sure, there’s a chance. Brian O’Grady is basically going toe-to-toe with Josh VanMeter in hitting stats right now in Louisville – he’s just missed time with an injury so the counting stats don’t match. And like VanMeter, he can play a lot of spots on the field. A guy like Taylor Trammell, who is extremely talented – if he goes on a tear, he’s the type of guy who could force a promotion. Same for Tony Santillan. If we are looking at non-promoted-to-the-Majors guys, then you’ve got to also look at someone like Jonathan India, who if he gets going could move quickly, too.

Does David Bell last 2 seasons?

Absolutely.

You still believe in Joey Votto?

I’ve met Joey Votto on multiple occasions. He’s 100% real. And I also believe that he’s still an above-average Major League hitter. I’m not sure he’s an elite, MVP caliber hitter anymore. But it’s also too early to say that he absolutely isn’t, either.

Do you believe Reds have the worst amateur scouting in baseball?

No, I don’t. I do think that they, like nearly every organization, have their weak areas when it comes to it, though. I wrote thousands of words about their development/drafting/scouting last week on the subject. Go check them out.

What do we know about the status of Michael Beltre?

He *should* be activated today or tomorrow from what I’ve heard. Chattanooga.

Will Jesus Adames pitch this Summer?

This is one that I do not know. I’ll try to remember to ask about it the next time I’m talking with someone.

What is the purpose of Hernan Iribarren still being on the active roster when Christian Colon fills the same role and Luis Gonzalez or Alfredo Rodriguez could use a promotion?

Iribarren is on the injured list and not taking up a roster spot. He’s essentially a player/coach this year. I’m not expecting him to see much time on the field unless there’s a few injuries and they need a warm body.

Is there any update on the following 2 pitchers in the Reds system: Zac Correll, Junior Arias, Nadir Ljatifi?

None of them are still in the organization.

How is Josh VanMeter’s defense? Should he be getting playing time at the MLB level, and what would have to happen for that to occur?

He’s not on the 40-man roster, so that always plays against a guy. With a short bench because the Reds are going with an 8-man bullpen also plays against him. Defensively, he’s best at second base, but he’s capable of third, first, left, and right. Shortstop in an absolute pinch. Maybe you could swap him with Kyle Farmer – but that may mean you aren’t going to use the catcher from the bench as a pinch hitter. If you’re going to use him like the team has used Farmer, it may be better to just keep him in Louisville, playing daily, and perhaps see if in 2020 he’s the answer at second base if you are going to keep Senzel in center.

How wide is the talent gap between the starting position players and the team depth? Should the Reds be doing more to make use of the hot hand while the offense is struggling, or should they ride it out and wait for good players to find their level? Are other teams more or less active in using the roster to cycle in players performing well at the time?

While the “hot hand” is a thing, predicting when it ends isn’t. So go with the guys you believe will give you the best production over the long haul. It’s impossible to follow all of the teams enough to know how everyone else is handling that – but I’d say that they are all going with the guys they believe are the best options long term rather than trying to ride some hot streak. Platoon guys are different – you know they can or can’t perform against a certain set of players. You mix-and-match with those types.

With offense up around the league, have you got any theories about why the Reds and their opponents are scoring so few runs? Is there anything going on beyond just better pitching and worse hitting by the Reds relative to last year?

My theory on why the Reds opponents aren’t scoring: The Reds pitchers are pretty good. As for why the Reds aren’t scoring: I have wondered if how spring training was handled isn’t partially at fault here. Camp was huge, and a lot of guys were getting playing time. Maybe more time should have gone to the guys you were expecting to play on the roster. That’s just a theory, though. The fact that the Reds are dead last in BABIP at .248 isn’t helping anything, but that should drastically improve.

When would a Taylor Trammell promotion to AAA be likely?

That all depends on if he keeps on doing what he’s done. Historically, it’s been midseason that guys get promoted. But there are new people at the top who are making the decisions on who and when to promote this year, so we don’t have a track record of how they handle things, either. If I had to put money on it, I’d put it on in the second half – but until we start to see how things are handled by the new guys, it’s simply an educated guess.

Any predictions on the rotation for the Greeneville Reds?

It’ll be made up of guys that are going to be drafted next month, mostly.

How would Josh VanMeter’s projection compare to a player like Derek Dietrich? Your answer above reminded me of him a bit, can play non-SS IF and corner OF, average to below average defense at those positions with some pop.

From 2015-2018 Derek Dietrich posted a 114 OPS+, topping out at 122 in that 2015 season. The Marlins ballpark hid just how good he was – granted in limited time for some of those seasons. I think VanMeter’s probably less bat, more defense than Dietrich is.

Shouldn’t the Reds lock up José Iglesias for the next 3-4 years right now?

No, probably not. He’s a borderline caliber starter who will be 30 next year. You just don’t see guys like that extended for 3-4 years.

Which prospects that will start in Rookie ball are you most excited to see?

Darlin Guzman. Allan Cerda. Debby Santana. Victor Ruiz. Danny Lantigua. Nick Hanson. That’s just the guys off of the top of my head. I’m probably forgetting a few.

I think odds are that we will see Robert Stephenson start a game this year as it’s highly unlikely that all our starters will stay healthy the entire year and after Mahle he is the next most logical option.

Here’s the thing: You’re going to have to stretch him out to put him back in the rotation. While I agree it’s highly unlikely the team doesn’t need another starter this year, and that Stephenson is probably a guy who could get a start in the future – right now, he’s probably not in line at all to be that guy because he’s throwing 6-25 pitches per outing since the start of the spring. If he’s going to start, they have to plan for it in advance by, probably, several weeks.

I think a 115 OPS is a bit high of an expectation for Senzel, as that’s better than Suarez’s career OPS.

This isn’t really a question, but I’ll address it since you left it in the comments. Suarez has a 123 OPS+ for 2017-2019. From 2014-2016 he had a 95 OPS+. His career OPS is 109, but it’s weighed down by his age 22-24 seasons.

Any Nick Travieso sightings? Seems like he’s been sidelined for a looooooong time.

I saw him in Goodyear during the spring. He’s throwing. When I spoke with him during the spring it sounded like he would be ready to start pitching in games at some point in the first half of the season as long as there were no set backs. He wasn’t going to be ready to go out of the gate. I haven’t spoken to him or anyone about him since, so it’s been about 5 weeks on that.

Who do you think the top 5 starting pitching prospects the Reds have AA level and below?

If Hunter Greene counts, and I think he does, he is #1. Then Tony Santillan is a close #2. After that is where you start to get into the next tier of guys that are pretty far behind that upper tier. Lyon Richardson, James Marinan both were in the Top 25. Then you have guys like Scott Moss, Ryan Lillie, Packy Naughton, Jacob Heatherly, Jhon De Jesus, Nick Hanson – all of them with some positives and negatives that they need to overcome (the same can be said about Richardson and Marinan, too).

I was wondering what is going on with Finnegan. I saw he is on the Billings roster.

He is back in Goodyear in extended spring training working on some things. He’s healthy and throwing, but getting work in in a different environment that, ideally, let’s him focus more so on getting back to where he was rather than focusing on winning/losing that specific game he would be in.

I am getting pretty down on Yasiel Puig. I know they need him to perform, so they will keep running him out there, but he’s not been very good.

Yasiel Puig for his career: .692 OPS in March/April. Yasiel Puig for his career in all other months: .852 OPS.  He’ll probably be just fine. He’s always been a slow starter and then hit quite well once the calendar flipped.

Glad to see Michael Beltre will be back soon.  I know he is lder, I just like he knows how to walk. I feel like his power Jesse Winker-Like. He has a feel for the Zone, Power should show up later.

The big difference between Winker and Beltre is that Winker hit/hits the ball in the air. Beltre hits the ball on the ground at extremely high rates. Tough to hit for power like that.

5 Responses

  1. Doug Gray

    Thanks for all of the questions today, guys and gals.

  2. Martino Amello

    Doug, perhaps it’s me, but it seems that the Reds as an organization have given up on developing young players to reach the major leagues.. I know…just a feeling with nothing to substantiate such claims.
    I’ve been a Reds fan since the mid 60s (I’m 60 or will be in July) and don’t recall any periods of poor development like they’re experiencing now.
    What is it that keeps them from drafting and developing top talent as opposed to what went on when players like Rose, Concepcion, Griffey, etc were coming up in the system? It feels like the only player development comes from the very top of the draft order with very few players from lower in order finding success.
    Something changed, but I just can’t put my finger on it. Any clues as to what went wrong?

    • Martino Amello

      Another question…would it make sense to heavily invest in local amatuer players from the Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, etc., areas if for no other reason than to build local interest in the team and sport in general? Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve noticed so many players reaching the majors have come from the greater Cincinnati area with fewer and fewer from the Dayton area.
      As a boy growing up in Dayton I recall many a ball park around town, but the last time I was in Dayton (about 5 years ago now) it seemed there were almost no baseball fields for the kids to hone their skills as ball players. The field I grew up playing on is now nothing more than a poorly maintained thicket with nobody using it for anything other than a shortcut to the school the field is adjacent to. Why not invest in those long forgotten fields?

  3. Doug Gray

    Yes, Winker has always hit the ball in the air.