Last week I reached out to supporters of the site over at Patreon (no time is better than now to support the work here) to request they submit some questions for this months mailbag topic. That’s one of the perks of supporting the work done here – you get priority for having your questions answered for sure. I also reached out on twitter for some more questions to help round things out.
Who would be your choice at shortstop among Didi Gregorius, Marcus Semien, and Andrelton Simmons? Do you think the Reds ultimately sign one of those three players?
I think that the Reds will find a way to sign one of them, yes. Which one? That’s a different question. When the team’s only real stated goal in the offseason was to get a shortstop – and they go out and get not one of these guys, that would be a big issue (unless they were to acquire one in trade).
My preference is tough. If you can get any of them on a 2-year deal, I’d prefer Semien. I think that utlimately he’s the best of the group when we consider the entirety of his game. Of course, we don’t really know what each player is going to require in terms of money/years, but assuming that it’s close to a “market rate” that we expect, I’d prefer Semien.
When it comes down to Gregorius or Simmons, you are choosing guys that are a bit opposite. Gregorius is the better hitter, but at least from a metrics standpoint, his defense leaves something to be desired. He’s a shortstop, but he’s a below-average one from a defensive standpoint (assuming, of course, the metrics are correct). Simmons is a defensive wizard, or at least has been in the past, but his bat has been mediocre for most of his career. He’s had two seasons where he was an above-average hitter. I do think his offense would look better outside of the very pitcher friendly AL West, but I still think he’s clearly the 3rd best hitter among this group.
That said, I wrote about Simmons at Redleg Nation the other day and assuming his ankle injuries aren’t going to rob him of his defense, I may have talked myself into the idea that with the ground ball pitching staff the Reds have, he might be a better fit than Gregorius. With all of that said, I’d be ok with any of the three – but would prefer Semien over the other two.
Have you heard how Tony Santillan performed this past year. Is he still someone who you see as a starting pitcher for the big league team in the future? Same question for Nick Lodolo.
Tony Santillan looked better this year at Prasco than he did the previous year in Double-A. He was dealing with some minor injuries in 2019 that didn’t let his stuff quite play up to where it had been in the past. With how the year worked out, and how the alternate sites operated, you can’t 100% replicate game conditions, but reports from those in the organization I talked to spoke about the improvements he made – his velocity ticked up from where it was last year, though there was still some days where it was higher than others were. One of the things he spent time working on was improving the consistency with his slider.
It seems that Santillan is still going to be viewed as a starter, and he should until it’s apparent he can’t be. He’s a 3 or 4 pitch guy (every so often he’ll show a slower version of his breaking ball as a 4th look to go with the fastball, slider, and change up). The key will be whether he can show the control he showed in 2018 or not. It was reportedly better in 2020, but again, in non-true-game situations, it’s not exactly easy to truly say how much better it was than in 2019 or years prior to 2018.
The fallback for Santillan, of course, is the bullpen. It’s certainly possible that’s where he winds up making his debut, too. If there’s not an opening in the rotation, but he’s clearly ready for the big leagues, that’s a way to get him there to help out. That said, I’d expect him to remain starting in the minors until a decision has to be made either because they need an arm in the big league rotation or bullpen and he fits that need. I doubt we see him move to the minor league bullpen.
As for Nick Lodolo, I have had fewer conversations about how he looked over at Prasco than I did about Santillan. With that said, I wrote a little bit about Lodolo when he was still pitching at the alternate site. Rather than just regurgitate all of that, I’ll give this link to read about it. I will note that the person I spoke to at the time liked the progress he was making with his change up, which was his worst pitch when he was drafted.
Do you think that Hunter Greene will start in Double-A?
Yes, I do. I wouldn’t be completely shocked if he began in Advanced-A Dayton, but if I had to bet on it, I’d bet he jumps to Double-A. After pitching at Prasco facing a bunch of guys with both Triple-A and Major League experience, mixed in with a few others with at least Double-A time it seems like he should be ready to go against Double-A talent to begin the year (whenever that begins – currently expected to be around the start of May).
Do you believe the higher end prospects in the system, they top 10-20 guys will skip a level from where they were in 2019?
I think it’s likely that we will see plenty of this happening. It’s two fold. First, some guys simply are going to be ready to make that jump either way. Some got time in at Prasco and developed that way. Some were able to get in work at home/their locality and developed enough to make that jump.
But there’s also going to be a situation where with two fewer teams, guys need to play. One way to make that a little easier is to push guys who may have been able to benefit a little bit from sticking around at a level, but probably have the talent to make the jump and that opens up a spot for someone else where they would have been.
One thing I’ve been real curious to see, even though I absolutely hate the fact that they eliminated non-complex level rookie ball teams, is how organizations alter their approach with assignments and promotions because those teams no longer exist. It’s going to create a chain reaction all the way up the ladder in the minor leagues.
Do you think any of the recent international signings will start 2021 in the US?
From the class we are looking at right now that began January 15th? No, I don’t. I believe only one player that’s signed is 19, with everyone else being 16-18. We’ll see, but I would expect they all wind up in the Dominican Summer League and that maybe we see a few of the guys that were in the DSL in 2019 jump to the US to make some room for them.
Assuming Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Tyler Mahle are the top 3 starters, who do you think will win the 4 and 5 spots?
Wade Miley’s in the rotation if he’s healthy, and right now there’s no reason to think he’s not. So he’s one of the four guys I believe has a spot locked up. The 5th spot, I’d say looks like this heading into the spring: Michael Lorenzen, Tejay Antone, José De León, Riley O’Brien, Jeff Hoffman, Brandon Bailey, Tony Santillan, Nick Lodolo, Cionel Pérez. The job, in my opinion, is Lorenzen’s to lose. But it’s not like there’s not some real competition, either. Antone showed real, legit stuff last season for the Reds. De León has struck out 51 batters in 27.0 innings in the Puerto Rican Winter League this season and saw his stuff step forward in 2020 – a year out from returning from having Tommy John surgery.
What’s the starting lineup of the best minor league players you’ve ever seen who only spent a small amount of time in the Major Leagues (or never made it there – maximum 30 games/8 pitching appearances)?
- 1B: Neftali Soto – I’m breaking the rules, but only slightly. Soto played in 34 games, but only had 42 big league at-bats. He went to Japan in 2018 and has hit 45, 43, and 25 home runs there in the last three seasons.
- 2B: Henry Rodriguez – a not-so-great defender, but the guy could hit. He hit over .300 five straight seasons in the minor, got a cup of coffee in 2012 and 2013. He’s spent a lot of time in the Mexican League and Venezuelan Winter League where he’s hit over .300 in his career (in both).
- 3B: I’m cheating, and I don’t care for this one. Mike Hessman – He hit 433 homers in the minor leagues. He did play in 109 big league games over a 20-year professional career that saw him get 223 at-bats in parts of five big league seasons.
- SS: Zach Vincej – He didn’t hit a ton, but he was so smooth in the field and at shortstop, defense matters first. He did reach the Majors in 2017 and 2018 for a total of 10 games.
- Catcher: Joe Hudson – he’s played in 18 games at the big league level, including nine in 2020. Not much of a hitter, he’s got a career .657 minor league OPS, but has done a little better in recent years, he’s known as one of the best defensive catchers around.
- Corner Outfield: Yorman Rodriguez – he had five tools, but he didn’t always translate them into showable skills on the field. But when he did, it was fun to watch.
- Corner Outfield: Danny Dorn – He spent 10 seasons in the minor leagues, hitting .285/.364/.498 with 156 home runs. He also played in parts of two seasons in the KBO where he hit .278/.383/.467. In 2015 he got a cup of coffee with Arizona, playing in 23 games and picking up five hits in 30 at-bats.
- Center Field: Junior Arias – the guy had some explosive tools. In 2013 he hit .272 with 15 home runs and 60 steals between Low-A and Advanced-A. He was an outstanding defensive center fielder, too.
How do you feel about a Major League salary cap with a salary floor based on negotiated revenue percentage to the players to fix baseball’s competitive balance problems?
In theory, I’d have little problem with it. But in reality, I hate it. The reason is pretty simple: Teams are doing all kinds of things right now to get “baseball money” or by using “we own the baseball team” to get deals on things that they claim as “non-baseball revenue”, which means it’s money made from owning the baseball team that isn’t going to be a part of that “revenue” percentage.
The two biggest examples here are television contracts – teams took lesser money per year on their TV deals and instead of that money, got partial ownership in the sports network. That’s now “non-baseball revenue”, but the only reason that revenue exists is because teams took less cash to broadcast their baseball games. That’s baseball money no matter what they want to say.
The other thing is all of the real estate investment and development that’s going on by baseball teams. Whether it’s getting sweetheart deals as a part of the stadium deals that allowed them to also have a development for 60 cents on the dollar of market value because they didn’t leave the city to go somewhere else, or things of that nature – it’s money that’s being made simply because the baseball team exists and a deal was struck as a result of them being a baseball team, but the teams make that “non-baseball revenue”.
I’m sure there are other things going on, too, that allow teams to hide revenues as non-baseball revenues, but those two are the obvious big ones.
What three prospects outside of the Reds top 10 list have the most upside?
I’ll go ahead and say that the report I got on Malvin Valdez, who just signed last week with the organization, makes him one of those guys. I’d toss in a guy like Allan Cerda. Let’s toss a pitcher in there, too: Jacob Heatherly.