The Cincinnati Reds development crew has long been an area of question in the organization. Much of it began in the mid-to-late 90’s when Marge Schott gutted the scouting portion of the organization. Being cheap, however, didn’t help. Thinking in today’s terms of baseball, the idea that a team would purposefully draft a player in the first round with no intentions of signing them is absolutely bonkers. The Reds however did just that in the 2001 draft, picking Jeremy Sowers 20th overall and choosing to basically pass on paying a signing bonus to a 1st rounder.

After having some success in developing Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, and Mike Leake as pitchers, the team went back to struggling to develop starters – though they did find more success with relievers. Eventually that lack of ability to develop starters led to the hiring of Derek Johnson as the big league pitching coach. And a year later the team went big on the farm, hiring Kyle Boddy to take over as the pitching coordinator – and he’s now the organization’s director of pitching. Not all of the changes have come on the pitching side of things, though. The team has also added a new hitting coordinator in the minors with C.J. Gillman coming on after the 2019 season.

Tejay Antone, the breakout player for the Reds in 2020, had some praise for the organization and their development team on Tuesday.

I’ve been a part of this organization since I got drafted in 2014 and wow what a difference it is today,” Antone said on twitter. “I can’t thank our front office enough for investing in the development side and being on the forefront of not only technology, but having the right people in place to relay and educate us players about what the technology is saying and how to apply it”

One of the main focuses of Dick Williams when he became the organization’s General Manager was to catch the Reds up to the rest of baseball when it comes to analytics and technology. It was a process that took years, but they got to a point where their analytical department was larger than most in the game. And eventually the stuff they were doing on the farm was above the baseline around the league, too.

“Every year there are new faces on the team and old teammates go to different teams and you begin to hear how other organizations do things a lot of players are begging to be with the Reds because of our player development,” continued Antone. “Just looking back on my own minor league career I can say that I’m not sure if I would have made it to the big leagues if it wasn’t for people like Eric Jagers, Kyle Boddy, and many others. We are doing big things here and I’m proud to put on my jersey each day and learn from the best teammates and the best coaches in the world.”

I’ll quibble over the comment made by Antone that he’s not sure if he would have made it to the big leagues without those guys. I’m certain that they helped him out, perhaps in big ways, but Antone was a guy that had a Major League feel for a while. He has definitely turned himself (along with the help of his coaches along the way) into a potential difference maker in the last year-and-a-half.

What is perhaps most interesting about his comments, though, is the part about how other players want to come to the organization and work with the people that the Cincinnati Reds have put in place. Michael Lorenzen mentioned in an interview the other day that the coaches in Cincinnati know how to get the best from the guys, citing what they were able to do with Robert Stephenson.

“He’s (Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson) going to get the best out of them. You see guys all the time who are struggling with their stuff, or DJ gets a hold of them and they’re like a different pitcher. A lot of the time the philosophy that DJ preaches, and just the guys going out there and believing they will succeed and they have good enough stuff and that plays a huge role in what he says – just being great at what you’re good at. That’s a major, major, major difference from what anyone else teaches, really. A lot of it’s like ‘yeah, you’re good at that, but you’re not good at this, so we want you to be good at this’, but because it looks good in baseball you have to be good at this. You have to throw that fastball down and away. Robert Stephenson was a stud, not because he threw fastballs down and away, but because he threw his slider like 80% of the time and with any other staff would have hated that. But Robert excelled with us because DJ allowed it. I feel like with DJ, Jagers (assistant pitching coach Eric Jagers), with Lee Tunnell (Reds bullpen coach) – they have this master plan where they can piece together any pitcher and they’re going to be just fine.”

Things are just different in Cincinnati, now. The organization looks at things differently, even compared to many of their counterparts in an era where everyone is looking at analytics, and using data, and every organization has high speed cameras. It’s tough to know if the Reds are at the top when it comes to this, but it’s very clear they are among the leaders and no longer looking around with their hands up in the air and wondering what’s going on around the game of baseball.

6 Responses

  1. Stock

    I have felt since the beginning of the draft last summer that the Reds are picking out specific pitchers that fit the profile that will enable the staff to mold them into quality pitchers.

    The draft included Roa, Bonnin and Boyle.

    then they gutted the 40 man roster. I don’t recall a team doing what the Reds did last fall. I think it was down to 32 at one point.

    The Stephenson trade surprised me at first but by the end of the winter I felt the staff had maximized the value of Stephenson and sold high for a pitcher who may have a higher ceiling by the time the Reds make some adjustments. Also they received a player they coveted in the 2020 draft.

    The last two months they started adding bodies. Most of them pitchers. Jared Solomon, Riley O’Brein, Deivy Grullon, Osich, Takahashi joined the Reds in 2020. Then the calendar turned to 2021 but players kept coming. Hector Perez, Art Warren, Cionel Perez
    and Braden Shipley join. DJ’s track record is pretty impressive.

    This is the thing that interests me most in the coming months. Well that and the brilliant play coming from SS.

    Then they acquired a slew of players with live arms. Warren, Perez, Perez,

    Bailey

    Reply
    • DaveCT

      I agree. For me, the greatest outcome will be the attraction of (current) lower tier players is need of more solid development, i.e., the Hoffmans, Sims, etc., or those looking to rebound or take new directions, i.e., Gray. It will also be a very desirable place to be drafted, and thats no small accomplishment. Having a Trevor Bauer or Hunter Greene poster guy doesn’t hurt either.

      The issue which is parallel and thus far unsuccessful is the development of upper tier players, including the acquisition of key free agents that can put a team over the top. So, yeah, money talks. But what doesn’t speak as loudly is the desire of players to come to a small market town. The Reds’ failure this year was not just monetary, it was the projection of a budget slashing year that was being written off before the last rebuild was complete, let alone signaling another.

      This was no fine line to walk for Krall. It was a meander through no man’s land. If the Reds truly believed they could tip toe through the off-season with this strategy they are lacking competency.

      Reply
  2. Old Big Ed

    Dick Williams was a great success with the front office, purely because how he revamped development and analytics, particularly with pitching. They have recently developed Mahle, Castillo (not entirely a Williams project), Antone; have rehabbed Sims, Gray and maybe Jose DeLeon; and have Lodolo, Greene and Santillan on the near horizon. This is a far cry from where the team was five years ago.

    I also think we need to take Dick Williams at his word. Leading a MLB team requires an enormous time commitment, including being at the ballpark until 11p many days a week for 6 months at a time, and hitting the road for spring training for most of 4-6 weeks. That gets old and even gut-wrenching for anybody with children at home. I had a friend who was in a similar position, albeit on the revenue side of baseball, at a similar point in his life, and he ultimately opted for more time with his daughters and a more 9-to-5 job opportunity. I have no doubt that Williams used the same logic, and good for him for doing so.

    Reply
  3. James Phillips

    The story here in NY is that Gray couldn’t handle NY pressure. They never look deeply enough to see that the Reds changed Gray’s pitching, letting him throw more of what he was good at and less of what he should be good at.

    Reply
  4. Rh

    Glad to say I had a small part of it while getting paid to watch some baseball with the Bats running the Trackman.

    I remember sitting next to the boys behind the dugout going they really need to sign Cast and Matt carpenter and they went out and got moose and cast a couple years later.

    Robert always had a great attitude was sad to see him go after he finally started throwing his curve ball again. He kicked butt in dayton when he threw it. Will be very interested to see how Coors will treat him throughout the year. Best of luck to the guy!

    Reply

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