The Louisville Bats have the worst record among the teams in the Cincinnati Reds farm system. They are currently sitting at 4-8. The team isn’t without a few guys that are playing well early on this season, though. Alfredo Rodriguez is having the best two weeks of his life at the plate right now. The shortstop is hitting .361/.465/.528 on the year with five walks and just four strikeouts through 12 games played.

We are dealing with a very small sample size here for Alfredo Rodriguez, but it’s tough to find another time in his career where he’s hit for both average and power even in a sample size this small. To be blunt – he’s simply struggled to hit for the overwhelming majority of his career. In 2019 he did hit .286 with the Chattanooga Lookouts in the first four months of the minor league season before he was promoted to Triple-A Louisville. But despite a .286 average he slugged just .347, leaving him as a below-league average bat (overall – not compared to other shortstops in the league). When he arrived in Louisville for the final month of the year he hit .169/.261/.221. For his career he has a .316 slugging percentage.

With Eugenio Suárez struggling both at the plate, but more importantly to this discussion, in the field, there have been suggestions from readers of this and other websites to call up Alfredo Rodriguez to take over at shortstop for the Reds. Rodriguez can absolutely play a better defensive shortstop than anyone on the current big league roster. But the defense has never once been questionable – it’s always been about whether or not he could hit enough.

Last season when Freddy Galvis wasn’t getting it done, the Reds turned to Jose Garcia who had never played above the Advanced-A level. Garcia, too, has an outstanding glove (and arm, for that matter). He was simply overmatched at the plate. The Reds decided that he was the better option over Alfredo Rodriguez, who was also at the team’s alternate training site last summer. While we don’t know exactly how Rodriguez was hitting in Mason last summer, the evidence would suggest that it probably wasn’t anything like he’s hit these first two weeks this season.

Looking into the numbers for Alfredo Rodriguez we can see a few things – his walk rate is at a career high, and his strikeout rate is at a career low. Both of those are very good things to see, and his strikeout rate in particular is at an elite level currently. Of course that’s if it were to be translated to the Major Leagues and we don’t really know if that would be the case. But it’s what’s happening in the batted ball categories that shines a light on things.

For his career, Alfredo Rodriguez has been a guy who has hit a ton of ground balls. His career rate is 50%. This season his ground ball rate is just 29%. Rodriguez is getting the ball in the air a lot more than usual. And it’s been working. The thing is, it’s not so much that he’s replacing ground balls with fly balls – his fly ball rate is right where his career rate has always been – he’s replacing ground balls with line drives. His current line drive rate is 39%! For perspective on that, the Major League Baseball average is 21%. Only two players with at least 50 plate appearances have a higher rate than that (344 players have met that threshold this season).

The Cincinnati Reds have far more detailed data on guys. They know the exit velocity for Alfredo Rodriguez. They know the launch angle for his batted balls. Those things are likely strong indicators, when given enough of a sample size, to tell us if what he’s doing is sustainable (to an extent – of course he’s not a .351 hitter, no one is). The public, though, doesn’t have access to that data, so we aren’t working with the type of accuracy they are.

As to whether or not the Reds should call up Alfredo Rodriguez to play shortstop…. it’s not an easy answer. Right now the position is sort-of-kind-of open. Eugenio Suárez and Kyle Farmer are both playing it right now, but that’s only because Joey Votto is out of the lineup, which is opening up first base and that’s slid Mike Moustakas over there and allowed the team to improve their defense by shifting Suárez back to third and Farmer to short. But Joey Votto’s only going to miss another two weeks or so and then, it would seem, Suárez is heading back to shortstop nearly every day.

The other option would be to bench or demote Jonathan India, which would open up second base for Mike Moustakas, opening up third base for Eugenio Suárez, and then shortstop would be open for the taking.

It’s not impossible to think that the team would somehow prefer a scenario like that one that has Alfredo Rodriguez on the team instead of Jonathan India, but it’s a very unlikely one.

Let’s all hope that whatever it is that’s led to Alfredo Rodriguez torching the Triple-A East continues. He’s having an outstanding start to the year. He’s making tons of contact, he’s drawing plenty of walks, and for now he’s lining the ball all over the field. The newest data is always more important than the older data – but the older data has a sample size that’s 100 times larger, too. If Rodriguez continues to hit, and show that he’s capable of hitting the ball hard enough to keep pitchers and defenses honest – it would make sense to come back to the conversation of calling him up to play shortstop in the future if the team still needs an answer there. But given the long history of his inability to hit the ball out of the infield, it feels too early to make that decision over a two week start that has been outstanding.

Tony Santillan is making his case

Last night saw another strong start for Tony Santillan. His third start of the year for Triple-A Louisville was also his best start. The right-handed pitcher threw 6.0 shutout innings for the Bats while striking out seven hitters. Santillan dropped his ERA to 0.64 through his three games and now has 20 strikeouts with just four walks in 14.0 innings. He’s yet to allow a home run to any of the 55 batters that he’s faced.

There’s been some inconsistency from Santillan in the past. Both in terms of his control from game-to-game, and even at times from inning-to-inning, as well as his velocity. Last night the velocity was strong as he was sitting 94-95 and topped out at 97 MPH on the final pitch of his outing. But last night it was more about his slider, which had the Memphis hitters off balance and often confused.

Cincinnati’s 5th spot in the rotation is currently held by Jeff Hoffman. He had a solid start to the season but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the 5th inning in any of his last four starts. In that same span he’s posted a 7.53 ERA with 11 walks and 16 strikeouts in 14.1 innings. If that trend continues for much longer the Reds are likely going to be looking for alternatives and right now that might be Santillan.

Carson Spiers keeps it going in Daytona

Entering the series against Jupiter this week the Daytona Tortugas led the Low-A Southest in team ERA with a 2.45 mark. That was more than a run better than the team that was sitting in second place in the league in that category. And then they played the game on Tuesday night and lowered it to 2.34.

Video from Kyle Boddy

Carson Spiers, who spent four years at Clemson, and played college summer ball two years as well, never once made a start during his collegiate career. The Reds saw something that they thought would work and transitioned the right-hander to the rotation and assigned him to Daytona. Last night he fired out 6.0 innings and allowed an earned run. He also struck out eight batters without a walk.

Spiers, despite being a reliever in the past, is throwing four different pitches in Daytona right now. He’s got a fastball, two breaking balls, and a change up. And he’s pounding the strikezone with all of it. He’s currently thrown 16.2 innings and posted a 1.08 ERA with just three walks and he’s racked up 21 strikeouts along the way.

25 Responses

  1. Chi Reds Fan

    So Doug Gray is the GM, does he make the Santillan/Hoffman switch now or not yet?

    • Doug Gray

      I’m giving Hoffman another start and seeing what happens.

      • Chi Reds Fan

        And Santillan another op to show he is for real. This year is so strange with 2020 being like a leap year, so guys are showing big gaps to where they left things off in 2019.

  2. RedBaron

    Thanks Doug. Is Alfredo’s D still as good as it was in previous years? Seems like he is getting close to that age where their D drops off some. TIA

    • Doug Gray

      I honestly have no clue. I’ve only been able to watch on tv this year. The last time I saw him in person was back in mid-2019. That was a long time ago. That said, I’ve seen nothing to suggest he’s not still a quality defender at shortstop.

  3. Tony Camp

    The Reds base running and defense is atrocious! It’s so bad that, at least for me, it makes them unwatchable. More importantly it’s a serious impediment to winning baseball games. I strongly believe that advanced metrics don’t accurately capture the value of base running and defense. If management is being honest, the Reds have only have a few bats that you absolutely can’t take out of the lineup (Suarez, Farmer and India are not among them). So for me any upgrade to defense and base running with the hope of at least getting similar offensive production (or better) is a move that simply must be made. Considering the current circumstances, if you don’t bring Alfredo Rodriguez up now then there really is no reason to even have him in the farm system any longer.

    • Doug Gray

      I think the advanced metrics capture base running fairly well. Defense….. outfield defense I’ll say are better captured than infield defense by the metrics. Still a lot of work to be done there, though.

      As for Rodriguez – you keep a guy like that in the system even if you don’t call him up today for a few reasons: One, someone has to play shortstop in Triple-A. He’s going to help your pitchers in the long run and keep innings shorter. Two, maybe you actually see him develop into a guy you can call up. Maybe he’s “ready” now, but you just aren’t sure given his history. If he keeps hitting, maybe you re-assess the situation a month from now.

      • Tony Camp

        I understand your rationale but I don’t agree with it. I more interested in helping the big league pitchers than AAA. Currently the Reds are starting 2 players at the MLB level that aren’t true SS at one of the sports most important positions. They aren’t hitting and their defense is and always will be subpar. Bring up Rodriguez or release him. Garcia can move up AAA and so on down the line. The ultimate goal is to win baseball games at the MLB level. The Reds can still win the Central but the next 40 games are critical. The time is now.

      • Doug Gray

        And what if Garcia isn’t ready to hit Triple-A pitching? Now you’re harming his development, too.

        If you are concerned about the big league pitchers then just play Kyle Farmer at shortstop. He helps them with the defense.

  4. Tony Camp

    Well Blandino and/or India will be gone when Votto comes back and they certainly can play SS at AAA if Garcia isn’t ready. Why sacrifice the MLB pitchers for the sake of sparing the MILB? Farmer is decent but not good and I’m certain that Blandino or India could play a decent to awful SS at Louisville in a pinch.

    • Doug Gray

      Because the goal is to win at the MLB level more than anything else, and the odds are very good that Kyle Farmer gives you a better chance than Alfredo Rodriguez does.

      The downgrade in defense isn’t a ton, particularly over the stretch of two weeks. And once those two weeks are up, Farmer isn’t playing anymore, either.

  5. The Rage

    Yeah, the Reds lineup construction/defense is a mess. Suarez has fallen off the ship. Moose is old. Votto needs replaced. Senzel hasn’t put it together yet(but can play some decent D when healthy) and looks like a health risk in CF. India is borderline ready, needs adjustment, but a future Garcia/India infield should be pretty good defensively.

    Gonna have to make some tough decisions. But remember when the “rumors” of the Reds trading Eugenio started last winter……….and Castillo??? Reds fans got mad. Maybe Reds fans need to shut their mouths and see what the team is seeing. Career years in 2019 and then a drop off. Castillo especially looks like his arm is tiring out and velo is going to drop from here.

    • Doug Gray

      The Reds didn’t trade them, so maybe they saw what the fans who were mad saw.

    • RojoBenjy

      Dude’s fastball was 97-99 all five innings last night.

      When did he look tired?

  6. Bred

    RML sure is a lot more positive and fun to read than RLN. Whatever the Reds do they better do it soon, or I guess I’ll get the MiLB tv package cause right now the big league club is a mess and tough to watch. Thanks for keeping hope alive for us, Doug. Even if we won’t see these guys until 2022 as I’m not too optimistic about a strike shortened season in 2021 due to fighting over the new CBA.

    • Doug Gray

      RLN makes up a lot more revenue than RML does these days, but man, it’s tough to read over there. Like, unhealthy to read the comments on a daily basis.

      • Bred

        Your comment made me think of Facebook moderators and the mental anguish and fatigue their job entails. I do read both the articles and comments on RNL and RML daily. I understand the frustration of the commenters, and sadly feel this season is headed towards another lost year. But I want to thank you for the tremendous work you do to moderate both sites and keep the discussions free of bad language and civil. I think these are the only sites on the entire web that can make that claim. Good work, Doug.

  7. MBS

    Rodriguez can always be sent back down when Moose and Votto return. Let’s see what we got, I 71 goes in both directions. India is the higher rated prospect, but his time might need to be later. Suarez at 3B, seems to have helped his bat. Rodriguez at SS will improve the Defense, and when Moose returns he can go to 1B. Once Votto is back reevaluate. You also don’t have to immediately promote Garcia, but in his short sample size, he seems to be ready for AAA. Perhaps AA was too far to send him after his MLB experience, and he should have been in AAA all along.

    • Doug Gray

      IF you call up Rodriguez for 2 weeks you are placing someone on waivers. Who is worth potentially losing when you could just play Kyle Farmer?

      • MBS

        Heineman, Garcia, H Perez, or Fulmer.

        Heineman is so far down the depth chart (JW, NC, NS, SA, TN, AA, MP, SH) he has little to no chance of seeing playing time.

        Fulmer is probably the next relief member to get the boot, and he’s out of options. I am assuming Hoffman will replace him in the pen, or possibly Hoffman gets the boot, but I think that’s less likely.

        Garcia and H Perez are unspectacular AAA bullpen options, that may or may not stick around, if dropped from the 40 man.

      • MBS

        Also if the look turns into a good performance, he could last longer than the 2 weeks, he’s a legit SS, something the Reds don’t have currently on the 26 man. I like Farmer for what he is, a versatile option off the bench, and the same with Blandino. I might be too much of a fan of Rodriguez, as I’ve seen him as the SS of the future since we signed him. I realize Garcia has overtaken him since that time, but I still think Rodriguez has the ability to be a MLB SS. Cross our fingers that both Rodriguez and Garcia both have what it takes, and you all of a sudden have a valuable commodity that you could trade for another area of weakness. It will be hard to determine that if Rodriguez never gets his shot. I believe in promoting players while they are excelling. Coming up with confidence goes a long way.

  8. MK

    Typically first round draft picks have the best shot at getting promoted up the systems for a couple reasons. One, they have the talent to be first rounders and , Second, the financial investment made on them. Alf-Rod was paid like a first rounder so they saw first round ability in them. Don’t know why but Alf-Rod has never gotten that benefit of the doubt.

    • Doug Gray

      He’s never gotten the benefit of the doubt because from day one the Reds were the only team that seemed to think he could hit his way out of a wet paper bag and they’ve been wrong on that since signing him. He turns 27 in a month and his career slugging percentage is 22 points lower than Tony Gwynn’s career batting average.

  9. Old Big Ed

    Thanks for the expanded Rodriguez information.

    I think the Reds called up Jose Garcia last year because they believe (correctly) that he has a much, much higher ceiling than Rodriguez, and they thought it was worth it to see if he was able to make an improbable 3-level leap into MLB. In hindsight, it was a bad decision, because not only was Garcia making the 3-level leap, but he was doing it off playing scrimmage games at Prasco. It was good development for some guys, but it did nothing to prepare Garcia (nor Rodriguez, if they had recalled him) for immediate MLB-caliber pitching.

    The decision last year to call up Garcia and not Rodriguez in my opinion was driven by optimism about Garcia, rather than skepticism about Rodriguez.

    Not that Prasco was a useless exercise, because by all accounts India got a lot out of it, and after a solid Prasco and a solid spring training, he was ready for MLB. I don’t know if it is much of a stretch to believe that Rodriguez made a similar offensive improvement at Prasco, because he too had a very good spring training and has carried it over to the first three weeks of AAA ball.

    I think the Reds would be better with Suarez on the bench, and Moustakas and Senzel getting the bulk of playing time at 3B.

    At SS, I prefer Rodriguez over Suarez, because (1) he is much better defensively at shortstop than Suarez, (2) Bell will hit Rodriguez in the 8 hole, while he would inexplicably keep Suarez in the 4 or 5 hole (3-hole last night, to my horror), and (3) Rodriguez simply cannot be any worse than Suarez has been offensively, even he were to swing the wrong end of the bat.

    Alas, neither you nor I are making these decisions, probably for good reasons. And I also wouldn’t mind if they traded for Willy Adames of the Rays.

  10. Bubba Woo

    Probably about time to give Santillan a long look. Organization is too deep in quality potential starters to let Hoffman continue to get starts. Gotta think the 2022 rotation is some combo of Gray/Castillo/Mahle/Antone/Santillan/Greene/Lodolo.