Cam Collier hit his first professional home run on Saturday night and it wasn’t a cheapie, either. The 17-year-old left-handed hitter crushed a ball to center field off of the batters eye in Goodyear. Update: It turns out that the home run was estimated at 455 feet. From a 17-year-old in a professional game.

The home run came in the 1st inning of the game and gave the team the lead (they would ultimately lose 7-5 in extra innings). Collier, the Reds 1st round pick last month, picked up three more hits – all singles – and finished 4-4 on the night.

He’s now hitting .417/.563/.667 with three walks and three strikeouts in four games played out in Arizona. Collier is one of just three players in the league who are under 18-years-old (he’s the oldest of the three – he’s five days older than Anthony Gutierrez and two months and change older than Rosman Verdugo).

Fernando Cruz continues to dominate

It’s been a long journey, both in years and in travel for Fernando Cruz when it comes to professional baseball. Drafted in 2007 out of high school in Puerto Rico by the Royals, Cruz was originally a shortstop. He remained one through May of the 2011 season, but he never really developed at the plate, topping out in A-ball where he hit just .221/.263/.267 in 119 games. That’s when the Royals sent him back to their complex and he began to work as a pitcher. He struggled that first year, understandably. He struggled the next year, too, and after the 2012 season he was released. Over the next three winters he pitched in the Puerto Rican Winter League, but that seems to be the extent of his playing baseball – he was not playing anywhere in affiliated or in independent leagues as far as I can tell.

After posting a 1.52 ERA in the winter of 2014/2015, the Chicago Cubs signed him and he pitched for them for a season in the minors before electing free agency. He re-signed with them in the winter, but he was released at the end of spring training and would pitch in the Can-Am Association for New Jersey for the next two seasons before splitting the 2018 season between the Can-Am and Mexican League. In 2019 he only pitched in the winter league. The same held true in 2020. Then in 2021 he pitched in Mexico for both the summer and winter leagues, as well as in Puerto Rico in their winter league before signing with the Reds in February. It was his first chance in affiliated ball since 2015

He had a rough stretch from early to mid-June that raised his ERA up to 5.25 in Louisville. But since June 16th he’s been absolute nails for the Bats. Over the span of 20 games he’s allowed an earned run in just two of his appearances and has posted an ERA of 0.73 while covering 24.2 innings. The right-hander has given up just 15 hits and walked eight in that span while striking out 26 of the 100 batters he’s faced. Batters have hit just .169 against him in that stretch.

In the not-so-distant past, a guy like Fernando Cruz may have been far more likely to get a call up in September when teams could call up 40 players if they wanted to actually do that. With roster limits in September now limited to just 28 players, it’s far less likely that it could happen. With that said, it would be a heck of a story for it to happen, and if we’re being completely honest – he’s earned it, too. He’s outperformed just about every pitcher that’s currently in Triple-A with Louisville, including those who are on the 40-man roster.

Chris Okey released

The Cincinnati Reds released catcher Chris Okey on Saturday afternoon. It’s tough to make much sense of how the year has gone for the Reds and Okey. Back in June when the Reds needed a catcher to come up to the big leagues, despite having guys available on the 40-man roster who they could have called up, they opted to add Okey to the 40-man roster and call him up. He was hitting better than the other options at the time, so it wasn’t the craziest idea, but after less than three weeks he was sent back to Triple-A and a week later he was designated for assignment. He cleared waivers and was sent to Triple-A where he remained for the last six weeks.

The timeline of “he’s good enough to add to the 40-man roster over just calling up a guy in Triple-A that’s already on the 40-man roster” to 10 weeks later being outright released during an active season is tough to figure out.

16 Responses

  1. Stephan Hochheiser

    Speaking of Cruz…..I’ve been wondering of the same thing should be tried with Aquino….He clearly cant hit in MLB but he has a gun for sure….

    • Droslovinia

      Yes! I’m wondering the same thing. If he’s somehow hanging around anyway, why not try a “reverse Rick Ankiel” on him to see if his arm alone can pan out? Given some of the alleged “pitchers” the Reds are running out there, it would be hard to be much worse.

  2. RedsGettingBetter

    I just think how Okey should be feeling after in June being called up and all was joy and happiness but he is released right now. That great moment in June really was the beginning of the end of his career with the Reds…
    Reading the Cruz’s story makes me think about the bullpen quality of AAA Bats. Cruz being the best pitcher is very concerning due to the leagues where he played before , although as Mr Doug says he earned it because his performance, but How it could be possible that there is no other pitchers from the farm system doing the job that Cruz has had to do at 32 years old?…

    • MK

      Really disappointed in the Oakey timing. With a month to go, if you have no plans for him let him finish the season then become a free agent at the end of the season, rather than the embarrassment of release for a guy who has been a faithful employee for years. If you need a roster spot then put him on the inactive list. No wonder owners complain about players loyalty. Why should they be loyal.

      • Doc

        Far more players take the money and run rather than be loyal than do owners show disloyalty. Baseball is not a guaranteed lifetime job. Perform or be released. It’s not a matter of loyalty as much as it is a business decision. Of course, that begs the question of why is Strickland still in a Reds MLB uniform?

  3. weigarp

    As per Okey, players are released for more reasons than just performance. It could be a character flaw of some sort or not listening to the manager or coaches. I suspect there’s something going on behind the scenes that caused his release.

    • Doug Gray

      Come on – he’s been in the organization for 7 years. All of that kind of stuff would have surfaced long before today, and if that stuff was an issue, they’d have never called him up to the big leagues 2 months ago.

    • Jim Walker

      Or maybe Okey asked to be released because he has another career opportunity inside or outside of baseball or a personal situation that can’t be put on hold for 7 weeks?

      • Optimist

        That is the hope. Namely, he pops up somewhere else this week, perhaps even a college coaching slot.

    • Tom

      Strong kid too. Quiet stance. This could get interesting!!

  4. Bdh

    Any word on what happened to Stoudt today? I was already bummed to see Hajjar go to the IL but got a double whammy when I noticed Stoudt was removed from the game early with the game cast showing (injury delay)

    • Doug Gray

      Didn’t hear anything. We’ll see if he hits the injured list tomorrow or Tuesday.

      I wrote in the game review that his exit was a bit strange – nothing appeared to be “wrong” when he left the game. And there was a decent conversation, so it wasn’t like a situation where he knew without a doubt that he had a serious injury. Like I said – it was a bit strange how it went down.

      • Optimist

        Oh ugh – I like him as a sleeper in the Castillo deal, and was developing nicely until a rough patch this year. Don’t need an injury setback now. Take an easy few months and return full strength in February.

  5. AMDG

    With all the below-replacement-level minor league catchers the Reds have added this year, it’s clear they are convinced Okey (who is nearly 28) will never show an ability to hit the baseball.

    Which seems to be validated by his 0.208 career batting average across the minors.

    Not to mention he surrendered 41 SB in 45 attempts.

    Curious who they opened the 40-man roster spot for.