We began this mailbag yesterday, and with so many questions that were submitted I felt the need to break it down into two different articles. You can read part one right here. All of the questions answered this weekend came from supporters of the site over at Patreon (here’s the link if you’re interested in helping the site stay alive for a couple of bucks per month). Let’s hop back into the questions and answers.

A rules question: I understand that it’s possible for a pitcher to come out of the game as a pitcher but remain in the game as the designated hitter. Could he later come back into the game as a pitcher? It could be an interesting strategy late in the game where you could replace the pitcher with, say, a lefty for the final out or two of an inning and then bring back the first pitcher for the following inning.

I’m just going to link you to the new DH rules for 2022. I think what you are saying would work, but I’m not 100% sure. I doubt you’d ever see it, though, due to the whole “must face three batters or end an inning” rule. When you could just go one batter, it seems like it may have been something that could have been applied in very specific scenarios, but not anymore because you risk too much by putting a pitcher in the field.

What position(s) do you ultimately believe the following prospects will end up playing at the big league level? Spencer Steer, Matt McLain, Elly De La Cruz, Noelvi Marte, Edwin Arroyo, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, and Cam Collier.

That’s honestly far too difficult a question to answer because a lot of it depends on other players. Edwin Arroyo, for example, is probably a better defensive shortstop than anyone else listed here, but everyone else listed here is going to likely get to the big leagues sooner. And if someone else is established at shortstop then it’s highly unlikely that guy gets moved off of the position for a guy who has never played in the big leagues. That said, I’ll go ahead and list what I believe is the best spot for each guy if there were no one in their way: Spencer Steer – third base, Matt McLain – second base (or perhaps center), Elly De La Cruz – shortstop, Noelvi Marte – third base, Edwin Arroyo – third base, Christian Encarnacion-Strand – first base, Cam Collier – too soon to really tell if it’s going to be first or third.

Who in the system do you think is most likely to land in a corner outfield spot by 2024?

Tough read on this question because I *think* you’re asking about guys moving from their current position to a corner outfield position. Looking at the top 25 prospects as it’s currently constructed I’m not sure anyone really fits that bill.

How much of an impact, if any, do you think the loss of Kyle Boddy had on the Reds player development this year?

That’s honestly a tough question to answer without being on the inside and seeing how things were being done and how they are being done today. With that said, the people that were left in charge of the pitching stuff on the minor league side of things are all guys who believed in and preached the same kind of stuff that Boddy did. The one difference, though, is that Boddy wasn’t actually a pitcher. The guys that are all elevated this year were pitchers in college or the pros at one point or another in the past. I’m not saying you need to have been a pitcher to succeed here – one of the best pitching coaches ever was actually a catcher – but I do bring up that point because it may come into play a little bit with how things are done compared to how they were.

I do know that around 2018 the organization started seeing a shift in how they were approaching some of the data in the minors with regards to pitching. There was another shift when Boddy came along in that direction. A lot of teams do similar enough things – what Boddy and the people in the industry that are like him in what he tries to implement isn’t some big secret. One thing that Boddy was constantly talking about was setting up the systems within the organization to make everything a little bit easier for everyone.

There are certainly some teams out there who are better than others with regards to a lot of things when it comes to development. It’s never because of one guy or two guys. It’s a whole lot of people working together to get things accomplished. Boddy himself was on twitter the other day talking about how he always sees people saying “go get this or that guy from the Rays or Dodgers or whatever (I’m paraphrasing here)” but that doing so isn’t going to magically change things because it takes everyone to get things done and you aren’t bringing in their entire group of people, so you probably aren’t going to get the results simply by targeting someone from those organizations.

Which of the position players on the farm will become impact players in your opinion?

The two guys that immediately jump to mind are Elly De La Cruz and Cam Collier. De La Cruz has such a high ceiling that there’s so much wiggle room for him to not get the absolute most out of his ability and still be impactful. I think there’s a chance he doesn’t ever hit for much average in the big leagues – say .240 or so – but is still very impactful because of the power, defense, and speed. With Cam Collier it’s a bit different. He’s not going to have the speed or defense of De La Cruz, but I’m a huge believer in his bat. He’s still just a 17-year-old with only a handful of games in rookie ball, but everything he’s shown between Chipola and his brief showing in Arizona just says he’s a different kind of hitter than anyone else his age. Those are the two guys in the system I can look at and see a clear path to being All-Star caliber guys.

How do you see the logjam of shortstops playing out?

I think that Jose Barrero will get next spring to show he’s changed/figured it out, but if he doesn’t, then all eyes move quickly to Elly De La Cruz. The position is his for the taking at that point and everyone else will have to wait for him to lose it if they want it. I think it’s pretty much that simple.

What are you hearing about Alfredo Duno?

People are excited, that’s for sure. His size at his age is just different, but he’s got that size and maintains a lot of high-end athleticism, too. We’re talking about a catcher with a plus arm, athleticism, and potential plus power – rare combo.

What else are you hearing about the Reds international signing class in 2023?

To be honest, not much. I don’t spend a lot of time diving too deep into the international stuff until guys put their names on contracts. Once that happens I dive a lot deeper and try to gather information. That said, the few guys I do know about already are top 10 and top 50 guys in the class and as you’d expect you only hear good things about them.

How will the draft order lottery take place and when?

I can’t say for certain how exactly the lottery will work beyond citing the odds for each of the 18 non-playoff teams to land the top pick. I’m not sure if they’re going to do a “lotto ball” type drawing or what. What I do know is that it will take place at the winter meetings in December on the same day (the final day) as the Rule 5 draft.

With all of the prospects acquired this year have you noted any differences in other teams player development strategy that the Reds should adopt?

Honestly, no. But that doesn’t really mean a whole lot, either. I will say this much, though: I do know that some players that have been traded away in the last few years that have gone to other organizations and not at all been happy with what was going on with regards to how teams went about development. That hasn’t been a consistent thing, but I’ve heard about it from four players that I can think of.

There’s so much going on with development that unless you’re actually a player or coach, it’s almost impossible to really get a great feel on. Some aspects are easier to see/hear about, but a lot of stuff simply isn’t.

Are there any players at Triple-A that make the big league roster next year?

Out of spring training, I’d probably say the only guy with a solid chance would be Dauri Moreta and he wasn’t on the Triple-A roster when this question was submitted. There will probably be a handful of guys that will be called up as the season plays out – some probably as more fill ins, but some could be more than that if they can find some consistency. I just think that as things stand right now that everyone on that roster has to show more consistency before they should be in the big leagues out of the gate.

Are there any players that will make the jump from Double-A to the big league roster?

I would highly doubt it. Injuries could certainly change that, but assuming a normal level of health from the spring training situation, no, I don’t think we’re going to see that happen. But if it is going to happen, my money would be on De La Cruz or Encarnacion-Strand. Don’t think it’s likely at all, but it’s not impossible and especially not impossible if there are some injuries that pop up and they perform well out in Goodyear.

Who is the highest rated prospect below that Double-A level and where will he be by the end of the 2023 season?

Cam Collier. I’ve got him as the second rated guy in the system right now behind Elly De La Cruz. He’ll be 18-years-old for the entirety of the 2023 season. The safe bet would be that he stays in Daytona all next year, but it wouldn’t shock me to see him make it to Dayton before the season is over. As I noted earlier – I’m a big believer that he’s got a chance to be a special hitter, so even at 18, if he hits, getting a cup of coffee at High-A next year wouldn’t be the biggest shock in the world.

It seems like Cincinnati leaned on their starters a lot due to the lack of a reliable bullpen. Are you concerned with some of the pitch counts that Greene, Lodolo, and Ashcraft ran up at times this year?

Not in the slightest. Ashcraft threw 110 pitches once this season. Nick Lodolo only topped 105 pitches once (107). Hunter Greene topped 110 pitches twice this season. One in his May 15th start when he had the no-hitter going, and then on July 9th when he threw 114. Greene didn’t reach 100 pitches in 16 of his 22 starts.

Among Senzel, Friedl, and Fairchild, who do you think is the best centerfield option next year and which one do you have the most confidence in becoming an average regular, if any?

If we’re going to be 100% honest with ourselves it seems to me that TJ Friedl should be the guy, right? Senzel is coming off of three straight seasons with a sub .650 OPS (169 combined games). Stuart Fairchild is hitting .339/.431/.661 as I type this, but he’s also struck out 22 times in 65 plate appearances with the Reds this season. I’m not writing him off, but there’s not much reason to believe he can keep doing that (who can?).

TJ Friedl has hit .306/.375/.541 in 307 plate appearances since the start of June between Triple-A and Cincinnati, and he’s done it with peripherals that seem to be able to support continued quality production. I don’t think he’ll keep that slugging as high as it is, but I do think his step forward in power compared to the past is real. And he’s a guy who makes contact at a good clip, too.

Are you concnered with the strikeout rates of the Reds top hitting prospects? Elly De La Cruz, Matt McLain, Allan Cerda, Rece Hinds, as well as some of the lower level ACL guys carried very high strikeout rates. Is better contact a skill you think the Reds are trying to address or are these big power guys with some swing-and-miss issues the type of profile the organization covets?

There’s always some concern over guys with higher strikeout rates in the minors. But as with most things, exactly how high the strikeout rate is matters, as does if they showed improvements in it throughout the year (for example, Rece Hinds struck out 50% of the time in April, then improved over the season. Austin Hendrick was pushing 40% until the final six or seven weeks when he was around 29%). What else they are doing beyond the strikeouts matters, too. How much power is coming with the strikeouts? Are they walking enough? Can they provide value on the bases? How is their defense and what position do they play? There’s a lot that gets into just how much a guy can strike out and get away with.

With that said, I do think more contact is something the Reds and all other organizations are trying to address (I’ve heard it directly from personnel, but again – this isn’t nor should it be a surprise. Every organization wants more contact, more walks, better plate discipline, etc). It’s easier said than done, though. Every single day you see some pitcher you’ve never heard of throwing 101 MPH cutters in the big leagues. It’s tougher to make contact today than ever before. And with how good defenses are (both due to the caliber of athletes, the field conditions, defensive positioning), simply making contact on it’s own isn’t all that valuable. In today’s game you have to make hard contact for it to matter. You can’t just throw the bat at the ball and hit it off of the concrete infield and outrun it or hope it bounces through the infield.

About The Author

Doug Gray is the owner and operator of this website and has been running it since 2006 in one variation or another. You can follow him on twitter @dougdirt24, or follow the site on Facebook. and Youtube.

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17 Responses

  1. LDS

    I read a lot of different writers, so many that I tend to forget who said what. That said, many seem to be writing about baseball because someone is paying them to do so. Thanks Doug, you seem to have a knowledge of and passion for the game that is lacking in many of the other writers, including some of the national figures. The one thing I found interesting is that many think EDLC is too tall and his defense too suspect to play SS. You think it’s his to lose. Regardless of where he plays, I’ll be glad when he’s ready to be in the line up.

    • MBS

      It’s interesting how many decisions will be made depending on Barrero performance. I’m still holding out hope for Barrero, but if we get into May/June, and he’s not performing EDLC could move in. I still think EDLC is an OF, but only time will tell.

      • AMDG

        Something just isn’t right with Barrero this year.

        His K Rate in the minors was 18% ~ 22% every season. Suddenly in 2022 his minor league K rate jumped to 38%.

        If he doesn’t get it figured out and corrected, it’s likely time to move on to EDLC.

      • Jefferson Green

        Barrero broke his hamate bone and needed surgery on it in Spring training. He’s not the first guy to struggle as he came back from that injury.

  2. Doc

    Doug,

    You said that you had spoken with several players who had been traded and they commented about different organization’s development, but it was not clear to me from your response whether these players were saying the Reds development was worse than others, better than others, or some of each.

  3. DaveCT

    Doesn’t seem like we have any real major pieces among position players coming back from injuries (in the minors). I have Ivan Johnson, Blake Dunn, Francisco Urbaez, Ruben Ibarra and Yerlin Confidan, with partial seasons, then Miguel Hernandez, Drew Mount and Jackson Miller missing full seasons.

    But it does lead to my annual end of season question, what about sleepers for next year?

    One, these are often my favorite guys to follow. Two, bench pieces are often better suited to guys like Alejo Lopez rather than more elite guys. Third, I am also aware that several players have seen their prospect rank slide given the trade acquisitions. Does this make them sleepers? Not entirely, but I’m going to include them, this year, anyway. Fourth, there are those who underperformed this year and could re-emerge next year. Last, I’m not including rookies as there’s just too much unknowns.

    Of the more well known guys, one sleeper, I think is Ivan Johnson, in his age 23 season, for his athleticism, if nothing else, not to mention being bumped down the prospect list by trades. Tyler Callihan fits here, too.

    I’am also curious about Steven Leyton who is still only 23, as well as Nick Quintana, 24. I suppose TJ Hopkins and Isiah Gilliam should still be sleepers though it seems they’ve had seasons that have brought more attention their way. And I still think Miguel Hernandez’ may surprise as he matures, especially with his glove.

    I’m not sure about Brian Rey, though it seems he’d be in that sleeper/utility mix.

    Of the lesser known guys, I’m leaning towards Blake Dunn as a possible guy who could take off next season. Given his being a lesser known quantity, I still have him as a sleeper as we haven’t seen all that much of him.

    Hector Rodrigues has quickly become a guy I would not bet against, even though just 18. Ruben Ibarra is probably a sleeper, too, though it’s hard to miss him. Braylin Minier is another who I’ll watch again next season, after his first season in the States and his full season in general. And that LH swing, by the way. Maybe Austin Callahan.

    So, a question, finally: Can you name any of your sleepers based on first glance of results this season?

    • MBS

      Ascanio, and Acosta are 2 that I plan on keeping my eyes on. I know Acosta is already highly ranked in the Reds organization, but hasn’t made it above rookie ball yet.

      Last year I was very excited to see Confidan, and Hinds, but injuries detoured their seasons. So a healthy year could from either could be huge.

      • DaveCT

        It’s almost like the bottom 2/3 of our prospect list before trades are now sleepers. Could be much worse.

      • Danny

        I am confident that Confidan get back on track hahahah!

        But, in all seriousness, he flashed great in the ACL last year with his bat. I do not know much about his defense, and I am guessing he is not a true CF because most of his start seem to be in RF.

      • DaveCT

        Reports are Confidan is no where near a center fielder, other than being in right field (I’ll see myself out).

    • Kerrick

      I like Hayden Jones and Austin Callahan for sleepers. On the pitching side, I’ll go with Javi Rivera and Julian Aguiar. All 4 of these guys should start in Dayton next season.

      • DaveCT

        Hayden Jones has power, that’s for sure. Like others, though, lots of K’s. But he’s I guy I’ve watched, too.

    • Doug Gray

      No. He’s not eligible to sign until January 15th when the next signing period begins.