Table of Contents

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Brewers Series Preview

My classes are over and the Brewers are coming to town!  It's the battle for last in the NL Central!

In the race for badness, the Reds are definitely looking like the team that is best at being the worst.  The Reds' offense has been abysmal to the Brewers only just kinda ok performance.  The Reds starters have posted a better ERA thus far, but they've matched the Brewers in badness according to peripherals.  And their bullpen has the clear lead in suckitude by both runs allowed and DIPS-based estimators.

The two teams' rest-of-season projections are both very close, with FanGraphs projecting only slightly fewer wins over the rest of the year.  That, plus the slightly better Brewers record, has the Reds at a very solidly bad 0.0% playoff odds, while the Brewers have a still-almost hopeful 0.2%.

So, yes, Reds all the way at being bad!


Position Players


Zack Cozart is making himself into quite a nice trade chip.  Yes, his BABIP is inflating his numbers, and he never will enjoy taking a walk, but he's showing good power and no apparent ill-effects from his surgically-reconstructed knee.  His fielding has looked solid on TV, and his too-early-to-be-worth-much UZR is in the positives, as is his base running metric.  He's been a legitimate catalyst at the top of the Reds lineup thus far, and over the past two years he has hit .283/.321/.480 in almost 300 PA's (not including yesterday's home run!).  If he's still a plus defender, and it looks like he is, that's quite a nice player.  A lot of contenders would be thrilled to have something approximating him at shortstop, and I hope they'll pay accordingly.

This is still a pretty nice offense.  Scooter Gennett is out with an oblique injury, and Aaron Hill has been a black hole thus far at third.  Nevertheless, everyone else has looked pretty good at the plate.  Chris Carter was getting a lot of attention from the statcast guys at the start of April, and he's been thumping the ball thus far just like so many thought he would.  I don't know if he'll keep this up, but the Brewers have to be thrilled at the prospect that he might have figured out how to hit at the major league level.  Ryan Braun is hitting like old times, and Jonathan Lucroy has been doing his thing.

Probable Starters

Chase Anderson was one of the key acquisitions of the Jean Segura trade this past offseason, and he was expected to step into the rotation as a steady #3-#4 starter.  He's not quite been that thus far, though he's been a heck of a lot better than the giant, steaming pile of suck that has been Alfredo Simon.

Tim Adleman had a magical day in his last start.  Let's just assume that he'll continue to strike out 27% of the opposition while avoiding walks.

I've been pretty happy with Brandon Finnegan thus far.  But I'm surprised, having just been watching his starts and not focusing on numbers so much, that his strikeouts are so low...and his walks so high.  His change-up has looked good to me.

John Lamb was my offseason mancrush.  But his velocity was not where it was last season during his debut start, and I thought his curveball looked like it had far less bite.  Maybe he'll be better next time.

Bullpens


Not much to say here!

So far, anyway, this has been a solid pen for the Brew Crew.  Tyler Thornburg has been striking everybody out, and Jeremy Jeffress gets nothing but ground balls, so that's a good start.  The rest haven't been quite so impressive, but it's all small sample size land.  Chris Capuano is the only lefty in the pen, so the Reds lefties don't have a lot to fear in late innings.

So, we have two teams in a transition period.  One is run by David Stern, an up-and-coming analytics-oriented GM who heralds from last year's great triumph of sabermetrics.  And the Reds are run by Walt and Dick.  It'll be interesting to see how all of that goes for the two teams in the coming years.


By way of acknowledgements, this post is brought to you by Rogue Sriracha Hot Stout Beer.  It is better with food than by itself, and I mostly drank it alone.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Prospecting Reds Pitchers with Steamer

Continuing our look at the Reds' prospects for the 2016 season season, tonight we'll turn our attention to the pitchers.  As with hitters, I'm using Steamer projections, grouping by age, and am including players who were on the active roster last year in these age groups but who no longer have rookie eligibility.

Age-25 Pitchers
The wrap on John Lamb when the Reds acquired him last summer was that he was a former elite prospect who never saw his velocity return following Tommy John surgery.  The thing was, when the Reds got him, his velocity was back up to the 92-93 mph range where it had been pre-surgery.  That ultimately did fade a bit, but he still finished with an average mlb fastball velocity of 91 mph (the bad velocity wrap started when he was maxing out in the high-80's the year before).  On top of that, he struck out well over a batter per inning, while keeping his walk rates acceptable.  The main criticism one can have of his peripherals, at least, is that he has thus far been a fairly severe fly ball pitcher with just a 37% ground ball rate.  Yeah, I know, 5.80 ERA.  But .376 BABIP.

Steamer believes.  And other analysts are taking note as well.  Most interesting was this note by Eno Sarris:
But when it comes to movement, he's set up for success. A nice riding four-seam, a decent cutter, and then that change. That change. With a 15 mph difference between it and the four-seam, Lamb owns the biggest velocity differential in baseball. Plus movement and velocity difference led to whiffs almost a quarter of the time he threw it, so it has real potential to be an elite pitch. In fact, his curve, cutter, and change all had plus whiff rates. Not above-average. Plus.
Biggest velocity differential in baseball.  Assuming that's a good thing (Chris Dial doesn't think so), it provides some extra support for those fantastic strikeout numbers.  I'm probably irrationally, wildly, sky high on John Lamb.  He's exactly the sort of guy I will flock to: a peripherals darling, overlooked by the casual fan, with pitchf/x things to point to indicating it is real.  I know I'll have to wait a little bit while he ramps up following back surgery (just hopin' that's ok), but I'm really excited to see what he does this year.


Age-24 Pitchers
Big group, and a lot of these guys look to play a role on the club in the near future.

Zack Weiss is a rising relief prospect.  Relief prospects are the worst kind of prospect, but Weiss's projection indicates that he's ready to contribute to the bullpen right now.  The Reds surely need some help in that regard.

Amir Garrett was a big riser in the Reds' prospect rankings this season, climbing all the way to #4 after giving up basketball and focusing exclusively on pitching.  Everything about him sounds good...except that he's entering his age-24 season and hasn't played above high-A.  Granted, he's fairly new to pitching, so it's not surprising that he's behind.  I'm sure he'll start in AA this year (he was just optioned there!).  If he can advance to AAA by the season's end, he'll be poised to crack the Cincinnati rotation by 2017, if all goes as well.

Michael Lorenzen rode a friendly luck dragon for the first month or so of his big league debut last season, but the fates predictably turned on him as time went on.  He didn't show the ability to avoid walks or miss bats throughout much of his stint with the Reds.  Nevertheless, at the same time, perhaps he was rushed a bit last season.  He advanced through the minors so quickly that 2015 was the first time he really failed.  It's far too soon to give up on the guy.  Here's hoping his elbow issue isn't serious.

Jonathon Crawford is a fascinating case of how quickly one's stock can fall.  He was a first-round selection in 2013, and turned in solidish performances in '13 and '14 (albeit with weak strikeout rates).  Last year, he was injured and missed most of the season.  He's getting older, but don't count out former top draft picks.  He's put up decent numbers before.  If his first half in AA (which is where I'd put him) doesn't go well this season, maybe you consider putting him in the pen and hoping he can rise quickly?

Finally, Jon Moscot is hoping for a shot to be a #5 starter.  Maybe he can be a #4 if things break right for him?  Maybe?  He won't strike guys out, but if he can avoid walks and get some ground balls then maybe can be a passable rotation cog.  My guess, unfortunately, is that he's destined for middle relief.

Age-23 Pitchers
And now here is an even bigger group!

Steamer approves heartily of the Reds' pickup of Rookie Davis, although it is worth noting that this is (for whatever reason) a projection for him as a reliever.  Brandon Finnegan also looks ready to roll as a reliever, though I'm keen to see him get a full season of starting before the Reds toss him back into relief.

Somewhat disappointing, perhaps, is the projection on Robert Stephenson, the Reds #1 prospect on most lists.  The key for Stephenson will be his ability to avoid the walk while staying effective.  His walk rates have been in excess of 4 bb/9 at both AA and AAA, so I'm very inclined to let him start the year in AAA despite the clamors we're hearing to promote him as soon as possible on the basis of his hype and spring training performance.  The prospect guys love his stuff, and we've certainly seen talented pitchers figure things out in the major leagues.  I remember trading Matt Harvey in my fantasy league back in 2012 when he was sporting a 4+ bb/9 rate, only to see him take a huge step forward and become Matt Effin' Harvey the next season.  But we've also seen guys who never figure it out and become nothing.  I'd wager there are more in the latter category than the former, but I'm rooting for him.

Cody Reed is a guy I'm pleasantly surprised to see rate so well.  Reed was another big riser year in prospect rankings as he took a significant step forward.  He was already rising when the Reds got him mid-season, and then he went on a crazy tear in the second half.  Steamer is giving him a reliever projection here, but what I'm taking from it is that not all of his rising expectation is just recency bias.

Nick Howard.  Sigh.  When I see Howard, I can't help but think that he's a case where the Reds just got too cute.  They had been having some success with the closer-to-starter thing with Cingrani and Lorenzen, so they followed suit by taking Howard.  He's been a catastrophe.  As I said with Crawford above, never count out a top pick entirely, but I think in his case, at least, the experiment with starting is over.  Now it's time to see if they can salvage a relief arm with him.

Age-22 Pitchers
I'm surprised to see that Sal Romano still is just 22 years old.  He was drafted back in 2012, and has been steadily showing improvement as he works his way through the system.  He got shelled at AA late last season, but seems likely to begin there as a 22-year old this season.  He hasn't shown particularly exciting peripherals, but he's always been young for his level.  Another good year, and he's suddenly banging on the door in Cinci.

Keury Mella was the main return for Mike Leake last summer.  He slots in with Nick Travieso as the top talents in this younger tier of prospects.  I'm been pretty tickled to see Travieso rising over the past few years, because for a while he looked like he'd been a lost selection.  He was so darn young when drafted, though, and the Reds patience and instruction is seemingly now paying off.  AA could be a big test for him.


Age-21 Pitchers and Below
Somewhat surprisingly, there aren't a lot of Reds pitching prospects entering their age-21 or below season. Tyler Mahle had a great season for Dayton last year and seems ready for his next step.  The other two didn't even get a projection in Steamer's database.  Both Antonio Santillan and Ian Kahaloa have appeared at the bottom of some of the various top-10 Reds lists, even if sometimes just listed below the top-10 as a guy to keep an eye on.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Prospecting Reds Hitters with Steamer

This is my annual look at projections for Reds top prospects.  As with last year, I'm using Steamer projections, which estimate a player's production if they were to play in the major leagues this year.  Most of the players below will not play in the big leagues this season, but it still provides some indication of current expected performance level.  I find it a useful exercise.

New this year, I've added Reds players who are no longer "prospects" because they do not have rookie eligibility, but are within the same age range as the players listed below.  Often times, we get really excited about 24-year old "prospects" who are just arriving in The Show, even though there are established big league players already on the roster of the same age as the new guys.  

As I've done before, we'll group them year by year.  Today we'll look at hitters, and the next time we'll look at pitchers.

Age-25 Players
Scott Schebler was acquired in the Todd Frazier trade.  He just arrived in the big leagues last season, but it's worth remembering that he is the same ages as both Billy Hamilton and Tucker Barnart.  Schebler does grade out as having a better bat than either of those two, primarily due to his substantial power.  But while Schebler players corner outfield, as has some questions about his defense, Hamilton and Barnhart are considered plus (if not elite) defenders at a premier defensive position.  As a result, Hamilton and Barnhart are both projected as providing value, while Schebler projects as a replacement player.  Seems about right.

That said, I don't really have a problem with Schebler getting a decent chunk of at-bats in left field.  I don't really see a better option, and a Duvall/Schebler platoon has at least some potential to provide decent pop.  If the dice roll the right way, there's a scenario in which they could even provide something close to league-average production.

Age-24 Players
I think this one's really interested.  With Zack Cozart apparently healthy, Eugenio Suarez is moving over to third base to replace Todd Frazier.  Suarez wasn't embarrassing at shortstop, but his -13 run UZR rating indicates that a move down the defensive spectrum is a good idea.  The Fan Scouting Report on Suarez rates him as having good arm strength, reactions, and first steps, but below-average hands, and well-below average throwing accuracy.  Hopefully, moving to third base will help, provide he can get those throws on the mark from across the diamond.  In any case, Suarez rates as a solid player, right around league average.

Rating above Suarez in 2015 value, however, is Eric Jagielo.  Steamer, at least, thinks that Jagielo's power will play just fine in the majors, and soon.  As I said in my piece on the Chapman trade, Jagielo has hit everywhere he has played thus far, despite the critics of his swing.  Maybe pushing him to start in AAA isn't such a bad idea after all?  It's worth noting that ZiPS isn't nearly as high on Jagielo as Steamer is.  There's something about him that makes me think of Will Middlebrooks (I suppose that's not the most ringing endorsement).

Kyle Waldrop was getting a lot of attention this time last year, but ended up having a miserable season that was plagued by injuries.  His projection certainly would indicate that more time in AAA is needed before he's ready; like scouts have been saying all along, Waldrop may be most likely to provide value as a bench bat with power, rather than in a future starting lineup.

Age-23 Players
Alex Blandino seems to polarize prospect writers.  Many early on didn't like him because of concerns about how the slap-oriented Stanford hitting approach.  He probably isn't going to stick at shortstop.  Nevertheless, he's performed well so far in his career.  He did see his production drop a bit in the second half while in AA, but a closer look indicates that some of that might have been due to bad BABIP luck.  He did, after all, maintain his strikeout rate and actually improve his walk rate in AA.  I've always liked him.  He's not particularly young, though, and he may not be a top-tier prospect, but there's a universe out there in which he turns into a Neil Walker-type (although Walker had played a full season at AAA by Blandino's age).

Yorman Rodriguez has been on the Reds' prospect list forever and ever.  But now there is a problem: he's out of options, but he's probably not ready for the majors yet.  His been transitioning away from CF over the past year, he still tends to be aggressive and prone to a strikeout, and doesn't have a ton of power to make up for it.  There's a decent chance that the Reds could lose him at the end of spring traning if they try to sneak him through waivers.  The question is whether that's really all that big of a deal.

Finally...sigh...Phillip Ervin.  Ervin keeps flashing occasional excellence, and scouts like his tools.  But he just can't seem to put it together.  He should begin the season in AA.  Of concern, in my view, was a trend toward moving him out of center field last season.  If he can't play center, then the requirements on his bat become that much greater.  Never say never with former top prospects, but I'll just say that this would be a good year for Ervin to turn his career around.  

Finally, Jake Cave was a rule-5 selection this year.  He doesn't project any better than Ervin, although he's probably a better defender.  Still, he doesn't seem like the best use of a roster spot, as much as it might be fun to keep him.

Age-22 Players
Jesse Winker is the Reds' best position prospect.  He already projects to have above-average walk rates, an acceptable strikeout rate, and to hold his own if promoted this season.  Odds are that he'll have to wait until later this summer to arrive in the majors, or even until next year.  But he recovered nicely from an early-season swoon last year, and all indications are that he'll be a solid big-league hitter when he arrives.  If his defense can rate out as at least average in the corner, and if he can add some power, he could be cornerstone piece of the next good Reds team.  If not, he should at least be a useful second-division starter.  And second-division fits the Reds nicely right now...

Jose Peraza is the prize of the Todd Frazier deal.  I wish I could be more impressed.  No power, doesn't walk, and a non-elite glove.  His supporters point to Dee Gordon.  I hope they're right.

Age-21 Players
Gavin LaValley hit #10 on some lasts in last year's offseason.  2015 didn't go as well as the previous years did, and he has yet to show much home run power in his first few seasons.  But his K-BB% rates are pretty good (career ~10% walk rate, ~20% K rate), and he's young.  He should be headed to high-A this year

Age-19 Players
2015 1st-round pick Tyler Stephenson had a nice debut season last year.  While he only hit a single home run, he showed good K-BB% rates and slugged out 15 doubles.  Catching prospects take a while to develop, sometimes, and if Devin Mesoraco is indeed healthy, the Reds can afford to be patient with him.

I will say this: I have a blanket worry about catching prospects anymore.  I used to be so excited about the notion of developing a good-hitting catcher, and the Reds certainly have had some success with that approach (Mesoraco, Grandal, Hanigan, LaRue for a few years, etc).  But catching is a brutal job, and it can wear away hitting talent (see Mauer, Joe).  If someone's bat is ahead of his glove, I'd be sorely tempted to find them another position while they're young, and try to fill in catching holes with guys like Welington Castillo.  It always seems like there are decent catchers available for close to the league minimum.  

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The site is 10 years old!

On March 1st, this little blog of mine turned 10 years old!  I started it on a lark, with zero ambition, and to my surprise it became a modestly influential little site for a time.  It also helped springboard me into several outstanding writing gigs, most notably at Beyond the Box Score (thanks to Sky Kalkman) and Red Reporter (thanks to slyde).  I also had a summer "job" writing at Rotographs (thanks to Eno Sarris and David Appleman), and have done some spot pieces for Hardball Times (thanks to studes) as well.  Heck, I even had a piece in the wall street journal once. :)

This site has always been my home base, and in recent years I've preferred to mostly just hang around here.  The higher-profile places I've written were great fun, and allowed me to make a handful of small contributions to both Reds fandom and sabermetrics over the past decade.  But I've found that I enjoy writing about baseball most when it is done simply as my way of following and learning about the game.  And for that, this site works great.  I have complete editorial control, my stuff doesn't get buried by other (usually better) authors, and I feel zero pressure to put out content.  I don't get much traffic anymore.  But fortunately, thanks to twitter, most of the folks who I'd like to see my work do find it.

If you've been a long-time reader, thanks.  I appreciate your interest and support over the years.

For fun, here's the content of my first post:
Hi folks. 
Thanks for stopping by my little blog. My goals for this site are pretty modest:
  • Provide a place for my Baseball Statistics Quicksheet, a brief compilation of some of the various "new," interesting, and valuable statistics for evaluating batters, pitchers, and fielders. You will find out what the different acronyms mean, how to calculate and interpret them, as well as (most importantly) where to find them on the web. The most frustrating thing I've found about the new statistics is that it can be really difficult to find the actual numbers on players. The quicksheet will be an ongoing project to help with these problems.
  • Provide a permanent place for my occasional article on baseball statistics. This will range from analysis of individual player performance to perhaps even larger evaluations of player performance.
  • Links to new baseball stat articles I see/read. I'm not good about staying current with all the various research, but maybe this site will help me to this end. :)
  • Occasional posts and commentary surrounding big news in the Reds franchise or its players. Please note that I do not intend for this site to be a news blog site; there are many Reds' blogs that already do a fantastic job of that. But I may occasionally want to bitch or cheer here as well.
  • Maybe occasional posts about my exploits in computer baseball games, especially Out of the Park Baseball.
That's it for now. -JinAZ

Happily, I think I've largely achieved those goals with this blog...well, aside from the quicksheet.  I did write it, but it was almost immediately obsolete.  Fortunately, FanGraphs' glossary is better than anything I could have ever hoped to produce along these lines.

Here's to many more years to come!

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

The Aroldis Chapman Trade

Aroldis Chapman
Photo Credit: Keith Allison
Quick note explaining this post: I wrote most of this while traveling over Christmas.  I wrote most of this the night of the trade, but didn't post it because I wanted to proof it first.  And then I got busy.  And sad about the Reds.  And I forgot about it.  As a result, I just realized that I'd never made this post.  So, while it's hardly topical anymore, I'm posting it now, since I'm sure I'll want to refer to this post in the future.  Sorry for the 3+ month delay!!

Just as with the Josh Hamilton trade of yesteryear, the Reds made a major trade while I was traveling, dealing Best Closer in Baseball(?) Aroldis Chapman to the New York Yankees in exchange for a bullpen arm and three prospects.

Before looking at the trade, I did want to comment briefly on its backdrop: the domestic violence allegations against Aroldis Chapman.  I celebrated MLB's new domestic violence rules when they were implemented last year.  They addressed a long-standing issue in baseball (and other professional sports) in which on-field offenses like PED's are punished far more severely than truly horrific off-field actions, such as rape, domestic abuse, etc.  While Chapman's alleged behavior wasn't quite so bad as that of Alfredo Simon, his actions nevertheless sound awful.  I try to maintain a presumption of innocence when someone is accused of a crime, but one can't ignore the plight of the victims of these crimes either.  While it sucks that the Reds waited so long to trade him when it was clear that he should have been dealt last July, and it sucks that something like this caused him to lose so much trade value, I'm nevertheless happy that he won't be wearing the laundry of my favorite team this spring.

The Reds signed a 22-year old Aroldis Chapman as an amateur free agent in 2010 after he defected from Cuba, surprisingly beating out other teams in their biggest international signing to date.  He was originally slotted to be a starting pitcher, and despite a shaky change-up, his incredible velocity and wicked slider made him seem like a potential ace in the making.  Unfortunately, the opportunity to use his talents out of the bullpen proved too alluring.  While the Reds started the 2012 season planning to plug Chapman into the rotation, the Ryan Madson's elbow injury, along with the Reds' fantastic rotation depth at the time, allowed Dusty Baker (with the agreement of others in the organization, I'm sure) to move him into the bullpen, apparently in accordance with Chapman's wishes.  After a couple of rough performances by Sean Marshall, Chapman quickly took over as team closer and stayed in that role for four seasons.  In that time, he posted video game numbers: 1.90 ERA, 16 k/9:3.8 bb/9, 1.74 FIP.  He's been brilliant in that role, though I still think the Reds most likely made a significant error in not committing to him as a starting pitcher.  But, bygones.

Chapman enters his age-28 season as one of the top closers in baseball, a position he has held longer than anyone not named Craig Kimbrel.  Nevertheless, he is still "just" a closer, and has just one year of team control left before he hits free agency.  That, combined with the possibility that he might miss time due to suspension (edit in March: he's suspended 30 games), and the general taint of acquiring someone who probably beat up his girlfriend, meant that his market was not one that would bring a top-tier prospect back.  Instead, the Reds seemingly went for quantity.  Let's look at who they got in return.


Eric Jagielo, 23-year old LHB 3B


While I'm probably more down on Jose Peraza than is justified, there's a legitimate argument that Jagielo may well be the best position-player prospect the Reds have acquired in the past calendar year, save for the draft.  He is a former 1st-round draftee (2013).  He has struggled with injuries (which mostly seem like freak accidents to me, rather than recurrent problems), has excellent power, has hit at every level he's played thus far, and plays third base.  His walk rate slipped last year at AA, but he still hit for nice power and BABIP'd his way to a good OBP.  He does strike out a bit more than one might like, but it hasn't been spiking as he went up in levels, and he has the power to make up for the strikeouts.

The biggest concern with Jagielo seems to be his defense.  If he can stick at third base and be competent over there, he seems like a nice prospect.  If, on the other hand, his doubters are right and he is destined for first base (I've read he doesn't even have the athleticism for the outfield), then his bat is going to have to carry him.  Given that the Reds a) have a first baseman forever, and b) targeted him as a near MLB-ready talent, I have to think they think he can stay at third base for a few years.  Otherwise, it doesn't make a lot of sense...


Rookie Davis, 22-year old RHP


Everyone loves Rookie Davis's name, and I'm no exception.  2015 is often described as a breakout campaign for him.  After a rough performance in 2014 (4.93 ERA, although with better peripherals), his strikeout rate spiked in high-A this year while he simultaneously kept his walks and home runs allowed to an absolute minimum.  That strikeout rate slipped back down once he was promoted to AA, but he still held his own with a solid K-BB rate.  Davis reportedly throws pretty hard, but may struggle at higher levels unless he can develop a change-up.  He'll pitch as a 23-year old in AA next season.  If he can get his secondary pitches in order, he'll be poised to make a run at the Reds' rotation in 2017.  If not, it sounds to me like he is at least likely to be a good bullpen arm.


Caleb Cotham, 27-year old RHP


Caleb took a nice step forward last season after struggling to find himself in prior seasons, posting outstanding K-BB rates for the first time since 2011.  He ascended all the way from AA to the Yankees bullpen by the end of the season, and looked excellent at each stop.  He projects to be a solid middle relief arm next season, and seems likely to me to claim a spot in the Reds' pen this spring.  He's not an Aroldis Chapman, but he looks competent...and frankly, the Reds' bullpen looks to me like it will need all the help it can get.


Tony Renda, 24-year old 2B

Renda was a 2nd-round draft pick in 2012, so he has some pedigree.  Nevertheless, scouts don't seem particularly impressed with him, and he seems universally considered a generic throw-in.  He seems to make good contact, have some speed, and zero power, not so unlike another more ballyhooed acquisition from earlier this offseason.  He had a nice year in 2014, but didn't quite follow that up last year in AA.  If I were the Reds, I'd be looking at him in AAA this year.  If he can be versatile enough to play a little bit on the other side of the diamond, he might be able to fit in as a utility infielder.  I'm not sure if his fielding is quite good enough for that role, however, given his low power potential.


Conclusions

So, it's not an overwhelming collection of talent...but I still like this deal better than the Todd Frazier trade.  With Frazier, you were dealing two years of a 3-4 WAR player, and the headlining prospect was pretty underwhelming (high contact, low-OBP, high speed, no power, just ok fielding).  In this case, the two headlining players coming over might not be top-tier prospects, but there's a path by which each could become important an contributer to the Reds over the next few years.  Given that the Reds were dealing just a single year of Chapman, and that year one potentially rocked by domestic violence allegations and suspensions, I think they did a lot better in this trade.  If you accept that the Reds absolutely had to trade Chapman at that moment (can his value get any lower?), I give the trade a solid B, while I'd give the Frazier deal a D.

It's been a discouraging offseason.  I still think the Reds got a better haul in the Alfredo Simon trade last winter than they did in either of their big deals this offseason, which is unreal.  Still, there's nothing for it but to look ahead to next season.  I'm hoping that, with the payroll the Reds have discarded, they can make some late free agent signings this offseason that can be dealt away in July.  They only have $71.7 million committed to next season, so there should be room to add a few short-term deals to both make the first half more sufferable, and allow for more talent acquisition this summer.  That's what I'd be doing, anyway.  Reds fans don't have a whole lot else to look forward to.

Monday, March 07, 2016

2016 Reds Composite Prospect Ranking

This is my annual summary of some selected prospect rankings (2015 rankings here).  The short of the methods: players earn "points" for being ranked on top prospect lists from around the internets, and earn more points based on their ranking.  The longest list this year was FanGraphs' Top-34, and so a #1 ranking on any list is worth 34 points.  Input the lists, total up each player's points, and you get a composite ranking!  Tiebreaker is the number of lists as player was ranked on.

The lists I used were:
MLB.com's pipeline list is a new addition.  I'm not particularly enamored with it, but MLB seems to be putting more and more into its prospect coverage, so it seems appropriate to include them.  Notably absent is Keith Law, but I only found his top 10, while his top-20 is behind the paywall.  I just decided to skip it.

Now, on to the rankings!
Rank Player Total Pts # Lists Avg Rank Change
1 Robert Stephenson 202 6 1.3 0
2 Jesse Winker 196 6 2.3 0
3 Cody Reed 191 6 3.2 Trade
4 Amir Garrett 186 6 4.0 +6
5 Tyler Stephenson 168 6 7.0 1st Rnd
6 Nick Travieso 165 6 7.5 -1
6 Alex Blandino 165 6 7.5 +2
8 Keury Mella 161 6 8.2 Trade
9 Jose Peraza 149 5 5.2 Trade
10 Tyler Mahle 115 5 12.0 +12
11 Sal Romano 102 5 14.6 +3
12 Phillip Ervin 91 4 12.3 -1
13 Rookie Davis 85 4 13.8 Trade
14 Scott Schebler 82 4 14.5 Trade
14 John Lamb 82 4 14.5 Trade
16 Antonio Santillan 79 5 19.2 2nd Rnd
17 Eric Jagielo 78 4 15.5 Trade
18 Yorman Rodriguez 64 3 13.7 -11
19 Blake Trahan 62 3 14.3 3rd Rnd
20 Taylor Sparks 41 3 21.3 -2
21 Zack Weiss 40 3 21.7 ---
22 Gavin LaValley 36 3 23.0 -7
23 Kyle Waldrop 35 3 23.3 -10
24 Aristides Aquino 33 3 24.0 -13
25 Jon Moscot 32 3 24.3 -5
26 Wyatt Strahan 31 2 19.5 -3
27 Nick Howard 29 2 20.5 -23
28 Ian Kahaloa 26 2 22.0 5th Rnd
29 Jake Cave 23 2 23.5 Rule 5
30 Tanner Rainey 16 2 27.0 2nd Rnd
31 Jose Lopez 16 1 19.0 ---
32 Jonathon Crawford 11 2 29.5 -15
33 Calten Daal 9 2 30.5 -5
34 Jackson Stephens 6 1 29.0 -3
35 Brandon Dixon 3 1 32.0 Trade
Not surprisingly, Robert Stephenson (who makes me nervous) and Jesse Winker (who I want to love) remain at the top of the leaderboard.  Newcomer Cody Reed clocks in at #3, which is a nice showing for a guy who only starting to raise eyebrows when he was arguably the big prize in last summer's Johnny Cueto trade.  

Big Risers include Amir Garrett, who is coming off an outstanding season after finally committing to baseball, and Tyler Mahle, who was quietly brilliant for Dayton last year.  Fallers include perpetual underachiever Yorman Rodriguez, who seems low on the Reds' depth chart despite being out of options; Aristides Aquino, who struggled with injuries and underperformance in his first year at A-ball; and, most notably, the plummeting, flaming, catastrophic career of former 1st-round selection Nick Howard, who has yet to show any indication that he knows where the strike zone is.  

The Reds have added a lot of talent over the past calendar year.  I really like a lot of the guys who came over at the deadline last summer, and that shows up on this list (with Brandon Finnegan missing out because he has lost rookie eligibility).  I'm not particularly excited about a lot of the talent they've added this offseason, but they certainly have added some depth.  If at least a few of those go on to be useful pieces, then the offseason has to be seen as a passable success.

Quickly, here are those players who appeared last season, but are no longer on this year's list:
  • #3 Michael Lorezen (graduated)
  • #6 Raisel Iglesias (graduated)
  • #8 Anthony DeSclafani (graduated)
  • #16 Seth Mejias-Brean (not sure why...ok season, but getting old)
  • #19 Tucker Barnhart (graduated)
  • #20 Junior Arias (minor league free agent, left for Giants - TY to Doug Gray)
  • #24 Daniel Corcino (claimed off waivers)
  • #25 Chad Wallach (still around, rough season)
  • #26 Ismael Guillon (DFA'd, did not play)
  • #27 David Holmberg (graduated)
  • #29 Jose Ortiz (released)
  • #30 Jeremy Kivel (still around, awful control in 2015)
  • #31 Daniel Wright (still around, good peripherals last year)
  • #33 Sebastian Elizalde (still around, did not take a step forward)

Friday, December 25, 2015

The 2015 Reds: Season in Review

The 2015 Reds were the worst Cincinnati baseball team in 33 years.  They went just 64-98 (.395), which was the worst mark since the 1982 Reds, who went 61-101 (.374).  Before that, you have to go back to the ill-fated teams of the early 1930's to find teams who were as miserable as this past year's Reds squad.

We could probably end this recap with that statement.  Before I move on from last year, however, I wanted to do one last look at the team to see if there was anything positive to glean from last year's statistics.  I'm not very optimistic, but here goes.

Generally, the Reds were bad at almost everything last year (table, right).  On the whole, despite some outstanding individual performances, they didn't hit well and they did not pitch well.  Even their fielding, which has been a strength of the Jocketty-Reds, was just league-average last season.  The only positive was their baserunning, which was largely the result of allowing Billy Hamilton 454 PA's in center field.

The Reds did manage to hover around .500 in the first half, to the point that the fanbase was still fairly content as they hosted the All Star Game.  That event turned out to be about the last happy thing that happened to the team, because they immediately struggled as play resumed.  A few weeks later, the front office made their inevitable deals to trade away Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake (but not Aroldis Chapman, Todd Frazier, or Jay Bruce), and the team started to nosedive.  That nosedive continued through August and September, and they finished the year on a 1-14 skid.  Yikes:

The positive thing, I suppose, is that because the Reds finished with the second-worst record in baseball, they get the #2 pick in this year's amateur draft.  Small victories.

Position Players


The best thing about the Reds' season was unquestionably Joey Votto.  While he was very good in the first half, Votto went on a tear in the second half that was arguably better than any streak thus far in his career.  According to both FanGraphs WAR and Baseball-Reference WAR, 2015 was Joey Votto's best season of his career.  His counting stats might not have been on par with 2010 levels, but he walked more than he struck out, posted a ridiculous .459 OBP, and had excellent power to boot.  Given how pessimistic I was about his future in the preseason, it's hard not to be excited to see him strong and healthy once again.  Unfortunately, I missed a lot of it because the Reds were so painful to watch as the season ended.

During the first half of the season, the story of the team was Todd Frazier, who had a mammoth start culminated in him winning the home run derby at Cincinnati's All-Star Game.  Fun stuff.  Unfortunately, he struggled horribly in the second half.  And now, he has been traded in a deal that most analysts view as a botch for the Reds.  So.

Eugenio Suarez was a pleasant surprise.  Acquired in the Alfredo Simon deal last offseason, he stepped in when Zack Cozart went down with a very unfortunate injury and immediately became a contributor on offense.  He hit for surprising power: with 13 home runs with the Reds, and another 8 with the AAA Louisville Bats (21 altogether), he easily surpassed his previous single-season best of 12 in a season.  It was fun to watch, although it's a bit tough to know what to make of him next year.  His fielding numbers seemed ok at the start of his stint with the Reds, but as the season went on the numbers reflected some of the scouting questions about his ability to stick at shortstop.  Furthermore, his batting line looks a bit volatile: he had only a 4% walk rate, and his BABIP is a bit high for someone who seems a bit prone to pull the ball into the air.  Steamer projects him as a 1.9 WAR player next year: a tad below league-average bat, and slightly above-average (with credit for his position) glove.  That seems about right.  With Frazier gone, most seem to now project Suarez as the Reds' new third baseman.  I'm not sure who else could even be in the running.

Billy Hamilton was on his way to a really interesting season that tested our notion of how much someone's baserunning and fielding could make up for their complete ineptitude with the bat.  Unfortunately, an injury ended his season early, so we didn't get to see a full 600 PA's of that kind of performance.  As hard as it is to accept that a 52 wRC+ player might have value, his overall ratings pegged him as a 1.9 WAR player.  That's right about league-average, and I honestly think that's correct.  Assuming he recovers from his injury, the Reds could do worse than putting him out there every day.  Of course, I, like others, wonder if its time to drop switch hitting and just let him focus on swinging from one side of the plate.  Apparently, though, the Reds will have him stick with it.  I'm not sure that's the right decision.

Brandon Phillips recovered to a degree from last year's bad performance, showing a second consecutive season with very limited power (.100 ISO's).  Nevertheless, his strikeout rate dropped quite a bit, and his contact rate improved, indicating that he made an adjustment last year, as Joel Luckhaupt has repeatedly mentioned, to focus on spraying the ball and hitting singles now that his power is gone.  It might be enough to keep him a useful player over the remaining two years of his contract, which apparently will be with the Reds.

What else is there to say?  Jay Bruce had yet another disappointing season, and has now posted sub-replacement numbers over the past two seasons.  Marlon Byrd, Brayan Pena, and Skip Schumaker are gone, so there's no use dwelling on them.  Tucker Barnhart proved a competent backup catcher, which was nice to see.


Starting Pitching


Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake really had to be traded.  Leake, you could argue, might have been worth retaining to secure the draft pick.  His 5 year, $80-million contract with the Cardinals is verification that he would never have accepted arbitration.  But Cueto was worth far more on the open market than the Reds could get with a compensation pick.  I'll miss both of them a lot, and I'm not looking forward to seeing Leake or Cueto pitching against the Reds next year.

Anthony DeSclafani had a really nice debut season with the Reds.  His walk rate steadily improved as the season went on, he maintained good velocity, his strikeout totals were fairly steady, etc.  Honestly, I don't think the Reds could have possibly hoped for more.  If he can repeat next year, I'll be thrilled.

The other nice performance was Raisel Iglesias, who immediately proved that he can get major league hitters out despite his only average velocity.  Assuming his body can hold up to the workload of a startup, he looks like a very solid mid-rotation starter for the Reds next year.

Michael Lorenzen was the early season darling.  Early on, he luck-dragoned his way into a good ERA despite miserable peripherals, and that inevitably caught up to him.  He had the best velocity of any Reds starter, but had both control and command issues stemming from a self-confessed tendency to nibble. That might be correctable, or it might be a function of his stuff not being good enough to get out major league hitters.

The guy I'm most intrigued by is John Lamb.  The rap on Lamb is that his velocity never returned following Tommy John surgery, and as a result his stuff was substantially diminished from his days as a top prospect.  Last year, however, he was sitting comfortably around 92-93 mph during his first 7 starts or so, although he faded a bit during his last performances.  While his ERA was atrocious due to a very high home run rate (a function, at least in part, to severe flyball tendencies), his xFIP and SIERA were excellent thanks to very good strikeout and walk rates.  If he can keep his velocity up next season, he might be a surprisingly good pitcher for the Reds.

Also intriguing was Brandon Finnegan.  He only made four starts with the Reds, but managed a 20:5 K:BB ratio across 21 innings.  The walk rate was a bit high, but his groundball rate was good, as were the strikeouts.  Given his pedigree, he'll be one to watch next season.  I hope they give him a legitimate chance as a starter, though it seems like there's a sentiment that he belongs in the pen.  I hate to give up on a talented pitcher so easily.

I'd forgotten that Jason Marquis started the season in the rotation, and even had a stretch where he was striking guys out over his first few starts.  Keyvius Sampson managed to avoid walking everybody for a couple of starts until things went south.  Jon Moscot hurt himself on a freak play, but might turn into a #5...

You know, if you close your eyes real hard, and take a breath, you can imagine a decent rotation next year.  DeSclafani and Iglesias are capable.  Homer Bailey returns in May.  John Lamb and Brandon Finnegan might step up.  It could happen...


Bullpen


Aroldis Chapman continued to be ridiculous, and is now equipped with a change-up.  It's hard to get too excited about him now, though: he either is looking at a significant suspension due to domestic violence, or he is bound to be dealt.

Burke Badenhop was surprisingly bad.  He did manage to post a league-average ERA by season's end, but I was so excited about him entering the season.  Ultimately, his ground ball rate took a big hit from prior seasons, while his already-low strikeout rate fell even more.  He started terribly, recovered to a degree, but was just never the same pitcher the Reds thought they were getting.

My guy Jumbo Diaz had a nice second half after what looked like a string of bad luck sent him back to Louisville.  Diaz posted outstanding strikeout:walk numbers and great velocity all season long, but a string of home runs plagued him early on.  I don't know if that really was bad luck, lapses in concentration, or what.  But it was good to see him finish the season strong.  He could find himself in a closer role next year, assuming Chapman is out of the picture.

The guy who likely will get the first crack at the closer job, however, is J.J. Hoover.  By ERA, Hoover had a very nice bounce-back season, posting a 2.94 ERA after a miserable 4.88 ERA in 2014.  He also showed a nice spike in his ground ball rate last year, up to 40% after hovering around 30% during his first three seasons.  Unfortunately, at the same time, his strikeout rate fell precipitously, while he still walks far too many.  I don't see continued success in the cards, which is a bummer because he's reportedly a nice guy.

The other big disappointment was Tony Cingrani, who was just wild as all heck.  Cingrani will always be an enigma to me.  I'm hoping that, with a full offseason of rest, his shoulder will completely recover, and we can see him as an effective left-handed option out of the pen enxt year.

Hey, remember when Kevin Gregg was the team's setup guy in April?  lol's.


Conclusions

So, there you have it.  The Reds were bad last year, and they can only really get better next year.  Hopefully.  They won't have Todd Frazier, but they will have Devin Mesoraco.  They won't have a half-year of Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, but they might be less likely to waste hundreds of innings on sub-replacement starters too.  They probably won't get a 7.4-WAR season from Joey Votto, but they can hope for something not too far off.  That said, I don't see the Reds being good next year.  A .500 season would be a huge recovery from what happened in 2015.  That would seem to be the ceiling on next year's squad, but it's baseball.  You never know!