Joined: 22 Mar 2017
|Posted: Fri Jul 14, 2017 8:27 am Post subject: First-half surprises and second-half questions for Reds
|The first half of the baseball season is in the books, as is the All-Star Game. The Cincinnati Reds are 39-49 entering the season half, although it http://www.firestormkennel.com/kevin-johnson-jersey-c-1_27.html wasn't the disaster of a half the Reds had a year ago.
Here's a look back at the three biggest first-half surprises, and a look forward at questions yet to be answered in the second half.
The lineup is deeper than most would have predicted. The biggest lineup surprise is easily the play of All-Star shortstop Zack Cozart, who is hitting .312/.394/.547 and has boosted his walk rate significantly. But he's not the only surprising performer.
Left fielder Adam Duvall, an All-Star a year ago, is posting even better numbers than he did back then. Right fielder Scott Schebler has been nearly Duvall's equal, with a .327 on-base percentage and .529 slugging percentage. Tucker Barnhart looks like a better hitter than in 2016, and Eugenio Suarez has continued to get on base despite a month-long slump, something he couldn't do a year ago.
On top of all that, Joey Votto has unlocked yet another level of amazing offensive performance at age 33, and is a legitimate MVP candidate. Scooter Gennett has lit the world aflame as a super-sub. Jose Peraza and Billy Hamilton are the only weak spots, and Hamilton has come around as of late.
The Reds have more good relievers than they can carry. Entering spring training, five bullpen spots were spoken for, a situation that was unchanged by the surprise designation for assignment of right-hander Jumbo Diaz. It's clear now the Reds didn't need to keep him around.
Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen have performed http://www.newjersey1861.com/will-tye-jersey-c-1_43.html to or above expectations at the back of the bullpen, and Tony Cingrani has pitched well since returning from injury. Drew Storen looks to be a smart, low-cost signing, and rookie Wandy Peralta pitched himself into a leverage role within the first month of the season. Blake Wood is the only regular who would really qualify as a disappointment so far.
Beyond those six, the Reds have enjoyed flashes of excitement from Austin Brice and Ariel Hernandez. Kevin Shackelford got roughed up in his only big-league appearance, but has dominated Triple-A and will receive more opportunities. Jimmy Herget has cruised through the minors and could help the big-league team at some point, though he's not on the 40-man roster.
Just about every rotation option has already been tried. When Jackson Stephens made his big-league debut in the final home stand of the first half, he became the 22nd of 23 pitchers on the 40-man roster to appear in the majors. Only Keury Mella, currently in Double-A, has yet to appear. There is no way the Reds thought they'd cycle through this many young pitchers so quickly.
Injuries have forced their hands to an extent. Losing Brandon Finnegan after just 14 innings left a huge gap to fill, as did losing Anthony DeSclafani from spring until at least August. Scott Feldman has been a stalwart, but plenty of young pitchers behind him have struggled and earned demotions back to the minors.
There's been some hope recently, with Luis Castillo, Sal Romano and Stephens pitching well in recent opportunities. But if the season of Amir Garrett is any indication, a handful of good starts is not exactly an indicator of future Gregory Polanco Authentic Jersey success when rookie pitchers are involved.
Who is still here on August 1? Any veteran set to hit free agency next year is an obvious trade chip, with Cozart leading that pack. The Reds have talked openly about trying to explore a hometown-discount extension with Cozart, but if that happens it would need to occur before the July 31 deadline. Otherwise, they risk losing him for no compensation at all.
Storen and Feldman are also obvious chips, with Storen the most likely to be moved. With the rotation's struggles, it's debatable whether the Reds could really survive without Feldman soaking up quality innings. Plus, with the rotation probably lacking in predictability next season, would the Reds think about extending Feldman for one more year? Would Feldman?
The most aggressive the Reds might get would be to trade Cingrani, who has two more years of team control remaining. But, he'll get progressively more expensive each year in arbitration and the Reds are deep in the bullpen, so they could probably spare him. More blockbuster-type moves like trading Iglesias or Hamilton seem unlikely at this point.
Will any rookie starters figure things out? Yes, the performances of Castillo, Romano and Stephens have been encouraging. But they lack track record. Castillo has four starts under his belt, and only one that would qualify as great. Romano has two, including one clunker, and Stephens has only his strong debut. They'll need to add many, many more to solidify spots in next year's rotation.
If they don't, the Reds will give Triple-A guys a second shot. Is Robert Stephenson finally ready to reach his potential? Can Cody Reed get out of his own head and let his filthy stuff go to work for him? Is Amir Garrett's confidence in his abilities warranted? Can Rookie Davis get on track after an injury? Will Tyler Mahle be added to the 40-man roster and get his shot?
The Reds need some positive answers on at least a few of those guys, or else much of this season will have felt like a waste.
How will the Reds finish the season? Entering the second half, the Reds are on pace for the No. 6 pick in the 2018 draft. That wouldn't return as high-caliber a player as the No. 2 pick has the last two drafts, but it would still result in a highly-ranked prospect. The Reds are 9.5 games ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies, who are on Johnny Bench Authentic Jersey pace to pick first overall.
But Cincinnati is also 9.5 games out of first in the National League Central, despite currently sitting in last. Reds manager Bryan Price -- on whose 2018 contract option the Reds must decide later this summer -- has said his team is only a solid rotation away from competing. That's true, although actually finding those solid starting pitchers in time to make a run is unlikely.
The Chicago Cubs, currently in second place, just added starting pitcher Jose Quintana from the Chicago White Sox. The first-place Milwaukee Brewers could add at the deadline as well, and the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals could all reasonably convince themselves that a key addition or two could vault them atop the division race. It is much, much harder to make that argument for the Reds. But if the young pitching suddenly does gel? Who knows.