Archive for the ‘Cincinnati Reds’ category

Busy Trade Deadline Day for San Francisco Giants

August 1, 2019

After being up in the air about how they were going to go into the trade deadline, the Giants made a flury of moves that kind of split the difference.  The Giants sent away relievers Sam Dyson, Mark Melancon, Drew Pomeranz and Ray Black, held onto Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith, and added 2Bmen Scooter Gennett and Mauricio Dubon and a bunch of B and C-grade prospects.

Dyson was the only really important piece for the Giants in 2019, and the Giants got three prospects for his last 1.33 seasons of control.  The three prospects are Prelander Berroa, a 19 year old right-hander who has never pitched above the rookie league level; Jaylin Davis, a just turned 25 year old outfielder who is a former 24th round draft pick but is having a big year this year in the high minors; and Kei-Wei Teng, a big (6’4″, 260 lbs) Taiwanese right-hander pitching well at full season A ball this year at age 20.

After a promotion from AA, Jaylin Davis was slashing .331/.405/.708 after 41 games for AAA Rochester, and he runs well. However, his career minor league .812 OPS is probably a better reflection of his true talents.  MLB.com doesn’t rank any of the three prospects the Giants received as being in the Twins’ top 30.

The Giants got a big return from the Brewers for Drew Pomeranz and Ray Black.  Just turned 25 2Bman Mauricio Dubon was slashing .297/.333/.475 after 427 plate appearances at AAA San Antonio.  Dubon was born in Honduras and went to high school in Sacramento.  He is just the second Honduran born player in major league history — the first was Gerald Young.

The trades involving Mark Melancon and Scooter Gennett were mostly about moving salary for the selling teams.  The Braves will reportedly pay all of Melancon’s remaining contract, which is close to $19M through the end of the 2020 season.  The prospects the Giants got in return reflect it.  Righties Tristan Beck and Dan Winkler don’t impress much.

Beck is a former 4th round draft pick out of Stanford, but missed all of the 2017 season to a stress fracture in his back.  Now age 23, he has an ugly 5.65 ERA in the normally pitcher-friendly Class A+ Florida State League after eight starts this season.  After a fine major league campaign last year at age 28, Dan Winkler pitched his way out of the Braves’ bullpen this year and has had trouble throwing strikes for AAA Gwinnett.

The Giants gave the Reds “cash considerations” for Scooter Gennett, which I assume means that the Giants will be paying all of the remaining $3.25 million owed to Gennett, plus maybe another $25,000 or $50,000.  Gennett has been awful this year since coming back from an injury.  It doesn’t seem likely he’ll hit better in pitcher-friendly San Francisco than he did in hitter-friendly Cincinnati, but you never know.  One thing is for certain — the additions of Dubon and Gennett mean that Joe Panik‘s playing time will be limited going forward unless he gets hot immediately.  It also seems almost certain the Giants will non-tender Panik this off-season.

In another very minor move, the Giants swapped lefty Jacob Lopez for LF/1B Joe McCarthy.  I’m doubtful either player ever reaches the majors, but again, you never know.

The Giants promoted Derek Rodriguez, Andrew Suarez and Jandel Gustave today to replace the traded away bullpen pieces.  None of the three deserved the promotion more than Sam Selman.  However, the odds that all three of Rodriguez, Suarez and Gustave can hold their major league roster spots seem slim, so Selman may get his shot soon enough.

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Luis Robert, Robel Garcia and Other 2019 Hot Starts

May 4, 2019

I thought it would be fun to write a couple of pieces on minor leaguers off to particularly hot starts in 2019.  Here goes:

21 year old $26 million Cuban bonus baby Luis Robert got off to the hottest start anywhere in organized baseball.  In 19 games in the Class A+ Carolina League his 1.432 OPS was a whopping 437 basis points better than the league’s next best hitter.  Not surprisingly, he has already been promoted to the AA Southern League, where he is off to an 0-for-6 start after two games.

Robel Garcia‘s 1.050 OPS leads the AA Southern League by 100 basis points.  He’s already 26 years old and has only played 17 games this season, so it’s probably a fluke.

However, Garcia’s back-story is extremely interesting.  Before this season, baseball reference lists no professional statistics for him since 2013.  He washed out of the Indians’ organization all those years ago, but he apparently kept his baseball career going by playing on Italy’s National team, even though he’s a Dominican.

Garcia makes me wonder how many other players who can play never get the chance because they take too long to develop or don’t get the right breaks.  Some NPB teams have academies in the Dominican Republic that occasionally turn Dominican MLB system wash-outs into servicable NPB major league players.  Xavier Batista is a current example.

Yordan Alvarez is ready for the majors.  The soon-to-be 22 year old Cuban’s 1.421 OPS leads the admittedly hit-happy Pacific Coast League.  Alvarez is an LF/1B and the 35 year old also Cuban Yuli Gurriel isn’t hitting in Houston, so Alvarez may get his first major league shot right quick.

Brian O’Grady‘s 1.189 OPS leads the AAA International League by 58 basis points.  Alas, he turns 27 in two weeks and has yet to play in the majors.  Hopefully, he can get some major league action this season in order to put himself in a position for an Asian payday next year.

21 year old catcher Sam Huff is ready for a promotion.  His 1.189 OPS leads the Class A Sally League by 127 basis points, and he’s thrown out 10 baseball stealers in 16 attempts.

25 year old 1Bman Chris Gittens has a 1.264 OPS, which leads the AA Eastern League by 110 basis points.  He’s also ready for a promotion.

Trey Cabbage leads the Class A Midwest League with a 1.029 OPS.  I wonder if his teammates call him “Cole Slaw” or “Trey Cole”.

What is former NL home run champ Chris Carter doing in the Mexican League?  He’s leading this hot weather hitters’ league with a 1.397 OPS.

Best Hitting Pitchers in MLB Baseball 2019

April 3, 2019

Shohei Ohtani has ended any debate about the best hitting pitcher in major league baseball.  He’s created a whole new paradigm for two-way players that hasn’t existed since the 1920’s and the only question is whether he is the start of a new trend or a one-off.  He won’t be pitching in 2019 after Tommy John surgery but is expected to return as a designated hitter in May.

Highly touted prospect Brendan McKay is still on pace to be to a great hitting major league pitcher, but his prospects as a two-way player aren’t as good as they were a year ago.  The main problem for McKay is that his talents as a pitcher are developing much faster in pro ball than his talents as a hitter.

1.  Shohei Ohtani.  Ohtani finished the 2018 season with .925 OPS in 367 plate appearances as a hitter and went 4-2 in 10 starts before hurting his elbow.  The entire baseball world is waiting for his right arm to be healthy enough to pitch again. ’nuff said.

2.  Michael Lorenzen (.247 career batting average and .767 career OPS).  Lorenzen is still short of the 100 career at-bat cut-off I’ve used in previous iterations of this post, but he had a tremendous season with the bat in 2018 and was used in a role that was specifically tailored to his ability to hit.  He managed 34 plate appearances last season, in which he batted .290 with a 1.043 OPS thanks to four home runs, despite making only three starts all season.  He was used at least nine times as a pinch hitter, and was frequently left in games to hit for himself when he pitched in relief.

I expect Lorenzen’s career averages to drop as he gets more major league plate appearances, but it’s clear at this point that he’s one of MLB’s very best hitting pitchers.

3.  Zack Greinke (.219 BA, .569 OPS).   One thing I’ve noticed about good hitting pitchers, writing about them as I have for some years now, is that there doesn’t seem to be a particularly strong correlation between a pitcher’s ability to hit and his having spent his minor league time or the vast majority of his MLB career with a National League team, even though this would presumably mean that the pitcher got a lot more opportunities to hit.  After spending his minor league career and his first seven major league seasons with the Royals, Greinke established himself as a fine hitter by his second National League season, and he has been remarkably consistent as a sweet-swinging pitcher since then.

If I had to guess, I would say that the ability to hit the fastball (and lay off breaking pitches) is probably the most important factor in a pitcher’s ability to hit.  Pitchers hate to walk the opposing pitcher, so any time the pitcher-as-hitter is ahead in the count, fastballs for strikes are likely to follow.

The fact that the Diamondbacks are apparently not willing to give Greinke even half a dozen opportunities to pinch hit each season is a missed opportunity.

4.  Madison Bumgarner (.184, .542).  I dropped MadBum a couple of spots this year, because he hit poorly in 2018 and his career batting line isn’t particularly impressive, although park factors are probably in play in comparing MadBum to Greinke.  We’ll see if Bumgarner bounces back to being the best hitting full-time pitcher in 2019.

5.  Yovani Gallardo (.201, .563).  Gallardo’s career as a major league pitcher is probably over, as he remains unsigned as of this writing, but he sure could hit.

6. Adam Wainwright (.202 BA, .537 OPS).  Another player whose major league pitching career is winding down, but with well over 500 career at-bats, Wainwright has well proven his abilities as a hitting pitcher.

7.  German Marquez (.230, .504).  Marquez benefits from a small sample size and playing his home games in Coors Field, but any pitcher who hits better than .220 with an OPS over .500 is great hitting pitcher in today’s game.

8.  Noah Syndergaard (.176 BA, .526 OPS).  “Hulk say Thor smash ball with hammer bat!” At least once in a while.

9.  Daniel Hudson (.222, .557).  Since coming back from an arm injury as a major league relief pitcher, Hudson hasn’t had many opportunities to hit in recent years, but his career numbers get him on the list.

10.   Mike Leake (.198, .507).  Mike Leake hasn’t had a plate appearance yet this year, as he is now an American League pitcher.  He hit a ton his first three seasons with the Reds, but hasn’t done much with the bat since.

11.  Tyler Chatwood (.210, .475) and Tyson Ross (.200, .481).  As I point out every year, the best hitting major league pitchers get pretty bad pretty fast.

Honorable Mentions.  fangraphs.com says that aces Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer were with Zack Greinke the best hitting pitchers in 2018.

Young Hitting Pitchers to WatchBrent Suter (.174, .530).  Unfortunately, Suter is already 29 years old and likely to miss all of 2019 after having Tommy John surgery.

San Francisco Giants Add Connor Joe (Ugh!)

March 23, 2019

I keep waiting for the Giants to do something to improve their outfield situation.  And the Giants keep bringing in guys like Connor Joe.

I have nothing against Connor Joe, but he’s an old 26 (he turns 27 in August), he’s played exactly 49 games of merely above average offensive performance in the Pacific Coast League.  He can play RF, but his 3B defense is terrible (sub .900 fielding percentage).

The Gints traded Josh Johnson and “cash considerations” (I don’t know if that means $25,000 or $100,000 or anywhere else between $10,000 and $1M, although my guestimate is the first set of numbers) for Joe.

The Giants gave up on Rule-5 pick Drew Ferguson, who returns to the Astros, and replaced him with the Reds’ Rule-5 selection of Joe.  New Giants GM Farhan Zaidi is familiar with Joe from the Dodgers’ system, and Joe’s .806 Spring Training OPS was a lot better than Ferguson’s dreadful .405.

What I don’t like about the Giants bringing on Joe is that mlbtraderumors.com speculates that he will take Pablo Sandoval’s roster spot.  Yangervis Solarte has almost certainly made the team, which leaves Sandoval as a likely odd-man out.  Joe can’t defend 3B, but Solarte can, and Joe can play RF, which Pablo can’t.  The logic seems inescapable, but I will be sad to see Pablo go, if he does.

If bringing in Connor Joe is the Giants’ last outfield move before the regular season starts, I’ll expect the Giants to be sellers at the trade deadline.

New York Yankees Trade Sonny Gray to Cincinnati Reds

January 22, 2019

The Yankees traded Sonny Gray to the Reds today as part of a three-way deal that otherwise involved prospects and competitive balance picks.  The Reds got Gray to agree to a three-year extension (2020-2022) for $30.5 million in addition to the $7.5 million he’s owed for 2019.

The move is in keeping with the Reds’ win-now trade for Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Alex Wood earlier this off-season.  While I was not initially enthusiastic about the Reds’ desire to extend Gray given his injury history, the extension guarantee amount certainly takes into account the likelihood that Gray will be injured at some time during the next four years.

The Reds also received 22 year old Colombian lefty Reiver Sanmartin.  He’s slightly built and looks like he’s had a hard time staying healthy.  What’s most noticable about him is that he appears to have exceptional control for a young pitcher.  In 205 career minor league innings pitched, he’s walked only 28 while striking out 177.  He’s also allowed only seven home runs.

The Yankees got 2B prospect Shed Long and what looks to be the 36th overall pick in the 2019 Draft.  Aside from having a great name, Shed Long is an interesting prospect.  He started his pro career as a catcher but has since moved to 2B, which you don’t see very often.  He had a pretty good year at AA at age 22, slashing .261/.353/.412.  He looks to have some power potential, he’ll take a walk and he runs well.  Looks like he turns the double play well too.

However, the Yankees immediately flipped Long to the Mariners for center fielder Josh Stowers, who had a reasonably good first professional season in a short-season A league in 2018.  He was the 54th overall pick out of Louisville in last year’s Draft, so it’s clear the Yankees will be adding some prime young talent through this trade.  My guess would be that Stowers starts the 2019 at Class A+ Tampa.

The Big Dodgers-Reds Trade

December 23, 2018

In a move apparently designed to open up payroll space for the Los Angeles Dodgers to make a run at Bryce Harper, the Bums sent Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood and $7 million to the Cincinnati Reds for Homer Bailey and two prospects, Josiah Gray and Jeter Downs.  Although Homer Bailey is still owed $28 million, including a $5M buyout for 2020, and will reportedly be released in due course, the Dodgers benefit in terms of the salary cap by moving the $18M+ they owe to Matt Kemp, plus the expected substantial arbitration deals Puig and Wood will be earning.

Coming off a 67-95 season, getting one year each of Kemp, Puig and Wood for prospects seems like a strange decision of the Redlegs to make.  I guess they felt they just couldn’t pass up this much talent at such a relatively low price.  I could see the trio making the Reds enough better to finish above .500 in 2019, but they don’t seem like nearly enough to make the team a 90-game winner and a playoff contender.  Not having even been a .500 team since 2013, maybe management feels that a winning team of any kind would be enough for the local fan base.

Gray was the 72nd player selected in last year’s draft, and he’s a long way from the majors — plenty of time for him to blow out his arm.  Downs, though was the 32nd overall pick in the 2017 draft, and he played really well in the full season Class A Midwest League in 2018, slashing .257/.351/.402 and stealing 37 bases on 47 attempts, for a 19 year old.  The Reds could certainly miss giving up six years of Downs major league career a few years from now.

I can’t imagine that any of Kemp, Puig or Wood is particularly happy about being exiled to the Queen City.  At least for Kemp and Puig, Cinci has always been a good place for sluggers.  Puig will benefit mightily by a big year going into his free agent season, while Kemp has already received his big free agent contract and would likely prefer playing for a contender in a city of his choice.  Of course, a big season in Cinci and he’ll have the ability next season to choose a situation more to his liking as he winds down his career.

Comments on the Rule 5 Draft

December 13, 2018

Early today, mlbtraderumors.com published a list of this year’s Rule 5 Draft Picks.  Here are my comments.

Not surprisingly, the young, high up-side, almost certainly not major league ready guys were selected first.  No. 1 selection Richie Martin is at least coming off a strong season (.807 OPS) at AA Midland and several of the other top five have played well in partial seasons at the AA level.

The most egregious pick in this regard is the Blue Jays’ selection of 18 year old Elvis Luciano, who has yet to pitch above the Rookie League level.  It remains to be seen if the Jays are willing to keep him on the major league roster for a wasted season, or if the team is instead angling to make a trade with the Royals for his rights.

6th selection Connor Joe is the first pick who really looks like the kind of player the Rule 5 draft was originally designed to benefit — a major league ready player who is stuck behind other players in his organization.  Joe slashed .299/.408/.527 in a 2018 season roughly split between AA Tulsa and AAA Oklahoma City.  Alas, he will be 26 in 2019, which means he isn’t much of a prospect any more, although he may be able to help the Reds over the next three or four seasons.

The SF Giants selected 25 year old lefty reliever Travis Bergen from the Blue Jays.  Bergen was electric (0.50 ERA) in 27 relief appearances at AA New Hampshire in 2018, but hadn’t pitched above the short-season A level before 2018 due to injuries.

The Giants also held onto the rights of Tyler Rogers for one more year before he becomes a minor league free agent.  I’ve written several times, most recently here, that Rogers really should be an ideal Rule 5 candidate, but no one in MLB agrees with me.