Early August Cincinnati Reds mailbag Doug Gray August 7, 2018 13 Comments Last week I reached out to Patreon supporters of the site for some questions for this weeks mailbag. The support over on Patreon is the lifeblood of keeping the site going on, so if you’ve been thinking about ways to support the site, you can click here to check out what comes with that support. Let’s jump into the mailbag questions. I would like to get your thoughts on what progress the Reds have made in sorting out their young pitchers this year, and how Lucas Sims figures into that equation. I wish that I had a better answer than the one that I’m about to give, but I really don’t know just how much progress has been made in terms of the 2019 rotation. Matt Harvey is still around, which does absolutely nothing in terms of looking at 2019 and the rotation. It’s very confusing. Tyler Mahle is back in Triple-A, though I think the Reds handled him well this year. But, things just didn’t quite work out for the entire season. They’ve stuck with Sal Romano and Luis Castillo all season despite a bit of a roller coaster ride when it comes to performance. I think that was a good plan. But, I think that outside of Luis Castillo, the Reds simply aren’t sure what they are going to do in 2019. Maybe I’m wrong with that, but they went out and acquired Lucas Sims and called him a future starting pitcher. Nothing wrong with that – always add talent and figure out how to use it later. But right after the trade Dick Williams also said this: It may give us more options with guys like Cody Reed, Robert Stephenson, other starters in Triple-A that are trying to make it to the big leagues,” Williams said. “Maybe we have more flexibility to move guys into the ‘pen next year. Our focus is going to be putting the best 25-man roster together that we can. If the plan is to maybe move some guys to the bullpen next year, then why aren’t they pitching in the bullpen right now? There are certainly a lot of options for the rotation next year. Homer Bailey, if healthy, seems like he’s going to be sticking around in it. Behind him you’ve got Anthony DeSclafani, Luis Castillo, Sal Romano, Tyler Mahle, Robert Stephenson, Lucas Sims, Cody Reed, Keury Mella. And probably not too far behind, and I mean this on a timeline scale not in terms of ability, is Tony Santillan, who has been destroying the minors this season and is now beating up on Double-A. Vladimir Gutierrez could also be in the mix by the second half of 2019, too. That’s a whole lot of guys. And I don’t think that we are all that much closer to knowing who is going to be where when 2019 starts than we were when 2018 began. Some of that is on the players. Luis Castillo has taken a pretty big step backwards by comparison to where he was in 2017. Sal Romano has had an inconsistent season where he struggled in the first half but has been performing quite well in the second half. Tyler Mahle performed in the first half but seemingly fell apart in the last few weeks and that resulted in him finding himself back in Triple-A. The bigger question I have is about Robert Stephenson. What’s he got to do? He’s been in Triple-A all season long. His ERA is under 3.00. He’s got huge strikeout numbers. His walk rate hasn’t been great, though it seems that he has a hiccup with the walks once a month and it’s skewing things a tad. You can’t completely write it off like that, but by-and-large, he’s not out there walking 4-5 guys per start. And he’s out of options after this season. But here we are on August 6th and he’s still getting starts for Triple-A when the big league club has a rotation with an ERA of 5.21 on the season. If the plan is that he’s not a starting pitcher, I will say I disagree with that premise, but sure. However, if that’s the plan, then he needs to be pitching in the bullpen in Triple-A right now. And he’s not. As I said, some of this isn’t on the people making the calls. The players have to play. But Matt Harvey is still starting for the Reds, and that’s not doing anything at all for helping them figure out the young pitching for 2019 and beyond. Homer Bailey – you can say the same thing – though I fully believe that the baseball people wanted to put him in the bullpen and the ownership stepped in on that one. Robert Stephenson – that one is on the baseball people, too. But as I sit here typing this, 2019 feels an awful lot like 2018. And 2017. And 2016. A whole bunch of unknown about the rotation the next season with almost no answer that you feel really comfortable about knowing what you’re going to get. When you talk about Jose Siri’s plate discipline improving, what does that entail? Is he just better at choosing balls he can drive? Or is he better able to identify breaking balls earlier? I guess, how exactly has his plate discipline improved, and where can we see further improvement in it? With Jose Siri in particular, it’s more of the latter than the former at this point. If you look at what he did in Billings in 2016, then in Dayton in 2017 – the power showed up big time. He’s generally know what he can drive. The plate discipline, and ability to identify pitches quicker and stay off of them started showing up in 2017. I noted it in the spring that year – he was doing things you didn’t see him do previously. And that carried forward into the season with the Dragons that year. After a slow start this season in Daytona after missing two months with the thumb injury that he suffered in spring training, things began to get going with a promotion to Pensacola. I didn’t see him play in Daytona except a few games on video. I have seen him play a lot in Pensacola. They have the MiLBtv package. And I was also able to take in a few games in person. He’s clearly taken another step forward when it comes to his approach with the strikezone. I think there’s always going to be some swing-and-miss to his game. But the walks are showing up now, too. And if you’ve watched him over the years, you can see enormous differences. He’s taking close pitches now. He’s chasing fewer sliders out of the zone than ever. The slider is the pitch that he’ll need to continue to work on the most. If you’re going to see further improvement, that’s where it will come from. And really, it’s where a lot of it has already come from. Is Mason Williams a legitimate option as a starting CF defensively and offensively? Who plays SS if Peraza twists an ankle in the first inning? I think Mason Williams is more of a backup outfielder than a starter. The bar is a bit lower for offensive players in center than in the corners, and if Billy Hamilton is the bar for offense, then sure. But Billy Hamilton isn’t and shouldn’t be the bar. Ideally, you want your center fielder to OPS at least .750. The higher the better, of course. And if you’re an elite defender you can take a little off of that. Mason Williams isn’t an elite defender in center. And I’m not sure he’s a .750 OPS bat, either. If Jose Peraza gets hurt in the 1st inning, I think we probably see Eugenio Suarez slide over for the rest of the game. The next day we probably see Blake Trahan called up from Triple-A. There’s no actual backup shortstop on the big league, or even 40-man roster at this point in time. Will Jimmy Herget get called up before September? I doubt it. I think that if he was in the plans for a call up that it would have happened by now. Maybe he gets a September call up – he’ll need to be added to the 40-man roster. But, he’s got to be added to the 40-man roster after the season anyways, so if you have a spot open (move someone to the 60-day DL for example), then maybe you see it happen. Managerial candidates besides Riggleman? Care to speculate? Any outside the box ideas? I think that Barry Larkin is probably a big internal candidate. But no, I don’t care to speculate on who else would be there. I also don’t have any preferences. As I have stated many, many times, the questions I’d need to ask a potential manager are ones that I simply don’t have access to ask. Past decision making doesn’t always reflect future decision making because it’s entirely possible that they were being given good, or bad information from their front office, and that information dictated their decisions that either reflect good or poorly on them, when it’s possible that the decision wasn’t exactly theirs. 13 Responses LuqueRixey August 7, 2018 Saw Sims pitch in Columbus on Saturday night. Was able to get three pitches into the strike zone (fastball, slider and changeup) and ranged anywhere from upper 70s to low to mid 90s. Slider was particularly good to righties, which led to high strikeout numbers. Command not great but still pretty good. You can definitely see a high ceiling for Sims. As a side note, in warmups, Sims threw the longest long tosses I have ever seen. Tromp was having a hard time getting the ball back to him. He was throwing from almost the wall in right field close to the warning track up the left field line. It was truly impressive. wes August 7, 2018 Does sims have options after this year? Doug Gray August 7, 2018 Yes. One more. MK August 7, 2018 You should see Hunter Greene long toss. He is the the right of dead center at the warning track and throw, with seeming ease to the mound in left field bullpen. Surprisingly Mark Kolozsvary threw it back, with a little more effort. James Phillips August 7, 2018 I figure that at least 3 rotation spots are locked for 2019 (Bailey, Castillo, Disco). In addition, at least 5 bullpen spots are locked (Iglesias, Lorenzen, Hughes, Hernandez, Garrett). That leaves Stephenson, Reed, Mahle, Romano, Sims, Reyes, Herget, Peralta, Mella, Whisler, Stephens, Rainey, Lopez, Finnegan, and Brice likely on the 40 man battling for four spots on the 25 man. Even with the idea of moving some starters to the bullpen, the Reds don’t have places for all of their MLB ready pitchers, and, as you mentioned, the next group isn’t far behind. wes August 7, 2018 Nice write up on pitching Doug! Maybe Reds should just start all over next season, pretend like it’s 2016 again and roll into next season with Bobsteve and Reed as their 1/2 punch! Jokes aside, here is my 2019 rotation pecking order in order- Reds: Luis Castillo Robert Stevenson Anthony Desclefoni Tyler Mahle Keury Mella/Sal Romano- who ever isn’t 5th moves to long relief and this is Tony’s spot when hes ready and service time is saved. Louisville: Tony Santillan Lucas Sims Cody Reed Jesus Reyes Vladimir Gutierrez Rookie Davis and Lopez need to move to pen ASAP. Along with Wisler and Stephens or just move on from those guys and guys like that if need be. Homer Bailey is a black eye on the organization. I would be involved to if I owned the team, but to be that involved is WAY over the top. He’s arguably the worst player in MLB and there’s AAA teams he’s not good enough to start for- Louisville being one. Time to cut the cord and move on. How can you even take the Reds seriously if he’s in the rotation in 2019?!? Reds are rich in assets- the start as well as they have played last couple months and it may be time to add. They need a front end starter to pitch game 1 in playoffs- Giants and mets are good partners if they could rent Bumgarner for a package like LA paid for Machado OR give a huge package for Thor or Degrom. The Rage August 7, 2018 Mahle has great deception, but simply wasn’t ready. That is Price ‘s failure. His love for him and Romano hurt the Reds this year. Mahle and Sims in aaa next year. Andre Griffin August 7, 2018 It definitely hurts me they seem to have given up on Stephenson especially when it seems he turned the corner. I really think this is a mistake Kap August 7, 2018 Spoke too soon. Stephenson is coming up. Just hope he doesn’t walk 5 or 6 batters tomorrow. Krozley August 7, 2018 Stephenson is starting tomorrow. According to Williams, the Reds had him work on some changed mechanics and pitching from the stretch full time, so his extended time in Louisville was not any sort of detriment. They monitor and know how good he is doing. He has 120 big league innings, so it isn’t like he lacks experience. Given he is out of options for 2019, I would think one of the rotation spots is his next year barring some major blow up. They have certainly not given up on him. That said, I would have liked to have seen him with the Reds sooner this year. Doug Gray August 7, 2018 He started doing that stuff in early May. It’s August 7th. The big league rotation has been getting beaten around most of the time in that stretch. Joe August 7, 2018 I still duno why Harvey still here taking up starts,you take the ptbnl and move on .th reds love affair for what they call veteran innings eaters is ridiculous sometimes.the reds played it perfect up until the end and jus valued him to much. AirborneJayJay August 7, 2018 The Mariners may ready to push the panic button and make that trade for Harvey. The A’s have passed them by and are 2 games up on them for the last wild card spot. Time is a ticking. Dodgers and D-backs may be ready too, to make a move.