It’s that time of the month again where I take questions from those readers who support the work done here at the site through Patreon and give my best effort to answer them to the fullest. If you aren’t supporting the site through Patreon, but would like to, you can do so for as little as $1 a month. You get some benefits for your support, including these mailbag posts for your questions, early access to content, in depth game recaps and information during the season in your inbox each morning, and more. If that sounds interesting to you, go give it a look and see. Onto the questions!

With 12 pitchers, that leaves the 8 presumed starting position players, plus Derek Dietrich, Alex Blandino, Scott Schebler, Matt Kemp, and Curt Casili. Am I missing anything? David Bell mentioned carrying possibly 13 pitchers but that hardly even seems possible to leave such a short bench.  

This is a tough one. There are a few caveats, too. First, Alex Blandino may not be ready to begin the season. It’s been noted that he may be cutting it close to being ready for opening day. It’s also worth noting that Bell said most of the season with that 13 pitchers thing. That may not mean to start the season, and that’s important. Early in the year, when everyone is fresh, it’s more likely to go with a larger bench and a smaller bullpen. Not that 12-men on the pitching staff is small, but it’s smaller than 13.

Let’s assume that the infield is Tucker Barnhart, Joey Votto, Scooter Gennett, Eugenio Suarez, and Jose Peraza. That’s five locks. The outfield is going to be Scott Schebler, Yasiel Puig, Jesse Winker, and Matt Kemp. That’s four more locks. We don’t know what’s going to happen yet with Nick Senzel and center field. There’s not really much of a track record to go on there. Everyone is saying the right thing about him and center. And it seems that the organization is as hopeful as many of the fans are about the idea. But until you can see it in games, reading live balls in play for a week or four, we just don’t know.

That is a very big aspect to this question. If Nick Senzel can play center, it changes the roster. If he can’t, then he’s probably heading to Louisville to try and figure it out down there for a month or two. That would open up a spot, potentially, for Phillip Ervin. Or maybe the Reds just go with the four outfielders mentioned above and let Puig and Schebler split time in center and the corners with Winker and Kemp. Then they can carry an extra infielder who could possibly back up Peraza at shortstop.

Ultimately, no matter how it’s sliced – it’s tough to see the bench with just 12 position players on it. Right now the team doesn’t have a true center fielder on it. And it doesn’t have a back up true shortstop, either. Personally, I wouldn’t carry a true backup shortstop on the team. The options there would be a guy like Blake Trahan or Christian Colon. I’d keep them in Triple-A and if Peraza has to hit the disabled list, then I’d call one of them up, or make a trade for someone else to play shortstop. If you need an off day for Peraza, I’d find a different solution. Whether that’s playing Suarez there for a day, or playing Senzel there for a day, or if Blandino is healthy and on the roster, playing him there works out even better.

There’s going to need to be some real flexibility on the bench, though. In the outfield you sort of have it. The team seems to feel ok-ish with their center field options. It seems they are hoping the answer for 2019 is Nick Senzel. But they seem to be ok if it’s a scenario with Schebler/Puig, too. On the infield Dietrich or Senzel in a “plays five times a week but at four positions” role could make things work. But it’s not going to be the easiest bench to manage, either, especially if it’s only going to be a 12-man position player crew.

Who are the starting rotation in Louisville? Best case number of wins for the Reds this year? Most likely number of wins?

I wish I had a better answer for the rotation question, but I simply don’t know. The Reds could go in a few different directions with several players that could put options in either the Bats rotation or the Reds bullpen. I think there’s about 10 options that could wind up there. Tyler Mahle, Sal Romano, Cody Reed, Jackson Stephens, Brandon Finnegan, Lucas Sims, Keury Mella, Vladimir Gutierrez, Tony Santillan, Felix Jorge. How that all plays out – I really don’t know.

Best case for the Reds wins this year? 95? Sure, that would take everything going right for them, but if it does, that isn’t crazy. Votto returns to 2017? Nick Senzel is everything people think and plays 150 in center? Jesse Winker’s healthy shoulder leads to 20 home runs? Luis Castillo is more 2017 and non-April 2018 version? Sonny Gray is closer to Oakland version? Yeah….

Most likely number of wins? I haven’t exactly run the numbers on the team yet. But I think they’re slightly better than .500 right now. So let’s call it 83 wins right now. If Nick Senzel can truly play center field enough to actually start 130 games there, let’s call it 85. That’s the big wild-card for me.

Any word on how prepared and ready to play our SS and 3rd baseman are this spring. Had to be a tough winter for them. Will the defense keep Cincinnati from winning 82 games this year? 

I’m not sure why it had to be a tough winter for them. But no, I don’t think the defense is what would keep the team from winning 82 games. I don’t think the defense overall is going to be great by any means. And when going with the pitching/hitting/defense breakdown, I do think the defense is the weakest aspect of it all. But you win and lose with all aspects. I’m far more confident in the offense than the overall pitching or defense. The pitching has more upside than the defense seems to, though.

What advanced metric or metrics do you find to be most useful to you?

This is a rather loaded question. It really depends on the player we are talking about. I’m far more reliant on stats and metrics with guys that are in the Major Leagues and have a track record than guys in the minors who are usually younger and still learning/developing. With that said, strikeout-to-walk ratio, both for hitters and pitchers, is probably the one that is quite telling more than anything else. For hitters, I’ll try to pay attention to things like on-base percentage, slugging percentage, walk rate, strikeout rate, steals. Context of course matters with all of those, too. How old are they, what league are they in and how does that league play? What position do they play (since the baseline for offensive production is different for each position).

On the mound I’m generally looking at walk percentage, strikeout percentage, and home run rate/groundball rates. Pitchers who have both high groundball rates and high strikeout rates are quite rare – so if you can find ones that have both, woo-boy, that can get real interesting, real quick. If we want to jump into stuff that’s more advanced, I’m looking at spin-rate on pitches. That’s a lot easier to access for Major Leaguers because the data, at least for now, is public. In the Minor Leagues it’s a bit tougher to come by. Teams don’t make it public – though I can usually get some access to it.

What would you estimate Jonathan India’s timeline to the majors would be?

I think that he will begin the season in Advanced-A Daytona this year. The plan is probably to get him to Double-A Chattanooga in the second half, but he’s going to have to perform and earn that one. That would put him in line for Triple-A to start 2020 and go from there based on both his performance and a spot being available for him to play in the Majors.

How do you feel about Logan Taylor? Looks like no pop but crazy OBP and good SB numbers. Minor league filler or could he become more?

He’s a 24-year-old who has never played beyond rookie-ball. While I wish him the best, there aren’t many guys with his profile that have become more without extenuating circumstances.

What is the biggest question on the major league roster as it is constructed today?

Can Nick Senzel play center field? If he can, that gives the team so many different answers. One, it answers who is playing center. Two, it answers “how do we get Nick Senzel into our lineup 150 times in 2019?” Three, it gives them a true super-utility guy if they need one. He can back up third, second, both corner outfield spots if needed, and even shortstop in a one-day every two weeks kind of role on days when a day off, or a pitching match up makes that necessary in the lineup.

Who are you most excited to watch progress in the minor leagues this year?

If I were given magic powers to be able to say “this guy now gets to become the ‘everything goes right in his development this year and into the future’ it would be Jose Siri. The guy just could be a total game changer in every aspect. I feel like that answer is a bit of cheating, though. So let me go a little off the board here.

Nick Hanson. Missed all of 2017 with Tommy John surgery. Missed almost all of 2018, too. Made just three starts and was shut down. I haven’t asked about him since I was doing my prospect list digging, but at that time he was said to be ready to pitch this spring. We’re talking about a guy who is 6′ 6″ tall who had a big time fastball coming out of high school. He’s been off the mound a whole heck of a lot since then. He’ll turn 21 on June 10th this year, and really – he’s been through a lot to get back out on the mound. He could be really interesting to watch this year.

A few others that jumped to mind: Tyler Stephenson – want to see how much that power plays outside of the pitcher friendly Florida State League. Hunter Greene – see the Jose Siri explanation. Jose Garcia – The tools are much better than the numbers were in 2018. I think he’ll get promoted to Daytona, so the numbers may still be a bit down simply because of the league and how it hurts hitting – but I’m really interested to see how he does this year.

How many hours does the average minor league player spend each week working for their team?

That all depends on who you ask, doesn’t it? Minor League Baseball President Pat O’Connor in an interview with Baseball America’s Josh Norris two offseasons ago seemed to have some very different feelings about work than many of us do. When Baseball America updated their website in 2018, the interview and basically everything from before the update was lost. Fortunately still has it and you can read the entire thing here if you would like. I’ll clip out some of the interaction to show what he had to say.

POC: What’s a (minor leaguer’s) workday look like, Josh?
JN: It’s long. It’s very long.

POC: But is it? OK, you come in at 2:00. You don’t have to be there till 3:00, but you come in at 2:00. From 2:00-3:00, you play cards. And at 3:00 you go out for infield or extra hitting or whatever, and then you come back and you take an hour. While the other team’s hitting, you take an hour and you get a sandwich that I (the club) pay for and you eat it. Are you working?

JN: Perhaps not, but at a lot of places where workers are paid an hourly wage, lunch breaks are paid.
POC: But not in all cases. There are people who clock in and clock out for lunch. My point is: We know what minimum wage is, that’s easy.

JN: It varies from state to state.
POC: Yeah, but you can go to the national level and keep everybody happy. How do you figure out overtime?

JN: Is there not a medium somewhere between making them full-time hourly workers and raising the pay.
POC: That’s it. Like I said, I think it’s time for an adjustment, and that’s it. This is not a career choice, and people want to debate about the fact that McDonald’s worker make more than minor league baseball players, and that’s a fact. But I don’t think that somewhere there’s a major league in French fry prep that makes $550,000 (as its) minimum wage or starting wage.

JN: If that’s the analogy, then the top is the manager of the McDonald’s?
POC: How about the analogy that you’re chasing the brass ring and this is not a profession. I think an adjustment’s due, no question about it. And I wouldn’t be surprised if in this process you didn’t see one.

Let me address some of this right now. I show up at the field at 3-3:30pm almost every time that I go and cover the game. There’s almost no time that I show up that the guys aren’t on the field when I arrive. That means they showed up before 3pm. They aren’t playing cards from 2-3pm. The home team gets the field until 5pm for a 7pm start time. From 5-6pm the visiting team gets the field. The home team has a few options at that point. There’s a spread of food there for guys to eat. Some guys go to the cage to do work in that time, too.

At about 6:30 for a 7pm game the players head back out to the field. They do team stretching, throwing, warming up and getting ready for the game. The game then lasts three hours on average. You’ve got some media obligations at times about 15 minutes after the game is over. Usually, if things go as normal, the players are out around 11pm. So if you are at home, 2pm-11pm is a typical day. That of course doesn’t account for time you spend at the gym to stay in shape for your job.

What this also doesn’t include is the travel if you are the road team. There are rules these days about how long you can be on the bus for in a given day. That rule didn’t used to exist. But just look around some of the leagues, though. Go find the distances between some teams in the Pioneer League. You’re talking 12+ hour bus rides. In some leagues, like the Appalachian League, most road trips are just day trips without overnight stays because the teams are so close to each other that you can drive an hour or less from one city to the other.

So you can kind of make the argument if you try really, really hard to ignore reality like Pat O’Connor that on a game day, the player works from 3pm-5pm, then 6pm-11pm for a total of 7 hours a day, six days a week for home games. Then for road games from about 4:30pm (they will usually make their way onto the field in foul territory while the home team is finishing up their workout) to stretch and warm up, until 6pm, then from about 6:30pm to 11pm for a 6 hour work day. Call it a 6.5 day work week and you’re looking at somewhere around 40-45 hours a week if you are ignoring almost everything. Reality is that it’s far more than that, and how you want to account for the mandatory travel is up to you.

Can you share any stories of part time jobs minor league players have held during the off season to survive?

Sure. Let me start with the one that just sticks with me that I still can’t ever forget about. I won’t mention the player who has since retired, but he worked as a bouncer at a bar in the offseason. A professional athlete, or as Major League Baseball argues, a part-time seasonal employee, worked as a bouncer at a bar so he could pay rent and buy food. This seems like such a great system for trying to develop athletes.

Josh Smith, who reached the Major Leagues with the Reds in 2015 and 2016 famously built pools in the offseason. He also worked as a UPS loader. I’ve heard of guys that delivered pizzas. Recently I’ve known guys that drove for Uber or Lyft. Many guys work locally where they are from at training facilities for extra money, giving private lessons to up-and-coming youth players.

What you will see some older, more experienced players attempt to do is find jobs playing baseball in Mexico, Venezuela, or the Dominican Republic, where they actually get paid better than in the minor leagues in almost every case.


27 Responses

  1. Rich H

    I think the Peraza and Suarez question about the rough winter is because of the turmoil in Venezuela.

    • Doug Gray

      Reading it that way makes a lot more sense. That comment followed by the defensive aspect of the question just really threw me for a loop.

      • patrick

        Correct. I apologize for not being more succinct. I believe they are the only players on the 25 man from Venezuela. Regardless of contracts. I am guessing (because I know no better) that they still have family or friends there. If I saw the same happen in my homeland I might be effected to some degree. That was my curiosity.

  2. Ryan

    Whats wrong with being a bouncer in the off-season? He didnt want to flip burgers, wake up early, and most likely got paid under the table. Bouncing is not hard work, in fact, probably one of the easiest jobs a professional level athlete can have.

    Minor league baseball needs to be fixed, but even so, why do they deserve a pass in the off-season? The rest of us have bills 365 days a year. Is the argument they shouldnt have to work in the off-season so they can spend every waking moment getting better? Or, that minor league baseball players should be compensated enough to not work in the off-season? Either

    • Amarillo

      For us as fans who want to see these guys succeed because it is entertainment for us, then yes. It would be beneficial for the fans to see them spend every waking moment getting better. I think you are correct when it comes to what you said, but if the Reds were to win even one more game because one of their minor leaguers managed to really improve in the off-season and push his way to the majors then as a fan that seems beneficial to me.

    • mark l

      The concern is safety and body health. If you want to develop an athlete that will win games and make your organization money, you would likely prefer to have them not be a bouncer where they might have to get in a physical altercation.

      And in my mind, it isn’t that they have a “right” to something more than you and I, it is that it is bad business to not create the best situation possible for player development when you have the means to do so.

      • Ryan

        They play baeball every day for 8-9 months, plenty of time to progress.

  3. Brian

    Doug help me out here. I don’t seem to understand why people are convinced that a healthy blandino just has a spot locked up on the 25 man opening day? Yeah, he’s versatile, and young, but he was never a top tier prospect despite being a first round pick so it’s not like he’s carrying senzel-level expectations. Most importantly, I don’t remember him being particularly good last year? I could be misremembering, but it seemed like he didn’t hit or field well. He had good pinch hitting stats in a small sample size I think, but it’s not like he has had anywhere near the level of success as the rest of the bench. I get the backup SS argument, but I’m convinced senzel can give you those 8-10 starts at SS over the course of the year to spell peraza who mostly plays everyday. I guess what I’m saying is blandino to me is just sorta meh.

    • Stock

      I agree Brian. I think Dietrich coming to Cincinnati means Blandino will spend the year in Louisville.

      In addition to the 9 locks Doug had above I feel that Dietrich and Casali are locks as well. That leaves one or two spots.

      I really like the Connor Joe acquisition. If the Reds feel he can stick at catcher they have no choice but to keep him rostered all year.

      This is also a good excuse to keep Senzel in the minors. When the time is right bring up Senzel and send down a RP.

      I just don’t see any room for Blandino. If Connor Joe proves he can not catch then they go with a 13 man bullpen.

      As Brian said it is hard for me to believe that Senzel is not a better option to be the backup at SS than Blandino.

      • The Duke

        Dietrich can’t play SS. Blandino can. If he’s healthy, I think Blandino is on the roster as the backup middle infielder. Dietrich on the corners.

        I’d agree that as long as they are healthy, Dietrich and Casali are locks. Casali is coming off surgery though.

        I’ll be shocked if Connor Joe makes the roster.

        Senzel is either the starting CF opening day and playing every day or in the minors. It’d be sheer stupidity to have him up in a utility role and sacrifice that year. Not that much smarter not waiting 2 weeks for CF, but at least there is some rational there. They tried Senzel at SS, then they stopped trying it and didn’t have him go back there any more. Every indication we have seen is that they don’t view Senzel as a viable SS.

      • Scott C

        I think at the time the Reds picked Conner Joe up, they felt he was a good option. Since that time better options have come up like Dietrich. That is a good sign the Reds are always ready to find better options.

  4. shaggy

    The pay in the minors is about equivalent to being in the military. My first 3 years in I had to work a second job so that I could get by. And That was with working a job that had you working well above normal hours.

    • Ryan

      Off the top of my head, E1 pay is about double full-time minor league pay, about 3 times short season guys. You get food, housing, and health care. Not a good comp, other than most guys get a bonus when they enlist, simliar to how many minor leaguers got a bonus at one point.

  5. The Duke

    Given his age but relative inexperience what level do you think Hanson starts at? Billings seems the most logical place, but if he looks good in the spring do you think they could challenge him with an assignment to Dayton, or would his limited professional innings likely hold him out until June even if it was in Dayton?

    Saw that Hendrik Clementina got the annual “Best Shape of His Life” award from C Trent on Twitter. He needed to drop about 20 lbs, his movements behind the plate would generously be defined as “lumbering” from what I saw in Dayton in 2018.

    • CP

      Glad to hear this about Clementina! He is a guy that is easy to forget about for me, but if he can find a way to stick at C, and continue his impressive hitting, he could really have some value as another catching prospect behind T. Stephenson.

  6. Oldtimer

    Agree on 95 W as a possible best case. Reds only won 67 last year but…

    History repeats itself. Reds won 67 in 1960 despite having a good lineup. A few holes needed to be plugged. GM Bill DeWitt did that with trades and rookies. And so…

    93 W and NL pennant in 1961.

    Future HOF Robinson (like Votto). 5 man OF who all got PT (even though Robinson and Pinson got most of it). SP rotation improved by trades (Jay, Johnson) and rookie(s) like Hunt and Maloney (the latter technically not a rookie). Strong bullpen. Key INF (Freese and Blasingame) added by trades.

    No one thought in April 1961 that Reds would win 93 games and NL pennant. But they did. It was best possible outcome, too.

    • James K

      And throughout 1961 we kept hearing, “Are the Reds for real?” Possible to hear that again this year.

      • Oldtimer

        I remember hearing it into August 1961. No one could believe until September.

  7. Kyle K

    Let’s pretend the Senzel experiment works and Trammell and India progress well. In this fantasy land, the Reds do not extend Puig and Scooter because of all of this. Their thinking is that Trammell will become the centerfielder in 2020 eventually and India will also make his debut in 2020. Who would you rather play in right or second between Senzel and India in 2020? All hypothetically thinking

    • Cbus

      In this scenario I think Senzel would stay in center, India would replace Scooter and Trammell would replace Schebler. If/When Siri is ever ready for center then you have your first real logjam and need to trade someone or try Senzel/India at SS.

      If everything works out an OF of Winker/Senzel/Trammell or Winker/Siri/Trammel for the next 6 years is really exciting.

    • Wes

      Not resign Puig ? You highly underestimate his star power and ceiling. He can be better and bring more people into stadium than Bruce ever was. He’s in the perfect scenario in cincy. He’s older and out of LA and adjusted to life in USA. Add that to playing in GABP and he could be NL mvp. That’s how reds get to 95 wins.

      Reds treat their Cuban players very well. From there, it’ll be his choice to make real good money and stay in cincy or leave. It won’t be cincy luxury to keep or cut.

      • The Duke

        If we can resign Puig, now is the time to do it. Try to get him on a 3 year $45 million extension with a $20 million option on a 4th year or a $2.5 million buyout. Even if Puig hits .260 with an OBP of .330, I think his power plays up in GABP. With Senzel, Winker, Votto, Suarez, and Scooter all getting on base in front of him, I think he could have 35 HR and 120+ RBI. Something like .260/.330/.525 along with above average defense in RF with a plus arm.

      • Charlie Waffles

        Why on God’s green earth would you want to give a $60MM extension to a player that just admitted he didn’t play hard the last 2 years but is now ready to play hard for a contract??? What are you going to get? A guy who dogs it for 2-3 seasons and is ready to play for his next contract??
        No freaking way. Look to trade him before opening day. I would look for a taker on both Gennett and Puig in a package. Trade the loafer and malcontent.

      • Wes

        I am sure reds have put the feelers out there and be willing to offer atleast that. I’d say closer to 4 years 70 million w a 5th year option. Hard to think he wouldn’t get 70+ if he was a free agent this year.

        @charlie. We all know he doesn’t play up to his full potential. I’m glad he’s admitting it vs faking it and lying about it. He’s older, maybe he’s ready to mature and give it all he has but if he doesn’t. He’s better at 80% than most others at a 110%.

        He will be the biggest draw for the reds too and they know it. More will come to see him than votto or even senzel even if he comes out on fire. How can u trade that ?

        Only player in reds organization that can compete w Puigs star power is hunter Greene

  8. Mollyspad

    And it he had played to his potential, the Dodgers never would have given him to the Reds.

    I would definitely extend Puig and Wood as soon as they were able to get the cap off of their pens

    • CP

      I’m interested in extending Wood for the right price, but we have so many good OF options/prospects that extending Puig doesn’t feel as eminent of a need.