With one week of Spring Training games in the books, our appetites for the baseball season have surely been whet. Names familiar and unfamiliar have gotten in some work and some interesting storylines have emerged, though the sample sizes are far too small to make any adequate judgments. Thus, in the true spirit of internet sportswriting, let’s hand out some superlatives for completely unsustainable exceptional performance in this opening slate of games:

Most Likely Reason People are Already Calling for Marlon Byrd to be Benched: Brennan Boesch has supplied the power for the Reds’ offense when he’s been in the lineup so far, belting two homers in his 11 at-bats. The once-promising Tiger turned journeyman outfielder has likely endeared himself to some pundits by knocking in five runs in such limited action, because we all know how important that statistic is.

While Boesch has been a real spark plug when he’s been in the lineup, his four hits have come against Bryan Price, Michael Roth, Brian Schlitter, and Louis Coleman so who knows if this actually means he can hit MLB pitching on a consistent basis. Still, the power has been nice to see, especially on his opposite-field bomb off Schlitter. Boesch is a non-roster invitee, so his is an uphill battle to make the team but to this point he’s done a lot to see plenty of playing time in the coming weeks. Certainly, for some he represents a welcome alternative to Skip Schumaker as the primary bench bat.

Most Intriguing “Where’d He Come From?” Hitter: A draftee of the San Francisco Giants (after being previously drafted by the Rangers and Rockies), Chris Dominguez has the makings of a future role player in the majors, particularly as a bench bat for a National League team. He’s played third most of his professional career, though the majority of the major league action he’s seen came in left field for the Giants last season (33 of his 36 innings). He’s seen a little bit of time at first base for the Reds this spring, in addition to playing third.

Dominguez has started hot, largely thanks to the aggressiveness that comes with competing for attention early in Spring Training. He’d collected five hits in ten at-bats before yesterday’s 0-for-3 performance, two of which were doubles. This is very much in line with his minor league track record, where he’s generally maintained a slugging percentage over .400 while swinging at anything within the same zip code (his walk-to-strikeout ratio in the minors has hovered around 0.15 ever since he initially graduated from rookie ball in 2009).

With the two names above in mind, let’s play a quick game of Sample Size Stickler. The first two stat lines are Boesch and Dominguez’s AVG/SLG/OPS, respectively, with the three below being notable 11-to-13 at-bat starts in recent springs:

(11 ABs) .455/1.000/1.455
(13 ABs) .385/.538/.923
(11 ABs) .500/.583/1.146
(12 ABs) .500/.833/1.517
(11 ABs) .455/.727/1.182

Those last three? In order, Skip Schumaker in 2014, Roger Bernadina in 2014, and Dave Sappelt in 2011. Just a friendly reminder that this article is an exercise in taking these performances with a chunk of rock salt.

The Steve Parris Award for Surprising Excellence from a Veteran Starter: Like his forefathers in Reds’ Spring Training history, Jason Marquis has come into camp as a veteran competing with far more interesting names for a possible job in Cincinnati. Unlike Jeff Francis or Kip Wells, he’s started a quiet debate (perhaps more like some idle musing) on whether he should get some consideration for making the rotation out of camp.

His first five innings of work have yielded a very un-Marquis stat line of 0 H, 0 R, 6 K, and a WHIP of 0.40 with his most recent appearance against the Mariners involving retiring the likes of Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz, and Austin Jackson. Now, no rational person is clamoring for Marquis to break camp as the fifth starter based on this, but this could soothe some fears about having to dip into the Louisville rotation if any injuries may arise. Plus, Dylan Axelrod and David Holmberg may be able to learn a thing or two from him in AAA.

An honorable mention is deserved to Keyvius Sampson (though he’s not a veteran) for his five innings of scoreless work so far, as well. The waiver-wire pickup from the Padres has a good fastball and a decent slider which he has used effectively in the minors to rack up some serious strikeout totals, but his command has always been the biggest drawback. At just 24, he’s young enough to hope for improvement on that front and the potential to be useful spot-starter in the future.

Again, all of this is based in nothing more than these gentlemen starting a barely-begun spring on the right foot. We won’t know anything substantial until a couple weeks from now, but it’s worth enjoying some unexpected names doing well and hoping at least one of them can provide quality depth to this roster for the long haul of the regular season.

50 Responses

  1. Steve Mancuso

    On the one hand, I worry that the Reds are going to get carried away in their expectations for Brennan Boesch. After all, he’s been released by the Tigers, Yankees and Angels in the past two seasons. And he’s a terrible, awful outfielder. Yet both he and Skip Schumaker are LH batters, which makes me wonder if the Reds would take both back to Cincinnati.

    On the other hand, given the state of the organizational depth at outfield, Boesch might be the best available.

    Not sure which makes me sadder. Sigh.

    • sultanofswaff

      Well, Waldrop didn’t get cut yet, so that’s something, right?

      At least we have 3 somewhat legit options to replace Votto if he goes down for an extended period of time. That’s something I guess.

    • lwblogger2

      Boesch did have some injuries and I think they really cut into his effectiveness at the MLB level. He was actually healthy last year and did what you’d expect to AAA pitching. The guy probably isn’t a starting OF but I think there is some promise there as a bench bat. You’re right about his outfield chops. He is pretty bad out there. I can’t believe he’s been used in CF in the spring and apparently they plan on using him out there more. I think you could put a 50-year-old ex-MLB CF out there and the retiree would be the better defensive CF.

      I am unhappy with the Reds OF depth too, especially since they traded Heisey as pretty much a straight up salary dump. That said, I think Boesch has a chance to make the bench better. I think he may be a little better hitter than you might think.

      • charlottencredsfan

        Especially considering he is fighting to remain MLB relevant. To me the high side would be if he performs well if the Reds fall out of the race, he might bring something decent in a trade.

    • earmbrister

      I’m willing to let the battle for bench spots play out. Yes, Boesch has been released by a few clubs, but so was Alfredo Simon. Simon was with 6 or 7 teams, a free agent 3 times, and then waived by the Orioles before being picked off the scrap heap by the Reds. Did Simon’s acquisition make you sad at the time? It sure worked out very well.

      As I’ve said before, I’d rather have Boesch, Bourgoeis, Perez et al fighting it out for a bench spot, then having Heisey and his experience give us lines like:

      ’13: .237/.279/.415

      ’14: .222/.265/.378

      I’m optimistic about the Reds bench. I’d rather have inexperienced players like Negron and Boesch on the bench than the alternative of the last several years. I will not miss the Heisey of 2013 and 2014, or other experienced players like Hannahan, Izturis, Valdez, et al.

      As for the state of the organizational depth at outfield, it’s really good. After Billy Hamilton’s promotion there is a gap to the next tier of players. However, the Reds have a ton of quality prospects advancing to the middle and upper minors. After the great pitching depth, I’d consider the OF depth in the minors to be strong. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bruce’s last year as a Red to be 2017.

      • lwblogger2

        I don’t really know if Boesch and Bourgoeis should be considered any more promising than Heisey. In fact, neither are young guys anymore nor are they inexperienced. They probably pretty much are what they are. I’m giving Boesche a little leeway on the offensive side of things because he did have one good MLB season and because he had some injuries that I think derailed what should have been his prime MLB seasons. Honestly, I think with Boesche you’ll get offensive numbers not too far off from what Heisey would have put up and you’ll get worse defense. The biggest difference is the 2-milliion bucks less Boesche will make.

      • charlottencredsfan

        I’m doubting Heisey makes the Dodgers final cut, so he may become available. Just saying.

        Watched their game replay last night and apparently there are 8 guys competing for 5 spots and Heisey dose not have a hit yet in Spring Training and I didn’t see any change in the Chris’ approach at the plate.

      • earmbrister

        LWBlogger:

        Boesch has to be considered more promising than Heisey after Heisey’s last 2 years. Heisey is not progressing, he’s regressing. You acknowledge that Boesch was sidetracked with injury problems, and I’d add he mashed at AAA last year:

        .332/.381/.636

        Heck, even his career major #’s exceed Heisey’s “production” the last 2 years:

        .256/.309/.412

        I wouldn’t be surprised to see even better offensive #’s from Boesch going forward as he is indeed in his prime years (29 yrs old). He’ll produce more than Heisey, at a significant discount in salary.

  2. User1022

    Way-too-early indeed.

    Boesch has beeen interesting in this small sample size, but I think as ST wears on and the lesser pitchers get re-assigned to lower camps, Boesch will be exposed and we will all realize why he has been released so many times.

    Basically, I think Boesch has no shot at all of making the team. To put a spin on a popular Sparky Anderson saying: “Let a guy who has been released 3 times in 2 years play enough, and he’ll show you why he was released 3 times in 2 years.”

    • jessecuster44

      Crush any more dreams like that? Hope you aren’t a kindergarten teacher.

      • User1022

        Sorry, these are just the harsh realities of baseball. Every year there are Spring Training Cinderellas whose coaches turn back into pumpkins when April 1st rolls around.

        Given what we know about Boesch, we should expect him to fall back to Earth soon enough, like I said most likely when the bad pitching starts getting weeded out.

        Think about this: Boesch is going to turn 30 in about a month. Chances are, he’s already as good as he’s ever going to be, and that’s not good enough to play in the MLB.

        He will be exposed, it’s just a matter of when. Not sure why anyone would pin any “dreams” on him.

  3. preacherj

    It would be nice to have a + outfielder on the bench. I don’t want to go instantly from “above average outfield” to “gaping chasm” in late innings or on getaway days.

  4. Matt WI

    Props on the creation of the Steve Paris Award. Good stuff.

    • lwblogger2

      Another guy that did that was Josias Manzanillo. Had that great spring and then laid a huge egg for the Reds in limited use.

      • Big56dog

        Is the Steve Paris an insult? I remeber his 1999 year he was very solid down the stretch, should not have been the option to start the play-in game

      • Kevin Michell

        Oh, by no means meant as an insult to either. The Steve Parris Award is a celebration of those guys who linger around as fourth or fifth starters and then have that short burst of a season or two of stellar pitching.

  5. Kevin Michell

    With regards to keeping a finger on the pulse of these storylines: Boesch is starting today in RF. Sampson is in the bullpen. Irving Falu, who was not covered in this article, is starting today’s game at 2B. He’s hitting .714 after going 3-for-3 with 2 SBs in his last two games.

    • reaganspad

      Yea Kevin,

      what about Irv?

      good catch.

      Sampson is my best bet for the Alfredo Simon award

      • Kevin Michell

        Yeah I wrote most of this article the day prior and then when I published this I noticed shortly after how well he was doing.

        I hadn’t really paid attention just because I’ve pretty much assumed INF backup was between Suarez and Negron. Could be interesting if he keeps it up, but he doesn’t a track record to think he’ll contribute much at the MLB level. Surprises do happen, though.

  6. jdx19

    Seeing former year comps in numerical form before announcing to whom they belong is probably my favorite literary strategy currently employed by baseball writers! Thanks for that!

    Off-Topic: There’s a fun read over at FG about what needs to happen for the Reds to win the NL Central this year, if anyone wants some more Reds reading material today!

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/how-the-reds-can-win-the-nl-central/

    • charlottencredsfan

      Thanks for the link.

      The overall projection looks about right. People can squabble about particulars.

    • Kevin Michell

      Me too! So it’s my pleasure, always love the different perspective you can get from numbers removed from name recognition.

      Great link, too, nice to see that the best-case scenario is kind of what I think many of us here believe could happen- Joey and Jay return somewhat to form (Bruce alone could be a big swing in WAR), Todd and Mes build on 2014’s performance, and hopefully we get enough from the back half of the rotation to keep us within striking distance.

  7. Jeremy Conley

    I just can’t believe that the Reds front office is actually considering going into the season with Skip Schumaker as the primary outfield backup, given Marlon Byrd’s age, and last season’s injuries to Bruce and Hamilton.

    Last year the Reds got 758 plate appearances from back up outfielders with a combined OPS of .591. That’s like getting more than a full season of at-bats from one of the three worst hitters in the league.

    100% the easiest way the Reds could have improved their offense in the offseason was to get better outfield depth. It is really not hard to get a decent 4th outfielder, and at this point, if you can’t do that, I really don’t know why you are GMing.

    I don’t mean to be super harsh to Jocketty, but I really just don’t get it. Hamilton is already missing games in spring training because of a shoulder injury from running into a wall. He missed a good amount of games last year for the same types of injuries. How could it have been so hard to get a better 4th outfielder than Schumaker, who is terrible in the field and below average at the plate.

    • Jeremy Conley

      IT should be noted that Cozart was the worst hitting regular in the bigs last year with a .568 OPS, so add another 548 plate appearances of terrible hitting and it starts to become clear why it was hard to score runs last year.

    • Steve Mancuso

      Add: Schumaker is coming off major shoulder surgery. Just horrible, awful general managing.

      • Jeremy Conley

        Another good point.

        Here is a decent list of outfielders that were traded this offseason that would have helped the Reds. Obviously, each took different different pieces to get, but none would have been out of reach for the Reds. Presented with age, career OPS, and 2015 salary.

        For comparison, here’s Schumaker: 35/.705 (way lower the last two years)/$2.5 mil with team option for 2016

        Justin Ruggiano: 32/.751/$2.5mil with another year of arb in 2016

        Seth Smith: 32/.800/$6mil signed through 2016

        Wil Myers 24/.724/$.5 mil, pre-arb

        Mat Joyce 30/.783/$4.75mil

        Brandon Moss: 31/.786/projected $6.5mil, 2nd year arb

        Michael Saunders: 28/.685 (.791 last year)/$2.9mil

      • Kevin Michell

        Man, if I were Walt, I would have moved heaven and earth to get Saunders. Just feel like he would have flourished here.

      • lwblogger2

        A couple things though… One, they are already paying Schumaker and nobody is taking that contract. For all we know, the Reds tried to move Schumaker instead of Heisey. They apparently really had a salary problem. The mistake was signing Schumaker to a 2-year deal in the first place and the huge Ludwick buyout. Two, Myers took some prospects to get. I would have loved to have seen him out there as our starting LF but I don’t know if the Reds had any inkling to put together the kind of package that would have been needed for Myers, especially with Winker on the way. Three, they flat out apparently didn’t have the money for someone like Moss. I think the same is probably true of Joyce. I’d love to have any of the above instead of Schu but Schu is already being paid and with the salary constraints that the Reds apparently had, I don’t know if they really could have made any of the above work, save perhaps Myers, who they would have had to give up an awful lot for.

      • earmbrister

        Saunders cost a starting pitcher in trade, J. A. Happ. Happ gave the Jays 26 starts last year with a 4.22 ERA. A veteran Lefty starter is worth a whole lot more than what the Reds gave up, Ben Lively. Lively has a grand total of 72 IP at AA, and may never stick in the majors.

        All of the guys have issues as to why they’re not a great comparison to the Byrd deal. Meanwhile, Schumaker seems healthy, despite the dire warnings of “major” shoulder surgery. He’s been playing from the start of ST, and I’ve seen 2 doubles (the 2nd off the top of the OF wall the other day) in the 3 games I’ve watched this spring. He’s a favorite whipping boy around here, but those that snipe ignore his career slashes of .281./339/.366. He was hurt last year; I’m happy to give him a shot to reestablish his recent OBP % of .333, .339, .332 the 3 years prior to last. Why would we eat his $ 3 M when we need his OBP ability?

        Winker, Waldrop, Ervin, and Aquino are the future of our outfield, and they’ll provide 6 years of team control at a lower payroll cost, and at no cost to acquire, than the trade prospects listed above.

    • Kevin Michell

      Free agent outfielders who signed for around Skip’s yearly contract value ($2.5MM) this year (with 2014 OPS):

      Delmon Young (.779)
      Chris Young (.683)
      Chris Denorfia (.602)
      Corey Hart (.590)

      Granted, Skip’s 2013 OPS was .665. But, Delmon would have been a nice upgrade I think (ignoring any possible clubhouse issues), Deno would have been at least reliable to above-average in the field, and Hart might have been worth taking a flyer on for a bounceback. Not saying that’s what Walt should’ve done, but I agree with you Jeremy, Skip as the fourth OF isn’t helping my heartburn.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Plus there are plenty of teams (Red Sox, Dodgers, others) with surplus outfielders – good ones. Extreme buyers market. I was hoping they might make another move. Another reason Boesch’s home runs concern me.

      • WVRedlegs

        It will be very interesting to see what both the Dodgers and Red Sox do about their crowded outfield situations before opening day. SD may have an extra OF on their hands in Quentin or Vennable. Quentin would be a very expensive bench piece though.
        To cut Schumaker, it would cost the Reds $3M to do it. His $2.5M salary for 2015 and a $.5M buyout for a 2016 team option. Add that $3M to the $7M the Reds are paying Ludwick and Hannahan not to play in 2015, and that is a $10M chunk of money that is probably a very bitter pill for Castellini to swallow. Cutting Schumaker would only validate even more many of the fans’ cries about Jocketty’s mismanagement, fiscally and roster-wise. I don’t think the Reds will let that happen.
        When Heisey was traded, the Reds essentially doubled-down on their investment on Schumaker. Both of those will prove to be costly in 2015.
        Who knows, Heisey through no fault of his, may find himself to be the odd man out in the LA outfield come opening day. It probably would cost more than what LA paid to get him, McGill, but it might be worth it.
        A Boesch and Heisey OF bench would be more formidable than one that includes Schumaker.

    • preacherj

      Given our recent history of adequate back ups, or rather the lack thereof, I’m really not that surprised.

      “Hey everybody, Joey’s hurt……..Brayan, didn’t you play first once in high school?”

      • lwblogger2

        Yeah… I have no idea why a guy like Soto or Lutz wasn’t thrown out there every day until he proved he couldn’t do it. This is especially true when it was September call-up time and the Reds were out of it. It frustrated the heck out of me. The worst though was Bruce at 1B. I love Jay Bruce but really, I never need or want to see that again.

  8. charlottencredsfan

    JJ gives up a 2-run homer At some point, he has stop this or he won’t be able to pitch for the Reds. Sorry, seems like a nice kid.

    • Shchi Cossack

      JJ needs to revitalize his career by pitching out west. He simply isn’t cut out to pitch in GABP. I think his career in Cincinnati is toast.

    • preacherj

      Cowboy had what I thought was a great analysis: He believes that Hoover spends too much time crafting four different pitches and as a reliever he doesn’t have the time to properly manage all of them and so when he runs into trouble he overthrows the fastball and that is what leads to the gophers. He just needs to stick to a change up and the heater and roll the dice.

      • lwblogger2

        He really threw way too many sliders last year, at the expense of his FB primarily. He also simply refused to pitch inside and his command, especially his fastball command was bad. He is probably best as a FB and CB pitcher. Drop that slider and maybe only throw the CH to LH batters. His mechanics last year were also a mess. I was really hoping he’d get himself sorted in the off-season but early results aren’t promising.

  9. Shchi Cossack

    Boesch 2-3 today with a 2B and a SO. He’s not slowing down yet…

  10. Daytonian

    Good points on overheated predictions from small early ST sample!

    Still, Boesch has some pop in his bat. Skip does not.

    The Reds would be better off with Boesch, not Skip, as their 4th outfielder and as a bat off the bench.

    • Tom Reed

      To turn it around this season and surprise a lot of people, the Reds need as much pop as possible.

  11. redmountain

    I agree that Schumacker is not the answer or that Boesch is either. Hoover is toast and I am not impressed with DeSclafini. Having said that, beginning the season or continuing last season’s carping is misplaced. There are players on this squad right now and a few who might start in AAA who will make this a better year than last. With bounce back years from both Bruce and Votto, continued production from Frazier, and Mesoraco, Marquis and Cingrani being .500 pitchers and bullpen improvements, the Reds will be fine. The Brewers are not that good and will not be a factor this year and I am not buying the hype of rookie Cubs. That puts the Reds no worse than third. Several years ago, the Reds were not predicted to do anything and they won the division. NO ONE can accurately predict what will happen next week much less 6 months from now. That is why they play the games.

  12. Carl Sayre

    I think as this season goes on there will be more like minded people to share my “Why did they trade Heisey” mantra. He was never going to be a starter in the Majors but what he eventually got he was still a bargain if for no other reason than he could play all 3 OF positions to give the starters a break.

  13. wvredlegs

    Joey Votto and displaying leadership. Mark Sheldon, and I am not a Sheldon fan, has a nice article about Jesse Winker and Joey Votto offering encouragement after Winker’s final batting practice session before he went over to the minor league camp. Gave Winker a nice fist bump and took him off to the side for a quick chat.
    Votto. Leadership. On display. Out in the open. Have no worries about Votto.

    • jdx19

      Is it just me, or is Votto a bit imtimidating with his new shaved head look?

      • reaganspad

        the only time Votto is not intimidating is when he is dragging his right leg behind him running to 1st base.

        Past that, he could have Andrew McCutcheon dreadlocks and nobody would want to pitch to him.

        that said, I do agree JDX that the new look does give him that “I just got out of boot camp and as mad as hell” look.

        a good look for the Reds

      • reaganspad

        make that left leg, but you get the point

  14. mikemartz

    I think the hair cut is from Mountie boot camp, and absolutely nobody rides Nibbles! If there is any trouble Joey will simply jump on Nibbles and take care of business…….The Red surge boys, there’s nothing bigger or better!