So, last night on Twitter, I made the egregious suggestion that Scooter Gennett was likely not a player to count on over the long term. Correspondingly, my mentions caught fire like dry brush at a fireworks show.

Today, we’re gonna do something. We’re gonna look at every player currently playing a prominent role on the Reds and ask two questions: 1. Is this player likely to improve based on accepted aging curves and 2. Is this player likely to be above average in 2 years. That is, position-by-position, how close are the Reds to being on a championship track?

C – Tucker Barnhart (age 27): Improve? No. Above Average 2020? Yes.

Tucker is currently at his peak and generally understood to be above average thanks to his impeccable defense and adequate bat. There’s no reason to expect a decline yet, but he also likely is who he is.

1B – Joey Votto (age 34): Improve? No. Above Average 2020? Yes.

When you start on top of Everest, it’s a long way to go until you’re below sea-level.

2B – Scooter Gennett (age 28): Improve? No. Above Average in 2020? No.

I mean, there’s a chance he’s above average in two years. His decline won’t be steep yet, but many people discount how much his defense hurts his value (he has been the worst 2B in baseball over the last two years by A LOT). He’s unlikely to maintain a 140 OPS+ for the rest of the year and the best-case is probably something akin to last year where he’s an above average hitter and a 2.5-3 WAR player. Meaning that, at age-30, he’s more likely than not to be a touch below average.

SS – Jose Peraza (age 24): Improve? Yes. Above Average in 2020? Uh…. Um…. Probably not.

One of my pet peeves about Reds fans (and probably all fans, frankly) is their short-sightedness. They can’t believe the Reds let Justin Turner or Edwin Encarnacion go, but they’re also always ready to kick a struggling young player to the curb. You can’t have it both ways. Anyhow, the deal with Peraza is that his profile doesn’t bode well at this point. He’s a contact hitter, but needs to hit the ball harder for that to be enough. So yeah, he’s young enough that it could happen, but also old enough that I’m forced to say that it’s not the most likely scenario.

3B – Eugenio Suarez (age 26): Improve? Maybe a touch. Above Average in 2020? ABSOLUTELY.

The Suarez deal looked great at the time and continues to look great. He’s been the best player on the team so far this year and looks even better than last year. He’s also an excellent example of why you shouldn’t give up on players who are good enough to be in the majors at a young age. He debuted during his age-22 season and was below average as recently as his age-24 season. But he adapted and developed and is now situated to be one of the best players in the league for several years with a very good chance at being one of the best 3Bs in Reds history (yes, seriously, I’ll try to do a post on this at some point).

OF – Adam Duvall (age 29): Improve? No. Above Average in 2020? No.

Everyone who thinks the Reds should extend Gennett should ask themselves how they felt about late-bloomer Duvall in May of last year, which is when he should have been traded.

OF – Scott Schebler (age 27): Improve? No. Above Average in 2020? No.

He hasn’t been above average yet. He has been about a league-average hitter who rates poorly on defense. So, yeah.

OF – Jesse Winker (age 24): Improve? Yes. Above Average in 2020? Yes.

Winker is always going to be hurt by his defense. However, there’s no reason to think his recent offensive struggles are going to be a long term issue. He’s unlikely to have the power that is traditionally expected from a corner outfielder, but he will have some power and he will also get on base A LOT. It is however, important to understand that Winker is unlikely to ever sustain all-star level play. He’s the kind of solid player every winning team has.

OF – Billy Hamilton (age 27): Improve? No. Above Average in 2020? No.

It’s been fun, Billy. Sadly, I think we’re all aware that his speed is dropping just a little. Since his other tools haven’t developed enough to compensate, he’s likely at the end of the line and should be a bench player at-best.

SP – Homer Bailey (age 32): Improve? No. Above Average in 2020? No.

Yeah. You know how it is.

SP – Luis Castillo (age 25): Improve? Yes. Above Average in 2020? Yes.

Early season hiccups aside, Castillo is a ray of summer sunshine in the pitching wasteland we’ve seen the last few years.

SP – Tyler Mahle (age 23): Improve? Yes. Above Average in 2020? Yes.

Tyler Mahle took a no-hitter into the 7th at one point. He is 23. Let’s be happy about him.

SP – Sal Romano (age 24): Improve? Yes. Above Average in 2020? Probably.

Romano has had some very rough starts lately, but we’ve also seen him have excellent starts that were clearly the product of skill and not luck. He has the lowest ceiling of the three young pitchers currently in the rotation, but, like Winker, he’s the kind of solid player every winning team has. He also seems a good example of the kind of player who can handle learning at the major league level.

RP – Amir Garrett (age 26): Improve? Maybe a little. Above Average in 2020? Yes.

It seems like he’s a relief pitcher now. But he’s a pretty excellent one.

Raisel Iglesias (age 28): Improve? No. Above Average in 2020? Yes.

A very high-value trade candidate, but I also won’t complain if he’s closing games for the Reds for a long time.

Michael Lorenzen (age 26): Improve? Maybe a little. Above Average in 2020? TBD

Lorenzen is at the end of his development curve and has been hurt a lot and had a lot of pretty mediocre runs. It’s hard to really know what the Reds have here.

Filling the Gaps

The Reds probably need the following pieces in the next couple of years in order to compete: 1 or 2 outfielders, a shortstop, a second baseman, 2 starting pitchers.

That’s a lot, but there should be help coming:

At second, things are incredibly rosy. Nick Senzel exists (and let’s all chill on the vertigo worries, the most likely outcome – by far – is that it subsides as more time passes and eventually ceases to be an issue at all); Dilson Herrera — who we’ve all forgotten about — is healthy, crushing it in Louisville (there have never been doubts about his bat), and still only 24; and Shed Long is 22 and ready for a promotion. Alex Blandino is a utility guy who is almost certainly capable of spelling others when the need arises. Surely, given this crop, the Reds can manage some sort of middle infield combo. As a fantastical aside, if ownership really wanted to show it was committed to winning, it could drop $300M at Manny Machado‘s feet and start him at short.

In the outfield, Taylor Trammell and TJ Friedl are both still in the lower levels, but hitting very well and could move quickly. One thing that I’ve said on here a few times and which is worth paying attention to is this: Research shoes that control of the strike zone is the best predictor of major league success. For a real life example, go look at the minor league walk rates of Jay Bruce and Joey Votto. This is also why I’m not panicked about Winker. Trammell and Friedl both walk a lot and Trammell is only 20, so on track to graduate to the majors at 21 or 22 depending on how much he moves this year. This also figures to be an incredible offseason where outfielders are concerned. So, if the Reds wanted to break the bank, they could.

The starting pitching situation is interesting. Brandon Finnegan and Anthony DeSclafani exist on the periphery. As do Cody Reed and Robert Stephenson, but it’s hard to count on any of them (though there’s still a lot of hope for Finnegan). Most of the talent is a little bit away, but you also never know. There will be a lot of free agent options this year, and the Reds probably don’t need an ace, so this could be a could place to spend. One of the interesting things I’ve been looking at lately is that it seems (I need to look deeper) that once a pitcher gets into his 30s without major injury, he can be counted on to chug steadily along for a while with slight declines until his arm finally breaks down. There are more elite seasons from pitchers over 35 in MLB history than there are from hitters over 35. But, as it stands, pitching is the place where there is the most hope on the current roster and the least help in the minor leagues.

29 Responses

  1. Ryan

    Nice Article Jason! I think 2020 will be the first year the Reds will have a competitive team. You summed it up by discussing how the holes will be filled. Every important player on the Reds is here until 2022, Barnhart being the only ending contract that year. The window is still very much open. It’s just a little farther in the future than fans would like.

  2. james garrett

    Jason I agree 100% and don’t have anything to add.A very precise and accurate assessment on these guys.Great job.

  3. Davy13

    “As a fantastical aside, if owner ship really wanted to show it was committed to winning, it could drop $300M at Manny Machado‘s feet and start him at short.”

    Finally! A RLN blogger that gets it and me! I’ve been on a personal campaign for MM commenting on several posts.

    A true rebuild means that you have A+ player(s) to build a franchise around for the long-term. MM is that player, and along with Suarez, you have your left side of the infield and milddle of the order settled for many years to come. Reds team should stop settling for maybe above-average to certain mediocre players. At least the team should make an earnest effort to sign him.

    • Jack

      Totally agree. With 13 mil coming off the books this year in Mez and 20 after next in Bailey, you could sign Machado. Votto, Senzel,Machado and Suarez. With Barnhart and,Stephenson behind the plate. Blandino and Long as subs. Trammel, Freidl, Fairchild, Siri,Winker etc as outfielders. Sounds good in 2020

    • Westfester

      Wow, a 1-4 lineup of Winker, Votto, Machado, Suarez!

  4. Streamer88

    The insanely high failure rate of growing above average starting pitching is universal. To excel in that space a young man must have a Tom Seaver level of discipline or a Doc Gooden level of talent, and then mature.

    Obtaining it is quite expensive one way or the other. You either dump draft picks and international bonus money into it, or free agency $$ on the back end after someone else has done it for you.

    If you’re the Cubs, you can buy front line starters. If you’re the Reds, you cannot.

    Thus, while doing it the Reds way is frustrating I agree with their strategy in theory, and appreciate that 60-80% of your Reed thru BobSteve quality guys will simply not make it.

    As for scooter, I still think there’s a flaw in how dWAR and oWAR are conceptualized. Both are positionally based, but really oWAR shouldn’t be as a HR counts the same no matter who hits it, whereas errors and range are more positionally relevant. As such, guys like Scooter are undervalued in my very amateur statistical opinion.

    • Jason Linden

      You are misunderstanding how WAR works. If you go on baseball reference, they – for reasons I don’t understand – apply a positional adjustment in both the oWAR and dWAR columns, but you’ll notice those two don’t add up to the player’s actual WAR, which includes only one positional adjustment. In effect, both fWAR and bWAR have a defensive positional adjustment that is applied once only. But the way BBRef displays things is weird and confusing.

      • Streamer88

        I appreciate the errata Jason!

        I’ll have to mentally chew on position based WAR for offensive output more now.

        Here’s my thought experiment: If you have Babe Ruth playing 2B, and every other team has Brandon Phillips in his prime, then your Babe is going to have very high offensive WAR and be a terrible defender. But that’s NOT because his defense is ‘worse than a replacement player’ it’s just that there are so many good fielders at that position that the average is moved. Now the flip of this applies to the offensive output stuff too, but because there’s 29 BPs and only 1 Babe, does his astronomically better offense get undervalued in the WAR calculation?

      • Jason Linden

        Probably not? The issue isn’t so much with a positional adjustment as it is with knowing what exactly the right positional adjustment is. Obviously, a shortstop who can hit is more valuable than a 1B who can hit. The question is how much more valuable. And we aren’t entirely sure about that yet.

  5. seanuc

    Nice article Jason (although I think it will take $400M to get Manny). To get to 2020, have to take steps now. I hope the following happens by the All Star Break:

    1. Trade Scooter
    2. Trade Billy or Duvall
    3. Trade Harvey
    4. Trade Iglesias only if return is huge
    5. DFA Homer or move to bullpen

    Then I hope the Reds:

    1. Install Suarez at SS, Senzel at 3B, and Herrera at 2B. Let them play as often as possible/no shuffling or rotations
    2. Winker in LF every day.
    3. Bench includes Peraza, Blandino, Dixon
    4. Stephenson and Finnegan as SPs for remainder of the season

    Go into off-season with an idea of what you have. Then spend real $$ on OF (maybe AJ Pollock) or SP (maybe Dallas Kuechel) or both.

    • Ghettotrout1

      I like Seanuc’s instructions you should send these to DW and NK. I hate to trade Gennett but the reality is we won’t be good enough next year to make him being here worth it and after that I wouldn’t sign him long term. Plus we have 500 2nd basement in our system.

    • TyGuy85

      👆👆👆👆 couldn’t agree more. Except I might add testing waters with Garrett as SP.

  6. Jack

    Thank you thank you thank you. Schebler is the most overrated player on the team. For some reason he gets a pass but you point out finally that he isn’t the answer. I’m not as comfortable with Winker as you are though. He has no power and will be lucky to hit 10 homers a year in a BANDBOX of a stadium. With lousy defense and a arm he needs to be above 400 OBP to be worth anything in my book. In a couple years he is 4th outfielder on this team. He isn’t worth keeping.

  7. Optimist

    I wonder about your closing thought – I think there is a lot of pitching potential in the lower minors. Even Keury Mella is having an interesting year in AA. Also, @dougdirt24’s recent analysis of Greene’s numbers reveals a lot, not least that Greene seems very amenable to coaching and understands there may not be a correlation between immediate numbers and long term development. If Herget, Rainey or Weiss make it, there may even be depth for the whole staff.

  8. Scott Carter

    Great Analysis on all the positions. (Could you possibly replace Thom on the TV broadcast?) I think you either hit the nail on the head with each one or came pretty close.

  9. davemoorewvu

    I guess this is the life of being a Reds fan. Hope 2018 is better than 2017.. realize it isn’t and make plans for 2020. Really disappointing. I guess it just ‘is what it is’…

  10. eric3287

    The moves the Reds make the rest of the year are going to tell us a lot about how much faith we should have that they are operating with a competent front office.

    If September begins and 4 or more of Scooter, Duvall, Billy, Iglesias, and Matt Harvey are all still members of the Cincinnati Reds it will be safe to say the front office is in over its collective head. The Reds made mistake after mistake from 2014-2017, putting off tough decisions for the easy comfort of the status quo. Imagine the return the Reds could have got after the 2016 season for 26 year old Anthony DeSclafani? Instead, the front office tricked itself into believing this team would compete by 2018 and a 28 year old pitcher is just the kind of anchor that rotation would need.

    Granted, no one can predict injuries, but when you have a piece as valuable as 2016 Disco was, and your organization is in as bad of shape as the 2016 Reds were, you have to move that one valuable piece for multiple valuable pieces. So often for rebuilding teams, it’s not the initial move you make, it’s the move you make after that. Picking up Alfredo Simon off waivers was a shrewd move (in 2012). It was flipping him for Suarez that ultimately paid off. The Cubs signed Scott Feldman before the 2013 season. It “worked out” in that Feldman posted a 3.42 ERA with the Cubs, but it was successful because they turned him into Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop.

    It is always this second move that the Reds failed to grasp. If Matt Harvey finishes the season in a Reds uniform and posts a 3.50 ERA for the 68-94 Reds, the Reds will consider that a success even though it in no way helps in them in the future. That is a mistake, but it is a mistake the Reds have made every step of the way during this “rebuild.”

  11. Bill

    I wanted to see Winker play regularly but watching him run the other night, I don’t think he fit in the outfield. As I said the other he looks like he’s running against an 80 mph wind.

  12. Jack

    I don’t see Harvey and Boras taking the low ball number the Reds will offer him.

    • David

      The Scott Boras Group is also the agent for Nick Senzel. Chew on that one too.

  13. David

    I respectfully disagree. There are good field/weak hit SS out there. The Reds main need to become competitive again is starting pitching. We can live with a weak hitting/good field SS if we had 5 strong starters. We don’t have one strong starter. We have a couple of future candidates for strong starters, but our starting pitching is pathetically bad at this moment, taken as a whole.

  14. Den

    Nice article but zero weight. We have no idea what players will do in the future. Baseball like anything in life is a question. When the Reds got Scooter there wasn’t anyone who thought he would be as productive as he has been. People seem fixated on our prospect Nick who to date hasn’t played anything above minors AND now has a major reoccurring medical issue. Baseball is a crap shoot more then any other sport with luck just as important as skill of projecting players.

    • Ernest

      The Reds should extend Gennett and trade Senzel?

      • Den

        Yes on ScooterSto a 5-6 year deal and wait and see on Nick

  15. Den

    What makes you believe any of those OF minor Leaguers will ever perform on the major league level.

  16. David

    Homer has had good success, career wise, against the Pirates. Let’s see how he does tonight. Will he turn the corner, or continue to be….lousy?
    If he gets bombed tonight, I think they absolutely have to take him out of the rotation, and replace with Stephenson. When Desclafani is ready (he gets a couple rehab starts at Louisville), then a decision is to be made as to who goes out to make room.

    And I think that Keury Mella should be promoted to AAA by July 1. If Stephenson comes up to the big club to replace Homer in the rotation, why not promote Mella to take Stephenson’s place in the AAA rotation?

  17. Sandman

    I am really, really tired of Hamilton, Duvall and Peraza. Have been for a few years now. That’s nearly half our starting offense that is underperforming in one aspect or another in a most glaring way. I know some would wanna lump Gennett in there bcuz of his defense. Then there’s Schebler who apparently is underperforming as well. The more I think about this the more I understand why we’re 18-33. Our offense is just horrible with the only 2 bright spots being Saurez and Votto. Of course the pitching has just been horrendous as well for the most part but I guess there’s more hope there for the immediate future than our offense. I say we get the best possible deal for all 3 that we can get and bid them farewell.

    • Sandman

      ⬆I had said that, offensively, Saurez and Votto were the only 2 bright spots. I temporarily forgot about the offensive juggernaut that is Scooter Gennett and the solid bat of Barnhart (I guess). Schebler’s BA currently stands at .256 which is 10 points higher than his career average. So, maybe some improvement from him with the bat if he can keep it up.