Coming into the 2019 season, the Reds had one fairly obvious weakness in the bullpen: they had only one sure-fire left-hander in Amir Garrett. Wandy Peralta and Cody Reed were the other options on the 40-man roster. Buddy Boshers and Ian Krol (Remember them? Didn’t think so.) were brought in on minor-league deals as long shots to make the team.

Ultimately, the Reds signed Zach Duke to a one-year, $2 million deal before spring training. He was supposed to be the LOOGY (left-handed one out guy) out of the bullpen. Duke’s stint in Cincinnati didn’t make it through the first half of the season. Peralta also made the Opening Day roster, but he has never been a shutdown pitcher against lefties. When healthy, he’s dealt with the inconsistency that has plagued him his whole career.

The ineffectiveness of Duke and Peralta has left Garrett to pull a lot of weight against left-handed hitters in critical situations. In medium- and high-leverage situations, no Reds reliever has faced more lefties.

  • Amir Garrett: 56
  • Raisel Iglesias: 53
  • David Hernandez: 40
  • Michael Lorenzen: 37
  • Zach Duke: 21

Garrett has, of course, dominated hitters on both sides of the plate. Lefties have had virtually no chance against him. They’re slashing .197/.287/.254 with a 38.8% strikeout rate. If you prefer expected metrics, he fares equally well in those. Lefties have a .187 xBA, .253 xSLG, and .249 xwOBA when they face Garrett.

With the prized southpaw on the injured list, however, the Reds currently have all right-handers in the ‘pen. Among them, only Jared Hughes (.139/.220/.222) has performed well against left-handed hitters this season, though David Hernandez has strong peripherals (40.0 K%, 3.1 BB%). Raisel Iglesias, Matt Bowman, and Robert Stephenson have been particularly poor against lefties. Peralta may return from the IL as soon as this Friday; he threw an inning in a rehab assignment last week. Again, he’s hardly a solution, as he holds a career 4.76 xFIP and .324 wOBA against left-handers.

Even when Garrett comes back, the Reds need some reinforcements to get the likes of Christian Yelich, Eric Thames, Kyle Schwarber, and Mike Moustakas out. Fortunately, they already have one — and he was one of the pitchers passed over for a big-league job during spring training. (No, it’s not Buddy Boshers.)

Cody Reed has been on the injured list in Triple-A since late May with a sprained MCL. But he’s throwing again, and as of July 4, he was scheduled to start pitching within “a couple of weeks.” When healthy this season, Reed has dominated. In 20.2 innings at Triple-A Louisville, he has a 2.61 ERA, 3.15 FIP, 3.22 xFIP, and 31.3% strikeout rate. He’s thrown another 6.1 innings in the majors and allowed only one run and one walk while striking out seven.

Most importantly, he’s owned lefties. This isn’t a new development, either. Here are his season and career numbers at both levels of professional baseball:

Reed’s repertoire is quite similar to Garrett’s. The latter has a little more velocity, but Reed’s fastball has ticked up as a reliever. In his three outings with the Reds this season, Reed’s fastball averaged 94.3 mph and touched 96.1. Both relievers possess sweeping sliders as their best weapons. Reed’s slider has held major-league lefties to the following in his sporadic stints with the Reds since 2016:

  • .200 BA
  • .191 xBA
  • .250 SLG
  • .294 xSLG
  • .210 wOBA
  • .229 xwOBA
  • 35.9% whiff rate

But the pitch’s effectiveness isn’t exclusive to left-handed hitters. Righties also have a hard time doing much with it (.197 xBA, .345 xSLG, .258 xwOBA). As a reliever, he could potentially feature his slider even more to get hitters on both sides of the plate out consistently. That would only increase David Bell’s flexibility with his bullpen, a luxury he didn’t have with the LOOGY Duke. Garrett has taken this slider-heavy approach, with the breaking ball accounting for nearly 60% of his pitches this season.

Reed has yet to receive an extended shot in the major leagues, largely due to his own performance. He finally seems to be coming into his own as a reliever at 26 years old, and it couldn’t come at a better time for the Reds, who could really use another southpaw in the bullpen. In hindsight, Reed should’ve been in the majors from the beginning of the season. But once he recovers from his knee injury, he’ll hopefully stay with the Reds permanently.

12 Responses

  1. CFD3000

    The Reds seem to be pretty bad at giving their own prospects a real chance to get established at the major league level. Many who seem to have great potential – Reed, Ervin, VanMeter – languish as they’re offered occasional cameos. Even Winker seems stuck in the Catch 22 of a platoon role – isn’t allowed to hit against lefties because he hasn’t learned to hit lefties. Yet others – Peraza and Billy Hamilton and to a lesser extent Robert Stephenson – are the most obvious recent examples – keep playing and playing and playing in spite of consistently lackluster performance. So I’m hoping the Reds really need Cody Reed. I think he can be a huge asset to the team, relieving or starting. He certainly appears to be maturing and gaining confidence. His raw skills are plenty good enough to excel against major league hitters. And he’s young and under team control. Get healthy Cody – you may be just what the Reds need right now.

    • Doug Gray

      Robert Stephenson made 4 whole appearances for the Reds in 2018. They weren’t just giving him opportunity after opportunity while lacking performance.

      I’d argue that Phillip Ervin and Josh VanMeter don’t have “great potential”. Ervin might be a fringe starter. I’m more intrigued by VanMeter right now, and wouldn’t mind seeing him be given a month where he gets 5-6 starts a week. But great potential? That seems like a real stretch. Starting player potential? Sure.

      • daytonnati

        I think when Stephenson closed out 2017 with the strong September, he felt he had earned a spot in the rotation. Coming to Spring Training the next year, he learned that September didn’t mean anything. I think it messed with his confidence. Just as sending Amir Garrett back to the minors after several strong starts messed with HIS confidence when he returned. BobSteve started pitching scared. And to a certain extent, I think the same thing has happened to Peraza. He leads the team in hits last year, plays solid D (not great, but solid) and comes into this year thinking he has proven himself, as well, but no. He plays scared now too.

      • CFD3000

        Doug I’ll grant your point on Stephenson (though I did say “to a lesser extent”, and perhaps “great” potential is too subjective and a stretch. But the larger point is this – I think the Reds are too slow to give real playing time to prospects, and end up hindering possible development (Ervin, VanMeter, Winker) but on the other end too slow to admit that a prospect isn’t panning out (Peraza and Hamilton and Stephenson). IMHO if they come up they should play. Let the veteran role players man the bench. But if they do get several months or a season of opportunity and don’t show signs of improvement and an ability to really contribute, move on. Some do deserve a longer leash, especially pitchers, but I get frustrated when Peraza continues to start and contribute little, while JVM continues to sit, and languish.

    • Keith

      That’s the same Peraza that led the team in hits last year, right?

      • PhP

        Number of hits aren’t a good justification at all. Especially with a 5% walk rate. He’s hurting the team right now. He would be better served in AAA

    • Roger Garrett

      I think it points to the inconsistentcy more then anything.The truth is all of the players mentioned and many many more are still here.Which is even more telling for me.It points to an organization that doesn’t know what they have or just falls in love with everybody and is reluctant to move them.Bob Steve was out of options and hurt in the spring and he just got a roster spot.Reds anoint players then throw them away but not really they just send them down as long as they have options.Big reasons why they are where they are at today and will stay unless they change.

  2. LB

    I think the answer that question is “maybe,” but I’m not sure I’d mess with it…for whatever reason, Cody has had a ton of issues as a starter, and iirc I feel like he’s even mentioned that he psychs himself out when he has a start…he can be a dominant reliever, and there’s value in that.

    Sure there’s more value in a decent starter, but given his track record, I think I’d personally rather take the relative “bird in the hand”

  3. Daytonian

    I’m with you, Matt. Cody Reed has not panned out as a starter. But he may have the tools to be an effective reliever, a lefty who only has to last an inning, where no batter sees him twice in a game, and where he does not lose anything on his fastball.

    @Pete: No, please don’t make him a candidate for the starting rotation. The Reds have other and better options there. Make Cody a candidate for a good spot in the ‘pen.

  4. Phil

    I’m interested to see what the rule changes regarding the bullpen, in addition to managers severely limiting starting pitchers facing lineups a 3rd time, looks like.
    New rule says pitcher must face 3 batters, or finish the inning. Lorenzen, Iglesias, Garret & Reed were all starters at some point in their careers. Assuming the starter lasts 5 innings getting through the opposing line up twice, would Bell use any of those relievers for multiple innings?

  5. Mark Lang

    We’re gonna need more than one secret weapon (unless he’s going to be batting 3rd through 5th, too).

  6. Tom Mitsoff

    Romano just had a couple consecutive very strong outings as a starter. They may be trying him again in that role.