We are one day closer to the first game of the spring, which will take place on Sunday against Cleveland. Technically the Cincinnati Reds will be the “road” team in the game, but since the two teams share the ballpark, it’s only a road game in name. While no starter has yet been named, manager David Bell hinted today that it could be right-handed pitcher José De León.

“It looks like, and this could change, it turns out to be José De León’s day, and several guys to follow up with him,” said Bell.  “I don’t know for sure if José’s going to start that game, I imagine it’s going to be 2 innings or something like that. More than anything it’s just the where they fall.”

As we wrote on Sunday, José De León had a big winter in Puerto Rico that saw him strike out 53 batters in just 29.0 innings across six starts in the regular season and playoffs. But he also saw his stuff step forward a bit, too, giving him confidence he hadn’t had since prior to his Tommy John surgery that cost him the 2018 season.

Jose Garcia’s offseason change

If you happen to follow Jose Garcia over on instagram you noticed how often he was in the gym, and you probably noticed that he got a bit stronger, and bigger, over the winter. It didn’t got unnoticed by the Reds manager.

“He looks great. I do think he’s strong, bigger – he’s a big man,” said Bell. “I think he’s in excellent shape. I know he worked hard this winter, physically, but also on his swing. He’s ready to go. He’s fun to be around, his presence, and just he’s always got a smile on his face and he’s excited about where he is.”

Adding muscle to his frame was one goal for the shortstop from Cuba, but he also worked with his coach on improving his flexibility.

“I’ve been working a lot on my body, and my flexibility as well,” said Garcia. “I’ve been working with my coach Rio Rodriguez, we’ve been working a lot this offseason. I feel very good about my body and can’t wait to see what the 2021 season brings.”

Jesse Winker and a step towards an amazing season

Last year was just a 60-game season. For Jesse Winker it represented the best year for him at the plate. He posted a .932 OPS and a 142 OPS+, both of which were easily the best of his career.

“I think he’s a guy that falls into the category of if that’s a full season it might have been an amazing season,” said manager David Bell. “He did have enough success to really take a big step towards being a better, more consistent player.”

In just 54 games played, Winker hit 12 home runs. His career high was when he hit 16 the year before, but that came in 113 games and a total of 384 plate appearances. The additional power in 2020 did come with additional strikeouts. Winker, a player who had always had a better than average strikeout rate in the past, struck out 25.1% of the time he stepped to the plate in 2020. His career rate prior to that was just 15.2%. That’s an increase of nearly 67% over what he had previously done in his career. His walk rate was also higher during the shortened season as he sported a career best 15.3% walk rate.

8 Responses

  1. SoCalRedsFan

    If Garcia looks the part in Spring Training games, they should break camp with him as their starting shortstop. He has, by far, the most upside on the roster.

  2. Jimbo44CN

    Winker needs to try and make contact and hit doubles, not home runs. The image of him last year striking out while screwing himself into the ground gives me nightmares.

  3. Woodrow Thedaug

    Winker finished 2020 tied with Goldschmidt for OPS+ (142), just two slots behind Mookie Betts on same.

    Free advice for the hitting coach: Put him in one of the top three lineup spots and tell him “wait for a pitch you like and hit it hard somewhere”. (Then go help Farmer, Barnhart, and Stephenson in the cage. Get coffee.)

  4. DaveCT

    Sometime id like to see a primer on hitters today who are hitting lots of hr’s and striking out a ton, with fewer also walking more. Id like to see some numbers, by those who can, to examine how much our guys may be selling out K’s for power vs. are hitting out of the shift. Are these apples snd oranges in other words, or Macintosh vs granny smith?

    • ClevelandRedsFan

      I’d love to see that too. I’m a big numbers guy, but my fear with the sell out for homers approach is micro scenarios.

      For example, good pitchers don’t give up tons of homers in close games. Most of those come in 6-1 games against the B pitchers. So yes, homers are always more valuable than small ball and contribute to winning more when randomized against all scenarios.

      However, sometimes simply putting the ball in play can win games, especially
      close games against good pitching. How many times does a weak ground ball to 2B win a game with a guy on third and one out vs. a homerun with a 5 run lead?

      That’s the deficiency of many advanced analytics. An out is an out.

      • Roger Garrett

        I agree.Lots of things and mostly good things can happen when you put the ball in play.It is certainly hard to string consecutive hits against good pitching but with an all or nothing swing there is no chance.I think most can agree pitchers are way ahead of the hitters but some of this is that the hitters feel if they swing hard and often they may just catch up to one in 4 or 5 at bats.Pitching is now a science with spin rate and the increase in velocity while hitting is not.

  5. DaveCT

    Agreed. The dilemma of hitting out of the shift is one thing. But is swinging for the fences distinctly different? I just don’t know enough. Plus as you point out, how do players/clubs place a value on bat meeting ball, other than exit velo, etc, very individualized numbers.

  6. Jimbo44CN

    It’s all getting to be a little too much. Launch angle, exit velocity, WAR, on and on and on . Whether its a dinker over an infielders head or a line shot a hit’s a hit. Batting average, on base percentage, RBIs. Thats what counts. Not meaning to offend, but all these extra stats make me dizzy, or maybe it’s just my age. ?