The first place Cincinnati Reds (2-1) will kick off a 3-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates (1-2) tonight at 6:40 PM. The Reds are coming off arguably one of the most thrilling opening season series in team history. The Reds absolutely demolished Cardinal pitching, scoring 27 runs in three games. For comparison, the Reds scored a whopping 25 runs in their first NINE games against the Cardinals in 2020. The Reds will try to keep their smoking hot offense going agains the Pittsburgh Pirates, the team currently projected to have the worst record in all of baseball this season.
If you think the Reds are cheap, let me introduce you to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates have the lowest payroll in the National League, coming in at $53.4 million. That is $61.2 million lower than the Reds, despite Pittsburgh ranking 24th in TV market size, compared to Cincinnati at 37th. The Pirates will surely look to cut even more payroll closer to the trade deadline.
The only reason to even watch the Pirates this season just landed on the IL. The #9 prospect in baseball, Ke’Bryan Hayes was placed on the IL over the weekend with a wrist injury. Hayes had a 1.124 OPS in 24 games last season for Pittsburgh. Former Red, Todd Frazier was surprisingly not called up to replace the Pirates 3B, despite currently being active at the Pirates alternate site. The Pirates do not have a hitter projected with an OPS greater than .750 with Hayes out. The Reds have four well above .800 for comparison (Winker, Suarez, Moustakas, Castellanos).
It’s never too early to talk playoff odds, right? The Reds took a massive leap over the weekend. Their odds of reaching the postseason on Saturday morning were at 19.1%, but after two wins they have jumped all the way up to 34.4%. Subsequently, the Cardinals odds fell from 31.0% down to 18.4%. There are still 159 games to play in a very long season where a lot can happen, but this goes to show just how tight this division race is and how crucial each division game can be in terms of swinging the division.
José De León will make his first MLB start since 2016. He is a pitcher with immense talent who has not been able to throw enough strikes in his limited MLB opportunities. He was ranked as high as #23 overall in the MLB in pre-2016 according to Baseball America, but injuries derailed his career. De León had Tommy John Surgery in 2017. Doug Gray wrote a great write up/scouting report on De León over on his site. De León got hit pretty hard this spring: 16.2 IP, 18 H, 16 ER, 3 HR, 7 BB, 2 HBP, 16 K.
JT Brubaker made his MLB debut for the Pirates last season, and he had a pretty solid freshman campaign as a 26-year old rookie. He was only the Pirates #25 rated prospect according to Fangraphs entering 2020. Brubaker made one start against the Reds, and it was a good one: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 K. The start was actually the final game of that famous four-game sweep of the Pirates during the Reds late season surge. Unfortunately for Brubaker, he was paired up against Luis Castillo, who shutout the Pirates over 7 innings (3 hits, 10 K). Fansided has a nice scouting report on Brubaker.
Jesse Winker remains out of the Reds lineup, but the structure of the lineup remains the same. It is a nice luxury to have Tyler Naquin and his .782 career OPS against RHP as a fill in outfielder. Tucker Barnhart has now started 3 of 4 games at catcher. The Reds most likely will not see their first left-handed starting pitcher until Friday night against Caleb Smith of the Diamondbacks (it has not officially been announced yet, but he lines up). Tyler Stephenson figures to get all of the catching duties against LHP.
|Adam Frazier – 2B||Tyler Naquin – LF|
|Phillip Evans – 3B||Nick Castellanos – RF|
|Bryan Reynolds – LF||Joey Votto – 1B|
|Colin Moran – 1B||Eugenio Suárez – SS|
|Erik González – SS||Mike Moustakas – 3B|
|Gregory Polanco – RF||Nick Senzel – CF|
|Jacob Stallings – C||Jonathan India – 2B|
|Dustin Fowler – CF||Tucker Barnhart – C|
|JT Brubaker – SP||José De León – SP|
News and Notes
Nick Castellanos suspended for two games
In an absurd decision that makes absolutely no sense to anyone who is not employed by the St. Louis Cardinals or a fan of that franchise, Nick Castellanos was suspended for “aggressive actions” on Saturday. He’s facing a 2-game suspension, but he has chosen to appeal the suspension. That means he’s in the lineup until the outcome of his hearing. No other player was suspended, though several others were fined for their roles.
Jesse Winker should return soon
Missing from the lineup for a few days, Jesse Winker isn’t expected to be out much longer. He had flu-like symptoms according to manager David Bell, but Bell also noted that this was not COVID related.
Hunter Greene throws 105 MPH in Goodyear
Last week saw Cincinnati’s top prospect Hunter Greene hit 105 MPH with his fastball in a start back in Goodyear where he’s continuing his spring training as he prepares for the 2021 Minor League Baseball season that begins the first week of May. Greene had recently been clocked at 104 MPH multiple times. He continues to show a different level of velocity from any other pitcher on the planet.
As expected, Nick Castellanos is an extra-base hit machine
Most recent Reds to have 4 extra-base hits in the team's first 3 games of the season
2021 Nick Castellanos
2012 Zack Cozart
1988 Kal Daniels
1986 Dave Parker
1984 Dan Driessen
1976 Cesar Geronimo
1966 Vada Pinson
1961 Wally Post
1956 Ray Jablonski
1954 Jim Greengrass (6 XBH)
— Joel Luckhaupt of the Pawnee Lerpiss family (@jluckhaupt) April 5, 2021
The Cardinals unraveled at the behest of the Reds
"If the Cardinals felt that they had poise and composure following the fracas that broke out between the teams on Saturday, then Sunday was how they look unraveling."
— Steve Mancuso (@spmancuso) April 5, 2021
I represented RN and joined 97.1 FM the Fan in Columbus this afternoon
— Rothman & Ice (@971RandI) April 5, 2021
The Pittsburgh Pirates are tied with the Marlins for the fewest wins in MLB since the start of the 2019 season.
The Reds have just a 14-15 record against them. That includes the Reds 4-game sweep of the Pirates late in 2020.
Quite frankly, this is a team the Reds have to take care of business against. In what expects to be a tight division, who beats up on the Pirates the best could be the deciding factor. Let’s hope the Reds finally found the magic formula on September 14-16, 2020.