Yes. I’m still here. You haven’t gotten rid of me yet.

Last time, I laid out my thesis that this year should be about the Cincinnati Reds trying as hard as possible to: 1. Be fun, 2. Be good as soon as possible, and 3. Appreciate Joey Votto.

So far, so good.

We’re a handful of games into the the spring season so far. And, if it’s true that spring training stats don’t matter (it is true), then it’s extra true for early spring training stats. But there is one stat that can be telling at this point, especially on a team like the Reds where roughly half of the every day spots are up for grabs. That stat is plate appearances. Right now, the players with more than a couple of plate appearances are either established regulars or very young. The only exceptions are Henry Ramos and Chad Pinder, who no one thinks have a chance to be anything but bench pieces (and who may have one of those opt out clauses that older vets sometimes have in spring training).

The shortstop job, it seems, is Jose Barrero’s to lose. And the Reds would prefer that he lose it to another prospect if he does.

You can’t ask much more than this from a team that should be trying to be interesting.

Now, on the be good soon level, we have to give points to Jonathan India. I know there’s been some grouching about him trying to be a leader when he hasn’t been around for that long, but I appreciate the noise that’s come from him, Tyler Stephenson, and Votto that amounts to, “we’re not going to take it for granted that we stink.” This team did not have a lot of energy this year, and I’d much rather they come into the season acting like they’re being taken for granted or whatever. Young teams will sometimes surprise and it sure is nice to have the players providing some energy.

Now, as for Joey, I don’t know that we can say too much. He hasn’t made it to the field yet, but is apparently ready to tour the universe.

As the season progresses, I’m sure I’ll get more opinionated, but for now, I don’t find much to complain about. In another couple of weeks, we’ll probably start to get a sense of who might be in the bullpen and who the leaders are for various starting spots. I look forward to it.

59 Responses

  1. SteveAreno

    Be fun? Certainly, and in sports, losing a lot is not fun. You have fun when you win, it’s the nature of sports.

    Quite your contrary, Henry Ramos performance is shaping up strong and should be getting the coaches attention. Others to mention as top performers are C. Encarnacion -Strand and Ritchie Martin. Those two might give Louisville a boost and need to play every day.

    Top performers in the bullpen so far are middle relievers Fernando Cruz and Ian Gibaut. They both have been impressive out of the gate make this more fun.
    Catcher Curt Casali is taking this seriously and putting in a commendable effort.

    The “previously injured” players show thick cobwebs and need much more time to get back if they ever will, after their serious injuries.

    • Votto4life

      Chances are that by June no one here on RLN will even remember the name Henry Ramos.

      • SteveAReno

        Always a chance for that, but it’s more fun and fulfilling to celebrate when our guys are doing well and giving them some kudos for it than predicting doom and gloom. I’m always looking for the bright spots in a dark sky.

      • 2020ball

        +1 @Steve

        I dont expect Ramos to make the cut though. I’m always happy for depth options.

  2. CFD3000

    I have also been encouraged by which players seem to be getting playing time, particularly at bats. There are so many talented prospects and I’m eager to see which ones stall and which ones figure out how to thrive. And oddly, I’m okay that at least so far EDLC isn’t excelling – I do think there is pressure to rush him, but I don’t see the upside. So if a slow spring sends him to AA to gain experience I think in the long run that’s a good result. Meanwhile perhaps McClain, CES, Marte and others will show that they deserve their high rankings. So far, spring training has been fun!

  3. old-school

    BY all reports, Barrero hasn’t been just good defensively at shortstop, but great. He has all the tools to be a very strong defensive SS. The question then becomes can he just improve his hit tool enough and K rate enough to hit 8th. Zach Cozart was a vaccum sweeper at SS but a dreadful hitter early in his career- OPS+ in 2012-14 was 82/82/60. Ill be watching the K rate as he has to give more competitive at bats to be an every day SS, but an elite SS glove can compensate for some(not all) hitting deficiencies.

    • MuddyCleats

      Agree, I think Barrero is trying to do too much at the plate, and the Reds don’t seem to be helping him make the correct adjustment? His new “hands high” approach has lengthened his swing making it too big and too slow. He’s literally wrapping the bat behind his head (slow) and swinging for the fences. Please just allow (emphasize) the kid play great Def and ask for good ABs that focus on swinging only at strikes and making contact. Someone pls let him know a BB and or a base hit ea game is more than enough right now. There’s NO need for him to be ARod especially if our 1B, 3B, LF, RF and DH are doing their jobs

      • 2020ball

        It’s not always the coaching, despite what most here will tell you. The player needs to find what works for him, a coach can only do so much. Sometimes it takes players longer. If he can play plus defense, he’s a useful player, so hopefully the hit tool come around a bit in time.

    • Melvin

      It is true Cozart had much difficulties at one time. He used to drive me crazy to the point of yelling at the TV, “Keep your hands and weight back!”. Obviously he finally hit a lot better when he finally started listening to me. hahaha I wouldn’t give up on Barrero. His potential as a possible five tool player is greater than that of Cozart.

    • DaceCT

      Barrero is electric defensively, IMO. But, as with our own kids, the guys all develop at their own speed. I’d love to Barrero to take a jump this year and prove he belongs, especially with the bat. Cozart came along slowly as did Davey Concepcion.

  4. LDS

    A few bright spots, it’s true. But man, the pitching has a long way to go. I’d say Lodolo among starters, Cruz & Gibaut among relievers. Yesterday’s game was like a summer game last year, tons of walks and tons of runs allowed. Most of the batters that are assured spots on the 26 aren’t really lighting things up, e.g., Stephenson. So, while it is early, these guys need to start showing something. I’m surprised, given how the Reds hyped revamping Barrero’s swing in the offseason, at how poorly he’s hit so far.

    • Old Big Ed

      Barrero has had 6 ABs.

      Evaluating players from spring training through March 1 makes as much sense as rating 5th grade offensive lineman. By about St. Patrick’s Day, the games become a bit better indicator of how players are doing, but even then, the stats themselves are pretty close to meaningless. Spring training itself is not meaningless, but the stats from the actual games typically don’t tell us much.

      The WBC games should be more instructive, but the only significant Reds on those rosters are Sanmartin, Cessa and Gibaut. Gibaut has been so sharp so far, but he is pitching in the WBC for Great Britain (where his dad was a cricket player), and he likely came into camp a couple of weeks ahead of others.

      I highly recommend fans to go to spring training, for the games but also for the morning workouts. The Reds don’t really have the most fan-friendly layout, and in fact I found it a bit awkward, but you can still see a lot and can focus on what some individuals are working on.

      • David

        I expect a lot of cuts of players who just haven’t done anything, or are intended to go to AA or AAA and get them into the minor league camp(s), and playing more.
        I have recalled some AAA players still being in Spring Training games in the past.
        But really, unless you have performed really terrible in several outings, they are going to hold onto the pitchers.

        The last 10 days or so of Spring training are more indicative. Most of the teams have, by then stretched out their starters, and have cut loose most of the chaff of players and pitchers.
        So really, only the real ML players and those that are close are playing by that time.
        I do remember going to a Spring Training game in 1996 in Plant City, and saw Eric Davis at bat (his comeback season) and he zinged a line drive down the right field line, and I thought…”he can still hit”, which was my one big takeaway from watching that game.
        I was at a Spring Training game in Lakeland in 1992 (the Reds were playing the Indians), and was leaning over the rail, watching an AAA guy named Ken Hill and Rob Dibble warm up side by side. It was evident just watching them, that Dibble was not throwing as hard as he used to. The AAA guy Ken Hill was throwing harder (the ball looks small when a guy throws really hard), but Joe Oliver was grinning at the fans along the rail, saying how hard Rob was throwing. He wasn’t.

      • LDS

        @OBE, for the most part, I agree. And I’d think little of it had the Reds not overhyped his off season. BTW, of those 6 ABs, he’s struck out 1/2 of them. Even EDLC, about whom SOs are considered an issue, has SO only once in 7 ABs. But, as I have said, I’m not overly concerned with the position players at this point. It’s early. Some of the pitchers though, I don’t think more appearances improves expectations. Some of them are likely just not competitive.

      • Old Big Ed

        Yeah, I think we already have an idea that Busenitz and probably Lively and Tayron Guerrero are not going to be in Cincinnati and maybe not even in Louisville. We knew already that 1/3 of the invitee pitchers would be borderline even for Louisville, but we just didn’t know which of them would fit that description.

    • 2020ball

      I’m not worried about Stephenson, just stay healthy is all I care.

  5. SultanofSwaff

    Yeah, if you’re gonna be bad, at least be young with upside and feisty too. This team seems to have that so far. Heck, even Bell (after 4 straight seasons of poor Aprils) seems to feel a sense of urgency for once. The April schedule is tough, but if the Reds could play above their heads it could do wonders for their confidence.

    Usually when you play the IF game before the regular season (IF Benson/Barrero/etc. prove themselves to be solid contributors…) it’s a recipe for disaster, but I’m not sure that’s the case here. Position player wise, there’s so much talent stacked up in the minors that there’s no need to do the Jose Peraza 1500 at-bats thing ever again, you just move on to the next guy until you hit on one. And kudos to Krall for acquiring serviceable depth pieces to further insulate the team from underperformance.

    And more to the point, like, can you really be that bad when you have Greene/Lodolo/Ashcraft as your top 3 starters and Diaz as your closer? To me, that’s a middle of the pack team at worst.

    I just think back to 2015 when the Cubs were coming off an atrocious season. Their young core gelled a year sooner than most experts were predicting. I sense something similar could be afoot.

    • Jim Walker

      Bell said in an interview/Q&A session with reporters that he was doing things differently this year because the team needed to be better prepared out of the gate than it had been in his previous seasons as Reds manager.

      As I recall, he indicated in the past he had wanted to require the least possible from older players and pitchers in the spring to leave more in the tank for them over the regular season. However, results on the field during the early regular season indicated he had not given them enough work to be ready to go. Thus the changes.

      • Harry Stoner

        A 3-76 start will set a manager to thinking.

        For Bell, that might translate into a little “tweaking” here and there.

        Nothing dramatic.

        There was plenty left in the tank for that big push in August – September of 2021 and 2022.

      • Votto4life

        It’s nice that Bell wants the team to be ready out of the gate, I am not sure why it took him 3 years to figure that out.

        Regardless of any change in process, he still only has 3 starting pitchers, a god awful bullpen, a bunch of question marks in the line up and one of the worst owners in the baseball.

      • LDS

        I saw the Bell writeup on The Athletic about this season’s team building approach – Corporate America 101. Maybe it works. Maybe it doesn’t. We’ll see.

      • David

        Bryan Price’s teams (when he was manager) were also notorious for starting poorly.
        Getting off to a blazing start (the Reds in 1970 and the Reds in 1990 to recall two pretty good teams!) is great and fires up fan interest. But a whole season it does not make. Although both those teams went to the World Series (1970 team lost to Baltimore in 5, and 1990 team swept the A’s).
        But the start last year was just about the bottom. And Bell has to take some responsibility for the team just not being ready to play well.

      • TR

        Anything to avert the horrendous start of last season.

      • Harry Stoner

        While Bell’s apparent laissez faire attitude towards poor performance (his own as well as his players) I do feel that some of last year’s disastrous start can be attributed to the gutting of the clubhouse with the Gray, Suarez and Winker trades. Castellanos leaving.

        Despite what some here might think of their performance, they were some of the real glue holding the team together. Think of any team in any field or business going through such a turnover. Gradually, with real props to Farmer it seems, the team came back together.

        When the August trades happened: Castillo, Mahle, Drury, Naquin there was another blow to the “team” spirit which I feel contributed to the August / September swoon. Sure they are “professional” ballplayers but they are human and “chemistry” however you describe it is real. Hopefully, it is reestablishing itself this Spring with new leaders and a new spirit.

      • 2020ball

        I’m pretty sure subtracting decent to good players had a negative effect on the team, probably more than youre crediting. I really dont think there’s anyone accepting poor performance there though, who did you wanna see more of in the early season? More Moose and Reynolds? Not sure what you want Bell to do. This year there are actually some interesting prospects making some noise, we didnt have anyone ready on the farm last season.

      • Melvin

        “Bell said in an interview/Q&A session with reporters that he was doing things differently this year because the team needed to be better prepared out of the gate than it had been in his previous seasons as Reds manager.”

        I would hope so. His managing record in the past at the start of the season hasn’t been exactly stellar. If he truly is trying to change things for the better I give him credit for that. We’ll see. Could it possibly be that Mr. Bell is actually starting to feel a little pressure about his job?

      • 2020ball

        I think Bell is under way more pressure than anyone here thinks, glad he’s changing his opening strategy albeit a bit late.

    • BK

      The Braves are part of a publicly held company; opening their books is mandatory.

      • LWBlogger

        Yes, but it does provide some valuable insight into what other teams may have (or have not) to work with. For people who get excited about the business aspects of the game, I could see a deep dive in there being ‘fun’. Not my thing at all but for some….

      • BK

        Agreed. Blue Jay’s books are public, too. Also, the Forbes analysis should be out in a few weeks. There’s actually a good bit of information available even though most teams are privately held.

  6. Oldtimer

    History lesson. The 1960 Reds were 67-87. The 1961 Reds weren’t expected to be too much better (predicted 6th out of eight NL teams) although they traded for Gene Freese and Joey Jay over the winter.

    The 1961 Reds won 8 Florida spring training games that year. Not a good omen. But (as was common in those days) they played their way back to Cincinnati in a series of barnstorming games along the route. The 1961 opponent was the Milwaukee Braves. Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn to name a few big names on the Braves.

    The Reds swept the Braves in those 4 games to gain some confidence. The 1961 season turned out much better than expected. 93 W and NL pennant for first time since 1940.

    The 2023 Reds are highly unlikely to win the NL pennant but they should be better than last year.

    • Mark Moore

      “Better than last year” is a pretty low bar to jump, but I’m with you. It’s going to take some health and consistency, but I think it can happen. It will also take DTBell not being the same DTBell we’ve come to know. But healthy and consistent should lower his “need” to tinker.

  7. Votto4life

    How anyone can draw conclusions from three or four preseason games just baffles me.

    • SteveAReno

      You did, you said Henry Ramos won’t be known in June after I patted him on the back for his nice start. Most of us are not trying to make conclusions. We are making observations and giving credit where credit is due because hope springs eternal.

      • Jack

        Yeah but that wasn’t based on a couple spring training games, that was based on a career’s worth of work. At nearly 31 he is not suddenly a great ball player.

      • TR

        With the Red’s fans experience of the last thirty plus years, it’s always important that hope springs forth at this time of year.

    • Old Big Ed

      It likely isn’t too early to figure out who the worst 3-4 pitchers in camp are. They signed some older pitchers, hoping to see if they had made any improvements from their past records. Busenitz, for example, has a 4.2 WHIP in 2 outings, against mostly minor leaguers. Two weeks into camp, the staff likely has a sturdy opinion on him.

      It is too early for any other conclusions, though.

    • Redsvol

      It may be a little early but after tomorrow more than 20% of the spring training games will be concluded. Pitchers are generally ahead of hitters in spring training so it probably doesn’t take long to form an opinion of pitchers. Next week starters need more innings so opportunities for pitchers has to go down to compensate for the starters needing more work. Hitters take more time.

      I don’t remember where I read it but there was an interesting story on Alexis Diaz’s spring last year. His numbers weren’t good but the coaches could tell hitters weren’t getting good swings on him in there at bats. The coaching staff lobbied for him to break camp with the major league club and rest is history.

  8. redfanorbust

    There was a trade scenario made by one of he hosts of locked on reds podcast about trading India to the Dodgers because they “lost Lux”.
    (try saying that three times fast lol).
    His point was we have many possible replacements at 2B. I forget the two players he mentioned to get in return. One was a catcher as I recall. Anyone have a thought about if this could/would ever happen?

    • Amarillo

      They aren’t going to ever trade a player during pre-arb years or at least the first year of Arbitration, so the earliest India would be traded is 2025. Those replacements being alluded to are likely referring to Steer or McClain. Neither of which have as much experience at 2nd as other positions.
      I’d assume the trade was suggested primarily because if Stephenson is only going to be a part time Catcher, we currently don’t have a legitimate Catcher prospect above Daytona, and we no longer have any trade pieces that make sense to trade.

      • redfanorbust

        Thanks Amarillo for the reply. I think that was his reasoning that we could/would/should put Stevenson at 1B and have a premium catcher. However if we don’t have anyone to replace India then does not seem to fit.

      • Melvin

        @2020ball – It seems as though the train of thought about catching these days is that a team needs to have two good ones on the same team if it indeed wants a catcher who can hit as well play good defense and call a good game. Just split 81-81 with the other at DH. I have no problem with that if we can find another one. The problem with that is even if we do the current Reds ownership won’t even pay for one long term.

    • 2020ball

      The catcher he was probably talking about I can guarantee you isnt available.

      • 2020ball

        Diego Cartaya, whose their #1 prospect and a lot of people are high on, is whom I think he was talking about. I rather dislike when people just look at the top of a teams list and choose the players they like. India is a guy any team would consider, but you have to be reasonable in your trade scenarios.

      • Jim t

        Perhaps with the Dodgers needing a SS and is being very full of middle infield prospects a trade for a good catching prospect might be a good
        Plan

    • 2020ball

      If they trade India, I’d prefer they targeted pitching

  9. 2020ball

    Guys can lead no matter their experience level and amount of time with a team. India’s been here plenty long enough. There’s also different ways to lead, so if he’s trying to step up and fill a different leadership role thats awesome as far as I’m concerned.

  10. Old-school

    Im a big fan of India and will stick my out and say I believe he and Stephenson are the de facto leaders of this team and both will be productive Reds for a long time. India was ROY for a reason and possesses a combination when healthy of hitting for avg , getting on base and some big time power in Gabp. He has the intangibles and has not shied away from saying hes going to be faster and a better defender. His Dad was a world champion power lifter with Arnold. Hes cut from a different cloth.

    India is going to have a good year 3- obviously health dependent.

    • Mark Moore

      A big +1,000 from me. I see the same things in India and Stephenson. Healthy year will be the key.

    • JB

      Totally agree on India OS. The guy was injured a lot last season and didn’t put up numbers like is rookie year. Therefore in Reds land he stinks now and let’s get rid of him because guys in the minors are coming and will be way better than India. Because that philosophy worked so far for Senzel. You also could say Winker. He was a savior but people found out he couldn’t hit Lefties, play defense or run. I like India and until somebody comes up and is better than him , he is the shortstop.

    • DaveCT

      It would be a grave mistake to give up on India, with his internal drive and talent, not to mention hair, making him a fan fave. The way to put fans in the seats is winning, of course, but also having stars. With Greene and TySteve, we have incredibly gifted humans to make the faces of the franchise. With India, we have that grinding, determined, incessant effort guy. Three great building blocks.

  11. Votto4life

    @SteveAreno

    I was referring to the author claiming the Reds are “fun”. I don’t know how he has come to that conclusion after 4 Spring Training games.

    Regarding Henry Ramos, I am not basing my comments on his performance after 4 Spring Training games, I am basing it on 3,200 minor league at bats.

    I am willing to wager that Ramos will not be on the Red’s major league roster come June 1st.. should you are interested?

    I stand by my comments about

      • Votto4life

        Never mind, I see now that Jack already explained my comments about Ramos. Thanks Jack.

      • JB

        Ramos is a depth piece. Will he be on the roster June 1st? Only if there are injuries which the Reds had a ton of last year. I think the Front Office looked at last year and loaded up on guys this year in case this year repeated last year. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

    • SteveAreno

      I didn’t say he would be on the roster in June, all I said was he is doing well in spring training and the coaches might pay closer attention. You were the negative nelly. There’s nothing to bet on. I hope he makes the roster, at least in Louisville, and happy he is doing so well.

  12. CI3J

    Completely off topic, but has anyone looked at the Reds’ schedule? What’s with all the weird start times? It used to be, the evening games started at 7:10, the noon games were 12:35. But looking at the schedule, the start times are all over the place. Why would they do this?

    Look at the other major sports, their games consistently start at predictable times. MLB used to be the same way. It’s very hard to make plans to watch an MLB game when you have to keep checking what weird time the game might be starting at. Whose idea was it to do away with standardized start times? Things seem to start calming down around June, but April and May are just a mess with the start times.