Sometimes, I like to get ideas from the comments section here at Redleg Nation. Especially when someone says something like, “The Cincinnati Reds have to do x, y, or z!” I usually think it would be nice if the Reds did whatever it is, but then I usually wonder if it’s reasonable or even possible.

I’ve noticed the bench as an occasional issue of discussion here, and so I thought it would be useful to do a dive into what a team can expect to need in terms of bench players and what a team can expect to get in terms of production from those players.

Expected production is where the disconnect lies around here. I like to use wRC+ not because it’s the best stat in the world or anything, but because 1), It weights on-base percentage correctly (OBP gets short shrift when we use OPS) and 2), It’s on an easily understandable scale. (I know some of you like to yell at clouds about stats that weren’t made up in the 19th century, but I think 100 as average is nice and easy to understand.)

Anyway, last year, 461 MLB players got at least 100 plate appearances. 208 of those players were average or better (100 wRC+ or higher). That’s an average of seven hitters per team. If we raise the number of required plate appearances to 400 (something approaching an everyday player who was mostly healthy), then we have 212 total players, of whom 145 (about five per team) were average or better with the bat.

Now, obviously, better teams tend to have more players who can hit. But the other take away here is that we can’t expect every hitter to be above average. This should be intuitive, but for a lot of people, it isn’t. And guys who don’t play every day, don’t play every day for a reason. Heck, even the mighty Atlanta Braves doled out nearly 200 plate appearances to Kevin Pillar, who is just not good anymore.

So it happens. The best teams are going to give playing time to subpar players because that’s how baseball works. Except in miraculous cases, teams just don’t have 13+ above average hitters to run out there. With all this established, I’d like to delve into what the Reds depth is likely to look like and who they are likely to need. Only nine guys can play every day, so which nine Reds are likely to get the most plate appearances, assuming good health? Here are my guesses from most to least obvious:

  1. Tyler Stephenson
  2. TJ Friedl
  3. Matt McLain
  4. Spencer Steer
  5. Elly De La Cruz
  6. Jeimer Candelario
  7. Jake Fraley
  8. Will Benson
  9. Christian Encarnacion-Strand

That is my guess and a guess is all it is. Fraley, Benson, or Encarnacion-Strand could all end up as the odd man out in favor of Noelvi Marte (I’m assuming that one of the two outfielders will DH a lot as is). But my guess is that, right now Marte starts in Louisville as depth (yeah, I know about the draft pick thing, I guess it could be Encarnacion-Strand or De La Cruz, but that seems really unlikely). Depth is the key word here. Because the ideal situation does not involve rostering your 13 best position players to start the season. Ideally, you have one or two potentially legit guys who need to play every day waiting in Triple-A. Injuries do happen, after all.

Remember, the numbers above tell us that the average team is going to have about 15 players get 100 plate appearances. How is that going to look for the Reds?

The first nine are listed already. We’ll add Marte, who is likely playing every day for the Reds the second someone gets a hangnail. India is (somehow, still) on the roster, and as long as he is, he’s probably 11th on the depth chart. Luke Maile is the backup catcher. That’s 12.

Using MLB last year as a barometer, the 12th man can expect somewhere between 200 and 240 plate appearances. In terms of hitting, Maile might be 13th. He has to be on the roster, but he’s unlikely to hit in a game where he isn’t starting. If he starts 40 games, that will net him (probably) 150-200 trips to the plate.

So we’re looking at the 12th, 14th, and 15th most likely Reds to come to bat. These three players will likely split 400-500 plate appearances between them.

Here are the options.

On the 40:

  • Stuart Fairchild
  • Jose Barrero
  • Jacob Hurtubise
  • Rece Hinds
  • Nick Martini

Not on the 40:

Various non-roster invitee guys, some of whom may be from the Cincinnati area.

All of the genuine options on the 40-man roster are outfielders, but given that only three of the other 12 guys we’ve already placed on the depth chart have been outfielders for most or all of their pro careers (Friedl, Fraley, and Benson), that seems okay. And Barrero can, of course, play short.

Fairchild is a no-brainer, I think. He’s fine. He’s a good platoon partner for Fraley or Benson. In 382 big league plate appearances, his 96 wRC+ is just a little below average. He has some power. His defense is solid. There’s no case that he needs to play every day. He’s just about the ideal 5th outfielder. (Before you start demeaning Fairchild, I beg of you to look at 5th outfielders around the league, I can’t do everything for you.)

So now we are at the 14th and 15th players on the depth chart. In our current configuration, this is the last guy off the bench (remember, I think someone from the infield starts in Louisville to get regular playing time).

In this scenario, I probably roster Barrero. There aren’t real expectations for him any more and there’s plenty of case to let the other guys on the 40-man play regularly. I can also see a case for Hurtubise or Martini. In any case, this is not a spot where anyone figures to get north of 150 PAs unless something goes really weird. And that’s fine.

Depth is good, and the Reds have plenty of it. We don’t need to get worked up about the last couple of bench spots because those guys just aren’t going to play very much. Nor do we need to feel like the Reds are terrible because they end up giving Barrero or someone similar 150 plate appearances. Every team does this. It’s a necessary part of the game. Just like every team has a reliever or two they only throw out there when the game is out of reach or the rest of the pen is gassed.

Teams get into trouble not because of the end of the depth chart. They get into trouble when they don’t have enough legit MLB players to field a good regular lineup OR when they don’t have any competent enough to step in for stints when injuries occur. Cincinnati is fine on both of these fronts. It’s weird, but I’m not worried about their depth right now.

91 Responses

  1. RedFuture

    Good article Jason! As you said everyone will have a different hierarchy of players in this. I think Stephenson will not even be close to the top in PAs. I don’t think he appears much at 1B anymore and also far less at DH as well. Here is my list

    TJ Friedl
    Matt McLain
    Spencer Steer
    Christian Encarnacion-Strand
    Noelve Marte
    Jeimer Candelario
    Tyler Stephenson
    Elly De La Cruz
    Jake Fraley
    Will Benson
    Jonathan India

    • Jason Linden

      Oh yeah, Stephenson will obviously not have anywhere near the most PAs on the team. He’s just the only player on the team who doesn’t have anyone who could supplant him even in theory. That’s why he’s at the top of my list.

    • Stock

      Maybe you are interperting this correctly and I am not because it is not clear. However, I felt he ranked them in the order he thought they had a chance to clear 400 PA. Because of this Stephenson should be ranked higher than a ranking of most PA.

      I agree Stephenson will get playing time almost exclusively at C this year.

      That said given no injuries I still rank McLain and Friedl in front of Stephenson.

      • greenmtred

        I have a hunch that Steer will have more AB’s than Friedl or, possibly, Mclain.

      • RedinTxs

        Assuming Stephenson will get 400+ PA’s is extremely problematic. Like it or not, JS is just another example in a long dashed line, of brittle catchers. Actually, IMHO, catcher is the weakest and thinnest position in the whole Reds organization.

    • Captain Redleg

      I liked what Luke maile did last season and if Stephenson doesn’t find his prior form I could see Luke getting alot more playing time…Also I think India is gonna be healthy and have a great first half of season and probably be dealt at the trade deadline

  2. The Duke

    1. McClain
    2. Friedl
    3. EDLC
    4. Steer
    5. CES
    6. Jeimer
    7. TSteph
    8. Benson
    9. Fraley

      • greenmtred

        I’m not certain that we should support his family’s misspelling. No coke or pepsi. Bourbon.

      • Melvin

        Pepsi over Coke? I dont’ think so. 😉

  3. Tim

    “I can’t do everything for you “. lol

    • 2020ball

      Yup, +1 for that alone.

      Good summation of the roster as it stands today. My thoughts on Marte in AAA to begin the year are similar, i expect him to possibly begin the year there and that doesnt affect the draft pick directly either. He can win ROY with a month in AAA, wouldnt be the first time its happened.

  4. SultanofSwaff

    Excellent read, well written.

  5. CFD3000

    Good stuff Jason. I agree that the 2024 Reds do have decent to good offensive depth, or what Steve Mancuso and frequent poster LDS keep referring to as an “elevated floor”. The questions to me are health (as always) and perhaps more importantly a breakout player (or two or three).

    We know there will be injuries. Always. But what projections don’t capture and we can’t know is who might jump from solid to special. And there are a number of candidates this year – EDLC, CES, Noelvi Marte and Wil Benson top my list. Even Matt McLain has room to be an even better force. If a couple of them can take that big step the 2024 offense could go from good to great. And it’s that potential, along with similar breakout possibilities from a number of young pitchers, that has me excited for 2024. When worst case is decent, good is likely, and really good is actually possible? Pitchers and catchers – I can’t wait!

  6. Amarillo

    These days, teams will typically use 20-25 position players during a season and 28-35 pitchers.
    For reference- last year
    Braves- 22 Position players, 31 Pitchers
    Dodgers- 23 Position players, 35 Pitchers
    Orioles- 22 Position players, 28 Pitchers
    Rangers- 20 Position players, 28 Pitchers
    Reds- 27 Position players, 38 Pitchers

    On the Reds last year, Hitters 15-27 had a combined 869 Plate appearances, or the equivalent of 2 regular players. Pitchers 15-40 had 280 Innings pitched, or about the equivalent of a 30 start Starter and 2 60 appearance Relievers.
    Basically, there is no such thing as too much depth. At some point, we’re going to have to rely on guys like Josh Harrison, Austin Wynns, or Jacob Heatherly, which is why quality signings for the Bats are so important.

    • RedinTxs

      Great Reply. I agree and well put!

  7. docmike

    Very good article, Jason. I myself wonder why certain segments of the fanbase expect every player on the roster to be an above-average player. It’s just not feasible or realistic. Heck, it’s not even realistic to expect every regular to be above-average.

    You see the same thing happen even more with pitchers, I think. Some guy who’s your 5th starter will pitch to a 4.50 ERA, and folks will holler that we’ve got to get rid of him. Seriously? He’s the 5th starter, he’s supposed to be below-average. Most every team has somebody like that in their rotation. It’s just not normal to expect every member of the rotation to have a sub-4.00 ERA.

    • Doc

      Why? Grade inflation in schools is analogous. A ‘C’ is supposed to be average, meaning that on a standard distribution curve, the greatest single number of grades in any class should be ‘C’, but when is the last time you saw that. Average has diminishing meaning.

      Look at arbitration in baseball. Below average players, statistically, get raises out of proportion to where they rank, even when they lose their arbitration case. It’s even worse when you include the whole group of arbitration eligibles and the salary increases below average performers receive.

      • Jimbo44CN

        I agree Doc, and also, what happened to India? Was he in a secret trade deal last night. And I am one of those guys that think most of these modern “stats” are all subject to interpretation. BA , OBP and RBIs are much more important than all of this other stuff. Just my opinion, I’m old but not from the 19th century.

      • greenmtred

        RBI is supremely subject to interpretation.

      • docmike

        Doc, you kinda just proved my point. Yes, grade inflation means that a C, which was long considered average, is no longer the case. But that just means students’ GPA gets evaluated accordingly. If the average student now has a 3.0 GPA, then a 2.5 would be considered below average. By definition, the average will change every year. That’s why you always evaluate what a player did in comparison to his peers. A stat like OPS+ does just that. If you are at 100, you’re average. But the same stats that get you a 100 one year, could get you a 96 the next. Or a 103. It’s all relative.

        That’s why I used the example of ERA. A lot of folks probably remember the day when a pitcher with a ERA of 4.50 was considered terrible. But that’s generally not the case these days. In the 8 seasons since 2016, only once has the average ERA been below 4.00 (last year it was 4.33). So that guy who put up a 4.50 ERA is not about to get cut, rather he is a decent 4th/5th starter on most clubs.

      • docmike

        Jimbo, I agree that modern stats are open to interpretation. That’s because I believe that all stats should be be interpreted in context.

        Especially a stat like RBI, which is dependent on so many other factors out side of the player’s control. Where in the order is he hitting? Being 4th or 5th will get a lot more RBI chances than 1st or 2nd. How good is his team? A cleanup hitter on a bad team will not have nearly as many RBI opportunities, since the guys in front of him are on base less often. Not to mention the other team will be more likely to pitch around him anyway if the guys after him are not as good. That goodness it seems HOF voters don’t hold RBI’s up as some gold standard for enshrinement anymore.

  8. AMDG

    Marte starting in AAA?

    Marte has consistently hit at every level and doesn’t really have anything left to prove in the minors.

    I’d guess EDLC is a more likely candidate to start out in AAA than Marte.

    EDLC struggled with a Votto-like 0.191 batting average over his final 68 games with a 36% Strikeout rate. He’s got a ton of talent, and a huge upside, but could benefit from a little time in AAA to address those issues.

    • MK

      AMDG I agree with your take on Noelvi and Elly. I see an India / McLain middle infield at least through the All Star break. Since there is no right-handed platoon partner for Friedl, I can not imagine Stephenson getting more ABs than him.
      If Maille gets a minimum average of 1.5 starts a week that is 36 minimum for season. If you have 3 at bats minimum per start that is at least 108 at bats.

    • Jason Linden

      When he had the same number of MLB PAs as Marte currently has, EDLC had better numbers than Marte currently has. EDLC was always the better regarded prospect. Marte had a VERY high BABIP last year, and didn’t hit nearly as well as EDLC in AAA. Also, there was talk about Marte not pleasing talent evaluators last year.

      All of that is to say, this isn’t cut and dried. And Marte wasn’t clearly better than EDLC the way some would like to frame it. He never went around the league a second time. He is also more defensively limited and does not seem to be viewed as long term SS the way EDLC does.

      Which isn’t to say Marte doesn’t figure to be an excellent player. He does. But context matters. I think spring will probably decide this. If the rumors of EDLC improving his swing are correct, I would be shocked to see him start in AAA, where he has absolutely nothing to prove. Some players finish their development in MLB.

    • greenmtred

      EDLC has reportedly shortened his swing and, if you recall, hit well in the final few games. I won’t make too much of either thing, but he hit so well in AAA that it seems unlikely he’d benefit from further time there. The guys who throw the sliders he has trouble with pitch in the big leagues.

      • DaveCT

        EDLC also has a history of starting slowly. In fact, some would say “notoriously” so …

        That, with new swing mechanics could allow an opportunity to start him at AAA.

      • Doug Gray

        In 2021 he put up an OPS of 1.235 in the first 11 games of the season and was then promoted to Daytona. In his first month there he put up an OPS of .927. In 2022 he had a .764 OPS in the first month of the season. After being promoted to Double-A, his first month there he had an OPS of 1.064.

        In 2023 he began the year on the IL. His first 4 games he went 1-18. The month that followed he put up an OPS of 1.175. His first month in the big leagues he put up an OPS of .905.

        When and where has he started slowly, much less notoriously so?

    • 2020ball

      That many of you are hanging on to a couple hundred ABs so intently with a guy whose proven so many people wrong and has been young for every level doesnt make sense to me. Ignoring that he sells tickets, he’s likely to be a solid defender at SS and that allows him to hit .191 and still be a useful piece for the team. The doubt in EDLC around here is astonishing, he has the biggest potential for a breakout on the entire team littered with those types of players. If Marte was a similar defender at SS then i might agree.

      • Old Big Ed

        Yes.

        The video I’ve seen shows that Elly has traded in his leg lift for a toe tap, to help him be more “on time” more frequently. He also looks a ton stronger this year — a taller and faster version of AJ Green.

        He had a .799 OPS against RH pitching last season, which was about 5th in MLB against RH pitching. Barry Larkin was playing against Wisconsin pitchers at that age. Elly just needs more repetitions, particularly against LH pitchers.

        His arm is so strong that it’s hard to quantify. He’s going to make his hare of errors on routine plays, like all young infielders do, but throwing Corbin Carroll out at the plate, for example, both saved a run and recorded an out.

  9. Mark Moore

    From the perspective of an older-school fan (I’m now 60 and have been following our Queen City Redlegs for almost 50 years), this is some very good work with the most fundamental of stats and explanations. I really appreciate that. And RWC+ with it’s mid-point line of 100 does make sense.

    Strong case for Fairchild as the #5 outfielder. He fills a certain role at this point in his career and we need that. Even from a 15-year-old … 😀

    The India question is still puzzling. I’m interested to see how his arb hearing comes out. Kind of the same for Barrero and he’s a good resource to have just down the road.

    Marte vs. EDLC on the 26-man and playing more often than not will be a big question for Spring Training. I’m anxious to see a healthy MattyMc in Goodyear.

    It’s very close now … beyond where I can smell/taste it. I can almost feel it. Too bad I couldn’t be in Goodyear for a couple of games. That abandoned trip planned several years ago still kind of “haunts” me.

    • old-school

      Mark- get with the program. Stuey turned 16 over the off-season and now has his temps. Its expected he will be able to drive to and from the stadium by himself by mid-summer.

      From a depth perspective, things could go off the rails quick if Friedl has a significant injury and as hard as he plays, that is a real possibility. Fairchild is the only other competent defensive CF who has MLB experience

      • wkuchad

        Agree with you about Friedl. CF and Catcher are the two places we don’t have depth. Fairchild is great option as a fill-in to give Friedl a rest, but not everyday player when Friedl goes on the IL.

        This is why I’m keeping Barrero to start the season. When/if Friedl gets hurt, CF is Barrero’s only real path to playing time this season. I want to roll the dice and give him one more chance to show if he’s a major leaguer. There’s too much potential and upside to the Reds not to.

  10. LDS

    Good article and I agree the Reds have a lot of depth AND a lot of potential. What they don’t have or rather haven’t demonstrated is the ability to perform to that potential. As @CFD3000 noted, I’ve said they raised the floor. Have the acquisitions raised the ceiling? I don’t think so. Maybe Candelario puts up big numbers playing half his games in GABP. Maybe Montas is healthy and can repeat his 2021 performance. Maybe Pagan proves that last year wasn’t a fluke and he can keep the ball in the park. Maybe Bell gets over his L/R fetish and his desire to turn everyone into a utility player. Maybe DJ helps Greene learn and use another pitch effectively. Maybe everyone stays relatively healthy. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Sometimes the odds makers are wrong. But betting against them over the long term is a proven way to go broke – 4th place or possibly 3rd seems the most likely outcome at this point. As for India, my guess is the Reds surplus of infielders was a precursor to a trade that fell through or hasn’t happened yet.

    • old-school

      Outside All Star/Cy Young type acquisitions aren’t going to raise the ceiling because they arent coming.
      Barry Larkin aint coming through that door. Johnny Bench aint coming through that door and neither is Vada Pinson. Nor is Mookie Betts or Blake Snell or Cody Bellinger.

      Internal growth and breakout seasons from developing young players are going to raise the ceiling. Hunter Greene will grow and get better and turn into a strong reliable SP. The Reds invested in him to do that. Lodolo has elite stuff+ and he needs to pitch every 5th day. Ashcraft absolutely can and Abbott was the Reds best pitcher for several months last year. Montas and Martinez help stabilize things if 1-2 of those dont pitch well or get hurt. But, I think 2 of Greene, Lodolo, Ashcraft, Abbott and probably 3 of them will be very good pitchers for the Reds. Williamson is ready as well.

      The ceiling gets raised positionally by McLain becoming a 4-5 WAR player and 1 or 2 of Elly Marte and CES blowing up. I think CES hits 30 homers and Elly settles in.
      I also think Stephenson and India can still hit when healthy and Candelario and Steer will give you professional at bats as will Freidl and Steer and Fraley will against righties. Benson is a good young outfielder. The Reds whole will be greater than the sum of the parts because they have improving young special players with several who are on the verge of blossoming into big time MLB players.

      • Optimist

        Yep – this is this season as contenders. It may not happen this season, and it won’t all happen at once, but some of it will. Add to that what’s coming in AA/AAA, and it could happen very soon. Barring catastrophe, they’re good for the next few years.

      • LDS

        You are all doing a good job of proving my point. If the rookies exceed expectations, the Reds could do well. Banking on breakout seasons is how the Reds are projected in 4th place. Maybe it happens. Maybe it doesn’t. Regardless, that’s not a strategy for winning, merely a strategy for getting folks into the seats at the ballpark.

      • greenmtred

        A team like the Reds which has a lot of young players as projected starters is, of course, counting on them. So what? As we’ve seen, no strategy is a sure bet: ask the Yankees. Nobody’s arguing that Reds aren’t keeping spending down (a euphemism for “cheap,” but the rookies are talented and largely exceeded expectations last year.

      • Optimist

        LDS – you keep harping on “4th place”, and now, “You are all doing a good job of proving my point.” Is your point that they’re a 4th place team and shouldn’t bother to play the season, and they have no hopes, expectations or chance to do better? That seems so 2022ish. Is anything different this season?

        How much distance do you see between 4th place and 1st place? Why not 5th place? How many games will separate 1st thru 4th place?

        How is that “not a strategy for winning”? It’s not signing high end FA contracts, but it’s clearly a strategy for winning. Is it different that the Cardinals, Cubs or Brewers strategy, and how so?

        They’ve all demonstrated the ability to play to their potential, just not for an entire season or career, but how can they if they don’t even get a chance?

        Last season the Brewers pulled away in Sept., and 2 games separated the 5th thru 9th place teams for the wild card spots. That seem typical, and likely to recur this season. Will the Reds be better, worse or about the same?

        I expect they’ll be slightly better, with a good chance to be very much better, and very low chance to be worse or much worse. IOW, there won’t be much distance between 2nd, 3rd and 4th and they won’t be 4th.

  11. Klugo

    Seems to me that the FO went into the off-season prioritizing one thing: protect yourself against the IL as much as possible. As you’ve alluded to, depth matters and it matters because injuries happen and happen often. The FO seems convinced that this phenomenon must create a strategy and the clubs that prepare best for it gain an advantage.

  12. Optimist

    When was the last time they had depth such as this? I cannot remember any – even the BRM got pretty thin when it came to MiLB/call-up talent (which of course they didn’t have to bother with).
    They’ve solved that issue, and we should see that in great detail compared with last season.

    To counter LDS’s comments on a 4th place finish, the issue is no longer depth, but who will deliver all-star or better results? It’s pretty obvious the division is a 4-way race, and there’s a much, much greater chance they finish in 1st rather than 5th. I doubt they’ll fall off the pace, but some team will making it a 3-way race well into September. And, they’ll likely contend for a wild-card spot again, but that’s small potatoes.

    Considering the Bell critics, it will take some effort for this group to have a 6 or 8 or more game losing streak. Still, if no one or two have excellent seasons, they’re matching last year. If 3 or 4 repeat and exceed, they’re on their way. I think they have enough talent within all the depth for that to happen. If more than 5 exceed last season’s production they’re finally contenders.

  13. docproc

    It seems clear that Krall’s primary off-season goal was to improve the team’s depth–and I believe he has achieved that goal. This is the deepest Reds team in recent memory.

    I keep hoping that Blake Dunn has a great ST, gets added to the 40-man, comes north with the club, and racks up lots of ABs as the RH 5th OF.

    • Optimist

      I’m with you on Dunn, but I doubt it’s in April. Hurtubise is clearly the first call-up for injury (he’s on the 40-man), and Fairchild is a lock as the 5th OFer, so Dunn is basically competing with Fraley and Benson, and I expect he supplants one of them by opening day 2025. He and Hinds both debut later this season, earlier or later depending on how they do in AAA, and openings on the 26-man after the break/trade deadline.

  14. Indy Red Man

    Stuey? He’s ok. I wanted them to give him an extended shot and he played enough for them to find out what he can do. The problem is Elly, Farley, and Benson are pretty much vaporized by lefties so we need a righty enforcer and SF ain’t it. I’m typing on my phone so numbers check is too much, but what happened to Michael Taylor? I remember he had a big year vs lhp. Jonny Gomes or even Phillip Ervin struck me as a positive in the lineup vs lefties, but Stuey is just Stuey with his .710 ops. 5th OF not a big issue, but we could do better

    • Jason Linden

      Man, I hate it when people see what a guy does his first few months and declare him done. Did EDLC have a bad time against lefties last year in the big leagues? Yup. Do we have nearly enough information to think that’s how it will always be and he needs to be a platoon player? No, we absolutely do not. In fact, his track record from before those 122 PAs you’re putting so much weight on tells us exactly the opposite.

    • Jim Walker

      Check BBRef and Fangraphs. The more Stuey plays the better he does. Get him 4th OF PAs (350-400 a season); and, chances are he is going to bump that 96 OPS+ into the 106-110 OPS+ range. Doubters just look at the 2-3 times in the last two seasons when he has gotten PAs at that rate over a period of a couple weeks or more.

      The problem for Fairchild and the Reds is he struggles to show like this being pulled or inserted mid game based on pitching changes as the RH side of a platoon plus getting a couple of starts a month in CF in relief of Friedl. If the spot the Reds have for him is the RH platoon guy, then trade him for some value and get somebody else who profiles better for the spot they have. It could be a win-win situation for everybody.

  15. BK

    Well done, Jason! Really interesting and well laid out arguments!

  16. MBS

    Based off of Ability, injury History, Hitting Splits, Contract Status I’d rank the likely hood of them receiving the most AB’s in these tiers

    A tier
    Friedl, Cadelario, Steer

    B tier
    EDLC, McLain, CES

    C tier
    Stephenson, Fraley, Benson, Marte

    D tier
    Maile, India

    E tier
    whoever grabs the last spot.

    • Optimist

      Only disagree with TySteve – he’s in tier A. Really no reason to doubt his health going forward (other than to be expected injuries at the C position), and it’s just a question of how much form he regains – either star/all-star level, or simply solid regular. It’s his age 27 season, and only a slight improvement from last season makes him a solid C. Any return to prior form and he’s back into star status – either way he’s getting 500-600 PAs.

      • MBS

        I agree with you if Stephenson get’s DH starts as well as C starts.

  17. Stan

    On the pitching front who doesn’t believe that Lodolo will end up at Louisville so that the Reds get an extra year of control and can gauge Williamson for about a month to see if he’s got what it takes.

    • Stock

      I don’t think the Reds will send Lodolo to Louisville unless he has a setback in ST. If so I would be all for giving Williamson 3 starts to gain a year of control of Lodolo.

      In the same light, consider India going to Louisville instead of Marte. If India goes to Louisville they gain a year of control with him.

      Ideally, start the year with India in Louisville. After 3 weeks call him up if Marte is struggling and send Marte down for 1.5 months so the Reds gain a year of control on Marte. If Marte is mashing trade India who just bumped up his trade value by spending 2 weeks in the minors.

      • greenmtred

        I can’t imagine that sending India to AAA works. If that really is the plan, it would be better to trade him.

    • MBS

      The should start Lodolo in AAA, but they probably won’t. Not only does it gain the extra year of control, but more importantly, they can manage his work load. This will increase the likely hood of being able to use Lodolo in October.

      He’s still one of my favorite pitchers, but starting him in the rotation at the beginning of the year is only a feel good plan, not a winning plan.

      • greenmtred

        Doesn’t that depend upon how Lodolo is? Is he fully recovered? Is he pitching well?

      • MBS

        No, my opinion has nothing to do with his health at the beginning of the year. I assume he is currently healthy. Leaving aside the extra year of control, I think it’s the smart play in 2024 to begin Lodolo in AAA.

        Lodolo pitched 41.66 innings in 2023, and 116 in 2022, and 50.2 in 2021. I have a hard time believing he can start 32 games at 160+ IP in 24. If he can stay healthy a good goal seems to be closer to 130 IP. If we start him in AAA his outing can be spaced out, and his IP per outing can be kept in check.

        I’d love it if he is actually ready to go for a full season, and there are many here who think he can. For me it’s a matter of picking when we utilize him, the beginning of the season or the end of the season. I’m choosing the end of the season.

        Also we are not going to be throwing out unqualified options if Lodolo starts in AAA. Greene, Montas, Abbott, Ashcraft, and Williamson are all as deserving as Lodolo is to grab a spot in the rotation on opening day.

      • greenmtred

        MBS: the innings he pitches in AAA would count. Perhaps not as much as they would in MLB–I really couldn’t say–but they wouldn’t be negligible. I also don’t know whether or not he has more to learn in AAA. A worry I have is that such moves can legitimately be seen as contract manipulation: how might that affect decisions he and other young players might make about signing extensions with the Reds?

      • old-school

        @ GMR- the schedule in AAA is different with every Monday off and only 6 games a week. Many pitchers only pitch once a week instead of every 5th day. I doubt they do it, but the Reds could manage his innings load by pitching him once a week in AAA for the first 6-8 weeks of the season until invariably they will need another SP for various reasons in May. That would allow him to pitch deeper into the season. But as MBS says, he cant possibly pitch 150+ innings in 2024 after his shortened seasons of 2022 and 2023 and not pitching at all in games in 2020.

      • greenmtred

        Thanks, Old-school. I think you explained this the last time the subject came up. But it still leaves the other questions.

      • MBS

        My answer for the other question is which seems more like roster manipulation, ending his season early, or starting his season late? Either way will result in the same service time extension.

        If Lodolo is what we hope he is, I want him pitching for the Reds in October. The Reds will have to figure out the best way to do that, the above plan is just how I’d handle it.

      • Nick in NKY

        I’m inclined to agree with this regardless of contract status. If Nick Lodolo throws 5 or 6 game innings, at around 75 pitches, for the first six weeks of the year and that works well for him, I think it could be a good plateau for him to jump from. Of course that assumes other starters are healthy, and they may not be.

  18. DaveCT

    Your conclusion is your primary point (and best hook). You should have started the article with it:

    “Teams get into trouble not because of the end of the depth chart. They get into trouble when they don’t have enough legit MLB players to field a good regular lineup OR when they don’t have any competent enough to step in for stints when injuries occur.”

  19. DaveCT

    For one, if it’s determined to take the best players out of camp, it could be veritably prohibitive to leave Elly or Marte in minor league camp.

    Further, if one does not prescribe to the at bat formulas in the article, ie ‘starters’ and ‘bench,’ there is a paradigm shift, by a lot and and by design.

    Where I think the article only gets it partially right is the assumption only nine players will get the lion’s share of at bats.

    This is not how Bell manages nor is it how this roster is constructed. So that is where things fall apart.

    Instead, I am assuming the three primary middle infielders, India, MCLain and EDLC, will share the two positions worth of 1300 at bats. (400-plus each).

    Further, the same will be true of the corner infielders, Candelario, CES and Marte, 1300 at bats divided by three players.

    Last, of Friedl, Steer, Benson, Fraley, they, too, will each see 400-plus at bats (1950 AB’s between four primary outfielders).

    So, we are not looking at nine ‘starters’ and the rest ‘bench.’ We are looking at six starting caliber infielders and four starting caliber outfielders (10), plus Fairchild (11), with the two catchers (13).

    In that mix, all but Fairchild and Maile are presently slotted for 400-plus at bats.

    As implied in the article, this outcome is likely where things end up, but due to injuries, etc.

    I argue this is where things are intended to go, by the design of the roster, the approach of the manager hired then extended, and by the shift to speed and flexibility, overall, currently at play in the league.

  20. Stock

    Not surprising here but I totally disagree with LDS.

    1. If the Reds players exceed expectations they will without a doubt win 90 games.
    2. The Reds players don’t need to break out to exceed expectations. They need to for the most part perform as they did in 2023.

    McLain 2023 RC+ 128. Projected 2024 RC+ 107-112.
    Benson 2023 RC+ 128. Projected 2024 RC+ 88 – 105
    Friedl 2023 RC+ 116. Projected 2024 RC+ 99 – 102
    Fraley 2023 RC+ 107 Projected 2024 RC+ 98 – 113
    Steer 2023 RC+ 118 Projected 2024 RC+ 105 – 114
    Marte 2023 RC+ 120 Projected 2024 RC+ 90 – 102
    Candelario 2023 RC+ 117 Projected 2024 RC+ 102 – 111
    CES 2023 RC+ 112 Projected 2024 RC+ 102 – 114
    India 2023 RC+ 99 Projected 2024 RC+ 104 – 106
    EDLC 2023 RC+ 84 Projected 2024 RC+ 94 – 98

    The Reds don’t need these players to breakout. They just need them to match 2023 for a full season. 18% above average as a group for the top 8 is pretty impressive. For Comparison sakes, Milwaukee won the division last year with an average RC+ of 88% (or 12% below average) Only Yellich (122) and Contreras (124) finished with an RC+ greater than 95.

    Pitching wise they just need health. If the players exceed 2023 this will be one strong offense.

    • Optimist

      This is more excellent detail (well done Stock) to the questions I asked above, and opinions I’ve shared in various threads. I’d only add this confirms LDS earlier observation about setting or raising the floor – that’s the whole point with this group – a bunch of rookies/2nd year who have proven very capable, but not over a few seasons.

      One or two may be Aquino-like (though they’re all younger and with better peripheral stats), but there are so many that even if they all level off or dip slightly, they’re a wild card contender.

      To which critics may say that simply expresses “hope” over reality – confusing hope with expectations. Unreal expectations has them winning the WS, but modest expectations has them contending for the division.

      Sure, it could all go wrong, but that’s finally an extreme longshot rather than serious problem.

  21. Mark Moore

    Off-topic and applicable to only those like me who live outside of the Cincy area.

    MLBPAA looks like they are offering MLB.tv at a 50% discount if you have a $25 membership. If you qualify, that $25 counts as a charitable contribution. Bottom line is a full season of MLB.tv covering all teams for $100 total.

  22. Oldtimer

    The 1990 Reds had 12 players who played regularly (200 AB or more).

    The 1975 and 1976 Reds had 10 or 11 players who played regularly (200 AB or more).

    The author of this article overlooked Jonathan India, India will play regularly unless he is traded.

  23. Melvin

    “We don’t need to get worked up about the last couple of bench spots because those guys just aren’t going to play very much.”

    I agree. At least they shouldn’t without injuries of course. Still though all things considered I believe it to be wise to make Barrero one of the last bench spots.

  24. rednat

    Woah, woah, woah!!! Jason, Jason, Jason! Hold on there. Let’s just not gloss over this.
    “teams just don’t have 13 above average hitters to run out there”
    you are exactly right! very well put. that is the WHAT. But the more interesting question is the why, how and when. Even up to the mid and late 1990s the reds had very good hitters coming off the bench. Guys like Lenny Harris, Thomas Howard, Dimitri Young, Darrin Lewis, Jeffrey Hammonds , Jerome Walton, Hal Morris.

    Where are these type of guys now? Are they are on the soccer fields or grid iron?Why are they not playing baseball anymore? Now I don’t claim to understand the advanced stats. I dont know what wrc is. but I can assure you that these players were better hitters than Fairchild and Barrero. no offense to those two.

    How does mlb attract better hitters?
    Does the pitching need to be modified a little so batting averages can rise a little bit?
    do we really need pitchers throwing 95 mph sliders and cutters?
    Are the advanced stats blinding fans to the fact that a lot of these players are really be dominated at the plate? the guys I mentioned would consistently hit .280,. 290 even .300. ( I know, I am old Fashioned using batting average) . Fairchild hit .228 and Barrero .218. I mean come on, something is not right here.

    anyway excellent, thought provoking piece.

    • Jason Linden

      I am not trying to condescend, but do you understand that by “above average” I mean relative to the rest of the league? The majority of the hitters you just listed were significantly below average for all or most of their careers. This has always been the case for bench players. If they hit better than the average MLB player, they would play more.

      • Oldtimer

        I looked up two just to see how wrong you are this time.

        Lenny Harris holds the all time MLB record for pinch hits with 212 in an 18 year career. Interesting that someone might think that a player who played 18 years in MLB was below average.

        Hal Morris had a career 111 OPS+ presumably a bit higher than yours.

      • Oldtimer

        Dmitri Young. Career 114 OPS+ higher than yours, I suppose?

        Thomas Howard 11 years in MLB. Jeff Hammonds 13 years.

        Jerome Walton 123 OPS+ as a Red. Darren Lewis 13 years in MLB primarily as defensive OF (only 16 E in his career and .994 fielding average).

        Amazing how the Reds finished first in their division in 1994 and 1995 with so many “below average” bench players. Here are all the other years the Reds finished first in their division back-to-back:

        1972 and 1973. 1975 and 1976. 1939 and 1940.

      • Jim Walker

        Must be a lot of readers here from Lake Woebegone! 😉

      • Indy Red Man

        Don’t like to backtrack so I’ll post my reply here. I never said platoon Elly? I just said he struggled vs lefties. Kid that talented you let him figure it out.

        As for low ceiling, high floor, the Pam or Pamm dilemma, etc. I try to keep it simple. The Reds have more talent then the other NL Central teams so I really like their chances. Guarantees nothing, but pulling up mediocre guys from AA or the days of Weaver, Minor, etc should be over

      • Jason Linden

        Did you see where I said “the majority of hitters” in my response? Morris and Young were the two you listed who were consistently good hitters. No one else was when you compare them to the standard stats of the time. Lenny Harris got a lot of pinch hits because he wasn’t good enough to play every day for anyone. His career OPS was .657. That’s not good. Other guys had good defense, etc. Only the Morris and Young were actually above average MLB hitters during their careers (and, I should note, they were not bench guys, which means they aren’t really relevant to this discussion). Those are just facts. Walton was excellent in his brief stint with the Reds, but that was not the norm in his career.

      • TR

        I believe most of those originally from Lake Woebegone now reside in the suburban Twin Cities area.

      • Rednat

        I guess my point is the ” average hitter” has seemed to have gotten worse over the past 30 years.
        Is the pitching getting that much better or are the hitters getting worse.
        ?

      • greenmtred

        Oldtimer: Jason said a majority of those guys, not all of them.

      • greenmtred

        Pitchers throw harder on average than they did years ago, though there have always been guys who could light up the radar gun. Whether they’re better is a interesting question, but I think it may be the hitters’ approach that has the most impact. More emphasis on power even if it results in more strikeouts. Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs, Rod Carew and Ted Williams: where are you?

      • Oldtimer

        I fid see that. And you’re WRONG. The Reds had GOOD bench players in mid 1990s. Would that you have a clue.

        Bin the stats.

      • Oldtimer

        Yes, Mr. Green. He’s still wrong. As always.

        All played a different role. ALL played 10 years or more in MLB.

        Do you really think crummy players have 10 to 18 year MLB careers?

        Do you really think pinch hitting is easy? It’s not.

      • Oldtimer

        One more. Since you’re all Reds fans, you won’t have to look any of these up. You already know the answers.

        The Reds OF depth in early 1960s was Bell, Lynch & Post (after Pinson & Robinson). Which of them was the best player of the three?

        If you go by analytics, Post at 114 and Lynch at 111 OPS+ were. Bell was only 103 OPS+ for his career.

        Yet Post & Lynch never made an All-Star team. Bell made four. Bell could play all three OF positions. Post & Lynch could not play CF.

        There is more to the story than silly made-up numbers.

  25. IndyRedsFan

    Oldtimer,

    You don’t seem to get it. You can be a “good bench player” and still be a below average major leaguer.

    Let me try it this way.

    Roughly half of the players in the major leagues should be “above average” and half “below average”

    In the old days of 25 man rosters, teams typically had 5 to 6 bench players to go along with the 8 starting hitters.

    So….if you are a bench player, and not a starting….you are highly likely to be a “below average” major leaguer just from a mathmatics point of view.

    And yes, below average hitters can carve out long careers by being good bench players.

    And by the way….I’m an oldtimer too…..

    • Oldtimer

      No, you can’t. The silly analytics favor the players who play more often. A bench player has to be ready at a moment’s notice.

      That’s the point. Mathematics is needed to balance your checkbook and to send a man to the Moon. But not to determine who is better at baseball.

      Being an MLB player AT ALL is hard. Being one for more than 10 years is really hard.

      • greenmtred

        Edgar Martinez was a good hitter, but that was largely the extent of his MLB-worthy baseball skills. In the pre-DH years, there’s a pretty good chance that, on a good team, he would have been a pinch hitter. As Indy points out, it isn’t that bench players aren’t good; it’s usually that they aren’t as good in all of the requisite skills to be starters.

  26. Nick in NKY

    Jason, nice article. I agree with your logic on how to consider what depth really is, and what it isn’t. One minor nitpick; I would have organized your first 9 into tiers instead of ranking most to least obvious. Also, I’m not so sure Ty Steve is most obvious. Of the presumed starters, I think he’ll actually see fewer ABs than some of the others. Assuming good health, I think he probably starts 120-125ish games and Luke Maile gets more of those ABs than you’re suggesting. I could’ve read your intent incorrectly, but if I didn’t that’s where I come out.

    I think Marte is kind of a dark horse candidate to start in AAA, but also he seems like maybe the most obvious of the young players to do so. It won’t be Steer or McLain, and I HIGHLY doubt they’d start EDLC on the Bats. But If I had to guess, someone we think will be on the Opening Day roster probably won’t be.

    • Jason Linden

      Yeah, I think I phrased that badly because I’ve had to clarify a couple of times in the comments. I have TySteve first because there is absolutely no one to replace him. Everyone else on the team has a player who could, at least in theory, make him redundant.

      It wasn’t about likelihood of leading the team in PAs. It was likelihood of being one of the core-9.