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Cincinnati Reds 2020 Summer Camp Preview

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MLB: Cincinnati Reds-Media Day Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Part Two of my summer camp series. Part One on the Chicago Cubs is here. Today, we look at the Cincinnati Reds, who made the most splashes to try to make a run for the NL Central Division.

40-MAN LOSSES FROM 2019

ARTICLE XX-B FREE AGENCY (6 or more years of MLB service)

SS Jose Iglesias, LHP Alex Wood

NON-TENDERED

2B Jose Peraza, RHP Kevin Gausman

OUTRIGHTED TO MINORS

C Juan Graterol (elected free agency in lieu of accepting the assignment), UT Derek Dietrich, RHP Jackson Stephens (declared automatic Rule 55 minor league free agent), RHP Keury Mella (declared automatic Rule 55 minor league free agent), 2B Christian Colon (declared automatic Rule 55 minor league free agent), RHP R.J. Alaniz, RHP Sal Romano

OUTRIGHT ASSIGNMENT WAIVER CLAIM

RHP Jimmy Herget (by Texas Rangers), CF Jose Siri (by Seattle Mariners)

TRADE

1B Brian O’Grady (to the Tampa Bay Rays for a Player to Be Named Later and cash, later resolved to be just cash)

** Of the subtractions, only UT Derek Dietrich, RHP R.J. Alaniz, and RHP Sal Romano remain in the organization.

40-MAN ADDITIONS FOR 2020

CONTRACTS PURCHASED FROM MINORS

RHP Tejay Antone, RHP Tony Santillan, RHP Ryan Hendrix, C Tyler Stephenson

RULE 5 DRAFT

OF Mark Payton (from the Oakland Athletics organization)

OUTRIGHT ASSIGNMENT WAIVER CLAIM

LHP Josh D. Smith (from Miami Marlins)

TRADE

OF Travis Jankowski (from San Diego Padres for international slot bonus pool money). Was eligible for arbitration as a Super Two player for the 2019 season, but broke his wrist in spring training, resulting in mostly a lost season. Despite breaking into the majors in 2015, he was only able to get into 25 games with the Padres last season. Jankowski receives high marks for his speed, defense and base running, but has never really hit in the majors. After the trade, he actually took a pay cut to avoid arbitration ($1.05 million in 2020 to $1.165 million in 2019).

RHP Jose De Leon (from Tampa Bay Rays for a Player to be Named Later and cash, later resolved to be just cash). De Leon was drafted by the Dodgers in the 24th round of the 2013 draft, broke into the majors with them for 4 starts in 2016, and has logged 4 additional games in relief with the Rays since being traded to that club straight up for Logan Forsythe before the 2017 season. Once a highly touted prospect, he has since stalled. De Leon was on the minor league injured list three times in 2017 before being shut down with tendinits in his elbow. He then had Tommy John surgery before the 2018 season, missed that whole year, and after his rehab assignment was extended twice, returned to active duty only in July of 2019. He will turn 28 next month, is still a pre-arbitration eligible player, and if he gets a pro-rated full year of service, he’s in the running to be a Super Two. But because he still has 1 minor league option remaining, that path doesn’t look too clear this season.

RHP Justin Shafer (from Toronto Blue Jays for cash). Shafer made his major league debut with the Jays in 2018, but was outrighted after walking 7 men in 8.1 IP. The Jays brought him back in May of 2019, and he stuck around for 34 games, but was still plagued by control issues, walking almost 6 men per 9 innings. He will get another look because he throws hard and misses bats. He will turn 28 before the season is out, and is still a cheap pre-arb player with not even a year of service time and 2 minor league options.

FREE AGENT SIGNINGS

OF Nick Castellanos, Article XX-B free agent. Signed a 4-year, $64 million dollar deal with a 2024 mutual option ($2 million buyout). Castellanos may opt out of the contract after either this season or the next, and is scheduled to make $16 million in 2020 and $14 million in 2021. There are other potential award bonuses built in. In a season combined with the Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs, Castellanos logged a career-high 27 HRs and .525 SLG., and slugged .646 for the Cubs after they got him at the trade deadline. While Castellanos has never been a defensive wizard, he absolutely mashes left-handed pitching, and the Reds can always plug him in at DH this year, should they find a better defensive combination in the outfield. Castellanos’s offense should certainly be helped by Great American Ball Park. This research from Tom Tango shows that Castellanos was harmed offensively more by his home park in terms of “warning track outs” than anyone in the game for 3 years in a row.

IF Mike Moustakas, Article XX-B free agent. Signed a 4-year, $64 million deal with a 2024 club option ($4 million). He is set to make $12 million this year, and there are other potential award bonuses thrown in. A late bloomer in terms of realizing his potential as a slugger, Moustakas has established himself as a player over the last few years who will hit about 35 homers, with about 50 walks and about 100 strikeouts. He’s never had a double digit walk percentage, but he’s only had a strikeout percentage as high as 20% once, and that was his first full season in the big leagues back in 2012. Having been praised for his defense at third base in the past, Moustakas started 40 games at second base last year, despite never having played there in his professional career. That’s where the Reds look to use him for 2020. He was actually drafted as a shortstop, but moved over to third after one season. While Moustakas doesn’t have the OBP you’d like in an elite slugger (sub-.330 OBP for four years running), the Reds’ home park will only help him.

LHP Wade Miley, Article XX-B free agent. Signed a 2-year, $15 million deal with a 2022 club option ($1 million buyout). Set to make $6 million this year, his contract calls for annual performance bonuses based on innings pitched that could give him an extra $500,000 per year. Long known as the type of pitcher whose stuff required him to be a control artist and keep the ball on the ground, had a disaster season with the Baltimore Orioles in 2017 when he couldn’t find the strike zone. After Baltimore declined his option, he had to settle for a minor league deal with the Brewers in 2018, starting the year with AA Biloxi. Relying on a new cutter, Miley worked his way back to the majors, only allowed 3 HRs, and was able to amass 1.1 WARP in just 80.2 IP, after taking 166 IP to get that total in 2016. He parlayed that into a rotation job with the Houston Astros last season, where he made 33 starts. He had a decent season, until the last 6 weeks, when he went completely off the rails to the point that he was only used once in the bullpen in the ALDS and then left off of the ALCS and World Series rosters. It turns out he was tipping his pitches. Miley comes with some risks, as he doesn’t throw hard and has never had outstanding peripherals. While that could come back to haunt him in this ballpark, he is being united with his pitching coach from his 2018 season with the Brewers where he reinvigorated his career, and if he keeps the ball on the ground, he could shore up the back end of the rotation.

RHP Pedro Strop, Article XX-B free agent. Signed a 1-year, $1.825 million deal, with performance bonuses based on games pitched and games finished that could add a potential extra $1.575 million. After establishing himself as one of the best Cubs’ relievers of all time over a 5-year stretch from 2014-2018, injuries limited Strop to just 41.2 IP last season, and he lost a tick or two off of his fastball. He had a career-worst 18.8 HR/FB% last season, which could present a problem in this park if it continues, but Strop is still a strikeout machine, and if he can keep the ball on the ground like he has in the past, the 35-year old should be a solid option in the late innings to set Iglesias up.

OF Shogo Akiyama, international free agent. Signed a 3-year, $21 million deal, with award bonuses, making the Reds the last club to sign a player of Japanese descent. After spending 9 years with the Seibu Lions of Japan’s NPB, Akiyama became an unrestricted free agent, was not subject to the posting rules, and was thus able to sign with any club. Set to make $6 million this season, Akiyama has a clause in his contract that prevents him from being sent to the minor leagues without his consent. Now 32-years old, he has played in the maximum number of games in his league each year for the last 5 years, with 20 or more homers in the last 3. His career slash line is .304/.379/.457. It’s hard to predict how Akiyama’s skills will translate to the major leagues, but this article offers a nice preview.

FIRST SPRING TRAINING

The Reds opened the first spring training in February with 61 players in camp, which included a full 40-man roster and 21 non-roster invitees.

3/10/20: Optioned RHP Tejay Antone, RHP Ryan Hendrix, RHP Tony Santillan and LHP Josh D. Smith to AA Chattanooga. Assigned RHP David Carpenter, LHP Nick Lodolo, C Chris Okey, IF Jonathan India, IF Blake Trahan, OF Stuart Fairchild and OF Boog Powell to minor league camp. 50 in camp (36 40-man roster players + 14 NRIs).

3/15/20: Optioned RHP Jose De Leon and C Tyler Stephenson to AAA Louisville.

By this point, camp had been cancelled, and the Reds’ spring roster for a non-existent camp was at 48 players: 34 40-man roster players and 14 NRIs. The NRIs left over were: RHP A.J. Alaniz, LHP Jesse Biddle, RHP Vladimir Gutierrez, RHP Nate Jones, RHP Alex Powers, LHP Brooks Raley, RHP Sal Romano, RHP Tyler Thornburg, C Francisco Pena, IF Christian Colon, IF Matt Davidson, UT Derek Dietrich, IF Jose Garcia and IF Alfredo Rodriguez.

REDS ANNOUNCE 57-MAN CLUB PLAYER POOL

The Reds were one of the two teams in the N.L. Central division that almost filled their player pool to the brim, announcing a 57-man CPP that allocated players among their summer camp roster to train at Great American Ball Park, and their Alternate Training Site. The Reds’ ATS is at Prasco Park in Mason, Ohio, the home of the Cincinnati Spikes, a youth traveling select baseball organization. Mason, Ohio is only about 30 minutes north of Cincinnati, up Interstate 75. Three spots remain open in the CPP. The players listed in italics below are non-40-man roster players. The pitcher’s handedness is listed in parentheses. Also in the parentheses is the number of minor league options remaining, if the player is on the 40-man roster. If there is no number in parentheses for a 40-man roster player, that indicates he is out of options. If “N/A” is in parentheses, that means that he technically has minor league options remaining, but because he has 5 years of more of MLB service time, he may not be assigned to the minor leagues without his consent.

SUMMER CAMP ROSTER (35)

PITCHERS (19)

Trevor Bauer (R, N/A), Matt Bowman (R, 1), Luis Castillo (R, 2), Anthony DeSclafani (R, N/A), Amir Garrett (L), Sonny Gray (R, N/A), Raisel Iglesias (R, 1), Nate Jones (R), RHP Joel Kuhnel (R, 3), Michael Lorenzen (R, 3), Tyler Mahle (R, 2), Wade Miley (L, N/A), Cody Reed (L), Sal Romano (R), Justin Shafer (R, 2), Lucas Sims (R), Robert Stephenson (R), Pedro Strop (R, N/A), Tyler Thornburg (R)

CATCHERS (3)

Tucker Barnhart (N/A), Curt Casali, Kyle Farmer (1)

INFIELDERS (7)

Alex Blandino (2), Matt Davidson, Freddy Galvis, Mike Moustakas (N/A), Eugenio Suarez (N/A), Joey Votto (N/A), Josh VanMeter (2)

OUTFIELDERS (6)

Shogo Akiyama (N/A, Japan), Nicholas Castellanos (N/A), Phillip Ervin, Mark Payton (N/A, Rule 5), Nick Senzel (3), Jesse Winker (2)

ALTERNATE TRAINING SITE (22)

PITCHERS (11)

R.J. Alaniz (R), Tejay Antone (R, 3), Jesse Biddle (L), David Carpenter (R), Jose De Leon (R, 1), Ryan Hendrix (R, 3), Nick Lodolo (L), Alex Powers (R), Brooks Raley (L), Tony Santillan (R, 3), Josh D. Smith (L, 2)

CATCHERS (2)

Francisco Pena, Tyler Stephenson (3)

INFIELDERS (4)

Christian Colon, Jose Garcia, Jonathan India, Alfredo Rodriguez

OUTFIELDERS (5)

Aristides Aquino (1), Stuart Fairchild, Travis Jankowski, Boog Powell, Scott Schebler

ROSTER ANALYSIS AND NOTES

*None of the Reds’ 40-man roster players were excluded from the CPP. The club has split the group up with 31 40-man roster players on the summer camp roster and 9 40-man roster players assigned to the CTS, but the situation has been described as one where they are all still competing to be on the opening day 30-man roster. The groups have been split to allow both groups to complete meaningful work, and to make the social distancing protocols easier to comply with. The distinction is not as significant as for other clubs, because the Reds’ ATS is so close to their home park. It is, however, fair to point out that of the 9 40-man roster players assigned to the ATS, 6 of them had already been optioned to the minor leagues by the time the first spring training shut down, including all the 40-man pitchers assigned to the ATS. In other words, every 40-man roster player who had been optioned by the time camp closed has been assigned to the ATS.

*There are no new players on either roster that were not invited to the first spring training. In addition, everyone that was invited to the first spring training has been assigned to the CPP on one roster or another, with the exception of 4 players.

*RHP Vladimir Guttierez was popped with an 80-game suspension on Sunday, June 28th, for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug, specifically Stanozolol. After he defected from Cuba, the Reds signed Guttierez to a $4.75 million signing bonus in September of 2016. His strikeout percentage wasn’t bad for AAA Louisville last year, but he had an ERA over 6, and allowed 26 homers in 27 starts and 137 IP, the second-most in the International League. The club has known about the impending suspension since March. Since the minor league season has been cancelled and the suspension is expressed in number of games, it’s unclear if he will actually have to serve the suspension next year, when there might be minor league games to be played.

*IF Blake Trahan was the club’s third round draft choice in 2015, and became the AAA starting shortstop by 2018. The club purchased his contract and made him a September call-up that same year. In 14 PA over 11 games, he had 3 singles and 4 strikeouts. Optioned back to AAA Louisville to start 2019, he again was the primary shortstop, but was designated for assignment and then outrighted in early August to make room on the 40-man for the outright assignment waiver claim of RHP Kevin Gausman. He had decent speed, could run the bases and handle shortstop adequately, but he never could hit in the upper minors. In 526 PA in AA ball, he slashed only .222/.311/.275, following that up with a 2-year AAA slash line of .237/.306/.310. Although he was invited back to camp, he has decided to retire to focus on the next chapter in his life and pursue a career in regenerative agriculture.

*UT Derek Dietrich is well known, as he hit at a torrid .254/.364/.720 clip with 17 HRs through May 28th of last season with the Reds, with a penchant for taking a long time to watch his homers sail over the fence. But he hit only .128/.297/.233 with 2 homers the rest of the way and had shoulder surgery in September. He still managed a 113 DRC+ despite hitting .187. Outrighted off of the 40-man in November, the 30-year old Dietrich agreed to a minor league deal for 2020. For the right club, he could be a useful platoon player at multiple positions, but his hackstatic approach at the plate has worn a little thin by now.

*Last is C Chris Okey, the club’s 2nd round draft choice from 2016, who spent most of 2019 repeating AA.

*The moves of the Reds have helped them improve in all areas, except perhaps defensively. The rotation was most strengthened by the deadline deal last season to get Trevor Bauer, and a rotation featuring him, Sonny Gray, Wade Miley, Luis Castillo and Anthony DeSclafani can compete with anyone in the division. Castellanos and Moustakas bolster their offense, and Akiyama was probably the best the club could have expected for a free agent center fielder to help ease the pain if Nick Senzel couldn’t come back healthy. The outfield situation is the most interesting situation for the Reds, as there are an endless series of combinations the club could go with as the DH is in play. As the roster whittles down to 26, however, the Reds will have to make some tough decisions. The bullpen has clear locks in Iglesias, Lorenzen, Strop, Garrett and Robert Stephenson. As the roster reduces, the choices may be made on the basis of who has minor league options remaining.