Off Day Thoughts, Spring Training Volume 1

For every off day that the Reds get during the preseason, regular season and (hopefully) postseason, I’ll write a blog with some Reds thoughts ranging from baseball, beer or anywhere in between. Welcome to Off Day Thoughts.

Spring Training is a great time to be a Reds fan. It brings all the fun of regular baseball without all of the dread and despair of blown saves, losing streaks and shutouts. It’s the perfect time to see how prospects are developing, what your starters have added to their repertoire in the offseason, what the new additions look like in red or how your manager might make his lineups this year. Hope springs eternal once again, and soon enough the Reds will take the field at Great American Ball Park on Opening Day. Roster cuts are an inevitable part of life in spring training, and like Jake Taylor said in Major League, “you don’t want to celebrate in front of another guy who just died and went down to the minors.” But the way that someone makes the roster is wildly different than at any time before.

Are position battles still a thing in spring training?

Projections aren’t just for writers and fans to talk about the upcoming season. Most analytically-driven teams see the PECOTA and ZiPS projections and have their own systems that project how a current player or potential signing will perform on their club. Former player Trevor Plouffe said on his podcast Talkin’ Baseball that position battles “are almost completely made up.” His point was that outside of the back end of the bullpen, the roster is pretty much set going into camp because of how clubs project their players. With all of these numbers, the minds in the front office can realistically predict how every player on the roster will play. We basically know who’s going to make the Reds roster outside of two bullpen spots and one bench spot. A battle for playing time is different because of the number of outfielders that the Reds are currently carrying, but we shouldn’t really worry about what these guys do or don’t do in spring training. Whoever doesn’t make the team will most likely play in Cincinnati at some point during the season because of injury.

Jose Garcia…holy shit

If there’s one guy I’ve gotten irrationally excited about, it’s Jose Garcia. The guy has hit, hit, and hit some more in Arizona. The 2019 Reds Minor League Hitter of the Year in Daytona has shown off his bat and glove in camp. We’ll see what he does this year as he is likely to start the season in Chattanooga, but there is an opening next season at shortstop if the Reds decide to part ways with Freddy Galvis. Personally, I thought that Jonathan India would have been a shoo-in by now at the shortstop position for the future, but Garcia is two years younger and has played shortstop during his entire career in the minors. Is it crazy to think that Garcia could be a September call up and be the top choice for the club at short next year? We will have to wait and see how he hits with the Lookouts this year.

So I know I just shot down the notion of position battles being a thing, but…

Would you rather take Derek Dietrich or Josh VanMeter on the 26-man roster to start the season? While VanMeter is a promising player, he still has two minor league option years left. Dietrich was apparently hurt last season and tried his best to play through the pain, but his second half shows that he was obviously affected by that injury. For what it’s worth, Dietrich has looked healthy again in spring training, and has become a more realistic choice for that last spot because of that. DD would be perfectly able to fit into the team’s need for a dependable bench bat. VanMeter will still have an opportunity to play this year in the big leagues, but it may be better for his development to get regular at-bats in Louisville where he started last year mashing homers. DD is the ultimate clubhouse guy who will keep everyone loose during the season. The Gerardo Parra of the Reds, if you will.

Cody Reed deserves your support

Reed suffered an injury which ended his 2019 season, but the lefty only gave up one run in six innings of work last year. He had a 46.6% swing rate, the best of his career, and switched to mostly throwing sinkers and sliders. He is out of minor league options and is the only young left-handed arm the Reds really have outside of Amir Garrett. With the three-batter minimum in place this year, the club could use another left-handed arm in the pen.

The question about Aristides Aquino

As it stands right now, does The Punisher make the Opening Day roster? His August was tremendous. His 14 home-run month stands as the most home runs in a month by a Reds player or a NL rookie. His September wasn’t as great. His OPS went from 1.158 to .619, his strikeout rate went up and he looked as if he had been figured out. Since then, Aquino has played in the Dominican winter league and spring training and has hit more like his September than his August. He does have an option year left, so he may also start the year in Louisville to also get more at-bats. Phillip Ervin has also been proven for longer than Aquino, and with a full outfield, The Punisher might be the odd man out.

This pitching staff will be fun to watch.

Trevor Bauer telling batters what’s coming and still blowing it by them. Amir Garrett being that man. Luis Castillo moonwalking after another inning-ending K. Pedro Strop with his cap to the left. Sonny Gray being a country boy. Michael “Biceps” Lorenzen. There’s so much to like about this pitching staff, and not just because they make hitters look dumb. They are fun on and off the field. These guys probably have the most fun in the clubhouse, and they have the potential to be great this year.

23 days until Opening Day!

There’s less than four weeks until we’re back on The Banks, soaking up the sunshine and having some cold ones before the Reds face off against the St. Louis Cardinals on March 26th. ATBBTTR will have boots on the ground in some sort of fashion in the crowd of Reds fans before, during and after the game. We’re excited for a big year for the Reds and for the blog. We have some big ideas coming for the season ahead and we hope to keep growing this season. Donnie, Rob and I are all diehard Reds fans, and we’re excited for what 2020 brings.

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