Position by Position Off-season Goals for the Reds

Something unexpected happened at the end of the regular season for the Cincinnati Reds. They stalled. Right in the middle of the intersection of fate and the postseason. Some will say their inconsistent play during the regular season was enough for early diagnosis of this result.

Others will say it just wasn’t their year, that the Cardinals and Pirates just made them work too hard for it. Or they’ll say the Reds team lacks a clear leader willing to hold his teammates’ balls to the fire when he doesn’t hold himself to the higher standard.

Rubbish I say. Complete rubbish. The Reds easily could have had a better year than the Pirates or Cardinals in 2013, even counting in the injuries and other factors. Sloppy play, failure to adhere to little league basics and a lack of inner vitriol over losses is why the Reds couldn’t take it all the way this year.

So, let’s go position by position on why a given player failed this year and what they need to work on to make this team successful in 2014 so they can get to The Series.

Management

Manager

Let’s start with everyone’s favorite scapegoat: Dusty Baker. At the end of the 2012 season Baker had a stroke and the team responded by going on a tear, Bailey even threw a no-hitter, but they choked in historic fashion in the NLDS against the Giants who the Reds had a two game lead over in a best of five contest. Never been done in MLB history.

Come the 2013 season, Baker seemed more relaxed, less quick to frustrate and some might say, less driven to win. I disagree with them. I think more than anything the mortality of things has driven more contemplative focus into Baker who likely wants to leave a championship legacy with at least one team, and it may as well be Cincinnati.

Baker stays. Not just because the Reds still owe him $3.5M but because he remains driven and capable.

Caveats: However, should Baker not return the Reds to the postseason with at least an NLDS victory in 2014, look for the Reds to let him go. If they do, I look for them to promote from within, my suggestions would be either Bryan Price or Chris Spier who are both MLB manager material.

Bench Coach

Speaking of Chris Spier, he handled the team remarkably well while Dusty Baker was out last season and he’s more than capable in a leadership position with The Boys. He knows how to rely on the supporting management cast as well, which is exactly what you want in your bench coach. Spier stays on, with possible promotion in sight.

Pitching Coach

Bryan Price has been courted by a number of MLB teams for primary manager position, including Seattle, Tampa Bay and Houston. It’s likely The Big Man convinced him to stay on and continue to have major impact on a team so close to tasting the World Series.

I think Price will stay. If the Reds can continue to convince Price to stay on, I see the Reds rotation continuing it’s great run on endurance and performance. If Price takes an offer over the winter, it’s possible the rotation and bullpen will suffer some growing pains under new tutelage.

Hitting Coach

Hmmm, Bruce Jacoby has been a strong sounding board for Reds hitters for a long time. Most of The Boys have never known another hitting coach at the MLB level. While he remains one of the best hitting coaches in baseball, it’s likely time for a new voice to help get the team thinking fresher thoughts during their lackluster at-bats.

While I look for Jacoby to go, I don’t know that the Reds are ready to part ways just yet. They may wait until Dusty hits the wind.

Base Coaches

I think both Billy Hatcher and Mark Berry do phenomenal jobs as base coaches. While Berry has had a couple instances the past couple seasons where he was more conservative than I would have liked in not sending guys home in tough calls, I have no reason to argue. At least he’s not overly aggressive.

Unless Berry looks to retire after his run with cancer earlier this year, I think both base coaches stay.

Pitchers

Starting Pitchers

One of the strengths of the team in 2012 and one of the biggest reasons for optimism for both pundits and fans, the rotation was a bit banged up in 2013. Cueto was out with injury more than 1/3 of the season. Luckily the Reds had Cingrani to step in and perform unexpectedly well all year.

Look for the rotation to improve on its ground ball percentage in 2014 as Arroyo exits the roster, even if the total hits allowed increase slightly.

Bronson Arroyo

I think one more year with Arroyo would be good for Leake, but I think Arroyo is smart to be looking for a multi-year (3yr maybe) deal from someone. Probably the last he’ll get as a starter. In order to curb his HR numbers he’d be wise to seek out teams with deep fields. San Diego, Houston and Tampa could be suitors.

Teams midst rebuilding and could use a consistent mound presence who can eat innings. I’d look at one of these teams to seriously contend for his services in 2014. Perhaps Houston, Seattle, Kansas City, the Cubs or the White Sox.

Arroyo may not get another chance with a contender as a starter if he doesn’t re-sign with the Reds, but this late in his career he’s likely more concerned with playing time and contract length than with contention.

Mike Leake

I like Mike Leake. Like Arroyo, he’s consistent. Unlike Arroyo he’s young. Since day 1 Leake has reminded me of Greg Maddux. He’s methodical and crafty. He gets better each year. While I don’t mean to infer that Leake and Maddux are on the same plane, at least not yet. But I think he has it in him if he continues to focus and grow.

Unless something crazy happens, Leake will remain with the Reds in 2014. But he needs to continue to work on pitch selection. While velocity has never been his thing, it would be good to see if he can eke another one or two MPH from his fastball as well.

Mat Latos

Mat is a great character. I love his emotion. It seems to have become anethema in today’s game for guys to be emotional and show it. Mat gets pissed. He gets elated. He gets disappointed. This humanity makes him both entertaining and enjoyable to watch. I’d rather watch him than the robots the MLB has been trying to push out.

But emotion doesn’t have to throw off your composure like it did for Latos in the 2012 NLDS. Instead that energy can be consciously funneled into his pitches, something I think we started to see in 2013. I look for Mat to continue his composure improvement, but I still want to see his fury in his eyes and feel it in the sound of the ball landing into that catcher’s mitt.

Latos obviously stays. He has a contract with the Reds for a bit and he’s a strong young arm.

Johnny Cueto

Johnny be good. Johnny be broke? Some think Johnny Cueto’s mechanics are to blame for his 2013 injuries, but I think they’re grasping. 2011 and 2012 were banner years for Cueto who didn’t have an injury in either regular season with the same delivery. If there’s a mechanical flaw with Cueto’s delivery, it’s minor and may take time to find.

I think Cueto needs more time to come back. The extended time on the DL likely means he lacks a deal of strength and endurance. Look for Cueto to show up in February stronger than ever, having lost a little weight and with a drive to prove he’s not broken.

Homey Bailey

The first Reds pitcher to throw a no hitter in twenty five years threw two in less than 12 months. I’m not saying he’ll do it again, but he could. His career is young yet. But his late season cooling since his second no hitter is telling. Regardless of what he says verbally, I think he’s trying to force his third no-no in the books.

Bailey needs to relax a bit. He’s strong, young and ambitious. He has a long time left to get more no-hitters. Regardless, he’s already in the record books for having even one. If he can settle his internal ambitious and return to form, he may get several more yet.

Tony Cingrani

What a break out year for a fresh fish. Watching Cingrani I often wonder how much better Leake might be if the Reds had forced him to play at least a little in The Minors. In 2010, Leake was the first player to skip the minors in 21 years, and ever since I wonder if it might have still done him some good.

Regardless, Cingrani’s time in the minors was so stellar he had a year down there and when Cueto hit the DL this year he proved he could out-adjust the league as hitters began to see him for a second or third time around.

Look for Cingrani to take Arroyo’s place in the rotation in 2014. I’d like to see him add one more pitch to his repertoire and maybe work with Bryan Price to get it done in the off-season.

Relievers

One of the biggest advantages for the Reds entering the 2013 season broke down with more than its fair share of injuries this year. Health will be a major 2014 factor as well be ensuring return to form for a couple guys who seemed to lose their touch down the stretch.

 JJ Hoover

JJ Hoover had a mixed year despite making a great run at an all-time Reds record for consecutive scoreless innings. When Hoover was on, he was on fire. When he was off, he off just enough to give up more than a few walks and allow a modicum of hits.

Look for JJ Hoover to remain with the Reds, they have him under control for a couple more years, and his talent and skill should only get beter.

Logan Ondrusek

The past few years Logan Ondrusek has epitomized what the Reds have been like. He was either blazing a trail or giving it up. This dichotomy should be dealt with. If Ondrusek can’t get it done in 2014, deal him for some prospect talent for his upside and find a more stable veteran.

Look for Ondrusek to remain with the Reds in 2014.

Alfredo Simon

I’ll be the first to admin that when the Reds plucked Simon off waivers before the 2012 season I wondered what they were smoking. Simon didn’t perform particularly well for the Orioles in 2011 and barely missed the cut at O’s roster in 2012.

Simon has turned out to be a great catch for the Reds with sub 3.0 ERA in both seasons. Though his ERA rose slightly in 2013 and his HR count was up, his walks per nine were down and his WHIP was down slightly.

I look for Simon to remain with the Reds for 2014, but he should focus on dropping that walk count.

Greg Reynolds

Greg Reynolds was a free agent pickup by the Reds. Reynolds really struggled at making it in the big leagues with the Rockies who released him after the 2011 season. I’m sure Bryan Price can do something with him over time, but whether it’s worth the energy and salary is something I’m up in the air on.

I like a feel good story as much as the next guy, but look for Reynolds to take an option to the Minors or be released outright before the 2014 season.

Sean Marshall

What a world it’s been since the Reds grabbed Sean Marshall from the Cubs in a trade for Travis Wood and a couple players to be named later. The injury prone reliever hasn’t even had a chance to cut his teeth with the Reds yet having just a little over 70 innings the last two seasons. In his 10.1 innings in 2013 his ERA of 1.74 was impressive.

Negative points for not getting a single out in four batters in Tuesday’s NL Wild Card Game.

Look for Marshall to remain with the Reds for 2014, but I imagine he’ll have a shorter leash when his contract is up after next season. His 2014 performance and health will determine his longevity with the franchise.

Sam LeCure

What a guy LeCure has turned out to be. An innings eating and decisive long relief guy, LeCure continues to prove himself and cut his chops in some pressure cooker situations. Unlike some other Reds relievers he really does take it a batter at a time and seems to gain composure and experience quickly.

LeCure is a keeper.

Manny Parra

Like Greg Reynolds, Manny Parra was another new 2013 pickup. His performance with the Reds was the best of his career even when you factor in the relatively few innings (46) he pitched over the season.

Despite his worrisome numbers from his past with the Brewers, expect to see Parra with the Reds in 2014.

Zach Duke

Duke was a pick up by the Reds in 2013. In fourteen appearances he managed a 0.84 ERA allowing just one earned run on a homer in 10.2 innings.

Look for the Reds to continue their experiment with Duke in 2014. His upside has enough to it, but I’d hold a short leash based on past numbers and if he’s not performing by mid-season I’d hope for the Reds to cut him or deal him for talent.

Daniel Corcino

Daniel Corcino is in his second September with the Reds as a late season call-up.

Look for Corcino to start 2014 in the minor leagues again. Depending on how the bullpen does throughout the season he may be called up to provide reinforcement.

Nick Christiani

Another 2013 rookie, Nick Christiani did decently holding a 2.25 ERA over 4 innings pitched. Expect Christiani to start 2014 in the minors maybe to be added to the September roster again.

Jonathan Broxton

Big Jonathan Broxton had another injury filled season for the Reds. If he’s well by Spring Training, expect to see him in the pullpen pulling his regular setup man duties in 2014.

Aroldis Chapman

The Cuban Missile had another strong year closing games for the Redlegs. Expect him to reprise the role in 2014.

Hopefully the concept of using Chapman as a starter has been put to rest with Cingrani doing so well filling in for Cueto this year. Without distractions on what role he should be training for, Chapman should only become more effective in his role in 2014.

Position Players

Catcher

The backstop duo for the Reds isn’t bad. Hanigan took a step back in offensive production in 2014. Some of that can be attributed to his injuries, but not all. Mesoraco improved measurably both offensively and defensively in 2014.

If Hanigan can bounce back and Mesoraco can continue improving, this duo could be a real tandem force to recon with.

Ryan Hanigan

Hanigan continues to be one of the best backstops in the game and is extremely underrated in my opinion. But his bat is lacking and he can’t run fast enough to beat molasses in a race. A couple more years of his tutelage will be good for the fast-adjusting Mesoraco, but I would phase him to catching two rather than three pitchers (Cueto and Bailey) with Mesoraco catching Leake, Latos and Cingrani.

Devin Mesoraco

Mesoraco showed flashes this year of being just short of amazing. When he was hitting he was really hitting. But he was streaky. Bruce streaky. He needs to work on that. He improved on defense as well, but that has a lot to do with actually getting chances to play I think. He has room to grow defensively, but there were a few plays this year where he reminded me of the videos I’ve seen of Johnny Bench.

Infielders

The Reds’ infield is crazy good. They’re clearly plus plus at first and second. Defensively they’re plus and third and short as well. However offensively Frazier took a step back and Cozart finally got it together at the end of the season.

If Cozart can keep his new approach working for him through 2014, the Reds look to win a considerable increase in games during the regular season. The confidence brought from those wins should help in the playoffs as well.

If Cozart’s new approach doesn’t hold up or Frazier takes another step back there will be other questions to ask.

Joey Votto

Joey is right in remaining patient and calculated at the plate and not mortgaging at-bats for temporary production, and he certainly is seeing fewer hit-able pitches than he used to, but winning a league MVP will do that to a guy. He needs to continue to adjust and push his envelope. Keep studying video in the off-season and work closely with a hitting coach from another team before spring training. Hearing the same old statements from the same coach can drown out a bit. A new voice could help here.

Brandon Phillips

Brandon Phillips may be the best second baseman in the Majors, but he needs to get his shit together and double-down on his focus. He’s been inattentive and scatterbrained since the all-star break and it’s shown in errors, lack of plate discipline and skewed mechanics at the plate. It’s great he was able to knock 103 in this year, but I would look for his role to return to the two hole next year and he should focus on getting on base, driving runs in is a byproduct of doing so consistently.

Zach Cozart

Cozart did well toward the end of the season when he adjusted his approach at the plate. We certainly need to see that continue. Ludwick clearly needs more time to heal and I’m certain the winter will give him that, but I wouldn’t renew his contract after next year. If the Reds can hold on to Choo, I might look to deal Heisey to someone for a couple players to be named and cash considerations. He’s a good, strong player, but with Choo, Bruce and Hamilton in the OF, I see Robinson and Paul as better backups and Heisey is worth everyday effort for some team out there. Maybe move him this off-season.

Todd Frazier

Frazier took a step back in offense this year, but improved greatly in defense. I’d like to see that continue. Maybe bring Rolen back as a special assistant to the general manager during the off-season and get some more leadership in that dugout from time to time. The Reds have more special assistants than the President has czars.

Cesar Izturis

Izturis should be let go. He’s not bad, and he’s the veteran presence Dusty likes to have around, but I’d reach out and see if we can’t get a high on-base infield veteran with more patience at the plate. Preferably someone with postseason cred.

Jack Hannahan

Hannahan remains a good fit as a backup and I would look to keep him on. He did well this year in tough pressure filled situations. Dusty just didn’t use him to fill in as much.

Outfielders

The Reds’ outfield is one of the best in the game. In terms of defense, I’d even venture they are the best in the NL. In terms of Power I would venture that with a healthy Ludwick in 2013 they would have been a real force to encounter.

But 2014 brings some real questions. Can the Reds re-sign Shin-soo Choo? If not, is Billy Hamilton ready to be every day? If not, is Chris Heisey an every day center fielder? Is Derrick Robinson?

I hope the Reds can sign Choo to a long term deal. I’ve been proclaiming his value for years now, since I first saw him slap the Reds around in inter-league play, and do it again and again in every year’s Ohio Cup. If the Reds keep Choo it would definitely spell the end of Ludwick’s tenure at the end of 2014. If they don’t they’ll lose a ton of scoring opportunities from his crazy OBP and OPS.

Jay Bruce

Bruce was productive as ever. While he hit fewer home runs for the first time in his your career, he continues to fly under the radar of national press despite being in the top in home runs and rib-eyes for the past few years. He needs to focus on plate discipline and consistency. Take more early in the count and be more satisfied with doubles.

Shin-soo Choo

Choo, if we can keep him is so well rounded it’s amazing. He needs to keep doing what he’s doing. Get on base by any means necessary, drive in runs when he can. I see his HR total dropping if he heads to another team. There just aren’t many ballparks as small as GABP out there.

Ryan Ludwick

Ludwick is worth his last year, if for no other reason than to help continue the rapid growth Bruce has had, and as a role-model to Frazier and Cozart. But I’d let him drift off afterward. He has maybe four or five seasons left in him for somebody but not with the power he had in 2012.

Chris Heisey

Heisey has been around a few years now and it seems like the Reds haven’t decided to give him a shot at starting full-time. By now we should know if he can handle it or he can’t. He needs to be more patient in most of his at-bats, but he needs more playing time too.

Assuming the Reds find a way to keep Choo around, it’s time to deal Heisey to someone from prospects and cash considerations so he can advance his career and grow as a player with regular starting time.

If the Reds lose Choo to free agency it’s likely Heisey will platoon with Derrick Robinson in center field to start 2014. I don’t see the Reds pursuing another impact free agent rental when Billy Hamilton only needs another season in the minors before he’s ready for The Show.

Derrick Robinson

In his rookie campaign Derrick Robinson did ok, hitting .255 in nearly 200 at bats over 102 games. If the Reds lose Choo to free agency expect Robinson to platoon center field with Chris Heisey, and left field with Ryan Ludwick until Billy Hamilton proves himself at Triple-A Louisville with his bat.

Robinson has his own kind of speed. But like Hamilton he needs to improve his on-base percentage to make it matter. Though his .255 batting average isn’t bad for a rookie season, I’d like to see improvement in extra-base hits and in walks, both coming from increased patience at the plate.

With zero home runs over two hundred at bats, Robinson may also need to concentrate on his power a bit in order to improve his chances for longevity in The Bigs.

Billy Hamilton

Fans have been clamoring to get Billy to The Bigs since early 2012 as he started to really rack up the steals. I’m glad the organization has been deliberate in handling him. I still don’t think he’s quite ready. Some further time at Triple-A with the Bats will be good for him to refine his offensive approach. We know he can steal, but we need him to get himsefl on-base more frequently for that to matter.

Look for Hamilton to start 2014 in the minors with a mid-to late season call-up depending upon performance of both himself and Ryan Ludwick.

Speak up! Let us know what you think.

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