Pop-Tarts Series: Cincinnati Reds

The Reds' logo is historic, unchanging, and classy.
The Reds’ logo is historic, unchanging, and classy.

Pop-Tarts were on the breakfast menu today, meaning it’s time for another Pop-Tarts Series entry!  Today, it’s baseball’s oldest club, the Cincinnati Reds.

How’s It Going?

To be honest, it’s not going too well for the Cincinnati Reds in 2015.  The Reds were thought to maybe be a sleeper team in the unpredictable NL Central, but injuries and underperformers have doomed this club to another 4th or 5th place finish.  Cincy lost star catcher Devin Mesoraco, shortstop Zack Cozart, starter Homer Bailey, and top setup man Sean Marshall for the entire 2015 season and hasn’t found adequate replacements.  The Reds sit at 45-54 and 10 games back from the 2nd Wild Card spot.  It will be a busy deadline day in Cincinnati for GM Walt Jocketty, as no one is untouchable in Cincy this year.

Offense:

The offense isn’t the problem in Cincinnati, nor was it ever.  When everyone is healthy, the Reds have one of the National League’s premier starting lineups.  Unfortunately, some key pieces were lost for the season.  However, some other big names are still producing in their stead.  Joey Votto may be baseball’s most controversial 200 million dollar man, but he has played up to expectations this year on a rough Reds team.  Votto rediscovered his power, blasting 19 homers and a .534 SLG, and when combined with his mind-boggling .427 OBP and stellar defense, Votto has earned his checks this year.  Right fielder Jay Bruce has also bounced back in a big way.  Bruce came off of a rough 2014 due to some knee injuries, but has also found his stride at the plate to the tune of a .257 AVG and 17 homers himself.  Bruce could net a sizable return at the deadline if the Reds decide to add young pieces.  Todd Frazier has done everything possible with the bat this year.  Frazier has hit 27 homers, stolen 10 bases, batted a decent .271, and even won the Home Run Derby at his home ballpark.  Speaking of that home ballpark, Great American Ballpark is a hitter’s paradise, the Yankee Stadium of the National League, allowing for large quantities of dingers.  Marlon Byrd has enjoyed his time in Cincy as well.  Byrd cannot get on base anymore (.292 OBP), but is cheap veteran power that is enticing to any club this time of year.  The rest of the club has underperformed.  Billy Hamilton has had a very rough sophomore season in the bigs.  Hamilton has stolen 47 bases against only 7 times being caught stealing, but cannot get on base for the life of him (.270 OBP).  You can’t steal first base, Billy.  Factor in a shocking lack of pop after showing some last season, and you’ve got a very disappointing player.  While on the subject of disappointing, Brandon Phillips should be mentioned.  Back in his prime, Phillips could play very flashy defense, hit .270, and pop 25 homers.  Nowadays, Phillips makes flashy plays but has a pronounced lack of range, hits .250, and pops 5 homers.  Remember those Brett Gardner for Brandon Phillips trade rumors?  Good times.  Brayan Pena is simply a sub for Devin Mesoraco, but has been okay.  Eugenio Suarez has hit .305 with good defense in limited time as Cincy’s new starting shortstop, and has also showed some pop.  The bench could be better for a National League club though. Cincy doesn’t have a go-to bat off the bench, which hurts them in late-game situations.  With the deadline afoot, the Reds could sell big on Bruce, Phillips, Byrd, or even Frazier if the right deal presents itself.

Verdict: B+

Pitching:

This is where Cincinnati becomes a total laughingstock.  Any Reds fan will tell you that their pitching is brutal, but even that word is a generous description.  Johnny Cueto was fantastic for the Reds for 8 years, but is now a Kansas City Royal.  Cueto was let go for 3 minor-league pitchers, a good but not great return.  The club’s ace now is Mike Leake, who will probably be traded himself.  Leake gives up a lot of homers and doesn’t strike out anyone, but is a good ground ball pitcher that excels at getting out of trouble.  He has been particularly hot of late, making him a hot commodity on the market.  Freehold New Jersey-bred Anthony DeSclafani has been a pleasant surprise this season.  DeSclafani has a similar makeup and numbers to his teammate Mike Leake.  The rest of the rotation is in shambles after it was learned that valuable Homer Bailey was to be lost with Tommy John Surgery.  Rookies Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen, and Jon Moscot haven’t been anything special, and veteran Jason Marquis was horrible as a Red.  I don’t know who will start the remainder of games for the Reds if not Leake or DeSclafani, they are that short on depth.  Their bullpen is arguably the very worst in the entire Major Leagues.  Aside from 100-mph-plus closer Aroldis Chapman and setup man J.J. Hoover, no reliever on the Reds’ roster has an ERA less than 4.00.  Chapman is so dominant that it is a shame that he is being wasted in Cincy.  If he were to hit the market, the Reds would get an amazing return.  Hoover is a solid setup man, but the loss of Sean Marshall has hindered the bullpen.  Marshall hasn’t pitched since 2013.  The rest of the bullpen is a total disaster.  Jumbo Diaz, Burke Badenhop, and Tony Cingrani have been unfathomably bad, Manny Parra is an average LOOGY, and Ryan Mattheus is just another righty arm.  The Reds truly have a bullpen problem that has raged for years, and it may be worse now than ever before.  Chapman and Leake have value, but if the Reds trade them, they will truly have nobody to pitch for the last 2 months.  The Reds have lots of good pitching prospects awaiting call-ups from the minors, so in time the Reds could be able to turn it around.  Now though, they are a total mess in terms of pitching.

Verdict: D

Overview:

The Reds are not a contender in the slightest in 2015, but are re-tooling for a comeback in time.  It is a shame that the Reds never tasted success when Votto, Bruce, Phillips, and others were still in their primes. Now, the Reds are a classic cellar-dweller.  Hope is on the way, but the next couple of seasons for Reds fans could be very tough to watch.

Verdict: C-

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