Reds Spring Training: What to watch
CINCINNATI (WKRC) - The Cincinnati Reds loaded up their trailers with equipment Tuesday morning and hit the road for Goodyear, Arizona.
That's where pitchers and catchers report to spring training on February 13 with the rest of the club beginning workouts a few days after that.
The club and its fans have suffered through four consecutive losing seasons, but spring is always a time for hope and optimism. So, here are a few things to keep an eye on during spring training that will provide a glimpse into what we can expect for 2018.
ROTATION SPOTS - And then there was one.
We've heard Bryan Price say that the Reds will be sticking with a five-man starting rotation and he's even given us the names of four guys he expects to be there when spring training ends and the regular season begins. Home Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan and Luis Castillo are likely to make up 4/5 of the rotation if they remain healthy through March. That leaves one more spot up for grabs.
It appears a few of the team's young arms will be in competition for that final rotation spot. Sal Romano, Robert Stephenson and Tyler Mahle all finished 2017 with strong performances to make their respective cases. How they each perform in Arizona will likely determine who makes the cut.
Other youngsters with a chance to sneak into the rotation-- especially if any injuries occur-- include Amir Garrett, Cody Reed and Jackson Stephens. The Reds also signed veteran right-hander Vance Worley, who has made 97 Major League starts for five different teams, but has spent more time in the bullpen of late.
Reds relief pitcher Michael Lorenzen has expressed his desire to get back into the rotation. He made 21 starts his rookie year in 2015, but has since been used exclusively as a reliever. Price hinted at the fact that it may be difficult for the Reds to find Lorenzen a spot in this competitive rotation with young arms coming up.
BULLPEN ARMS - No shortage of competition.
Some of the pitchers who don't make the rotation will be given a chance to make the club out of spring as a reliever. Others will be sent down to the Minor Leagues to keep as starting pitching depth. It's not completely clear which pitchers could be utilized out of the bullpen, but the number of spots open for competition appear to be thinning.
With the off-season acquisitions of David Hernandez and Jared Hughes, the Reds have apparently solidified two more bullpen arms. These two additions join closer Raisel Iglesias and the previously-mentioned Lorenzen to form a right-handed heavy bullpen. The only left-handed pitcher who is sure to make the club as a bullpen arm is Wandy Peralta. The 26-year-old stormed onto the scene in 2017 becoming the club's most reliable left-handed option. Barring injury, those five will be on the club come Opening Day.
That leaves two bullpen spots remaining (three if the Reds choose to go with a short offensive bench). Given that Peralta is the only lefty in that mix, Cody Reed seems like a pretty good bet to make the squad. The 24-year-old southpaw has struggled as a starter, but in his short time as a reliever in 2017, Reed pitched 15.2 innings and allowed just three earned runs. The left-handed Garrett could also be one of the names Price is considering for bullpen help if he doesn't make the rotation.
Right-hander Austin Price would seem to be a likely option for the pen. He had an up-and-down 2017 pitching well in May, struggling in June and early July, but returning to pitch well again in August. Ariel Hernandez, Kevin Shackelford and Zack Weiss are all in on the competition, as well. Worley and young prospect Jimmy Herget could also slide into the bullpen.
It's impossible to predict what will happen, but there is clearly no shortage of competition among at least half a dozen pitchers for two, maybe three, bullpen spots.
OUTFIELD COMPETITION - If three's company, is four a crowd?
The Reds seem ready to give young prospect Jesse Winker a bigger role in the outfield. Winker came up in 2017 and impressed with his bat. He hit .298 with seven home runs in just 121 at bats. If Winker has earned a larger chunk of the playing time, at whose expense does it come?
Adam Duvall, Billy Hamilton and Scott Schebler were Price's primary options last season. It was reported that the Reds explored trade options to free up a spot for Winker, but nothing materialized. Should all four outfielders come out of spring training healthy, Price will have to find a way to get regular at bats for each. If Winker hits in Arizona the way he has hit his entire Minor League career and during his brief stint with the Reds, it will be difficult to leave him out of the everyday lineup in 2018.
The fourth outfielder would be a solid offensive option off the bench each night and that's certainly not a bad thing.
SENZEL SPOTLIGHT - The future is... soon.
Nick Senzel is the Reds top prospect and ranks in the top ten of all baseball prospects according to MLB.com and Baseball America rankings. He is only 22 years old and won't turn 23 until June 29. Despite not playing above AA, many experts believe he is ready for the big leagues.
Senzel has been invited to Major League camp this year and is probably the most intriguing player to watch in Goodyear. Regardless of how well he plays, he likely won't be with the Reds on Opening Day. It wouldn't make much business sense for the Reds to bring him up right away when they can wait a couple weeks to gain an extra year of contract control. Patience is a virtue when it comes to prospects. In fact, the Reds front office may wait until later in the year to call up Senzel, depending on many factors such as health and performance by other players. Right now, he doesn't have a spot to play. He was drafted as a third baseman, but second base, shortstop and outfield are all viable options for the top prospect when his time comes.
For now, Reds fans will get their first look at the future when they watch Senzel this spring.