5 Things We Learned About Cincinnati Reds in Spring Training

So long as no one asks any current or former Cincinnati Reds about anything related to hitting philosophy, the time is ripe to realign our focus back to the game. It’s almost time for real baseball, and there are a few observations we can make on what will soon be the 2015 roster.

Without dissecting everyone’s performance in faux baseball, let’s discuss some of the universal takeaways from camp. The following is a short list of five things we learned about the Reds in Goodyear:


1) Marlon Byrd can still swing it and the offense looks better. 

At 37 years old, there’s reasonable skepticism surrounding how much Marlon Byrd will contribute—especially coming off a year where he slashed just .264/.312/.445 and struck out a career high of 185 times.

In 33 at-bats this spring, Byrd is slashing a freakish .394/.444/.515. He has struck out six times and walked twice. He has 13 hits in 12 games played. And while he hasn’t homered, he does have three extra base hits. 

Because of his age and his mediocre performance last year, Byrd needed to have a good spring. Not literally, but you have to imagine he’s feeling good about it. And that’s important for a Reds team in need of power bats in the middle of the lineup. 

Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs.com wrote about Byrd’s potential as an older player helping another contender around last year’s trading deadline:

Down the stretch a year ago (2013), the Pirates plugged in Byrd and watched him slug .486. There’s a chance now for some team to get similar production over a broader window. In terms of long-term value, he might not be perceived to be Mark Trumbo’s equal, but in terms of short-term value, Byrd looks not even a little bit worse. 

Despite such a powerful slashing line, it should be noted that Byrd has just three RBI. In comparison, Todd Frazier has seven. RBI guys are indeed a special breed, and one wonders how someone slashing that well has so few. But then again, the RBI guy himself, Brandon “DatDude” Phillips, only has two.

Most notable? The Reds boast the fourth-best run differential in all of (faux) baseball. 

2) The Reds’ baserunning is still suspect. 

Hey, it’s spring training. This doesn’t even count. But none of us forget how dreadful the baserunning was last year, especially when it came to sending guys home. Here’s a quick revisit from C. Trent Rosecrans of The Cincinnati Enquirer on just how bad it was: 

BsR is FanGraphs.com’s base running component for its WAR calculations, and last season, the Reds’ BSR was 27th in baseball. The Reds were 28th in UBR. … Extra bases taken (XBT%) is the percentage of time a player advances more than one base on a single or more than two bases on a double. Last year, the league average was 40 percent, while the Reds took an extra base 38 percent of the time, ranking 24th in baseball.

You don’t have to understand the calculations, just look at their ranking in consideration of every other MLB team.

Pretty horrible.

So far in spring training, the Reds are second in caught stealing and dead last in successful steals. 

Furthermore, how many games did we watch the Reds run themselves out of last year? Ninth inning, two outs, man on—remember all of those? Check out how this particular game against the Cubs ended in spring training from Jeremy Conley of RedLegNation.com:

… The icing on the cake came in the 9th inning. A single, a wild pitch, and a ground rule double had the Reds back in the game at 2–1, with a runner on second and one out. A single by [Brennan] Boesch would have made it first and third with one out, with a decent chance at tying the game, but the Reds sent the runner on a shallow bloop single and got him gunned at the plate. 

Obviously, there’s a new third base coach. And again, it’s spring training, a perfect time to experiment and see what you’re capable of.

But the results were less than optimal. And while we didn’t learn that their baserunning still stinks, we haven’t learned that it’s much better.

 

3) The young guys can pitch. 

Reds manager Bryan Price has to be feeling a lot better about his starting rotation, mainly because of the performance of Anthony DeSclafani, the focal piece in return for Mat Latos. With virtually no MLB experience worthy of mentioning, skepticism was merited because this highly unproven prospect will ascend to the No. 4 role in what hopes to be a playoff contending rotation. 

In five starts, 24-year-old DeSclafani is 1-0 with a 1.83 ERA. He’s pitched 19.2 innings, second-most on the team in spring. He’s struck out 17 batters and walked only eight. He gave up no home runs and batters hit just a collective .231 against him.

Another young prospect is probably going to play a serious role in the Reds 2015 campaign. Michael Lorenzen, age 23, has certainly established himself as at least supplemental for a Reds bullpen in desperate need of a rebound year. Lorenzen‘s pitched 11 innings in five games and has a 1.64 ERA to show for it. 

Lorenzen‘s eight walks are probably why his WHIP is a disappointing 1.45. Batters are hitting just .209 against him, though, and considering he has seven strikeouts in the eight innings he’s pitched, he appears ready to help this team a lot sooner than originally thought.

 

4) The Reds will have a bench. 

Boesch is slashing a ridiculous .357/.341/.595. His three home runs and nine RBI are both team highs. Only the Chicago Cubs‘ Kris Bryant has more home runs than Boesch, so far.

If the Reds could get a line even close to what Boesch has done in 14 games of faux baseball, not only is the bench immediately upgraded, but he could potentially fill in and be very serviceable should the Reds incur any injuries to important contributors in the lineup. 

The 29-year-old can play anywhere in the outfield, which is especially important when your left fielder is 37.

Chris Dominguez has a good shot to make the club, too. He has the most at-bats on the team and is slashing an impressive .302/.311/.558. He has 13 hits in 18 games, including five doubles, two home runs and tied for a team-high nine RBI.

Dominguez and Boesch are the top two in at-bats, so the Reds are definitely wanting to see what they’re made of this spring. Expect both to be in uniform, and expect both to be serviceable when called upon. 

5) We have no idea how healthy Joey Votto is. 

Joey Votto has proclaimed good health endlessly, at no fault of his own, but until he plays a 162-game schedule without hitting the DL, the topic will linger. 

But unfortunately, Votto has only played in 10 games and has 23 at-bats. He’s slashing .261/.400/.391, so as we can see, he has not forgotten how to beat a pitcher.

His lack of playing time is enough to be curious, not that there’s any reason for concern. The point is, we didn’t learn anything about him, really.

He’s leading the team in walks, because of course, he is. He does have one home run, five RBI and five hits in his 23 at-bats.

 

Stats courtesy of MLB.com, unless noted otherwise.

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