This is just a checkup. It’s only a glimpse into faux baseball, one where starters routinely exit after two at-bats and the final score is irrelevant. This is just to provide a sense of who isn’t quite performing well when nothing matters, so read into it what you will.
Last year, Chris Heisey finished the spring batting .310, while Skip Schumaker hit .441. Spring training performances aren’t indicative of much, but it’s interesting to check it out.
What else are we supposed to discuss until April 6?
Todd Frazier has a lot to prove a year after slashing .273/.336/.459 and making his first All-Star Game/Home Run Derby appearance. Not only will he be tasked with meeting, at the very least, that kind of production, with 29 home runs and 80 RBI, but many fans see him as a potential vocal clubhouse leader of the team. So expectations on Frazier are reasonably high.
In just 13 at-bats in five games, Frazier is slashing .231/.214/.385. He has three hits, one double and four RBI, with no home runs. It’s worth noting he’s struck out three times in that span while recording no walks.
It’s also worth noting that Frazier has been suffering back spasms, which scratched him from the lineup already and is probably the reason for such a slow start. The Reds slugger has been batting third during spring, so they’ll definitely want to see him get more plate appearances.
Byrd’s only played in five games and has nine at-bats, so it would take literally one afternoon to change his current slashing line of .222/.364/.222.
The veteran left fielder does have two doubles in that short body of work, including a walk and a strikeout. Unfortunately, he just doesn’t have a big enough body of work to adequately assess. The two doubles in nine at-bats is promising.
Desclafani is going to get an abnormal amount of attention. As the possible favorite to take the No. 5 spot in the rotation, a solid spring training for him is pivotal to build confidence. So far, he’s off to a slow start.
And let’s be very clear: He’s pitched five innings in two games. But they’ve been far from pretty. He’s 0-0 with a 5.40 ERA, and hitters are batting .333 against him right now. He’s only struck out two batters.
To be fair, Johnny Cueto, Tony Cingrani, David Holmberg and Paul Maholm have five innings pitched as well—no one has an ERA over 1.80. The sample size simply cannot be taken seriously, but again, considering DeSclafani‘s lack of MLB experience, he’s going to be met with heavier skepticism if his spring training doesn’t improve.
Bullpen, Middle Relief
When you finish the season as one of the sport’s worst bullpens, the goal becomes to rapidly demonstrate that it was a statistical outlier and by no means indicative of what the bullpen can really do.
So far, in early spring, middle relief is playing to a similar beat. Sam LeCure, J.J. Hoover, Manny Parra, Burke Badenhop, Pedro Villarreal and Daniel Corcino—each is currently carrying an ERA we’ve come to expect from this part of the bullpen.
To reiterate: The sample size is hardly serious, but if you’re checking in on who is off to a slow start after the second week of March, you may not be surprised to discover the usual suspects.
LeCure and Hoover both have four strikeouts in six innings pitched, obviously something you want to see out of relief. But batters are currently hitting .333 against LeCure and .357 against Hoover. Hoover’s ERA is 9.00. He’s surrendered five hits in three innings pitched and has given up two home runs already.
Badenhop got shelled in his Reds debut. Against the Cleveland Indians, he surrendered five runs (four earned) on five hits in two-thirds of an inning. He’s given up eight hits in just 1.2 innings of work. Furthermore, both of his appearances were save opportunities.
There’s a reason why prospect standout Michael Lorenzen has a chance to make the Reds roster in a bullpen capacity. John Fay of The Cincinnati Enquirer asserts, “The decision is a bit of a complicated one because the Reds project Lorenzen as a starter. If he makes the team, it would be almost certainly as a reliever.”
Lorenzen hasn’t allowed a run in four innings of work and has four strikeouts compared to just one walk in that time. But his inclusion after spring training may depend more on the aforementioned than his own performance.
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