5 Cincinnati Reds Who Won’t Make It Through Spring Training
5 Cincinnati Reds Who Won't Make It Through Spring Training
The Cincinnati Reds have had a quiet offseason, signing just Skip Schumaker and Brayan Pena to major league deals over the course of the winter. When you have a roster as strong as the Reds, however, you're allowed to stand pat and see how the market plays itself out. While the Reds lost Shin-Soo Choo and likely Bronson Arroyo to free agency, they have elite prospects in-house to replace them with center fielder Billy Hamilton and starting pitcher Tony Cingrani.
The one weakness on the Reds' otherwise stellar roster is the bench. Cincinnati tried to add bench depth by signing infielder Chris Nelson to a minor-league deal in addition to the Schumaker and Pena signings, but other than quality fourth outfielder Chris Heisey, the Reds' bench does not provide much impact. There are some players in the minor leagues who may be ready to contribute, such as powerful first baseman Neftali Soto and multi-skilled second baseman Henry Rodriguez. However, most of Cincinnati’s impact offensive minor leaguers such as outfielders Jesse Winker and Philip Ervin are more than a year away. This leaves Soto, Rodriguez, Schumaker and Nelson to battle it out for the fifth outfielder position and backup corner infielder positions. The Reds' top prospect according to Baseball America, right-handed pitcher Robert Stephenson, likely does not have a chance to make the team given the Reds' loaded rotation and bullpen, but phenom Billy Hamilton is assured of a spot on the 25-man roster. While this will make for a lack of drama this spring, the Reds should be a lot of fun to watch as summer heats up.
5. Jeff Francis
Former 2002 first-round pick Jeff Francis likely should receive a chance to stick with the Reds out of spring training, but with a loaded bullpen and starting rotation, there simply is not any room for Francis on the 25-man roster. Francis threw 70 innings for the Colorado Rockies last year, making 12 starts with 11 appearances out of the bullpen. The numbers were a mixed bag. While his 6.27 ERA was atrocious, he appeared to have been extremely unlucky as his FIP was more reasonable at 4.54 and his 3.82 xFIP was downright decent. Francis had a respectable 8.06 K/9 while allowing just 3.07 BB/9, but the home run ball did him in at 1.54 per nine innings. A move away from Coors Field could certainly help with his home runs allowed, but Francis will likely make for solid reserve depth in Triple-A rather than an immediate contributor for the Reds.
4. Chris Nelson
The Reds signed Chris Nelson to a minor-league contract on Monday, and judging by his 2012 season with the Rockies this was a nice addition by Cincinnati. In 2012 Nelson ran with his first full-season job, hitting .301/.352/.458 in 377 plate appearances. However, despite the solid offensive numbers, Nelson was still worth -0.3 fWAR due to his awful defense. In 2013, Nelson’s defense when from awful to just bad, but his offense tanked resulting in a .227/.273/.327 line in 227 plate appearances. For his career, Nelson has been worth -2.1 fWAR and -2.5 bWAR (per Baseball-Reference). Nelson will need to prove his worth in Triple-A before getting a shot with the Reds as prospect Neftali Soto has a good chance to win the backup first base job if Jack Hannahan and Chris Nelson are both cut.
3. Jack Hannahan
If Jack Hannahan played the same level of defense that he has in the past, he would not be on this list. As recently as 2011 Hannahan was one of the better defensive third basemen in the game, however, defense was largely the only reason he has ever worn a big league uniform. In 2013 for the Reds, Hannahan’s defense actually hurt his team per the stat Defensive Runs Saved (-2). While Hannahan can take a walk, he strikes out too much and provides no power whatsoever. As an aging player who has lost his one true skill, Hannahan likely will not make the Reds 25-man roster. Instead, a prospect such as infielder Henry Rodriguez may get a shot to be a bench player.
2. Max Ramirez
Once upon a time Max Ramirez was a top ten prospect in the Texas Rangers minor league system and appeared as though he would eventually break into the majors with his blend of power and on-base skills. Despite receiving numerous chances on more than a few different teams, Ramirez has just 45 games played in MLB and hasn’t played in the majors since 2010 with the Rangers.
Now Ramirez will have another chance this spring to break through as the backup to Reds’ projected starting catcher Devin Mesoraco. With the departure of Ryan Hanigan there was an opening for a new backup catcher until the Reds went out and added former Tigers catcher Brayan Pena via a two-year contract. Pena’s value comes in the form of providing average defense with exceptional contact skills. During the past three years he has struck out in just 10 percent of his at bats which led to a .297 batting average in 2013. Pena’s batting average will always be at the whim of his BABIP, but a high contact player can be a valuable piece off the bench. With Pena’s presence on the roster Max Ramirez will once again be on the outside looking in when final spring cuts come around.
1. Donald Lutz
Donald Lutz has put up some decent minor league numbers which led to a call-up with the Reds last year, but Lutz didn’t make much of his MLB debut. He walked in just 1.7 percent of his 59 plate appearances with just one home run and an uninspiring line of .241/.254/.310. Lutz may have had a shot to make the Cincinnati roster if it weren’t for the signing of Skip Schumaker. Despite a -1.0 fWAR for the Los Angeles Dodgers last year, Schumaker received a two-year, $5 million deal this offseason from the Reds to be their super-utility player. Lutz has yet to play a single game in Triple-A, and while he may actually be a better player than Schumaker, Lutz will head back to the minor leagues after spring training.