Spring Training Week 2: Pondering the pitching

The mantra last week was "no injuries," but sure enough the bug bit in Week 2. Either I have a horrifying new jinxing power or spring attrition is simply something teams can only hope to contain. As of press time, we don't have a clear prognosis for Willis or Cueto. Both expectedly downplayed their injuries, with Willis stating his intention not to miss any time at all.

A shutdown of more than a week could put Willis out of the running for a bullpen spot. In that eventuality, I'd rate it as his chances of accepting an assignment to Louisville as "Pretty good I think." He'd be in a good position to be recalled to the big league club in the inevitable early season reliever reshuffle. He seems enthusiastic about being a member of the organization, making strides in mechanical adjustment with pitching coach Bryan Price. And the Reds are most familiar with the latest arrival of the D Train and might still be his best ticket to the majors even if he's cut.

We have to hope for the best with Cueto. Things don't sound serious, but this is where you have to regurgitate the tired adage: "There's no such thing as too much starting pitching." Unfortunately, the rest of the starters have been pretty unimpressive - even the ones competing for jobs.  Why? It's hard to say. I distinctly remember telling them not to on this very blog. Instead, they went ahead and started serving it up, Milton-style. And I'm talking about John Milton. This week the Paradise of spring training seemed Lost. 

Travis Wood (pictured above) is the owner of the lowest spring ERA of the Big Six starters, at 4.00 even, to go with a 9.00 K/9 rate. If Sam LeCure were truly competing for a rotation spot, he'd be leading the pack with no earned runs allowed in 7 spring innings, no walks, 9 Ks and a sparkling sub-1.00 WHIP. But he's as viable a candidate to join the rotation as Bobby Jindal is to win a Republican primary. He may, however, have worked his way right into the thick of the race for the last three bullpen spots. That audition is getting more interesting by the day.

These statlines go along with all the usual provisos. Volquez has only made one outing. A lot of these games are being played in weird wind conditions and in desert launching pads like Cashman Field in Las Vegas. Strange defensive alignments and scoring decisions make any recorded hit suspect. And the largest sample of innings so far is 9.0 (Arroyo and Leake). Casting an eye to the regular season, I see at least one (and perhaps the only) important takeaway in all this. Which is that while the Reds are blessed with pitching depth, injuries and unrealized breakouts could make for a pretty average starting rotation.

Personally, I still think the Reds staff is brimming with potential and fully capable of being the class of the NL Central, but it helps to take a step back. Pessimism's not just a river in Egypt.

This week's findings:

  • Chris Heisey has played well and seems all but certain to make the team. John Fay left open the possibility that it could be Lewis whom Heisey edges out, rather than Hermida. Lewis is out of  options and I would be extremely shocked if the Reds were willing to risk losing him based on a mediocre spring, after signing him to a guaranteed contract just months a go. But if they really want Hermida on the team and a CF-capable OF like Heisey, that's what they'll have to do.
  • Fred Lewis saw more action this week, but hasn't made much noise.
  • Dave Sappelt continues to be unconscious at the plate, warping spacetime to produce an OBP lower than his average - which is .953 or thereabouts. Though "unconscious" also describes him on the basepaths.
  • Jazz Man is an early frontrunner for the Yasmani Grandal nickname. Not sure if he even likes jazz, but he does have a soul patch. He took one of the better Photo Day shots, brandishing his Cuban cartographic tattoo tastefully.
  • There are a lot of spring training games. Sometimes two a day.
  • Cuts may come as soon as Monday (Mar. 13)

Position Battles

5th OF

  • Most likely: Chris Heisey
  • Bubble: Jeremy Hermida
  • Cinderella scenario: Hermida and Heisey both make it, pushing Lewis out
Last two rotation spots:
  • Most likely: Travis Wood and Homer Bailey
  • Bubble: Mike Leake, Matt Maloney, Sam LeCure
  • Cinderella Scenario: Wood or Bailey wind up in the bullpen, LeCure takes a spot in the rotation (0.1% likely)

Last three bullpen spots:

Overall record: 10-7

Top Performers to date

(15 AB and 5 IP cutoffs)

  • Dave Sappelt: .522/.520/.836 (23 AB)
  • Jeremy Hermida: .333/.500/.667 (18 AB)
  • Zack Cozart: .429/.478/.714 (21 AB)
  • Chris Valaika: .417/.462/.583 (24 AB)
  • Devin Mesoraco: .400/.429/.550 (20 AB)
  • Yonder Alonso: .350/.409/.600 (20 AB)
  • Sam LeCure: 0.00 ERA, 9 K, 0 BB (7 IP)
  • Scott Carroll: 0.00 ERA, 4 K, 1 BB (5 IP)
  • Daryl Thompson: 1.29 ERA, 5 K, 3 BB (7 IP)
  • Logan Ondrusek: 1.42 ERA, 6 K, 2 BB (6.1 IP)
  • Aroldis Chapman: 1.80 ERA, 7 K, 4 BB (5 IP)
  • Matt Maloney: 3.00 ERA, 8 K, 1 BB, (9 IP)
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