Juan Francisco - Fin
What started out as a bland Spring Training has continued to surprise us at the END. Yesterday the Reds shipped Francisco to Atlanta for J.J. Hoover, a righty minor league pitcher of some promise. But Hoover isn't really the point of the trade. With END gone, Todd Frazier suddenly has a good chance of making the roster as Scott Rolen's caddy and multi-purpose reserve. Did the Toddfather have a few strings pulled to eliminate a rival? We'll never know.
- Even if it makes sense in baseball terms, the human side of every transaction is always stickier. Dusty Baker, who's been accused of favoring Francisco over more deserving players, bade a fond farewell to the oversized problem child: "I wish [Francisco] the best. I was really for the kid from the very beginning. It's just that some of the things weren't working out the way you wanted them to. Hopefully, he'll find happiness and get it together in Atlanta. If things go right and stay on the proper direction, he can be a force."
Doug at Reds Minor Leagues has the scouting report on Hoover
The Smoove Hoove primarily uses his low 90s fastball, but J. Edgar also deceptively works in a slider, curve and change. He misses a lot of bats, but issues a good deal of walks and is an extreme flyball pitcher. Our own Thundering Turtle is high on Hoover and points out that his slider is his best secondary pitch. Fangraphs also puts in a word about the deal, even noting Francisco's "El Niño Destructor" nickname popularized in these parts. We are a meme-making machine, if nothing else.
Rotation locks don't include Leake
Mike Leake finished 2011 strong, throwing 167 innings at a 3.86 ERA. He was easily the Reds' second-best starter. Still, his hold on a rotation spot isn't a fait accompli. Baker listed Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto, and Bronson Arroyo as his only "definite" starters late last week, and made it clear to Fay that he was not including Leake.
- Out of the running is Jeff Francis, who was optioned to Louisville on Saturday. Francis spun a solid seven inning start on Saturday, allowing just 3 hits, 2 runs (both on HRs), and 1 walk in the Reds' 10-2 win. But it wasn't enough to make up for his prior disaster.
The Reds dropped a slugfest to the White Sox yesterday
Mat Latos went 5 2/3, allowing five earned runs on eight hits, two walks, and four Ks. It's not a pretty line, but Latos was the victim of bad defense and the wind during the fifth. Miguel Cairo dropped a double play relay exchange. The wind carried a routine fly by A.J. Pierzynski all the way to the wall, giving him a double. Then Dayan Viciedo launched what appeared to be a foul ball, but the wind blew it to the other side of the LF foul pole. Dusty: "His velocity wasn't as good, but his breaking ball was better. I didn't see any signs of the calf [injury]. ... This was a Wrigley Field wind blowing out game." If you're still keeping score on the Scott Rolen trade, Ryan Ludwick and Chris Heisey hit dingers of Zach Stewart in the ninth.
Cueto got his final ST tuneup on Friday, giving up two runs, one walk, and three strikeouts in six innings. He did allow two solo shots, but Baker felt that overall "Cueto threw the ball pretty good. He threw 98 pitches after he had 89 last time. He just got a couple of balls up to guys that can hit the ball out of the ballpark." For his part, Cueto was unfazed by the longballs: "I felt good. I am ready for Opening Day." Presumably so is Josh Hutcherson, star of "The Hunger Games" and Northern Kentucky native, who will throw out the first pitch.
John Erardi assesses what's at stake for both the Reds and Dusty Baker, who's managing for his next contract: "A huge barometer of how Baker does in this final year of this present contract is how he handles Arroyo. Baker's tendency is to give guys too much rope, especially veterans. If Baker runs Arroyo out there until the All-Star break and Arroyo doesn't have better results than last season, it probably won't matter what moves the Reds make at the trade deadline." I'd really like to think that there is no way Arroyo can be as bad as last year, because that was historically bad. Arroyo may never have another season like 2010, but something in between isn't too much to ask for, is it? More to Erardi's point, a lot will depend on how Francis, Aroldis Chapman, and Homer Bailey are doing. If two of the three struggle with health or general effectiveness, Baker will have no choice other than to go with the devil he knows.
Which is a straight-forward Manager ranking from a Boston writer. I'll save you the suspense: Joe Maddon is 1st, Jim Leyland is runner-up, and Mike Scioscia takes the bronze. Every other manager is tied for last because he is HORRIBLE and a total IDIOT. Actually, Dusty ranks in the middle. Which sounds about right. According to this BtB study, Dusty doesn't show up in the historically good (hey, Sparky!) or bad (hope David Bell is better than his father) lists.
The most critical Reds at-bats of all time
THT historian Chris Jaffe has calculated the nine most critical ABs in baseball history, and two of them come from the famous A's-Reds World Series clash in '72. They're the final two Reds' at-bats in the eighth inning of game seven, when the BRM was trying to knock off a two-run deficit while facing the devastating Rollie Fingers. I don't need a spoiler alert here, do I? Anyways, check it out if you don't know the story.
- Is Devin the early favorite for NL ROY?
According to the internet intelligentsia, yes. The SweetSpot staff and network of bloggers (which includes RL Nation) have Devin Mesoraco as a slim favorite. Second? Yonder Alonso. The wild card is Bryce Harper, who will be starting in the minors but could be called up early. Big League Stew also picks The Golem as its preseason NL ROY favorite.
- If you've enjoyed Fangraphs’ Positional Rankings this winter,
Big Red Smokey has compiled the aggregate organizational rankings for the positions players. While the Reds place well here, those damn Cardinals find themselves ahead of the rest of the National League.
- SI thinks the Reds, Cardinals and Brewers will slug it out for the Central crown
They give the Reds an A- grade for the winter. Although Latos' transition to GABP is listed as a "key question," I thought the "scout's take" on both Latos and Chapman were interesting: "Mat Latos should have a lot of success pitching in that small ballpark. Even though he's a fly ball guy, he's a strikeout guy. This is big time, big time stuff... They've got a great pitching coach -- Brian Price is outstanding. I think he'll help Aroldis Chapman figure it out. When he was with the Cuban national team, he started but they pitched him like a reliever -- just go out and throw as hard as you can for three of four innings, and we'll bring the older guys in. He's got to fix that mindset, and it's maybe the greatest arm in baseball, and at some point they should have him start." #FreeChapman