To say Louisville’s roster in flux is, at this point, an understatement. There are no less than 22 pitchers, 12 possible starting pitchers, five catchers, eight outfielders, and no second basemen.
Odd, to say the least.
However, odd is intriguing enough to try and decipher the plan. And so, the candidates for the jobs, and my attempts to determine the Opening Day 24-man roster:
Mikey O’Brien—Starter (Rule V pick)
The former Yankee is a starter from A-Ball the Reds picked up in the Rule V draft. He doesn’t have to stay in AAA and, with the way the roster is playing out, probably won’t.
Justin Freeman—RH Middle reliever
His shoulder issues from last season are hopefully behind him. Still, that may be enough to keep him in extended spring training or bump him down to Pensacola. On a roster this flush with pitchers, he’s expendable.
Ryan Dennick—LH Reliever
While Louisville has a ton of pitchers, they’re short southpaws in the ‘pen. Dennick started last year for the first time in professional ball and did fairly well. Still, he’s, like, the 13th in line as a AAA starter. And the Reds may want to see more of him in that role. Since he’s not on the 40-man roster, I’m guessing he doesn’t make Louisville either.
Curtis Partch—RH set-up
He pitched last season in Cincinnati and looks like a good bet to do so again this year if the Reds need someone. Bonus points for his beard. Good bet for the Bat ‘pen.
Nick Christiani—RH reliever
Pitched for Cincinnati last year and, like Partch, is on the 40-man roster. A three-year Bat veteran, he’s pretty much a sure thing. Unless, of course, his roster spot becomes expendable as a non-roster invitee makes the team. I think he makes Louisville (if he’s not released).
LH Nick Schmidt—Swingman
Schmidt was signed as a free agent. He pitched in relief and as a starter last year. At this point, you have to imagine he’ll be used as a LH long reliever and spot starter. But, again, there’s just no room at the inn. I don’t think he’ll make it,
Another Louisville vet, he can start or relieve. (Like Schmidt, above.) I suspect the plan is to make him a reliever, but he, too, gets caught in the numbers game. I don’t think he makes it.
A long-time Louisville veteran, he’s a dependable starter capable of being an innings eater. Assuming both Wang and Francis stay, he’s not going to make the team. I’m guessing that he will stay with the team unofficially while Francis and Wang make their decisions. If they choose to stay in Louisville, he’ll be given a shot to play somewhere else. If not, he’ll then sign on.
He’s a no-brainer. On the 40-man roster and likely to help Cincinnati either as AAAA depth or, more likely, as a middle reliever. Love the action on his offspeed stuff and the extra mph or three he gets out of the pen.
David Holmberg—LH Starter
Another easy call. He’s done all he can in AA. He’s got a 40-man roster spot in his back pocket and he’s probably the first call-up if someone in the majors is hurt or ineffective.
He’s on the radar, at least, after a good Spring Training. Since he still has options, he’s not going to make the Reds’ team. But he’s another easy call for the Bats. Could surprise as a reliever in the mold of a Scott Sullivan. (This assumes his fastball plays up in the pen. Most do—some do not.)
I think he’ll stay with Louisville. He stuck it out last year in similar situations. He’s a really nice option to have in AAA, both as a mentor of sorts and as depth.
Jeff Francis—LH Starter
I really think Francis’ best bet to make the majors again is as a LH reliever, perhaps as a LHH specialist. He has pretty solid numbers v. southpaw batters and enough left in the tank to make a go of it, even at this late date. As he is, he’s a solid, if unspectacular, piece of depth to house in AAA. The Bats could very well have five serviceable major league starters for use as depth. That in itself may make the choice for Francis—the Reds don’t have to give him a spot in AAA, too.
Dan Corcino—Starter/ Reliever
With five spots only in the rotation, someone is going to have to either be sent down or switch to relief. I think Corcino is a prime relief candidate. He’s small-ish as a starter (not that that is a major concern, though his all-out deliver is) and cold thrive if he focuses on controlling only two pitches, rather than three or four. At one point, several "experts’ considered him a superior prospect to Tony Cingrani which should tell you all you need to know about guys who write about baseball prospects.
Lee Hyde—LH Set-up
Hyde opened some eyes early in camp with his stuff. He also had a very, very good year last season and there’s a need for at least one southpaw in the Louisville pen.
Pedro Beato—RH Set-up
Beato was picked up from Boston and has done nothing but pitch well since. I think he’s made the Reds, assuming both Marshall and Broxton aren’t ready. If not, he’ll be a Bat.
Trevor Bell—LH Reliever
Bell is another good arm. He’s been a pleasant surprise in Arizona and should be the second LH arm out of the Louisville ‘pen. He’s probably the first arm brought up if someone struggles.
Logan Ondrusek—RH Set-up
He’s out of options and will therefore make the Red roster. Unless he’s dealt between then and now. Ondrusek is the very definition of a meh reliever, though his stuff is oftentimes outstanding. He’s due one great year with a high WAR—some team will then overpay for him in free agency. Hope it’s not the Reds.
What’s not to love about a 350 lb. guy tossing upper 90s heat? (Aside from the extreme expansion of polyester that can never be unseen, I mean.) He pitched very well last year and will close again this season. He could even help the parent club, should he garner a 40-man spot.
At one point, Anderson was considered a good prospect in St. Louis. Then, he stopped hitting. He’s been in AAA since 2008 and has nothing left to prove. I think he’ll be a fine catcher for the Bats this season.
He’s been solidly above average behind the plate since being drafted out of high school in Indiana, but he has no power whatsoever. I like him as another Ryan Hanigan, but the Reds may want him to repeat AA (or at least spend some time there) to see if he can develop a better stick. With a position this stacked, I think he’ll start the year in Pensacola.
Love the bat. His glove, apparently, is horrid. He’s crushed AAA pitching for quite some time and was, once upon a time, an outstanding prospect. That time has come and gone. Still, he’s a great free agent signing and likely to help Louisville be more competitive this year. He can also play 1B and will DH most days.
Will Corky stick as a catcher, or will he finally begin his long-awaited ascent to managerial dominance? His ‘stache alone is worth 2.9 WAR. Sadly, that won’t be enough to make the Bats roster again. I think he retires to take a job as a bullpen coach either in Cincinnati or Louisville.
Old, veteran-y former Bat (and Red). Will make the team as a backup 1B and spot starter at 3B. Decent depth, I guess. Meh.
Don’t laugh. I think Hannahan begins the season as the Bats’ regular 3B. He needs some time in the field to throw and some more time hitting. He can’t do that in Cincinnati. A short ride down I-71 gives him all the time he needs to find his stroke. If he ever does. (Meanwhile, this allows the Reds to keep a much better hitter as a PH, something Jocketty says he’s been looking for, according his interview with Jim Bowden last week.)
Negron can play all over the infield and is probably the best defensive CF on the Louisville team. He can’t hit though. Still, he’ll start at 2B in Louisville and provide help elsewhere as needed.
Diaz signed as a minor league free agent and should be the everyday starter at SS in AAA. He doesn’t hit all that well, but supposedly has an adequate glove. He’s nothing more than filler at this point.
MI Rey Navarro
I don’t think Navarro makes the Louisville squad, but stranger things have happened. If Nelson sticks with Cincy, he’s an okay option as a utility man.
Nelson is in a four-way battle for two major league spots: he, Bernadina, Santiago, and Hannahan. Fortunately for Nelson, he can play both middle infield spots. Unfortunately, he’s not been tried at SS all that much this spring. He’s too good for AAA, but would be an ideal depth guy if he chooses to stick around. I hope he’ll make the Red in lieu of Hannahan and Santiago; then again, I really like offensive pop on my bench and have liked Nelson since Colorado drafted him the same year the Reds drafted Homer Bailey. What do I know?
SS/ UT Ramon Santiago
Santiago, Marty Brennaman insists, is going to be a Red. I hope Marty’s wrong. Dude can’t hit, has range from knee to knee, and is redundant considering Cozart’s good enough defensively to play the entire game. Schumaker can play 3B and 2B. Nelson can play SS. (Kind of.) It’s time to let him go, Mr. Price. No. More. Banjo. Hitters.
Soto might have had the best Spring Training of anyone in Reds’ camp not named Chris Heisey. He’s been crushing the ball. I don’t think it’s enough to get him on the Reds’ OD roster, but stranger things have happened. He can play 1B, 3B, and is trying to become an emergency catcher. He’s going to be the Bats’ cleanup guy this year and play all three positions and DH. May be called up later in the year if someone struggles.
Neal was signed as a free agent this offseason. He’s a great signing for the Bats. Heck, I think he’d make a fine option as the RH part of a major league platoon. He can play either corner OF position and likely will man RF for the Bats all year and hit third in the lineup.
Perez is 30, but had a very good year last season. I think he makes the team as a fourth OF. He has power and a solid glove. He can play all three OF spots well. He’s not going to make the Bats’ roster, though. Both LaMarre and Fellhauer play similar positions and are much younger, and Wilson is a free agent with better offensive numbers.
Wilson was also signed as a free agent in the offseason. Like Perez, he’s a veteran at 30. He has pop in his bat and can also play all three OF spots. Look for Wilson to play LF until Lutz is called up. Reds’ brass could decide to have a relative youth movement, however; if so, he’s cut-bait.
Rodriguez has the best tools in the Cincinnati pipeline. He also had a good year in 2013, his first good year in three. He can play all three OF spots, but I don’t think he starts in Louisville. Too many vets ahead of him. He’ll play CF in Pensacola to begin and, depending on his bat, will get a callup around mid-season for good.
Fellhauer played almost 100 games in Louisville last season, primarily as the RFer. He’ll play again in AAA, but this time as part of a CF semi-platoon. Fellhauer will get plenty of time at the corner spots, too. Think of him as a AAA version of Chris Heisey.
LaMarre has played two seasons in AA, but hasn’t really done much to earn a AAA spot. Still, he’s a high draft choice and the Reds thought highly enough of him to put him in the AFL, where he did… okay, I guess. He’ll play CF with Fellhauer. This is likely his last chance to impress the Red brass. He’s got both Yorman and Phil Ervin breathing down his neck and Slidin’ Billy ahead of him.
The logjam of Bat OFers affects Lutz as much as anyone. Still, because of injuries and the callup to Cincinnati, he didn’t get that many AA ABs last season. He’ll start there this year. If he hits well for a month to six weeks, he could get an early call to Louisville. (Both Wilson and Perez are eminently waive-able.)
Released. He didn’t hit in Dayton. Why would he hit in Louisville? He’s a toolshed, though. Loved to watch him take batting practice and shag flies. Just oozes potential.
Bernadina’s knocked the living snot out of the ball in Spring Training and is too good for AAA. A one-year, BaBIP blip won’t keep him from grabbing the last roster spot in Cincinnati. Being LH helps a great deal, as does Schumaker’s versatility. He’s Cincy-bound.
Bourgeois is better than LaMarre. He’s better than Fellhauer. He’s better than Perez, and he may be better than Wilson. Why, then, is he likely to get released instead of those guys? Because Fellhauer and LaMarre still have some prospect shine on them, that’s why. I think Bourgeois is gone at the end of Spring Training. He may stick in Extended in order to see what shakes down with Hamilton and the Bat CFers. He could very well glom onto another team as a speedy leadoff type with plus defense in CF.
1. 1. Beato—Reliever
2. Bell—LH Reliever
4. Corcino—RH Reliever
8. Hyde—LH Reliever
13. B. Anderson—Catcher
14. M. Ramirez—Catcher/ 1B/ DH
18. Costanzo—1B/ 3B
20. Nelson—2B/ 3B/ SS
1. 1. LaMarre—CF
4. M. Ramirez—DH
5. Hannahan/ Costanza—3B
7. B. Anderson—C