The Glass is Half Full: Early Spring Training Thoughts

It's spring, birds are (finally) singing, baseball is here, and hope springs eternal. And, of course, no one asked me, but:

-- The Reds' bench looks pretty potent-- right now

With Jack Hannahan likely on the shelf through at least mid-April, Schumaker could become less of an fourth OF and more of a back-up 2B and 3B. Wherever he plays, he'd be hard-pressed to put up numbers even close to what he's done in 15 AB so far: .533/.579/.600/1.179. Not only that, Schumaker has really made pitchers work so far this season. If he continues to hit well, he may open up some platoon time either in LF or at 3B (if either Frazier or Ludwick struggle).

Another option at 3B is Neftali Soto. Ignored by most for a couple of years now, Soto has undeniable power. He can hit a fastball a long, long way. The question, as always, is if he can hit something with a wrinkle. Focusing (again) on catching was a great move-- it gives the club an emergency option back there and gives him a bit more utility. If he's adequate at the hot corner, Soto could be a surprise addition to the Opening Day roster. He'll need to mash, though. It'll be work for him to become adequate anywhere but 1B. He hit 30 dingers as a 22-year-old in AA a couple of years ago.

Roger Bernadina has also done very well in limited at-bats. He can pick 'em in all three OF spots, so he has value beyond his bat. He's better than Derrick Robinson with both the bat and the glove (and, fwiw, on the bases). Is he better than Xavier Paul? At this point, it looks likely. He's a fine fourth OF candidate, as he has leather enough to play well in either LF or CF. What can I say? I'm a sucker for a Charlie Lau disciple in the batter's box.

Chris Heisey is another who can play LF and CF, though the Reds seem to like him more in LF. (Current defensive metrics insist he's a plus defensive CFer; it's still a mystery why he wasn't moved to CF and Choo to LF last season.) Hesey's got really good power and could likely hit 25 homers as a full-time OF. His biggest issue is a willingness to take a walk. One item that may help Heisey is Price's apparent desire to have the Reds run more this season. A minor league career 88 SB v. 13 CS argues that he could do more on the basepaths. He doesn't seem to be jumping at the ball as much this season as he was the last couple of seasons. It's certainly worked well so far this spring.

Sliding Billy taking his time, picking out his pitch

Billy Hamilton has been great so far this spring with the bat. He's obviously a threat to steal as well. But the most encouraging sign I've seen out of the young phenom is his willingness to take a walk and his complete lack of strike outs. 4 BBs. No K's. That's getting it done. Fearless prediction: If he can keep up the BB rate (10% or so), Hamilton will win the ROY and be the toast of MLB this year.

Starting lineup looking tough

Along with Hamilton and the four bench bats, Zack Cozart, Jay Bruce, and, to a lesser extent, Brandon Phillips are all hitting well. Between the four, the lowest OPS is 824. I'd certainly take that in the regular season. Not only that, both Phillips and Bruce are looking solid in terms of patience at the plate. Nice to see, anyway.

Cingrani sizzling so far

Tony Cingrani continues to be ignored by not only the national press, but fans in Cincinnati as well. He's been extraordinary since being drafted, putting up monster numbers from the Pioneer League through Cincinnati. This spring, he's tightened up his slider on advice from Sean Marshall. That can only help him continue to dominate major league hitters. So far this spring, he's pitched five innings, given up one hit and no runs. If he can pound the strike zone, the former Rice Owl could develop into a true ace on the mound. Perhaps then, someone will pay attention.

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