It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a baseball franchise must one day suck. Really, all of 'em. The St. Louis Cardinals gave Joe McEwing 575 PAs in 1999. Roberto Kelly was once the only good thing going for the Yankees organization. The Reds are there now, and boy is it terrible.
They don't have to stay there, though. Maybe it's just the new 2016 vibes or a genuine attempt to be optimistic, but I think the Reds can turn it around quicker than many expect. Maybe, just maybe, Jocketty wasn't tragically misunderstanding the situation when he said he was looking for ready-for-the-bigs talent. Despite the 98 losses in 2015, the Reds could turn it around quicker than expected. All it will take is some minor leaguers panning out, some trade acquisitions being worth it, and one mighty Canadian.
We'll go through the field players today, and the pitchers tomorrow. Hopefully by the end of this, we'll all be excited for baseball to begin. I mean, moreso.
There's one major reason that Cincinnati wants a quick turnaround: Joey Votto is still one of the best left-handed hitters on the planet. There are only eight more years on his contract, eight more years where he's penned onto first base, and there's reason to believe that the next three will be a lot more pleasant than the latter five. The clock's still ticking, and while Joey's still good for .300/.400/.500 at the very least, the Reds should still be doing something about it.
As for the rest of the infield: Devin Mesoraco is either going to be okay or Tucker Barnhart will have to improve his Ryan Hanigan impersonation. Tucker's 25BB::45K was pretty nice. The Golem is the best right-handed power threat on the roster and one of the most exciting new-esque arrivals in 2016. It'd be dope if we don't have to get excited about Tucker's walk rate.
As for the rest, well, you could do a whole lot worse than assembling a whole bunch of athletic youngsters and letting them settle it out. Suarez and Peraza balance each other nicely wherever they play on the infield. Blandino brings a MiLB .280/.365/.442 and really great hair into the mix — he'll likely start out in AAA. With BP having not yet fallen off the cliff and Ivan De Jesus, Jr. performing at borderline competency, there's the opportunity to use 2016 to take stock and 2017 to do something about that stock. Cozart may even come back healthy! Add in the potential of Seth Mejias-Brean being a decent Pedro Feliz type and there's plenty reason to see the foggy left side of the infield as a positive, not a negative.
Yeah, so about turning negatives into positives. Billy Hamilton might not actually be a major-league hitter — even from his preferred right-handed side, he's not walking. Billy may just be Drew Stubbs with more steals. Jay Bruce may be a league-average hitter.
Awkardly, Scott Schebler and Adam Duvall aren't as great of platoon partners as I originally thought and we all might have hoped: they both historically crush righties and are muted against lefties. New Rule Five Toy Jake Cave is even more punchless against lefties and also, like, in general. I guess Yorman Rodriguez could have a hot spring? Steve Selsky, last seen wheeling around an IKEA, had a great.317/.386/.428 in AAA before his injury. Kind of like the infield, there are a lot of questions in the outfield but at least a couple answers that don't make one want to laughcry.
There is also, of course, Phil Ervin and Jesse Winker. Ervin's kind of an enigma, sure, with his sudden inability to play centerfield and two-year dip in hitting for contact. But he might still be ready for a 2015 callup. Winker is the Reds' most complete hitting prospect since Joey Votto and if he can't make the leap I may just cry.
The questions this year are less "will this veteran embarrass himself or nah?" and more "which youngun will step up?" It's much more interesting — and if you like baseball, you'll get to pay attention to relevant stuff in Louisville and Pensacola, not just Cincinnati!
2016 will be a lost year, no doubt about it. But if there's any sort of "Reds Way" or clubhouse culture that has concreted itself from the last few not-terrible years, here's our chance to see it. A chance to see if the tons of young dudes can learn from the Vottos and BPs (or if the Vottos and BPs can teach). A chance to discover if anyone can take a walk. It won't win 80 games, but it'll at least have more storylines and things to watch then hoping Ryan Ludwick or Skip Schumaker will be sub-mediocre.
We'll get to watch these young ducklings grow up before our eyes — and see which will be mauled by coyotes before they even really grow wings.