The 2016 season wasn't ever destined to be one to write home about for the win/loss record of the Cincinnati Reds. That much was made clear when the likes of Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman were shipped out during the winter and the biggest free agent acquisitions came in the forms of Blake Wood, Alfredo Simon, and Ross Ohlendorf.
Instead, the 2016 season was meant to form melds and drop deadwood, to see which players emerged as pieces that looked the part of 2018 cogs instead of burning through bullpen and bench options to scrape out an extra win in May or June. Several players took that ball and ran with it. Adam Duvall saw the void in LF and dove in headfirst with 30 dingers, surprisingly positive defense, and an All Star Game appearance, while Dan Straily saw innings available by the bunches and emerged from multiple scrap heaps to pitch them - and pitch them rather well. Both capitalized on the clear lack of entrenched veterans in front of them, and as a result both either now figure into the Reds' long-term plans or have established ample value to be tradeable assets once again.
Some Reds, however, missed out in a big way. Years where teams have as many open competitions for playing time at the big league level like the Reds did in 2016 don't come around terribly often, which makes the disappointing seasons from these four would-be big leaguers this season sting that much more.
Yorman Rodriguez - OF
White whale. Great White Buffalo. Yorman Rodriguez.
After being signed out of Venezuela for a then club-record seven figure bonus as a 16 year old, the expectations heaped on Yorman's shoulders have been near mythical. He's been called a true five-tool player at times, and has tangibly flashed absurd batting practice power and a laser of a right arm. He's shown he can handle playing CF, and despite having been one of the youngest players in every level in which he's appeared, he's repeatedly put on display the kind of talent to keep him routinely within the Top 10-15 prospects in the organization year after year after year.
Unfortunately, those years have racked up quickly, and they've done so with Yorman continually hampered by debilitation leg and hamstring injuries. 2016 was no different, as a balky hamstring limited him to just 11 games all season - each of which came on rehab assignment with A+ Daytona - leaving him with gaudy season totals of zero dingers, one extra base hit (a double), and a walk. Dang.
Yorman was on his final option in 2016 and finally turned 24 years old last month. That means the Reds will have a serious decision to make with him, since they've surely got little confidence in the health of his legs and no ability to option him to the minors yet again. With Jay Bruce having been traded, Scott Schebler's early struggles, and Adam Duvall's second half slump, any sort of healthy year would've netted Yorman his first big league action since 2014; instead, his tenure with the team that signed him eight years ago might be coming to an end altogether.
John Lamb - LHP
Unlike Yorman, John Lamb actually got a shot in the big leagues this season, and an extended one at that. He was given 14 starts with the Reds, something that seemed completely reasonable after pitching to a 4.16 FIP and striking out an impressive 10.5 batters per 9 IP with the Reds after coming to them from the Kansas City Royals in the Johnny Cueto trade in 2015.
However, Lamb's season got off to a late start due to offseason back surgery, and when he came back he clearly wasn't the same pitcher. His fastball velocity was down nearly a full mile per hour - his cutter velocity down nearly two full miles per hour - and his ability to get batters out was seriously compromised from the outset. Complicating things further, once he was sent back to AAA to work on things with an eye towards a late season recall, he injured the flexor mass in his throwing arm and was put on the shelf for good.
Considering he entered spring training one of just two pitchers the Reds had who conceivably could've been counted on to flirt with 200 innings pitched - he'd thrown some 144 innings across all levels the year before - 2016 ended up being a disaster for him. And considering this Reds staff is no longer like the early aughts and actually comes loaded with other talented pitching peers, his days of getting starts every five days with the Reds may be gone for good. Pair that with him being out of options next year and a rash of necessary 40-man roster additions, and he's suddenly staring at either a bullpen spot or a new team entirely.
Jon Moscot - RHP
Unlike Lamb, Jon Moscot never had the kind of prospect pedigree to keep him in high regard despite injuries. Instead, Moscot rose steadily through the minors by being durable and throwing strikes, and that coupled with injuries to the rotation netted him a big league debut in 2015. Unfortunately, that season ended on a freak injury to his non-throwing shoulder when he dove to tag a runner in a rundown, but came in poised to at least eat early season innings for the Reds in 2016 to keep the service clocks of younger prospects from starting and had eyes on seizing a rotation spot the same way Dan Straily ultimately did.
The bodies of pitchers are fickle beasts, though, and Moscot's fell apart instead. He, too, got a late start to the season thanks to an intercostal strain, and soreness in that balky shoulder shut him down early, too. His struggles eventually led to him being shipped back to AAA, at which point the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm went kablooey. He had Tommy John surgery in June - which will effectively knock him out for all of 2017, too - and the fact that he did so while in the minors (instead of with the Reds) means he won't even earn service time while he's rehabbing. Dang.
By the time he's back and healthy, a veritable army of power-throwing righties in the system will be big league ready, meaning he's got more than just an elbow surgery standing in his way back to the Reds' 25-man roster.
Zack Weiss - RHP
Unlike the other three players listed here, Zack Weiss had never made a big league appearance in his career prior to this year. In fact, Weiss still hasn't appeared above AA, thanks in large part to an elbow injury suffered in spring training that kept him sidelined for the entirety of the 2016 season.
Weiss makes the list here due to circumstance, however. With the departure of Aroldis Chapman via trade this offseason and a bullpen that entered spring training with J.J. Hoover the lone member making more than league minimum, the opportunity for a prominent, late-inning role in the Reds' bullpen was there and ripe for the taking. Weiss was fresh off a 2015 in which he saved 39 games for Pensacola with a stellar 11.8 K/9 and miniscule 2.4 BB/9, and he backed that with an eye-opening arsenal of pitches while representing Cincinnati in the Arizona Fall League last November. Pair that with the cacophony of awful that the Reds' bullpen went through early in the year, and it's easy to see how Weiss could've emerged not just as a viable big league option, but perhaps even as the team's next closer.
Of course, since those awful early days, both Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen have returned and staked claim to late-inning roles, and Tony Cingrani has at least done a decent enough job to hold on to a late inning role. Weiss still has a very good chance of fitting in with the Reds in some fashion with a bright future ahead of him, but the upside mobility he was looking at just months ago now seems significantly harder to wade through.