The whirlwind winter that was 2018-2019 for the Cincinnati Reds produced a greater influx of big league talent to the club than in any recent memory, even dating back to the 2010-2013 run of sustained success. That previous era, of course, was built on a rock-solid core of draftees and merely augmented with outside help, but after a full 5 years in the NL Central cellar, the Red opted to catalyze what they’d put together in the rebuild thus far with some 2019 reinforcements with both brand names and significant upside.
Last night, that was on full display, of course, as Sonny Gray flirted with a no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners, the latest brilliant start from the former New York Yankees pitcher, as he has casually become the ace of this Reds staff. He owns a 1.66 ERA over his last 13 starts, and has been worth a brilliant 5.3 bWAR so far this year, and given that he’s under team control potentially through the 2023 season, that’s a damn fine development, even if it did cost the Reds promising young prospect Shed Long.
Some of the other moves the Reds made last winter, however, haven’t panned out nearly as well. The massive blockbuster with the Los Angeles Dodgers that brought over Matt Kemp, Alex Wood, Yasiel Puig, and Kyle Farmer, for instance, was viewed as a potential franchise changer at the time, even if Farmer was the only one of those four with team control beyond the 2019 season. Of course, Kemp failed miserably and was axed early on, Wood has basically had a lost season due to back troubles, and Puig - notoriously slow starter that he is - took too long to get going to fuel a Reds renaissance and was eventually flipped in July.
The cost to acquire that haul? Along with Homer Bailey in what amounted to a creative-accounting cash swap, the Reds doled out former 2nd round pick Josiah Gray and former 1st round pick Jeter Downs. And, in hindsight, that burns more and more by the day.
As Dodgers Nation noted two weeks ago, Gray moved into MLB Pipeline’s list of the Top 100 overall prospects in the game after his stellar performance this season, and currently ranks among the Dodgers top 5 prospects. He pitched to a 2.28 ERA across three levels, topping out at AA as still just a 21 year old. Meanwhile, Jeter Downs posted a 20/20 season in the Dodgers organization, and his breakout 2019 was good enough to jump into FanGraphs Top 100 prospects list, as Kiley McDaniel noted a few weeks back.
Then, last night, Downs did this in the AA playoffs for the Tulsa drillers:
JETER DOWNS THREE-HOMER GAME#Dodgers prospects break @TulsaDrillers record with 9 jacks on 18 hits to knot the Texas League Finals at 1 game apiece.— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) September 12, 2019
➡️ https://t.co/gWEPYcYlen pic.twitter.com/nEfyIX55MR
That’s...well, that sure is something.
Circling back to Puig for a minute, he ties this Reposter together a bit, as he was flipped in July to Cleveland for current Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer in a 3-team trade that included the San Diego Padres, with the Padres picking up top Reds prospect Taylor Trammell in the deal, too. Trammell, who the Reds picked at the tail end of the 1st round in 2016, had rocketed up prospect lists with a toolsy set of years in 2017-2018, but his power totally evaporated in 2019 as he deal with injuries and a swing change, perhaps prompting the Reds to cut bait on him a bit early for Bauer, who is only under team control for next year before reaching free agency.
Trammell had a rough go in his first few weeks with AA Amarillo after joining the Padres organization, but heated up tremendously down the stretch. He posted an .855 OPS over the final 18 games of the regular season, and as CBS Sports noted last week, he started the AA playoffs going 5 for 13 in his first 3 games.
Then, last night, Trammell did this in the AA Texas League playoffs against the Drillers, for whom both Downs and Gray play.
That’s...well, that sure is something, too.
In other news, The Enquirer noted that MLB Network’s Brian Kenny thinks Michael Lorenzen has been better as a two-way player than Shohei Ohtani, which is a #taek I’m having a hard time not laughing about. Lorenzen has been well and good and fun, but c’mon now.
Over at Art of Words, artist Dan Duffy just finished creating a visual masterpiece that might be of interest to Reds fans, as he used the written version of every single player name in Cincinnati Reds history to recreate GABP, and it’s both a super cool concept and brilliant final product. You can check out that, and more of his work, at artofwords.com.
Finally, the Tennessee connection tying this current crop of Redlegs together is increasingly hard to ignore. That’s where Sonny Gray hails from, while both Derek Johnson and Curt Casali have Vanderbilt connections, too. That’s true of Caleb Cotham, the team’s assistant pitching coach, as well, while Nick Senzel is both a born and bred Tennessean and also a product of the University of Tennessee. Cody Reed hails from the Memphis area, and even Sal Romano was a late scratch from attending UT when he decided to accept the Reds offer after being drafted out of high school. Now, I’m not saying there’s a chance in hell the Reds could find a way to pull this off, but in the wake of Dave Dombrowski’s firing from the Boston Red Sox, rumor has it that it was due to overspending on what they already had there and that future resources may not be deep enough to keep together the rest of their core. FanGraphs’ Jay Jaffe explored that in detail, particularly in the case of superstar Mookie Betts, a Nashville native who was once committed to play for the University of Tennessee before opting to sign a pro contract after the draft. I’m not saying anything, I’m just pointing out that the Reds need offense in the worst way...