The calendar has turned to March, and the Cincinnati Reds have already logged 8 Cactus League games in their 2020 files. The club stands 3-5 so far, and while that truly means almost completely nothing, we’ve now got a bit over a week’s worth of action to look at to help describe what it is we’ve seen from the club so far.
So, let’s do that.
Perhaps it’s worth starting with who we’ve not yet seen, however. Both Nick Senzel and Eugenio Suarez are recovering from shoulder surgeries, respectively, and while both have been characters in camp - Senzel in the occasional batting cage video, Suarez taunting Jim Day on the FS-Ohio TV broadcasts - neither has yet picked up a bat or a glove in Cactus League play. Hopefully, we’ll see both soon, though.
The single brightest star the Reds have had thus far has been young shortstop Jose Garcia, who has already socked a trio of homers. His playing time benefited from the early shoulder soreness experienced by incumbent starter Freddy Galvis, but hit the ground running with that opportunity, flashing what appears to be a plus glove to go along with a swing that looks like it would play anywhere on the diamond - let alone a spot where glovework often takes precedence. The 21 year old is still likely slated to begin the 2020 season with AA Chattanooga, but if he keeps up this kind of work, maybe Cincinnati doesn’t need to swing a deal for a shortstop after all.
Speaking of prospect peformers, Tyler Stephenson has looked the part in camp so far, too. He’s got a 415 foot dinger to his name already, as well as a pair of doubles, pair of walks, and 5 ribbies in limited action. Shortstop and catcher were the two positions where the Reds failed to find upgrades this winter despite active pursuits of the likes of Didi Gregorius and Yasmani Grandal, but maybe, just maybe, those pursuits were unfruitful because the Reds have grown increasingly confident in their in-house futures at both positions.
Joey Votto is hitless so far this spring, having failed in all 6 AB to date. Joey Votto also has 6 walks already, which is tied for the most of any player in spring training action, because Joey Votto is Joey Votto and does Joey Votto things like that.
The crowded OF mix has put an increasing spotlight on several players looking to produce well enough to earn a coveted roster spot on Opening Day, and two guys in particular have risen to the occasion. Rule 5 draftee Mark Payton leads the club in hits with 6, while Phil Ervin is close on his heels with 5 (including a grand slam). The newly signed Shogo Akiyama is 3 for 12 in early action as he grows more accustomed to big league pitching, while fellow free agent Nick Castellanos had a pair of hits (including a double off the LF wall) before coming down with an illness that’s kept him sidelined for a few days.
Two guys in that OF mix that have struggled mightily early on, however, are Scott Schebler and Aristides Aquino. Schebler, who is out of options, has K’d in 7 of his 11 AB so far this spring, while Aquino has fanned 5 times in 12 AB - while also remaining hitless. The writing has long been on the wall that Schebler would be an odd-man out while Aquino, who has an option, would get squeezed out back to AAA, and the early indications certainly don’t seem to be deviating much from that perception.
Meanwhile, the newly signed Mike Moustakas looked rock solid in early play, with a homer to his name before stepping away from the club while he and his wife expect a newborn wittle bebe any day now.
On the pitching side, the trio of Trevor Bauer, Sonny Gray, and Anthony DeSclafani all looked sharp in their first starts of the spring. Each cleared 2.0 IP without allowing a run, with Bauer and Disco both firing pairs of perfect frames. It’s been a bit of a different story for the other pair of hurlers projected to form the club’s Opening Day rotation, as both Luis Castillo (4 ER in 2.2 IP) and Wade Miley (3 ER in 1.1 IP) have gotten knocked around in their early action.
One promising pitching prospect in need of a bounce-back year has looked rather brilliant in Goodyear, and that’s Vladimir Gutierrez. Gutes was pummeled for 26 dingers and 92 ER in 137.0 IP in the dinger-fueled International League (AAA) in 2019, but so far has yielded a lone earned run in a team-high 4.0 IP, with 6 Ks against nary a walk on his ledger. He’s likely to return to Louisville to begin the 2020 season as rotation depth, and hopefully has rediscovered an out pitch.
A handful of potential bullpen pieces who are in need of good springs to earn roster spots have sputtered out of the gate a bit, too. Two in particular - Lucas Sims and Cody Reed - come with tremendous pedigrees and possess elite stuff when on, but both enter the 2020 season out of options and struggling in early action. Sims has been tagged for 5 ER in 2.2 IP, and while Reed has only surrendered a lone ER in 2.0 IP, he’s given up 4 H and 4 BB (against just 2 K) in that time.
Finally, we wouldn’t be doing the first week of action justice without mentioning that Brandon Finnegan has been, well, Brandon Finnegan again. It’s just a trio of 1 IP performances so far, but Finny has yet to allow any hits or runs in that time, with a walk and a K to his name. The Reds don’t have any locks as lefties in their bullpen behind Amir Garrett, and with Reed still struggling that certainly could open the door for a now healthy Finnegan to reclaim a big league spot after shoulder injuries and surgeries completely derailed his career. Speaking of which, he’s listed as an available pitcher on today’s roster for the Reds game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and since it’s on TV, you can tune in and maybe catch Finny hopefully putting up some more zeroes again today.