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“Sauer Notes” Cincinnati Reds Outlook 2016

The outlook for the Reds in the 2016 season can be idealized as a juxtaposition of the featured image. The Reds have three regressing seasons of stop signs, blinking red lights, and yield signs; all of which are bothersome objects while driving. It seems they failed to yield and continued to just dispose of all of their assets on their ride to the collision shop, as they are set for a total rebuild. The Reds traded away SP Johnny Cueto last summer. Next was shipping CL Aroldis Chapman in the offseason for 2B Tony Renda, 3B Eric Jagielo, RB Caleb Cotham, and SP Rookie Davis. Their offensive will have the same diminishing core of hitters except 3B Todd Frazier, who was traded to the White Sox for 2B Jose Peraza, OF Scott Schebler, and IF Brandon Dixon. reds

Last year they only won 64 games, which was their lowest total since 1982 (61). The commodious aspect of their decline came from their pitching staff. They allowed 142 more runs (754) than 2012 (612) that translated to a 4.33 ERA (12th). Cinci tied for last in saves (35) with a bullpen ERA of 3.96 (12th).Their starting rotation will be in rebuilding mode with SP Homer Bailey recovering from TJ surgery. Cincinnati needs SP John Lamb, SP Brandon Finnegan, and SP Tony Cingrani to make a step forward. RP J.J. Hoover is expected to take over as a closer. Left field is up from grabs this spring. They scored 640 runs (12th) with 167 HRs (6th). OF Billy Hamilton appears to be on track for spring training after having right shoulder surgery in late September. This team has plenty of questions marks headed into the 2016 season. Difficult to believe of the Reds will be in the playoff hunt.

Starting Rotation

  1. Rasiel Iglesias- Iglesias made one start in the majors in mid-April (three runs in five innings) before being shipped back to Triple-A. Cinci called him back up in the middle of May, where Raisel pitched fairly well in his start (one run in eight innings with five Ks). Over his next four games, he allowed ten runs and 24 base runners in 11.2 innings. Iglesias was placed on the DL with an oblique issue in June. When he returned in July, Raisel had continued struggles over three starts (nine runs and 24 base runners inrasiel 16 innings). He found his rhythm over his next seven starts where his arm flashed elite upside (2.31 ERA with 55 Ks in 46.2 innings). His success was highlighted by three straight double-digit K games. Iglesias was dominant against righties (.176 BAA) with some risk vs. LH batters (.286). His AFB (91.7) came in below the major league average. He threw a slider (.179 BAA) as his number two pitch followed by a changeup (.250 BAA). Over 29.0 innings at Triple-A, he had a 3.41 ERA with 21 Ks. His walk rate (2.6) was much better than his Cuban resume (4.6) leading to a much strong K rate (9.8). Nice developing arm who will need another full year in the majors to add length to his season. The unlikelihood of garnering a bunch of wins may scare some owners off, but with huge K upside and possible sub 3.50 ERA, Iglesias is one of my favorite SP to target in the middle-to late rounds.
  2. Brandon Finnegan- finneganFinnegan has underperformed over two seasons in the minors (0-10 with a 4.27 ERA). His lack of success is tied to a massive walk rate (4.3). Last season at Triple-A, Brandon struggled over 19 games covering 57.1 innings (6.75 ERA). The Royals used him in relief in 2014 to help strengthen their bullpen. He allowed one run in seven in with 10 Ks in September, but he was drilled in the playoffs (seven runs and 14 base runners in six innings). In 2015, Finnegan pitched well out of the bullpen (2.96 ERA), but he still walked too many batters (4.8/9). The Reds acquired him at the trade deadline in a deal for SP Johnny Cueto. Over six games including four starts, Brandon had a 4.18 ERA with 24 Ks in 23.2 innings. He did show some growth in his command (3.0 walk rate). He had success against RH (.222) and LH (.200) batters. His AFB (92.7) wasn’t an edge. Finnegan threw a slider (.133 BAA) as his second best pitch followed by a changeup (.250 BAA). Upside arm with huge command issues. The Reds will be forced to give him a full ride in 2016 due to weakness in the starting rotation. Backend flier with WHIP risk. With a cap of around 160 innings and the ability to implode and at any given moment due to struggling command, he’s a guy you should steer clear from.
  3. Anthony DeSclafani- desclafaniDeSclafani had a expeditious start to the 2015 season over his first seven starts (2.79 ERA) with 32 Ks in 42 innings). Over the last five months of the year, Anthony had an ERA over 4.00 in May (5.34), June (4.10), July (4.01), August (4.20), and September (4.93). In between the cracks, he flashed some upside in late August and early September over four starts (2.08 ERA with 29 Ks in 26 innings). DeSclafani did not have an edge over righties (.279) or lefties (.268). He issued 40 of his 55 walks to LH batters. His AFB (92.5) fell just below major league average. His next best pitch was a slider (.236 BAA) followed by a changeup (.218 BAA) and a curveball (.314 BAA). Over three seasons in the minors, he went 26-16 with a 3.23 ERA and 304 Ks in 354.1 innings. His minor league career points to better command (2.7 walk rate in the majors – 2.0 in the minors). If he can find a better way to deal with lefties, we can expect to see some slight growth in 2016. Just be aware that he also holds some disaster risk as he does not possess nasty enough stuff if he falls behind in the count.
  4. John Lamb- lambLamb developed slowly in the Royals system after having TJ surgery in June of 2012. In 2013 between High-A and Triple-A, John went 5-14 with a 5.80 ERA. He pitched better at Triple-A in 2014 (3.97 ERA), but he had a regression in his walk rate (4.4). His career regained elite status in 2015 when Lamb went 10-2 with a 2.67 ERA and 117 Ks in 111.1 innings at Triple-A. Over seven years in the minors, he had a 3.67 ERA with 600 Ks in 622.2 innings. John showed K ability in the majors (10.5) with a decline in his walk rate (3.4). He finished with a 5.80 ERA and 1.550 WHIP. Over seven starts from August 20th to September 21st, Lamb had a 3.65 ERA with 41 Ks in 37 innings. He struggled with lefties (.341) and righties (.284). His AFB (91.1) wasn’t an edge. He relies on a cutter as his second best pitch while also tossing a changeup and a curveball. Decent backend option with more upside than meets the eye. A solid chance at a sub 4.00 ERA with 150+ Ks. He threw 161 innings in 2015 so John should throw between 180 and 200 innings this year.
  5. Michael Lorenzen- lorenzenLorenzen was selected in the first round in the 2013 MLB June Amateur Draft. Over three years in the minors, Michael has a 2.83 ERA with 122 Ks in 184.2 innings. He had a poor walk rate (3.2) and weak K rate (5.9). The Reds saw enough in his arm to give him 27 appearances with questionable results (5.40 ERA). Lorenzen had even worst command (4.5 walk rate) with a slight uptick in his K rate (6.6). He was buried by lefties (.332 with a .575 SLG) with only league average success against RH batters (.262). Mike has a solid fastball (94.0) while throwing three other pitches – slider, curveball, and changeup. In college, Lorenzen flashed a high 90s fastball as a closer. His arm still needs time to develop and his secondary stuff doesn’t offer an edge at this point in his career. His success will be fastball driven, but he needs growth in his command.
  6. Homer Bailey- Bailey couldn’t shake his issue with his right forearm, which led to only two starts in 2015. He had TJ surgery in early May, and the Reds hope to have him back by June in 2016. His 2014 path should be somewhat of a guide for fantasy owners to find possible failure risk with pitchers with arm issues. Over his previous three years, Homer had a 3.60 ERA with 491 Ks in 562.2 innings. His AFB (91.1) in 2015 was 3.1 mph lower than 2014 (94.2). Bailey throws a slider as his second best pitch followed by a split-finger fastball. Over the last two years, his curveball lost value most likely due to his arm issue. Decent major league arm that has underperformed his draft value (7th overall in the 2004 MLB June Amateur Draft). Possible value during the second half of the year, but pitchers coming off injuries tend to fall short of expectations especially with only about a year to recover from TJ surgery.

Relief Pitchers

  1. Tony Cingrani (RP)- Cingrani has become an enormous liability over the last two seasons due to command issues and injury risk. In 2015, Tony walked 6.8 batters per nine innings. In his best season in 2013, he had a 7-4 record with a 2.92 ERA and 120 K in 104.2 innings while issuing 3.7 walks per game. Other than the walks (16 in 20.1 innings), Tony pitched mediocre in April and May (2.66 ERA) as a reliever. He suffered a shoulder injury in mid-June, which led to a month on the DL. Also, Cingrani was placed on the DL at Triple-A with a neck issue. Over his last 17 games in June, July, and August, Tony had an 8.31 ERA and 1.85 WHIP. His arm did have more value in the minors (1.82 ERA with 32 Ks in 24.2 innings), but he still had a poor walk rate (4.0). Over four seasons in the minors, Cingrani had a 16-7 record with a 1.67 ERA and 333 Ks in 253.1 innings. His AFB (91.8) was in line with his best year in the majors, but he threw it 86.1 percent of the time. Tony throws a slider as his second best pitch. Real tough to trust in any role in the majors without throwing more strikes. His elite resume in the minors gives him upside, but his lack of options in pitch selection pushes to a bullpen type role over the short term. His K ability gives him a chance in the 9th with some extraordinary growth in his walk rate. Just a name to follow in case his game makes a step forward in 2016.
  2. Jumbo Diaz (RP)- Diaz pitched his way out of the majors in June (6.65 ERA). Over about six weeks in the minors, he allowed two runs in 16 innings with eight saves and 12 Ks. The Reds called him back up after the All-Star break where his arm became an edge (2.65 ERA with 45 Ks in 37.1 innings). On the year in the majors, Diaz allowed too many HRs (nine). Righties hit .258 against him while striking out 49 times in 135 plate appearance. His stuff had a lot less value vs. LH batters (.248 – 12 of his 18 walks with only 21 Ks in 120 plate appearances). Over 13 years in the minors, Jumbo had a 2.63 ERA with 113 saves and 449 Ks in 455.2 innings. His AFB (97.3) is elite, but his slider (.275 BAA) is too easy to hit. The growth in his walk rate (2.7) led to more strikeouts (10.4 per 9). Of all the options in the bullpen, Diaz has the best all around resume and skill set to close. His window to prove his worth may be short, so a Fantasy owner needs to keep an open eye in this bullpen for the next developing arm.
  3. J.J Hoover (CL)- hooverHoover has been tough to hit in two of his last three seasons (2013 – .200 and 2015 – .196), but he continues to have a great walk rate (4.3). Last year J.J. finished with the lowest K rate (7.3) of his career. Fantasy owners expected him to win the closing job in 2014 in April after CL Aroldis Chapman had a zipper inserted in his head after being hit by a line drive. By the end of the first week of the season, Hoover pitched his way out of the 9th inning. In 2015, he struggled again in April (5.19 ERA) with elite success in May and June (one run in 26.2 innings with 17 Ks – 0.34 ERA). His season ended on a down note when J.J. allowed ten runs and 16 baserunners in his last 7.1 innings in September. Hoover was great against RH batters (.157) with some success vs. lefties (.247). His AFB (93.4) was a career high. He throws a curveball (.200 BAA) as his number two pitch followed by a slider (.206 BAA) and low-level changeup (.214 BAA). There is no way I’ll draft him as the closer for the Reds. I know he is tough to hit, and his secondary pitches all have value, but he is going to get himself into too much trouble with his lack of command. It’s not even like he threw strikes in the minors (4.1 walk rate). I’ll give him the job for now by default.

Batting Lineup

  1. Billy Hamilton (OF)- hamiltonOther than 57 stolen bases, 2015 was pretty much a dumpster-fire season. He hit under .240 in every month, which eventually led to him being pushed to the bottom of the batting order. Over the first three months, Billy had 38 runs, three HRs, 19 RBI, and 40 SBs. Overall, it was a pretty impressive stolen base total when you consider Hamilton was on first by a walk or hit 65 times. He suffered a slight wrist issue in June and a right shoulder injury in the middle of September. His K rate (16.5) was a career best with fade in his walk rate (6.2). Billy struggled with both righties (.220) and lefties (.241). His swing path fell in line with 2014 with repeated failure in his HR/FB rate (3.4). Over six years in the minors, he hit .280 with 13 HRs, 171 RBI, and 396 SBs in 2026 at bats. Fantasy owners will now avoid him due to his injury risk and added batting average risk. Fantasy baseball is a changing game, and Billy offers a skill set to dominate the stolen base category. His power won’t have any upside this year after having surgery in the offseason. His slight growth in his approach gives him a chance at a better than expected batting average. Possible .260+ BA with 80+ runs, 5+ HRs, 40+ RBI, and 70+ SBs.
  2. Eugenio Suarez (SS)- suarezSuarez outplayed his minor league resume (.276 with 41 HRs, 251 RBI, and 71 SBs in 2136 at bats) with the Reds in 2015 (.280 with 13 HRs, 48 RBI, and four SBs in 372 at bats). Between Triple-A and the majors, Eugenio hit .271 with 21 HRs, 73 RBI, and seven SBs in 575 at bats. His K rate (23.6) was much weaker than his minor league success (18.2) while losing his walk rate (4.3 – 9.5 in the minors). His bat had value against RH (.277) and LH (.289 with a .482 SLG) pitching. Over the last two months of 2015 with regular at-bats, Suarez hit .267 with eight HRs, 30 RBI, and one SBs in 225 at bats. His HR/FB rate (12.1) was much stronger than his results from 2014 with the Tigers (4.3). This season Eugenio may have to earn his at-bats at third base. Improving player who added power to his game over the last two seasons. Draft him thinking 10 to 15 HRs while more upside is possible, but his lack of speed dooms any impact upside. Suarez has a strong enough approach to produce a neutral batting average (.270).
  3. Joey Votto (1B)- vottoVotto rebounded for a great season after struggling in 2012 and 2014. He had a massive on base percentage (.459) as a result of a league-high 143 walks. Joey had a 20.6 percent walk rate and just over the league average K rate (19.4). His low RBI total (80) was due to batting much of the season in the two slot (46.8 percent of the time) in the batting order, which led to only 354 RBI chances. His RBI rate (15) came in short in his last three seasons. His bat had almost equal success against RH (.306 with a .541 SLG) and LH (.331 with a .542 SLG) pitching. Over the last three months of the year, Votto hit .344 with 55 runs, 15 HRs, 42 RBI, and six SBs in 270 at bats. His FB rate (32.8) remains low due to a high line-drive rate (25.0). Joey rebounded in HRs (29) as a result of his highest HR/FB rate (21.6) since 2010. The Reds lineup lack talent in the batting order in front of Votto and depth behind him leading shorter than expected runs and RBI. Last season he was on base 314 times, but Joey only had a 30 percent run rate. Solid .300 hitter with a chance ta 100+ runs, 25+ HRs. 90+ RBI, and a few steals.
  4. Brandon Phillips (2B)- phillips(SportsCenter Top-10 music cue) Brandon turned into a speed demon (23 SBs) after two years of short success. Phillips played his best ball in August and September (.317 with 21 runs, five HRs, 31 RBI, and nine SBs in 230 at bats). He hit well against righties (.291) and lefties (.303). Brandon has a career low K rate (10.9) with regression in his walk rate (4.3). Last year he had his highest LD rate (24.9 – 19.2 in his career), which led to his upside in his batting average. Phillips had the lowest FB rate (30.3) of his career. His HR/FB rate (7.6) fell below his career average (10.1) for the second straight season. The Reds tried to trade him over the winter to clear a spot for the speedy 2B Jose Peraza. Solid veteran bat and his success in 2015 is raising his value slightly. His speed isn’t repeatable, and his swing is losing length. Only a neutral hitter with 2B average in runs and RBI with low double digit power.
  5. Jay Bruce (OF)- bruceBruce had plenty of RBI chances (444) hitting behind Votto, but his RBI rate (14) fell below the league average. His batting average came in flat despite growth in his K rate (22.3). His walk rate (8.9) was just above the league average. His bat had short value against RH (.225) and LH (.229) pitching. Jay hit .181 in April with five HRs and 13 RBI in 72 at bats and only .178 in August and September with nine HRs and 28 RBI. His fade in batting average was due a change in swing path, which led to a rise in his FB rate (44.2). His HR/FB rate (13.3) has regressed in each of the last three years. In 2016, Bruce can’t help but come to plate with 400+ runners on base. He needs to step up as a run producer with a rebound in his swing. Based on his recent trend, Jay looks like a .250 hitter with 30+ HR power and a decent chance at 100+ RBI plus close to double digit steals. I see him as a definite value based on his low ADP (183) in the NFBC in early drafts season as the 50th outfielder off the board.
  6. Devin Mesoraco (C)- devinDevin crushed Fantasy owners in 2015. He suffered a concussion early in March and then what appeared to be a minor left quad issue at the end of spring training. By the middle of April, his quad issue was now classified as a hip injury. Over the first six weeks of the year, the Reds gave him only 45 at bats in 23 games with no DL stint. His season ended in mid-June when he had left hip surgery. Mesoraco looks to be 100 percent healthy, and he is expected to be ready for the start of spring training. His 2014 season looks impressive on his resume when Devin set career highs in runs (54), HRs (25), and RBI (80) with a strong RBI rate (21). His K rate (17.7) has been above average in every season in the majors except 2014 (23.4) while adding an edge in his walk rate (9.8). This season a Fantasy owner has to decide if his success in 2014 is repeatable. In his first three years in the majors, Mesoraco had an HR/FB rate around 10.0 with a jump to 20.5 in 2014. His swing path was more fly producing in 2014 (43 percent) as well. Over eight seasons in the minors, he hit .267 with 60 HRs, 236 RBI, and eight SBs in 1628 at bats. I’m going to write off 2015 and respect his growth in 2014. I’ll set the bar at .270 with 60+ runs, 20+ HRs, and 75+ RBI.
  7. Zack Cozart (SS)-cozart Cozart had a great power start to the 2015 season (nine HRs and 28 RBI in 194 at bats). Over 550 at-bats, his success projected to 79 runs, 26 HRs, and 79 RBI. His season ended in early June due to a right knee injury that required surgery. Zack is expected to be 100 percent by the start of spring training. His K rate (13.6) was a career best with three straight seasons of growth. Cozart had a career-high walk rate (6.5), but it still ranks below the major league average (8.4). His swing made a huge step forward against lefties (.326 with a .565 SLG) with failure risk vs. RH pitching (.236 with six HRs and 20 RBI in 148 at bats). His swing path has changed over the last two years leading to a declining GB rate (38.6 – a career-low) and rising FB rate (42.2 – career high). This resulted in a jump in his HR/FB rate (12.9 – 7.5 in his career). Robust growth in power with a low-K rate should lead to more upside in batting average, but his growth in fly ball rate will result in easier outs. Possible .270 hitter with 15 HRs and some underlying speed (30 SBs at Triple-A in 2010).
  8. Scott Schebler (OF)- scheblerOver six seasons in the minors, Schebler hit .272 with 87 HRs, 340 RBI, and 60 SBs in 2225 at bats. His K rate (22.0) and walk rate (6.6) came in below average. The Dodgers gave him 36 token at-bats in the majors, which led three HRs and a high K rate (32.5). Scott has two seasons on his minor league resume with 25+ HRs and four years with double digit speed. His slow ride to the majors tells me he isn’t an elite prospect. With a full season under his belt at AAA, Schebler will have a solid shot at winning the starting left field job with the Reds. Possible breakthrough year, but he may struggle to make contact in the majors.
  9. Pitcher Spot

Top Prospects

  1. Robert Stephenson (RHP)- Age 22, 3.83 ERA with 140/70 K/BB in 134 innings, 104 hits between Double-A and Triple-A. Electric stuff remains but still making slowish progress due to erratic command. I remain entranced with his upside and am willing to override the sabermetrics (which say he should go down to B+) another year in his case. I still think he puts it together and becomes an anchor.
  2. Jesse Winker (OF)- Age 22, overcame slow start to hit .282/.390/.433 with 13 homers, 74 walks, 83 strikeouts in 443 at-bats in Double-A. Questions still exist about his raw power but he’s an exceptionally professional and polished hitter for his age, strong OBP player. I have been hovering between A- and B+ here for days. May ultimately go back to A- depending on slotting when I get to the Top 50 hitters part of the project.
  3. Cody Reed (LHP)- Age 22, acquired from Royals in the Cueto deal, couldn’t get rookie ball hitters out two years ago but took massive step forward in ’15, between High-A and Double-A posted 2.41 ERA with 144/42 K/BB in 146 innings, 127 hits, gigantic improvement in K/BB ratios, another 92-95 heater with movement, plus slider, improving change-up. Potential number two starter if command holds._______________________________________________________________________________________(Click the RED link below to listen)

    Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly: Join Lou Landers and Kyle Amore live on Thursday March 17th, 2016 from 8-10pm EST for episode #4 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly. We will discuss player positions and help prepare you for the coming draft season. This will run every Thursday as a live broadcast that will take live callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will discuss everything fantasy and MLB related in the N.L. East.

    Our guest this week is Bryan Luhrs. Bryan is the owner of Real Deal Dynasty Sports, a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com, and big part of our growing MLFS community.

    Come join a lively debate!

    ________________________________________________________________________________________

    (Click the RED link below to listen)

    Major League Fantasy Baseball Show: Join Corey D Roberts on Sunday March 20th, 2016 from 7-9pm EST for this week’s episode of the Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show. We are a live call in radio show so we encourage callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will break down everything fantasy and MLB relevant for the N.L. Central division.

    Our guests this week are Andy Macuga and Phil Weiss. Andy is the head baseball coach at Borrego Springs H.S. in Southern California, and a veteran owner in MLFS leagues. Phil Weiss’s resume includes working as a CPA with a large public accounting firm as well as private industry (Fortune 500), specializing in international corporate tax planning. Also earned the Chartered Financial Analyst designation. Chief Financial Analyst for Independent RIA, responsible for individual securities held in client accounts.

    Media Experience:
    Frequent guest on CNBC and Bloomberg television. Multiple appearances on Bloomberg radio, local and national radio.
    Regularly quoted in Wall Street Journal, Reuters, New York Times, AP, thestreet.com, local news, Financial Times

    Fantasy Baseball Experience:
    Seasoned fantasy player since college and also a Major League Fantasy Baseball team owner for 3 years.

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