- Reds outfielder Yasiel Puig is hoping to avoid an IL stint after suffering a sprained right shoulder Sunday, Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. Puig incurred the injury against his former team, the Dodgers, on a leaping catch, though he doesn’t think it’ll lead to an absence from Cincinnati’s lineup. Regardless, Puig’s off to a rocky start in his first season outside of Los Angeles, having hit .206/.253/.358 (58 wRC+) in 178 plate appearances.
Right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne has opted out of his minor league contract with the Reds, MLBTR has learned. Despaigne inked the deal back in January, and would’ve earned $875K in guaranteed money had he reached Cincinnati’s Major League roster.
Over eight starts and 41 1/3 innings for Triple-A Louisville this season, Despaigne had posted a 3.92 ERA, 8.7 K/9, and 2.50 K/BB rate. Those numbers present a solid recovery from a very rough 2018 season that saw Despaigne post a 6.69 ERA over 39 frames for the Marlins and Angels, plus more shaky numbers in those two clubs’ respective farm systems.
Despaigne’s Louisville performance would surely have earned him a call-up in any other season in recent Reds history, though Cincinnati looks to finally be on track after years of pitching futility. Both the Reds’ rotation and bullpen rank solidly within the top ten in several league-wide statistical categories, leaving less opportunity for Despaigne to crack the roster. On the plus side, the 32-year-old probably shouldn’t have much trouble landing a contract elsewhere, given Despaigne’s good Triple-A numbers and the number of pitching-needy teams who can offer a clearer path to the Majors.
- The progress has been steady for Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett, as MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports. He’s still at least a week or two away from on-field activities; there’s good reason not to rush his return from a significant groin strain. Gennett indicates that he’s doing well with walking and jogging, but feels weakness and is still avoiding quick directional changes to avoid aggravating the injury.
SUNDAY: Cincinnati has announced VanMeter’s promotion. The club made room for him by optioning lefty Cody Reed.
VanMeter has made a case for a call-up by serving as one of the minors’ best hitters and the International League leader in OPS early this season. Thus far, the 24-year-old has slashed a remarkable .346/.432/.757 (191 wRC+) with 13 home runs, five stolen bases and 15 walks against 23 strikeouts in 126 plate appearances. The lefty-swinging VanMeter was also effective in his first Triple-A exposure last year, albeit with numbers that pale in comparison to this season’s eye-popping output, as he hit .253/.309/.464 (114 wRC+) with 11 homers and five steals across 362 PA.
Despite his excellence in 2019, no outlet ranks VanMeter among the Reds’ top farmhands. Back in January 2018, FanGraphs prospect guru Eric Longenhagen wrote that emerging as a versatile bench piece may be VanMeter’s “absolute ceiling” in the majors. VanMeter has played first, second and third this year alone, and has also garnered significant experience at shortstop and in the outfield since the Padres chose him in the fifth round of the 2013 draft. He later joined the Reds in a December 2016 trade for catcher Luis Torrens, who debuted in the majors in 2017 but is currently in Double-A.
Per a team release, the Reds have optioned OF Scott Schebler to Triple-A Louisville.
Schebler, 28, was recalled from Louisville in June 0f 2016 and had returned for just a single rehab assignment since. In north of 1,240 plate appearances over that span, the lefty’d put together a solid .248/.323/.457 (103 wRC+) line for the Reds with adequate defense at all three outfield spots. Even after the offseason acquisitions of Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig, and the eventual promotion of IF/OF Nick Senzel, Schebler figured to be in line for at least semi-regular playing time across the grass.
Despite a career-best 14.7% walk rate, though, the slugging lefty – who bashed 30 homers for Cincy in 2017 – was off to the worst start of his career, slashing .123/.253/.222 over the season’s first 95 plate appearances. A comically low .154 BABIP may be to blame, but his hard-hit rate had cratered to a career-worst 27.8%, and Schebler was striking out more than ever before.
He’ll try to right the ship with the Bats of Triple-A Louisville, but even a turnaround won’t guarantee a return to regular at-bats – Senzel will look to lock down center, Jesse Winker has again been solid in left, and the club has every intention of sending Puig out to right field on a daily basis.
Per a team release, the Reds have released outfielder Matt Kemp, who’d been nursing a broken rib on the 10-Day IL.
Kemp, 34, was off to a dreadful .200/.210/.283 start in 62 plate appearances after an offensive rebound in 2018. Acquired in December from Los Angeles with Alex Wood and Yasiel Puig, the three-time all-star figured to be the chief platoon option for either Jesse Winker or Scott Schebler in left field, with occasional spot starts against righties mixed in. The team’s promotion of Nick Senzel, coupled with the slow offensive start across the board, has ostensibly kindled an urgent spark within the win-now organization.
Playing in the last year of an 8-year, $160MM extension signed prior to the 2012 season, a contract that’s seen Kemp shipped across the country, back, and back again, the 2011 NL MVP runner-up has mostly disappointed in his stops after a 2015 trade to San Diego. The move, one of the most lopsided of the decade, sent the then-30-year-old, along with the bulk of his behemoth salary, south to San Diego in exchange for four discounted years of Yasmani Grandal and eventual big-leaguer Zach Eflin. Warning signs were already flashing – Kemp’s defense in the few years prior had been horrific, and the slugger had already been dealing with nagging injuries to his ankle and shoulder.
He predictably cratered in San Diego, who quickly severed ties in a bad-contract swap with Atlanta for the rights to Cuban Hector Olivera, an infielder who’d never suit up for the team. Kemp didn’t fare much better in Georgia – another salary swap after ’17 sent him back to Los Angeles, where he made what may well be his final encore performance, slashing an excellent .290/.338/.481 (122 wRC+) in 506 plate appearances for LA.
The 34-year-old will almost certainly catch on with another club – Cleveland, again, may be among his most impassioned suitors – but a couple more months like this, and the 13-year-vet’s career could be in serious jeopardy.
The Reds announced that they have selected the contract of Nick Senzel, making the promotion of one of baseball’s premier prospects official. Senzel will join the active roster in place of right-hander Matthew Bowman, who has been optioned to Triple-A Louisville. In order to open a spot on the 40-man roster, Cincinnati transferred Scooter Gennett from the 10-day injured list to the 60-day injured list. Senzel is in today’s lineup, batting second.
There’s been a sense that this move was coming since earlier in the week when MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported the possibility, which has built a steady sense of anticipation among Reds fans in recent days. Senzel, the No. 2 overall pick in 2016, entered the season ranked as one of the top 10 overall prospects in baseball and has sufficiently recovered from the late-March ankle injury that sidelined him. He’s not off to a blistering start in Triple-A by any means, hitting .257/.316/.371, but he’s generally been viewed as an MLB-ready bat despite that tiny eight-game sample.
Drafted as an infielder, he’s moved to the outfield in order to fast-track his arrival on the MLB roster, and he should step directly into the Reds’ everyday center field role, hopefully jump-starting what has been a stagnant offensive unit of outfielders. Scouting reports on Senzel laud his potential for above-average tool across the board, including a 65- or even 70-grade hit tool. He’s walked at a solid clip throughout his minor league career and has never had a major issue with strikeouts over a large sample, suggesting that he has the discipline to complement that hit tool and serve as a middle-of-the-order bat for years to come.
A career .312/.388/.508 hitter with 28 homers and 40 steals in 239 minor league games, Senzel should provide an upgrade over Scott Schebler in center, as the 28-year-old Schebler has slumped to a woeful .127/.258/.228 slash to open the season. There will be some growing pains on the defensive side of things, as Senzel only began playing the outfield in game settings this spring and has been sidelined for a bit this year. He was originally slated to get his feet wet in center field during the Arizona Fall League last year, but he instead required surgery to remove a pair of bone spurs from his left (non-throwing) elbow. That capped off a frustrating, injury-filled year for Senzel, who also missed time due to vertigo symptoms and a fractured finger.
The Reds has already reassigned Senzel to minor league camp when he incurred the aforementioned ankle injury, meaning he was destined for Triple-A to start the year. However, the ankle issue sidelined him long enough that there was never any question about whether he’d accrue enough service time in 2019 to reach free agency as quickly as possible. Senzel can’t earn more than 151 days of MLB service in 2019, meaning the Reds effectively control him for seven years rather than six. Assuming he’s in the big leagues for good, Senzel will be arbitration-eligible as a Super Two player following the 2021 season and won’t be a free agent until the 2025-26 offseason.
It remains to be seen just how the Senzel promotion will impact playing time for the rest of the Reds’ outfielders. Jesse Winker is the only one of the incumbent bunch who has been at all productive to this point in the season (.224/.315/.490), while each of Schebler, Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig has struggled. Puig still figures to see the lion’s share of at-bats in right field, given his age and track record, which could largely relegate Kemp and Schebler to pinch-hitting and occasional starts based on platoon matchups.
The Reds are “contemplating” a call-up for top prospect Nick Senzel, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter link). The much-hyped 23-year-old could make it onto the roster as soon as this Friday, per the report.
Senzel might already have forced his way onto the MLB roster, but he had to overcome an injury incurred shortly after being optioned down late in camp. The Cincinnati organization had decided not to carry him on its Opening Day roster owing to some combination of a desire to give Senzel more time to adapt to playing in the outfield and service-time considerations.
The second overall pick of the 2016 draft, Senzel has thrived at the plate ever since joining the profession ranks. He carries a smooth .900 career OPS through just over a thousand trips to the plate at all levels. Expectations are that he’ll be a quality all-around performer right from the jump in the majors.
While the Reds understandably wanted to give Senzel a chance to get comfortable on the grass, where he’s moving after appearing almost exclusively as an infielder, the club needs to do everything possible to keep pace in a brutal NL Central division. It remains to be seen how the roster will be sorted once Senzel is up, but odds are he’ll receive the lion’s share of time in center after appearing there exclusively thus far this season at Triple-A.
Having waited to this point, the Reds are not at risk of allowing Senzel to accrue a full year of MLB service this season. That means the earliest he could qualify for free agency would be after the 2025 season. Should Friday prove to be the day for Senzel’s arrival, he could reach up to 150 service days this year, which would put him on track for eventual Super Two qualification.
Twins third baseman Miguel Sano is launching an official rehab assignment, per a club announcement. He’ll open at the High-A level, with planned stops at the next two rungs on the ladder before MLB activation, MLB.com’s Do-Hyoung Park was among those to report. Sano has been working back from an injury to his Achilles that healed much more slowly than anticipated. The hope now is that the issue is behind him, but the Twins want to get Sano plenty of reps before bringing him back to the big-league roster. Sano, who’ll turn 26 on May 11th, is looking to bounce back after a highly disappointing 2018 campaign. No doubt the Minnesota organization would like to see him put in some of the work he was prevented from undertaking this spring.
More from the game’s central divisions …
- The Reds received some unwelcome news on starter Alex Wood, as manager David Bell told reporters including Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer (Twitter link) that the southpaw recently suffered a setback while trying to work through the back problems that have sidelined him to date. Wood has yet to appear with his new organization, which had hoped he’d be one of three new veteran starters to bolster the rotation. An examination has been scheduled for Wednesday, at which time more on Wood’s outlook may be known. The 28-year-old is earning $9.65MM in his final season of arbitration eligibility after defeating the Reds in an arb hearing.
- Health issues are creating problems in the Tigers rotation, which means GM Al Avila is weighing the options for filling in. As Chris McCosky of the Detroit News writes, the top Detroit baseball decisionmaker doesn’t see much of interest in free agency; he says the front office will “have to keep our eye on the waiver wire and on guys in the minor leagues who have opt-out clauses.” With nothing doing there at the moment, the Tigers are looking internally. Ryan Carpenter and Kyle Funkhouser both are under consideration, with the team also pondering the possibility of utilizing Blaine Hardy in a swingman role once he’s activated from the IL.
- It’s awfully tempting to wonder whether one of the Tigers’ blue-chip pitching prospects could instead get the call, particularly after ace-in-the-making Casey Mize spun a rare complete-game no-hitter this evening. Whether that’ll be a possibility at some point remains to be seen, but it’s worth bearing in mind that there are some notable roster considerations that counsel against a quick promotion even beyond service-time considerations. As Avila tells McCosky, the organization anticipates a need to add something like ten prospects to the 40-man roster in advance of this winter’s Rule 5 draft. The club is obviously keeping a close eye on the downstream effects of its decisions.
Reds lefty Alex Wood, who’s dealt with back spasms since he arrived for Spring Training in late February, “didn’t respond well” after his latest bullpen session, reports manager David Bell (via MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon). Wood, who was acquired in an offseason trade that also sent Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp from Los Angeles to Cincinnati, will likely seek a second opinion on the creaky back, placing his eventual Reds debut in even further doubt. Thanks to stellar early-season performances from Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Tyler Mahle, among others, Cincy’s starting five leads the NL in nearly every rotation category, doubly impressive when given the puny dimensions of Great American Ballpark. Still, it’s a unit that should both anticipate heavy regression and yearn for the return of Wood, whose recent-year track record stands apart from each of his potential rotation mates.