Sunday, April 7, 2013

RR Roundtable: What to do post-Ludwick and other week one thoughts

Is now the time for this man to wear these colors full-time?

The Redlegs Review roundtable returns for another edition and after weeks of blubbering about what might happen when the season began, we have real baseball to discuss this week! Joining the panel this time around are Jimmi Adair (@Redlegs_Review), Scott Eddy (@scotte97), Jesse Welte (@RedlegsWriter) and Jon Davis (@I_Bleed_RedsRed). The topics this week include what to do with the hole left from the injury suffered by Ryan Ludwick, if now is the right time for a Billy Hamilton sighting at GABP and if this is the year Johnny Cueto takes the proverbial next step into being considered a true “ace” outside of Cincinnati.

1) Some of the excitement of the new season and Opening Day evaporated with the injury to Ryan Ludwick. With Ludwick likely lost for at least half the season, do you think the Reds are best served with Chris Heisey every day in left field, or would you try calling up Billy Hamilton or perhaps look outside the organization for help?

Jesse: I would be fine with the Reds giving Heisey the first shot at playing left field everyday and evaluating him over a few weeks. I do think he'll end up with the bulk of the playing time there, with Xavier Paul backing him up. Derrick Robinson may get a spot start here and there or perhaps see some pinch-running or defensive replacement time. Right now I would not call Billy Hamilton up, he's hardly had any time at the AAA level let alone at the Major League level. At the end of May, if there is a necessity for it whether due to injury or poor performance, perhaps the club can reevaluate Hamilton's AAA performance at that time.

Scott: I gave my opinion on this in a column I wrote here earlier this week, but I think going with Heisey is absolutely the right call. Hamilton just isn’t ready yet – regardless of how badly many fans want to see him in Cincinnati right now.

Jon: I believe that they should give Heisey first crack at the job. He deserves the opportunity given his track record of doing whatever is asked of him for the team. If that doesn't work try a platoon of Heisey and Paul, there is a good chance that could be very productive. If all that fails I think then the Reds should look into a trade, a perfect candidate is Josh Willingham from Minnesota. I don't think the Reds should or will try to call up Billy any earlier than September. I foresee only one situation where Hamilton shows up before September, that is if Choo were to get hurt and Hamilton was tearing up Triple-A.

Jimmi: I think the Reds need (and will) to give Heisey ample opportunity to show what he can do in left field while Ludwick is out. Heisey is a guy who has been around the organization for quite a while now, and it's his chance to finally contribute on a full-time basis. Now, is he capable of producing at the rate Ludwick was expected to? We shall see. But in my opinion, he is the most viable option over anyone else the team has on the major league roster, or in the farm system, which includes Billy Hamilton, who I don't believe is ready to handle big league pitching, yet.

2) One of the ripple effects of the Ludwick injury is now Brandon Phillips moves into the cleanup spot. What does your ideal lineup look like - any differences from the ones we've seen post-Ludwick so far?

Jon: I would like to preface this by saying that i am assuming the Dusty Baker rules of lineup making, i.e. lefty righty. Another note, I am a big believer that you want high on base guys at the top of the lineup. Which is why I would like to Ryan Hanigan and his career .374 OBP in the two hole, but I have given up on that since it is clearly obvious it will never happen. I would have preferred to have Phillips stay hitting in the two hole and given Todd Frazier a chance to hit clean up, or if like Dusty said you don't think Frazier is up to hitting four, then I would have put Zack Cozart at two and Phillips at four. I feel a bunch of eyes rolling just calm down and let me explain. Cozart hitting in the two hole has been very productive and I am simply talking about trying Cozart at two or Frazier at four, if it doesn't work then move on. After that I would say the currently alignment of Heisey at two, Phillips at four and Frazier at six, would be my next choice. Now having said all that I would like to point out, i feel the differences between these choices and how effective they can be are minuscule.

Jesse: I like the lineup we saw in the last two games of the series with the Angels. I love BP batting cleanup. I think he thrives there more than any other spot in the lineup and think he loves the opportunity to hit for power numbers. I personally would leave him there all season. He's one of the Reds best hitters when there are runners on the bases.

Jimmi: Let me first say that I don't envy Dusty Baker's job one bit. He is bound to be criticized no matter what lineup he marches out there. I have found the majority of Reds fans to be pretty harsh in their treatment to Baker in regards to past lineup cards, but that is a whole other topic in itself. My ideal lineup would be as follows: CF Choo, C Hanigan, 1B Votto, 2B Phillips, RF Bruce, 3B Frazier, LF Heisey, SS Cozart. Now, that is probably a little different than the one we will actually see because managers don't like to have their catchers hitting so high in the order, but take a look at Hanigan's career on-base and contact percentages (they are really, really good) and tell me why he shouldn't be hitting higher in the order. Yeah, exactly. 

3) Johnny Cueto was absolutely outstanding on Opening Day, matching Jared Weaver pitch-for-pitch. We as Reds fans know how talented Johnny is, but will this be the season he takes the next step into being considered a true “ace” around baseball? 

Jesse: I hope so. He deserves it and I say yes this is the year. He's been one of the best pitchers in the NL
Cueto looked every bit the ace on Opening Day.
over the past three seasons and finished fourth in Cy Young voting last year, yet he's never made an All-Star team. That's criminal. If he has the numbers again, I think there will be a lot of talk about him around the All-Star break since he was snubbed last year. He'll have to contend for the Cy Young again and the Reds will have to win the NL Central if he's to have any shot of getting recognition as a true "ace" around baseball.

Jon: Sure I guess so but I believe he was already ever bit a true ace. I feel that yes he is often slighted and overlooked, that is probably not going to go away completely. It should however get better as he continues to pitch with the "big boys" and put up excellent numbers.

Scott: I hope Cueto takes that next step – but unlike many of you guys, I really don’t think the national media is shorting him quite so much as he just isn’t at that true “ace” level – yet. I still feel like Mat Latos has the more “ace-like” makeup of the two guys, but there’s no denying that Johnny has been outstanding the past two years. There’s another level to get to, though, and I hope he does make that next step this season.

Jimmi: I hope so. It's a shame folks don't consider him to be an ace already because he has been an elite starter since the beginning of 2011. I think one factor holding him back from being considered in that elite category among the likes of Justin Verlander and others is he doesn't dominate hitters in the form of strikeouts. In my opinion, this makes his success even more impressive since he doesn't rely on retiring hitters primarily on strikes, but rather by getting them to hit weak popups or slow-rolling grounders. A 20-win season and a Cy Young Award could validate his position as one of the game's top starting pitchers, though.

4) The Opening Day roster featured a couple minor surprises, with Cesar Izturis and Manny Parra among the last players to make the cut. Were you surprised by any of the moves?

Jimmi: I was a little surprised the Reds opted to send down Jose Arredondo. I thought he was a lock to be included on the Opening Day roster. I was also a little surprised to see the Reds cut Jason Donald. It seemed as if he had an advantage over the other players vying for the last bench spot given his roster and contract situation, but I suppose not. I wasn't surprised at all that the Reds chose to keep Parra. Dusty loves having southpaws to turn to.

Jose Arredondo was a surprising last minute cut. 

Scott: The Arredondo move shocked me for two reasons. One, I didn’t think the Reds had any plans of not sending him north with the club considering he was pretty strong for the majority of last season and has very good stuff. Two, I was floored that no other team picked him up on waivers. You’re telling me he couldn’t fit into any other team’s bullpen right now? A guy with his kind of stuff is the type of guy you at least take a flyer on, speaking nothing of his sub-3.00 ERA last season. I’m extremely glad the Reds didn’t lose him as I feel they would have regretted it later.

Jon: I was not surprised by the Izturis move at all, in fact nearing the completion of the spring I actually expected it. Now the Parra move on the other hand surprised doesn't even begin to cover it. Why on earth would you keep a third lefty who has a career era of 5.12, a spring era of 5.28 and has options. While getting rid of an integral piece of bullpen the last 2 years, who has a career ERA of 3.27, spring ERA of 2.84 and is out of options. I am just completely and utterly perplexed by this move and am just glad that we did not lose Arredondo.

Jesse: I was surprised that Jose Arredondo was outrighted to Louisville. I figured he was a lock for the bullpen and the last spot would come down to Alfredo Simon and Parra. Turns out they both made it and Arredondo was the odd man out. I think the Reds were fortunate no one claimed him on waivers, making him available when the Reds need him later this year.

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