Cincinnati Reds

Post-Hype Sleeper: Homer Bailey

Prior to the 2007 season, Baseball America ranked Homer Bailey the fifth-best prospect in all of baseball.  Before the '08 season, they had him ninth.  But after the '08 season, Bailey sported a 6.72 ERA, 5.1 K/9, 5.0 BB/9, and 1.2 HR/9 in 81.6 big league innings.  He also allowed 102 hits in that time.  '09 was a little better - Bailey's Triple-A performance improved, and his Major League numbers in 20 starts were at least tolerable.

Back in March, Bailey still went undrafted in mixed leagues.  I projected him to post a 4.64 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in 175 innings, and he bested those rates only by a bit - 4.46 and 1.37.  He was limited to 109 Major League innings, hitting the DL with shoulder inflammation on May 24th.  He wasn't activated until August 15th.  Given Bailey's WHIP and the injury risk, there's really not enough here to justify drafting him inside the first 15 rounds in 2011.  But there are signs that he could have a big campaign, even if the hype has subsided.

  • Bailey throws hard - an average fastball velocity of 92.8 this year and 94.4 last year.  In late September, Bailey touched 97.  As simple as it is, fastball velocity is a good way to identify breakout players. 
  • He had strong peripheral stats - an 8.26 K/9 and 3.30 BB/9.  His K/9 ranked 27th among those with 100 innings, and pretty much all the names surrounding him on the list are good fantasy pitchers.  His 4.46 ERA was deceptive - xFIP says 3.91 and SIERA says 3.79.  Given the same peripherals next year Bailey should be in that range.
  • Bailey's work leading up to his DL stint wasn't amazing - 5.51 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 1.24 HR/9 in 50.6 innings across nine starts.  But check out what he did after he returned: 3.55 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 9.1 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 0.62 HR/9 in 58.3 innings across ten starts. That included nine and ten-strikeout efforts.

Before the '09 season Bailey had never topped 147.6 innings in a season.  In '09, he tossed 203 - an increase of more than 55 innings.  He wasn't efficient, either - in his big league time in '09 he ranked 7th-worst in baseball (100 innings minimum) with 17.7 pitches per inning.  He didn't improve upon that this year, ranking third-worst with a similar figure.  There was no difference before and after his DL stint, either.  My guess: Bailey's injury this year was related to his '09 workload.  Also, he really labors out there, so even if he makes 30 starts don't expect more than 175 innings in 2011.

Bailey's pedestrian fantasy rate stats in 2010, his time lost to injury, and his inefficiency make him a risky play for 2011.  Those red flags also make him a great sleeper, as he'll probably go late in drafts.

Francisco Cordero Concern

Mike K. asks:

What do you think is going on with Francisco Cordero?  Is he being sent to the minors to pitch so that the Reds can put him on the DL and not lose time?  Could Jared Burton take over this year as closer?

As I understand it, Cordero only pitched in the minor league game Saturday to get extra innings under his belt.  He's coming off September ankle surgery, and has had a terrible spring.  The surgery caused him to start his program late.  Cordero finally pitched well Monday, touching 93-94 with his fastball.  The hope is that the adrenaline of the regular season will push him into the mid-90s as it did last year (he averaged 94.6 mph).

So Cordero's not without his risk, yet he's a 13th round pick.  As such he's not on any of my five fantasy teams.  But if you own him, it's no time to panic.  He still projects to outpitch Burton in terms of ERA and WHIP.  And when you're paying a guy $12MM a year to be the closer, he gets every chance to do the job.

Ramon Hernandez Trade Examined

On Tuesday, the Orioles sent Ramon Hernandez and cash to the Reds for Ryan Freel and two minor leaguers.  Let's take a look at the fantasy fallout.

Hernandez is a classic "change of scenery" guy.  It doesn't hurt that 2009 is a contract year for him, too.  He posted a .257-15-65-49-0 line for the Orioles in '08, not too bad for a catcher but also not the 20 HR, 80 RBI form we've seen him flash.    I'd like to blame his early-season sore wrist, but the monthly trends don't fully support it.  He's 33 in May; will it ever come back?  Don't look for the ballpark to inflate his stats; both Camden Yards and Great American Ballpark boost right-handed HRs by at least 20%.  But the move back to the NL and the aforementioned factors make him a solid buy.  I can see him sneaking into the top ten for catchers, his strong contact rate boosting his AVG back past .270.

Freel says he's healthy now, but his hard-charging ways make him a constant injury risk.  He's not slated for full-time duty currently, but an injury or a Brian Roberts trade could change that.  This year he's only outfield-eligible until he racks up some games in the infield.  Freel is a guy who's going to attempt a steal 25-30% of the time he reaches first base, and that's his value.  He's a waiver wire pickup you can spot in for cheap thievery.

The Orioles made the trade to dump salary, but also to pave the way for Matt Wieters.  With Geovany Soto's top five catcher ROY performance, Wieters should get respect in drafts.  Soto received plenty of Cubs-related and projection system hype heading into the '08 season, and was drafted in the 14th round on average.  He was obviously well worth it.

Taking Wieters in that spot could be a risky move in 2009 for a couple of reasons.  First, the Orioles are mulling backup catcher options that might push for, say, 30% of the playing time (guys like Gregg Zaun or Michael Barrett).   Wieters is getting huuuuuge respect from the always-optimistic Bill James projections this year following his monster showing at Double A - they call for a .311-24-85-68-2 line if he is to reach 470 ABs.  The fantasy issue is mainly playing time, as Wieters might get a few months of Triple A seasoning.  In a 12-team mixed league with normal-sized rosters it will be tough to get nothing out of a bench spot for several months (trust me, I tried it with Roger Clemens a few years ago).  Wieters' potential call-up is a situation to be monitored closely.  But in the 14th round or so you're looking at some very solid starters and closers who do not have playing time issues (in '08 guys like Chad Billingsley, Joakim Soria, Brad Lidge, and Derek Lowe).

A Look At Daryl Thompson

According to Hal McCoy, Reds rookie Daryl Thompson will make his big league debut tomorrow in Yankee Stadium.  Talk about trial by fire.  Thompson, 22, has just four Triple A starts under his belt.  Three weeks ago I mentioned that Thompson deserved a shot over Homer Bailey, and now he's getting it.

At both Double and Triple A this year, Thompson has demonstrated superb command with strong K/BB ratios.  He posted a 3.25 ERA in Triple A, but it was marred by just one poor start.

Fantasy leaguers just want to know whether Thompson will succeed in the Majors.  Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein gives a strong scouting report:

His low-90s heater can touch 95 and features a bit of cutting action, while his changeup is plus and his curveball solid.

On the other hand, McCoy talked to an NL scout who said, "That kid is not ready for the majors, not even close."  And Baseball America didn't regard Thompson highly enough to include him among the Reds' top 30 prospects.  They seem warmer on him now, calling his fastball "explosive" in May.

Thompson may have fallen off the radar due to '05 labrum surgery.  McCoy says Jim Bowden thought he was "sticking it to the Reds" when he sent Thompson over there in the big Clayon/Bray/Majewski/Harris/Kearns/Lopez/Wagner swap!  Bowden reportedly didn't think Thompson would last.

Who to believe?  At the least, pitching prospects seem more likely to hit the ground running than position players.  I wouldn't use Thompson against the Yankees.  But after that, he'll get the Blue Jays, Pirates, and Nationals if no one is skipped and he remains in the rotation.  So he's worth a speculative pickup if you have the bench room.

Jay Bruce To Debut Tomorrow

According to Baseball Digest Daily, the Reds will promote top prospect Jay Bruce and he'll debut tomorrow.  Wouldn't be surprising to see Corey Patterson designated for assignment.

Bruce should be owned in all leagues; he's that good.  Will he mash from Day 1?  No idea.  Could be the next Alex Gordon, could be the next Ryan Braun.  The 21 year-old is hitting .364/.393/.630 in 184 Triple A at-bats (10 HR, 8 SB).  What more do you need to know?  Bruce has been available in Yahoo leagues for some time, so there shouldn't be a waiver period.

Bailey May Be Up Soon

Would the Reds dare add a third young pitcher to their rotation?  Why not?  Josh Fogg seems to be on his way outMatt Belisle may be the first choice to replace him, but the Reds have other options.  One of them is post-hype sleeper Homer Bailey.

Bailey wasn't amazing last year, but he was a 21 year-old in Triple A and the Majors.  His nasty #1 starter repertoire didn't go anywhere.  The only question is the strikeouts - he didn't rack 'em up in '07 and he's not this year either.

Bailey has shown much-improved command in his three Triple A starts in '08, with a 4.3 K/BB ratio.  He remains very tough to hit; there might be fantasy value here even without huge Cueto-like K numbers.

Cueto Trivia

Does this mean anything? 

Using Baseball-Reference's Play Index, I determined that Johnny Cueto was the first pitcher in the history of baseball to debut with at ten or more strikeouts and no walks.

I stretched the search to see if anyone did it within their first five games.  Mixed bag - Kerry Wood's 20 K game and a bunch of 10 K/0 BB efforts:

  • Johnny Cueto (2008)
  • Kerry Wood (1998)
  • Andy Sonnanstine (2007 vs. Marlins; a lot of guys abused them for Ks last year)
  • Randy Wolf (1999)
  • Frank DiPino (1982) - had some good years but switched to the pen after his rookie season
  • Dennis Ribant (1964) - didn't amount to much

Cueto Dominant In Debut

I wrote about Johnny Cueto a few weeks ago.  The projection systems said he wouldn't contribute in mixed leagues this year, while the scouts disagreed.   I wrote that I was leaning toward the scouts.  Young pitchers seem more apt to blow away projections than do young hitters.  A dominant Double or Triple A starter with nasty stuff can probably get big league hitters out.  Cueto's debut this afternoon was dazzling, with ten Ks and one hit against the D'Backs.

Cueto's available in Yahoo leagues today, and many are wondering whether to use a high waiver claim on him.  The answer is yes.  Don't hold out for a question mark like Clayton Kershaw or Jay Bruce.  Cueto has the talent and opportunity, right now.

Who should you cut for Cueto?  That is difficult to answer except on a case by case basis.  Feel free to leave your drop candidate in the comments and I'll try to answer.  Here are a few answers to the "should I drop him for Cueto" question:

  • McGowan: No
  • Gallardo: No
  • Volquez: Yes
  • Harden: Yes 

A Look At Johnny Cueto

New Reds manager Dusty Baker is quite impressed with 22 year-old righty Johnny Cueto, maybe even enough to put him in the team's rotation to begin the season.  Let's take a look at the diminutive flamethrower.

Last year Cueto pitched at High A, Double A, and Triple A.  He whiffed 170 in 161.3 innings across the three levels.  The Major League Equivalent of his work: a 3.41 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.

Projections?  A 4.75 ERA and 1.42 WHIP according to Baseball Prospectus.  CHONE: 5.03 and 1.52.  ZiPS: 4.97 and 1.38.  The computers say to avoid Cueto in mixed leagues.

The scouts love him - mid 90s heater, good slider and changeup, good makeup.  Keep an eye on this one.  My opinion of him leans towards the scouts rather than the computers. 

MLB Trade Rumors: Austin Kearns and Wily Mo Pena

Awful Reds GM Dan O'Brien finally caught up today, realizing that he had a surplus of outfielders about a year after most casual baseball fans.  Will he trade the right one?

Almost certainly not. The Cincinnati media seems to have helped O'Brien narrow the trade candidates to Austin Kearns and Wily Mo Pena.  In reality, dumping Ken Griffey Jr. for any formidable prospect would've been a major win for the Reds.  If the rumored White Sox offer of Brandon McCarthy and Chris Young for Griffey was true, the Reds missed a huge opportunity.  I'd pull the trigger for just one of the two.  Young could approximate Griffey's production by 2007. 

But it seems the Reds want to hold onto Griffey and wait for his next devastating injury.  Hopefully, O'Brien will have the common sense to look past Adam Dunn's batting average and strikeouts and realize that he's a franchise player.  If it comes down to Kearns and Pena, which should O'Brien deal?

Wily Mo Pena had a disappointing 2005, hitting .254 with 19 home runs and a terrible .304 OBP.  Nagging injuries followed Pena this year.  Even in limited playing time, Pena's awesome power was evident. 


It's very possible he'll be a 40 HR guy for many years to come.  The poor plate discipline and burgeoning power...Pena looks a lot like a young Sammy Sosa.  Pena boasts Albert Belle, George Foster, and Dale Murphy as other comparables.  Former Sosa hitting coach Jeff Pentland is out of work; the Reds should bring him in as a consultant and hang on to Pena.   

Austin Kearns hit .240 with 18 home runs and an average .333 OBP this season.  This was disappointing to Reds management but should have been expected.  Kearns is still living off his flukey 2002, when he hit .315.  Kearns can still be a very good player one day, but he doesn't have quite the superstar potential of Pena. 

Similar to Michael Barrett getting out of Montreal, a change of scenery could actually help Kearns realize his potential.  The Reds should deal him to Oakland for Barry Zito.  If everything falls into place on the West Coast, Kearns could become Lance Berkman on the high end.  If things don't work out, you're probably looking at another Ron Swoboda.  Either way, the Reds should extract some affordable pitching before Kearns's market value declines further.

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