Reds continue to slide in standings, on pace for worst finish in 32 years

By Sam Cowan

The Cincinnati Reds fell to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday for their 10th loss in their last 11 games.

The 5-1 loss, combined with a 9-1 win by the St. Louis Cardinals against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday, has placed the Reds 27.5 games out of first place in the NL Central.

The 27.5 games is the furthest the Reds have been out of first place since the 2004 team finished 29 games out at the end of the season.

If the current standings hold, it will be the first time since 1983 that the Reds finish in last place in their division. The Reds are tied for last in the division with the Milwaukee Brewers.

That 1983 Reds team finished the season 17 games out of first place in the NL West and ended the year with a record of 74-88.

At their current pace, the Reds would finish the season with a record of 67-95, which would be the worst record for the franchise since 2001.

The Reds have struggled since the All-Star break with a record of 13-25 since July 17.

Part of the reason for that struggle has been the trading of top pitchers Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake prior to the trade deadline. Those trades have forced the Reds to rely on rookie starting pitching with mixed results.

The oft-derided offense of the Reds has also not helped. While Joey Votto and Eugenio Suarez have both hit well since the break, the averages of Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips have dropped.

The issues at the plate have not been helped by the waiver trade of Marlon Byrd on Thursday and a shoulder injury to Billy Hamilton.

The futility of the Reds performances has been shown in two separate nine-game losing streaks during the season. It is the first time since 1989 that the Reds have had multiple nine-game losing streaks in the same season.

While the Reds have struggled this season, the NL Central has remained competitive at the top. The Cardinals hold the best record in baseball while the Pirates and Cubs control the wild-card spots in the National League.

After making the playoffs three times in four years from 2010 to 2013, the Reds will now miss the playoffs for the second year in a row.

With the season a lost cause, the Reds will look to rebuild for next year. The remaining month of the season might prove an important step in the rebuilding process as the Reds assess what they have in terms of players.

From a historical perspective, the near-future does not look promising for the Reds. After the aforementioned 1983 season, the Reds failed to make the playoffs until 1990.

Reds’ youth pitching movement creates positive internal competition during crucial rebuilding phase

By Sam Cowan

Losses in free agency, trades and an untimely injury have forced the Cincinnati Reds to test the potential future of their starting rotation.

Entering Wednesday, all five members of the Reds rotation are rookies and that is unlikely to change this season.

It is the first time that a Reds team has boasted an all-rookie rotation since 1935.

In 2014, Reds starters had the third-lowest ERA of any team with a rotation of Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, Homer Bailey, and Alfredo Simon playing a majority of the games. However, all but one of those players has now left the franchise.

Simon and Latos both left during the 2014 offseason via free agency and a trade, respectively. Cueto and Leake both started the season on the roster, but were dealt prior to the trade deadline. Bailey was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery in May and will be out of action until the 2016 season.

In their place, Anthony DeSclafani, Michael Lorenzen, Raisel Iglesias, David Holmberg and Keyvius Sampson have risen up to fill the holes in the rotation.

Those five players have a combined 4.21 ERA for the 2015 season.

Rookies are valuable for teams because of the ability to control the players long-term. MLB teams have exclusive negotiations rights with their players for their first six years of major league service.

This means that all five players are under the Reds control for the next five seasons at least, which could make them valuable and reliable pieces for the team down the road.

While the Reds are well out of playoff contention, these last two months of the season are very important for both the players and the Reds.

Bailey is scheduled to return next season, which means at least one rotation spot will be filled by the veteran pitcher. Bailey will serve as an ace for the Reds in 2016 and will be the de-facto leader for the younger arms.

Additionally, the rookies will face competition from the minors. Robert Stephenson has been a top pitching prospect for the Reds the last couple of seasons and is expected to make a move to the majors as soon as September.

Brandon Finnegan and John Lamb, two left-handers acquired in the Cueto trade, are both potential candidates to make the move to the majors and may do so soon if they perform well at AAA Louisville.

This makes August and September incredibly important for the pitchers currently in the rotation and those waiting for their chance in the minors.

The Reds are in a situation where they can look closely at the young guys that they have and make personnel decisions for next season based on how they perform.

Bailey is a guarantee to lead the rotation and DeSclafani has arguably performed well enough to keep his spot. The status of everyone else might be determined in these final two months.

Reds trade Mike Leake: Looking at the prospects gained in return

By Sam Cowan

The Reds and Giants finalized a trade Thursday night that sent starting pitcher Mike Leake to San Francisco in exchange for two minor league prospects.

The 27-year-old Leake had been the subject of trade discussions most of the season due to his impending free-agency at the end of the season.

The trade is the second for the Reds this week after trading Johnny Cueto to the Royals for three prospects on Saturday.

In return for Leake, the Reds received infielder Adam Duvall and right-handed pitcher Keury Mella.

Here is a quick look at the prospects and what their role in the Reds organization might be in the next couple of months.

Adam Duvall

Duvall was drafted by the Giants in the 11th round of the 2010 draft.

Over the last six seasons, Duvall had been working his way up the Giants organization, experiencing success with their minor league teams and demonstrating solid power along the way.

In 2014, Duvall made 28 appearances in the majors, but failed to impress with a batting average of .192, three home runs and just five RBIs.

So far in 2015, Duvall has looked promising in AAA, batting .276 with 26 home runs and 79 RBIs. He will likely stay in AAA at least until the Reds finalize their roster moves.

The big question is where he could play when he gets to the majors again.

The 26-year-old has played at both second base and third base this year, but those spots in the lineup are currently filled through at least 2016 with Brandon Phillips and Todd Frazier, respectively.

If Jay Bruce or Marlon Byrd end up getting traded, it is possible the Reds will convert him into an outfielder to fill that hole.

For now, expect to see Duvall spend some time at AAA Louisville.

Keury Mella

Mella was signed by the Giants in 2012 out of his home country, the Dominican Republic.

The 21-year-old was considered a top prospect for the Giants coming into the 2015 season and has shown a lot of promise over the years.

In his time with the Giants, Mella had a career ERA of 3.01 over the span of 58 appearances and averaged more than nine strikeouts per nine innings pitched.

However, with no experience at the AA or AAA level to this point, Mella should not be expected to make the major league roster for at least another year or two.

Mella will likely stay at Class high-A for now, but he can be expected to make the transition to AA soon, especially if the Reds want to try and fast-track him to the majors for next season.

The MLB trade deadline is Friday at 4 p.m. There is still a possibility of the Reds making more moves before that deadline.

Come back on Monday for analysis of any additional moves that are made and final thoughts on what these trades mean for the future of the Reds organization.

Cueto traded: Looking at the prospects gained in return

By Sam Cowan

The Cincinnati Reds finalized a trade with the Kansas City Royals on Saturday to acquire three minor league prospects in exchange for ace starting pitcher Johnny Cueto.

The deal, which comes less than a week before the MLB trade deadline, is likely the first of several for a Reds team that is out of contention and is expected to enter a rebuilding phase.

All three prospects acquired by the Reds are left-handed pitchers and all three will be moved into the Reds minor league system for now.

Here is a look at the prospects and what their role in the Reds organization might be in the next couple of months.

Brandon Finnegan

Finnegan was drafted by the Royals with the 17th overall pick in the 2014 draft out of Texas Christian University.

Finnegan impressed in his minor league appearances during the 2014 season and was called up to the major league roster that September to pitch out of the bullpen.

In 2014, Finnegan became the first player to play in a College World Series and a World Series in the same year.

All of Finnegan’s appearances for the Royals over the last two seasons have been out of the bullpen. The 22-year-old has a 2.59 career ERA over his 21 career appearances.

Finnegan will start off at AAA Louisville where he is expected to be a starter. He will likely be a September call-up for the Reds this season.

John Lamb

Lamb was a fifth-round pick for the Royals in 2008 and signed with the team out of high school.

In 2011, Lamb was considered a top-20 prospect, but his career was briefly derailed by Tommy John surgery in June 2011 that hurt his performance in 2012 and 2013.

However, the 25-year-old has seemingly gotten back on track this season and has been dominant as a starter in AAA.

So far this season, Lamb has a record of 9-1 through 17 starts and has 96 strikeouts over 94.1 innings pitched.

Lamb will also be heading to AAA Louisville and will most likely be brought up to the main roster as a September call-up.

Cody Reed

Reed was drafted by the Royals in the second round of the 2013 draft.

Initially, Reed struggled in Class low-A ball during the 2014 season with an ERA of 5.46 over the course of 19 appearances.

However, the 22-year-old has found his rhythm this season with an impressive 2.53 ERA. Reed had spent time at both Class high-A and AA this season for the Royals before the trade.

Reed is a bit more of a long-term project than the other two, but it is likely the Reds will keep him at AA to work on his stuff.

Depending on his performance the rest of the season, it is possible he will make a move to AAA or even the majors next season.

The Reds are expected to make more moves before the trade deadline. Come back later this week for coverage and analysis of any trades that occur.