And this one belongs to Marty! I recently heard Reds radio voice Marty Brennaman give his overview of the 2018 Reds, and I thought Reds fans would want to read it.
Brennaman spoke to the Joe Nuxhall Chapter of the Reds Hall Of Fame and Museum in Hamilton. He starts his 45th season on Reds radio at 3 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23, on WLW-AM. It's quite long, but here's how he sizes up the team:
IMPROVED TEAM: I think this is going to be an improved team in 2018. It's going to be important that it not just be two or three wins better, but a team that will be close to .500, if not a game or two above. I think the Castellinis and the entire organization is well aware that the rebuilding aspect of this club now has to show some signs of coming to an end... That would say to the fans, we know how painful it's been, but at the same time we think that our plan now is beginning to show the fruits of our labor.
YOUNG PITCHING: I'm very high on some, and I'm not so high on other ones. But at least the groundwork was laid last year with people like Luis Castillo, Sal Romano, Tyler Mahle, a young man we saw in September who pitched a perfect game in Double-A Pensacola last year and then was moved up to Louisville and never missed a beat at the Triple-A level. These three guys, all young guys, have a chance to be a very strong foundation for a very good pitching staff, looking down the road, '18 and beyond…
I have such great enthusiasm for this kid Castillo that came up last year, and pitched like he's been around the big leagues for 10 years…. Romano overcame some tough problems last year early, and finished strong. Another guy is Robert Stephenson. I didn't think we'd ever see the day that Robert Stephenson would go out there and give you four or five good starts in a row, but in September he did that.
VETERAN PITCHERS: Anthony Desclafani’s a question mark. They say he's 100 percent healthy and I believe that. If he's healthy, they will automatically be better. And I'd like… see a different Homer Bailey who will pitch consistently well over an extended period of time, which is something he's had problems doing throughout his career.
BULLPEN: I give (general manager) Dick Williams and his baseball people credit. One of their priorities was to go out and sign at least two veteran relief pitchers to help a young bullpen. They signed Jared Hughes, formerly with the Pirates and Milwaukee Brewers, and then they signed a young right-hander by the name of David Hernandez, who's been with a number of big league clubs who throws in the mid 90s. He's had a measure of success. They will be invaluable, if for no other reason that during the game to chat with the young guys who make up the rest of that bullpen, and give them a better perspective of what's required, what's expected, how you go about preparing yourself…
The bullpen will be anchored by Raisel Iglesias. He's very good. When he's on top of his game, there are very few people that hit him. The one lefthander they have out of the bullpen, Wandy Peralta, was very good.
HITTING: There are no areas they're concerned about. Last year was sensational. It was a fun team to watch hit, anchored by the best hitter in the game in Joey Votto…. If you could take each one of the everyday players, and just say, 'Give us this year what you did last year,' this club would take it and be satisfied. We don't have to worry about the offense.
CATCHING: You've got the best defensive catcher in the league, or maybe in baseball, with Tucker Barnhart. The Gold Glove proves that. They picked the right guy. He had a .999 fielding percentage, and he proved, if anybody ever questioned it, that he could hit enough to play every day in the big leagues. The Reds were very wise in giving him a contract extension because he's the real deal.
Tucker's obviously proven he's the number one guy. Devon Mesoraco is going to be the backup catcher. He's a big boy. He understands that he was the No. 1 guy at one time, and he is no longer that. To have him coming off the bench (will be a big asset). If Devon's healthy, we know what he can do. We saw him have that one great year.
FIRST BASE: Joey Votto. Enough said. It's amazing. I think from an all-around standpoint, he had a better year last year than when he won the MVP award in 2010. You know, he and I had an ongoing public disagreement about the way I thought he should hit, and the way he thought he should hit. I'm an old school guy. That is, I think your corner infielders need to hit for power and drive in runs. He didn't quite look at it that way. He put a higher premium on on-base percentage. Well, I've got news for you. He did exactly last year what I've been arguing about for the last three years: He hit for power, he drove in runs, he got a ridiculously high on-base percentage, and he still got his walks. And nobody gave me a damn bit of credit!
SECOND BASE: That's one area that concerns me a little bit, because I don't know if Scooter Gennett can equal what he did last year. I mean, if I would have known that ahead of time, I wouldn't be here today. I would have built a mansion worth millions of dollars somewhere in the Caribbean, and I'd be retired. To do what he did last year was just ridiculous.
SHORTSTOP: Jose Peraza will be a work in progress. I don't care how bad Peraza might be early -- and I hope he's not -- I think he can play the position. I don't think any of us, quite honestly, are going to labor under the delusion that he can be as good as Zack Cozart.
THIRD BASE: Last year Eugenio Suarez was one of the top three third basemen in the National League. It was amazing the plays he made last year. And I really believe he's just scratched the surface, as far as his offense is concerned. I think he'll be capable of hitting 30 home runs a year. Someone asked us on our caravan if the Reds had any plans of signing anyone else to a multi-year contact. He (Suarez) would be the guy to try to get under contract for a number of years.
LEFT FIELD: Adam Duvall has made the most miraculous transformation from a guy who played third and first into as good of a left fielder there is in our league. There's no left fielder in our league who played the position better than he did, and he didn't win a Gold Glove. And I have a problem with that. It was interesting the comment made a few days ago (about Duvall having) a great first half and a terrible second half. It’s been that way the last two years. He is making a concerted effort in a number of different areas to make sure that doesn't happen again. You all know he's a diabetic. He's never used that as an excuse, and I give him a lot of respect for that. He sweats profusely, and it has caused his weight to drop off rather radically from the first half of the year to the second half of the year, and I'm sure that plays into it. I think you'll see some changes in a number of different areas for him that will produce more consistency, once his season gets underway.
RIGHT FIELD: Scott Schebler has a football player's mentality playing baseball. He'd run through 38 walls if he had to to catch the ball. He hit 30 home runs, but the thing he has to do is make better contact. I'm a big Scott Schebler fan. If he can cut down on his strikeouts and make better contact, it's scary to think how many balls he's going to hit out of National League ballparks in 2018.
CENTER FIELD: Billy Hamilton is the best defensive centerfielder I've ever seen. He's better than (Cesar) Geronimo, he's better than (Eric) Davis. Whoever you want to run out there, he's the best I've ever seen. He's simply has to pay more attention to the things that will make him a more complete player, and that's the ability to bunt and the ability to make better contact. He's not any better bunting than he did when he first came to the big leagues. And it doesn't take a mental giant to realize that -- if you've got the kind of speed he has -- you learn how to bunt… I've got to believe if there's ever a time in which Billy Hamilton will show any inclination to bunt, and bunt successfully, it will be in 2018.
LEAD-OFF: I don't think there's any way on God's green earth that Billy Hamilton can lead off, unless we see some miraculous turn-around from him in spring training. You can't have a guy at lead-off hitter whose on-base percentage is under .300. Jesse Winker would be an ideal lead-off hitter. He's a contact hitter. He puts the ball in play. For me, he would be the guy. That means then you've got a four-man outfield, and they -- meaning Dick Williams and Bryan (Price)– they maintain they have enough playing time for all four. You've got to look at Jessie Winker long and hard. He can hit.
MANAGER: I was in favor of bringing Bryan Price back. I think Bryan Price understands the challenge that's in front of him. I would not recommend that this club get off to bad start, because I don't think this club would be long to make a managerial change during the season. And I think Bryan understands that.