TDG’s Triple Play: Cincinnati Reds!
The Triple Play is back for a fourth season! This regular feature is broken down by senior writer Paul Monte and a rotating panel of writers. If you’re new to the Triple Play, this series breaks down an arm, a bat, and a prospect within each organization for your reading pleasure!
Lucas Sims, Age: 26, Position: SP/RP
Analysis by: Aaron Cumming
Lucas Sims was the first round pick of the Atlanta Braves all the way back in 2012. He was an advanced prep arm with a deep arsenal, and spent several seasons near the top of the organization’s prospect lists. Being developed almost exclusively as a starter, he regularly posted excellent strikeout rates between 24-28%, but as he reached the upper levels of the minors, that came with a quite high 14% walk rate. Uninspiring results during multiple brief major league appearances allowed Atlanta to feel comfortable trading him to the Reds at the 2018 deadline.
A New Hope
In 2018, Sims adjusted his mechanics. He lengthened his stride, which created better timing and a smoother arm motion. He was able to hone in a more consistent release point, and create better tunneling with his pitch mix. Not only did that make his repertoire play up, but it helped with his command. Lucas’ K-Walk Rate has been over 20% each year since that change (20.1 in 2019; 22.3 in 2020; and an absurd 42.1 through 6 appearances in 2021).
Primarily operating out of the bullpen since making his Reds debut, Sims’ fastball velocity has also creeped up every year. Sitting 94 mph and touching 96, he has become an absolute force in high leverage situations. He is at or near the top of the league in every Statcast metric.
The Force Awakens
Still just 26 years old (although this is his age-27 season), Sims will be entering arbitration for the first time this offseason. The Reds are in a position to capitalize on the success they have helped uncover and install him in the rotation for the next several seasons. If he can maintain his velocity and keep pitching the way he has been out of the bullpen, then he can easily be a top-50 starter. Even if the progressive Cincinnati club continues to use him in high leverage situations and long relief, he can be a 100+ inning per season staff stabilizer with a great strikeout rate and WHIP. There is incredible value to a pitcher like that who could get an occasional win or save.
Eugenio Suárez, Age: 29, Position: SS/3B
Analysis by: Patrick Magnus
Playing Fortune Teller is a Fool’s Game
The long game in the dynasty is a challenge. Projecting a player’s abilities for multiple years of performance is a dubious undertaking. While all the metrics we love to point to show a bright future, situations change quickly. We can attempt to plan for it, grab the players showing potential, and hold on. However, injuries often cloud our projections and are among the most challenging things to account for in the sport. Most of us lack a medical background, so we often have to take the team, and player himself, at their word.
Eugenio Suárez was an All-Star as recently as 2019, but a freak swimming accident resulted in him having off-season shoulder surgery. The 2020 campaign that followed was less than impressive. Suárez batted .202/.312/.470, and his ISO fell to its lowest mark since 2016. Many in the offseason believed that the injury was to blame for his poor performance and predicted a bounce back in 2021. Thus far, though, that hasn’t been the case, and it’s starting to get a bit alarming.
Time Is On Our Side?
The beginning of the 2021 season has seen Suárez pick up right where he left off: in a pit of misery. His first 62 plate appearances of 2021 have resulted in a slash line of .173/.302/.365. Putrid. Then again, it is only 62 plate appearances, and projection systems still love the guy. However, like us, they do not know the extent of Suárez’s injury. We’re now approaching around 300 ABs of garbage, and we’re two years removed from surgery.
Important areas of concern for the Reds’ slugger include a 4 MPH decline in average exit velocity, a 5 MPH drop in max exit velocity, and a 6% drop in barrel rate from his previous two seasons. Suárez also has seen significantly less contact while swinging the bat more often. It is leading to the highest strikeout rate of his career. We are still very early on, but these are stats that stabilize early. At this point, we need to be on high alert.
We have arrived at a somewhat confusing crossroads with the 29-year-old shortstop/third baseman. On the one hand, we have shoulder surgery followed by 294 awful plate appearances, and on the other, we have multiple years of all-star caliber play. Even the concerning metrics have yet to stabilize, and Suárez certainly isn’t the only stud player off to a slow start in 2021. Any call we make at this moment would likely be preemptive. At this moment, I’ve provided you with the evidence and concern I have, but it’s your call to make whether you seek to acquire or move on. I moved Suarez for more reliable pieces in all the leagues where he was on my team in the off-season. Will I regret it? No, but I never regret any trade, which probably says more about me than it does about Suárez.
Jose Garcia, Age: 23, Position: SS
Analysis by: Paul Monte
Where did you come from
About a week ago I was in a Slack chatroom and Reds prospects came up. It was Jonathan India and Jose Garcia to be exact. India was easy to remember; he was a top college bat when drafted and immediately landed on many top 100 prospect lists. All I remembered about Garcia was that he had a very good spring training and I had added him in multiple leagues. I had no idea where he came from, so I decided to do some digging.
Havana, ooh na-na (ayy)
Garcia signed with the Reds as a 19-year-old out of Havana, Cuba in 2017. He signed a deal that included a 5 million dollar bonus in June just before the 2016 period ended. It was thought that he would start his career in the Dominican Summer League but he started his professional career in full-season A-ball. He struggled but still was able to earn a promotion to High-A to begin 2019 and also played in the Arizona Fall League. He was still off the radar of top prospect lists and had just snuck into the Reds top 10 lists entering 2019. He received an invite to the big league club Spring Training and his name recognition quickly grew. With a two-homer game in late February, he ended up with 4 home runs in 26 spring training at-bats. There was talk that he could step in and be the starting shortstop for the Reds but was ultimately sent down to Triple-A which became the alternate site due to the cancelation of the 2020 minor league season. He appeared in 24 games with the Reds in the shortened 2020 season and was understandably overmatched. He slashed .194/.206/.194 and struck out 26 times in 67 at-bats, walking just once.
If you believe in me, prove it
2021 will be a big year for Garcia as the whispers of him being the starting shortstop for the Reds started again in February. He was eventually sent down to Triple-A and should start the season in May. The Reds are currently playing Eugenio Suarez at shortstop and I’m sure the Reds pitching staff would love to see him return to third base as he has already committed 4 errors through 13 games. It may be best for Garcia’s long-term outlook to play the full season in Triple-A to continue his progression as a player. With just under 900 minor league at-bats there is still plenty of room for growth.
If the time come, and the time will come
Sometimes you pick up a guy because he has had a hot start and is available in your leagues. This was the case for Garcia. I’m still not sure what to do with him. I have traded him away in a few leagues and even cut him outright in others. For fantasy purposes, all of the major publications still have him outside of their top 100 fantasy prospect lists. I do think the profile is interesting as he did very well in Cuba as a teammate of Luis Robert and Lazaro Armenteros. There was a definite adjustment period when he came to the US and he recovered nicely. Now, we need to see how he adjusts after the disaster of his major league debut.
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