Can the Reds actually compete in the NL Central?
Plus: The Reds launch the Matt McLain era
In this week’s column over at the Mothership, I wrote about the debut of Reds prospect Matt McLain, diving into his background and where he fits on this club. Near the end, I tried a little wide-eyed optimism on for size:
Then the Reds proceeded to have a pretty good week, and now they’re on a pace to lose only 91 games. And it’s become clear that the National League Central division is a steaming pile of repugnant garbage. Despite being four games under .500, Cincinnati entered play on Monday only five games out of first (and 3.5 out of second place).
What I’m saying is that, despite management completely punting on this season, the Reds actually have a real opportunity to make this season interesting. They’re not going to win the World Series. But we could have some fun along the way, right?
Okay, that’s not exactly wide-eyed optimism. But we’re in the second half of May and the Reds aren’t completely out of the Central division race! After 43 games a year ago, Cincinnati was already 14.5 games out of first; they never got closer than 12 games out on the way to finishing 31 games behind division champion St. Louis.
After losing two of three in Colorado, the Reds are now five games under .500. But they’re just five games out of first and tied for third place in the Central. Sure, the division is laughably bad, but the winner still qualifies for the playoffs. Even better, Cincinnati is only three games out in the Wild Card race. The Reds are practically poised for a pennant run!
No, it’s almost certainly not going to happen. I can’t see any scenario under which the pitching will ever be good enough to keep the Reds in enough games to stay in the race. Nick Lodolo has a stress reaction in his tibia and is going to be out for weeks, at the least. Hunter Greene and Graham Ashcraft are having their ups and downs, but at least they are legit big league starters, the only two on the entire staff at this point.*
*Although Brandon Williamson made everyone look silly in his debut out in Colorado. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
It’s really shameful that Nick Krall didn’t acquire any pitching before the season. Only a dysfunctional big league team would be forced into three “bullpen games” in a week’s time because there is so little depth in the organization, but here we are. Can’t see it getting any better. Andrew Abbott, though he’s perhaps my favorite prospect, isn’t going to move the needle enough (at least, not this season) to make this a good rotation in the absence of Lodolo.
On the other hand, what I wrote in my column remains true: the Reds have a real opportunity to make things interesting. What if they called up Elly De La Cruz and Christian Encarnacion-Strand in the coming weeks? What if Cincinnati rolled out some version of this lineup for the last three months of the campaign?
Jonathan India DH
Elly De La Cruz SS
Jake Fraley RF
Tyler Stephenson C
Nick Senzel CF
Christian Encarnacion-Strand 1B
Spencer Steer 3B
Matt McLain 2B
TJ Friedl/TJ Hopkins LF
Would that lineup be good? I don’t know. I think it’ll be good in a couple of years, but many of these guys have plenty of growing pains in their futures. I know two things for a fact, however: (1) the defense would be vastly superior to the team that Cincinnati is currently running out there, and (2) it would be an interesting lineup. Wouldn’t you tune in every night to watch those guys?
Now add a dash of Joey Votto to the mix above. That’s a recipe for a few months of fun baseball in Cincinnati. And probably a World Series victory, right?
This week at Cincinnati Magazine: The Reds launch the Matt McLain Era
Matt McLain has arrived. The Reds called up the 2021 first-rounder on May 15 after a dynamite performance at Triple-A this season. Is his arrival a harbinger of things to come? Inquiring minds want to know!
As Wooderson would say: “Patience, darlin’. Patience.” First things first. It’s time to get to know the 23-year-old McLain, as he’ll hopefully be a fixture in Cincinnati for the foreseeable future. Hailing from Tustin, California, he was drafted in the first round (25th overall) out of high school by the Arizona Diamondbacks. He didn’t sign, choosing instead to attend UCLA.
That decision paid off. McLain started 60 games as a freshman but hit just .203/.276/.355 during that initial campaign while splitting time between center field and third base. Over the summer, he played in the Cape Cod League, where he hit .274/.394/.425 and was named MVP of the league All-Star Game. Read the rest of this week’s Reds column over at Cincinnati Magazine.
What’s Chad Watching?
Only two movies this week. One was “Field of Dreams,” which I already discussed here on the ol’ newsletter. The other was Guy Ritchie’s “RockNRolla.” This is not the first, and will not be the last time I say this, but I will watch literally any movie directed by Ritchie. I watched (and enjoyed) “Aladdin,” for crying out loud!
Here’s the Letterboxd description of RockNRolla: “When a Russian mobster sets up a real estate scam that generates millions of pounds, various members of London’s criminal underworld pursue their share of the fortune. Various shady characters, including Mr One-Two, Stella the accountant, and Johnny Quid, a druggie rock-star, try to claim their slice.“
Inject it into my veins. Well, not literally. Not Johnny Quid’s drugs. I just like the movie, that’s all.
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