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How many of the kids will be alright?
All of them, we hope
This week, Noelvi Marte became the latest Cincinnati’s prospect corp to emerge on the big league scene. Spencer Steer, Matt McLain, Andrew Abbott, Will Benson, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Brandon Williamson, Marte…and who am I forgetting? Oh yeah, Elly De La Cruz. I’ve been a Reds fan for a long time, and I hope I get to enjoy this dumb baseball team for many more years. Never have I seen anything like this crop of kiddos, and I doubt I’ll ever seen it again.
Seems like every week we see something most of us have never seen before. I can’t figure out how to link to this new social media platform Bluesky,* but our old friend (and Reds statistician) Joel Luckhaupt had a couple of nuggets just last night that illustrate what I’m talking about. So since I can’t link to his posts, I’m just going to steal them, word for word. Sue me, Joel!
*Three weeks ago, I told you about why I was stepping away from Twitter. It has been a joy, though I do miss some of those discussions. A few of the old gang have gathered over at Bluesky, but it just isn’t the same.
Elly De La Cruz (21 yr, 224 days) is the youngest Red ever with a 6+ RBI game, passing Johnny Bench (22 yr, 231 days) on 7/26/1970.
And then this one:
In game 2, Reds will be starting rookies in the 1-5 spots in the lineup for first time since July 31, 1909 vs the Brooklyn Superbas
These are just from last night, the same night Elly reached 10+ homers and 20+ stolen bases in just 64 MLB games, breaking Barry Bonds’ record from 1986. This is wild!
Given how well the rookies have performed this season — and what we’ve seen is unprecedented — it’s easy to think that they will all pan out, leading the Reds to easy World Series championships in the coming years. And the rest of those kids still on the farm, they’ll all pan out too, right? It’s inevitable.
If only it were so.
I hope all these guys are as good (or better) than everyone anticipates based upon the prospect hype. That’s probably the best hope we have for competitive teams in the next few years, since we can’t depend on the Castellinis to spend money to bring in free agents to fill out the roster. So we’re all rooting for success for each of the kids.
But there are also a couple of examples right here in Cincinnati of how difficult it is to become a star big leaguer. One is Jonathan India, who was the Rookie of the Year just two years ago, and who was accepted as one of the leaders of this year’s exciting team since day one. But shortly after Marte’s promotion, the Reds started an all-rookie infield. With India on the injured list and struggling to get healthy, the questions were inevitable. Where does India fit on this team next year?
And then there’s Tyler Stephenson, who I wrote about over at The Mothership this week (see below). He has struggled so much this year, and the more I dove deep into the analytics, the more depressed I became. He seems like such a good guy! I was so high on him coming into this season, so watching him underperform has been such a bummer.
Twelve months ago, it looked like India and Stephenson were going to be cornerstones of the next good Reds team. I am not giving up on either of them; they’re both just in their age-26 seasons, and there’s a reason why they’ve had success before. They’re good baseball players!
But baseball is just a really difficult game, man. It’s hard to be consistently good for a lot of seasons. India may already be the odd man out.* The Reds don’t really have any young catchers pushing Stephenson, but if his performance doesn’t start ticking upward, the Reds will have to move on.
*or maybe not!
To be sure, I am not saying that the Reds need to move on from either India or Stephenson just yet. Just because the Reds have a bunch of good rookies on the infield now isn’t an assurance that all of them will pan out. Maybe they will. But what we’ve seen over the last few months is a good reminder that you just never know with these prospects. All of them seem like good bets at the moment. Which ones will still be key players for the Reds two years from now?
This week at Cincinnati Magazine: Tyler Stephenson’s tough season has caught up with the Reds
In the seventh inning of Sunday’s showdown—where the hometown nine took a 10-3 tumble against the Blue Jays—Tyler Stephenson cranked out a pinch-hit home run, his ninth of the year. Fast forward to the last gasp of the game, when we saw him swing and miss at three straight pitches to seal the Reds’ fate. These polar opposite moments were a crystal-clear snapshot of the rollercoaster of anticipation and reality we’ve ridden with Stephenson this season.
As we opened the door to the 2023 season, Tyler Stephenson was seen as one of the cornerstones of Cincinnati’s up-and-coming ensemble. His numbers included a career slash line of .296/.369/.454 and a 116 OPS+. Last season, as a 25-year-old, the guy was nothing short of dazzling. With a line of .319/.372/.482 (133 OPS+), Stephenson wasn’t just knocking on the door of stardom; he seemed poised to kick it down.
But there’s a caveat to those brilliant 2022 numbers. A series of body blows—a concussion, a broken thumb, and a broken clavicle—limited Stephenson to only 50 games. He trotted out healthy for Opening Day this year, even batting cleanup, but his 0-for-4 performance was a harbinger of woes to come. Where’s the All-Star-in-waiting we were all anticipating? His dismal .245/.329/.360 line speaks volumes, and the news only gets grimmer. Since the clock struck July, he’s batting a woeful .200 with a .286 slugging percentage. It’s enough to make even the most steadfast Reds fan reach for the antacids. Read the rest of this week’s Reds column over at Cincinnati Magazine.
What’s Chad Watching?
Happy Gilmore is one of the dumbest movies on earth...and I love it unconditionally. Still hilarious after all these years.
I was happy to finally be able to catch up with Showing Up. It’s the latest from director Kelly Reichardt, who made two of my favorite movies from the last fifteen years, Meek’s Cutoff (2010) and First Cow (2019). Showing Up stars Michelle Williams as:
An artist on the verge of a career-changing exhibition navigates family, friends and colleagues in the lead-up to her show and finds that the chaos of life becomes the inspiration for more great art.
Also starring the always-superb Hong Chau and Andre 3000, the film is a delicate story, and well made, as you would expect from such a talented director. But to say it is deliberately paced would be an understatement. 3.5 stars out of 5, but definitely recommended if you like Reichardt.
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