Five Burning Questions for the Cincinnati Reds in 2016

Source: Michael Hickey/Getty Images North America

Source: Michael Hickey/Getty Images North America

Who closes now that Aroldis Chapman is in New York?

The likely closer would be J.J. Hoover, who has five career saves, three career sub-3.00 ERA seasons in four years and a career 9.1 K/9 that will serve him well in ninth as it has in the seventh and eighth innings. Beginning his age-28 season, former closers such as Brad Lidge, Jason Isringhausen and even Mariano Rivera didn’t begin closing until age-27, so Hoover might not be as irrelevant as you think.

Other options include former starting pitcher turned reliever and No. 3 prospect in 2013, Tony Cingrani, Jumbo Diaz and last season’s No. 1 prospect Robert Stephenson.

Cingrani, a former starter who looked nearly unhittable in 104.2 innings in 2013 before already shaky control issues progressively weakened in the following two seasons, could fit well in a closing role. However, his stuff, a devastating FB/CH combo might not necessarily be the ideal fit for a closer, though Cingrani remains tough to hit especially in his first time through the order.

Diaz, an imposing 6-foot-4 280-pound reliever who features an upper-90’s fastball, has a career 10.1 K/9 and a 3.88 ERA across 95.0 innings and would profile well as a power closer if he finds consistency.

Stephenson, maybe the team’s top prospect again this season, is a future starter but after splitting 2015 in AA and AAA, the Reds could look to get him some major league innings out of the bullpen. He has a plus fastball with decent off-speed and breaking pitches to complement, which have given him a career 9.8 K/9 in the minors, and could prove a sneaky dominant closer for a short period of time at some point in 2016 if the Reds choose to go that route.

Honorable mention: Brandon Finnegan.

Similar to Stephenson, Finnegan is a top young arm in the Reds’ system — acquired in the trade that sent Cueto to Kansas City — and has a power arsenal that he used out of KC’s bullpen in the 2014 playoffs. The Reds appear set on making Finnegan a starter and may not want to play with his psyche, but he may ultimately wind up in the pen regardless, so he could get a run in the ninth inning in 2016.

2 Responses

  1. Carl Insco

    Nice article Brandon. I find it amusing that you said of Suarez when describing his experience: “with a paltry .242 AVG”. Given the fact that it looks like the Reds will have Hamilton, Cozart and Bruce (1/3 of the lineup) as starters, a .242 average looks awesome. Let’s face the facts: Hamilton cannot and probably will never be able to hit and will never or should never be a lead off hitter, Bruce has lost his mojo and should have already been traded giving someone valuable experience and Cozart has never been a high average hitter and even though he started off last season hot he was beginning to tumble like a rock right before his injury. It is sad when 1/3 of your lineup everyday can’t hit their weight. Sure it is nice to have the gold glove type defense of Hamilton and Cozart or the speed of Hamilton or the HR power of a Bruce, but man they have to get on base more and cut down on the SO. Hey I’m all for the rebuild, but they need to trade Cozart and Bruce to add to the rebuild. I would give Hamilton one more year and if he doesn’t improve then either trade him or send him to the bench as a defensive replacement/pinch runner. As far as Bailey goes….well they screwed up giving him the big contract instead of Cueto! He is nothing more than a .500 pitcher with injury concerns. Sure the 2 no hitters were exciting, but I’d rather have a healthy pitcher with an above .500 average.

    • Brandon Shrider

      I couldn’t agree more, Carl. Cozart has never been an offense-first player, and despite a nice start last season, I don’t expect that to change. I’ve never been a fan of Bruce, but he did have a nice run from 2010-13 hitting 30+ HR in three of those four years. Always seemed to be too inconsistent and unreliable to get the big hit. Hamilton, possibly switching back to RH-only could prove beneficial. I doubt he ever hits .300, but I think he can improve enough not to be a liability, and his OBP will prove crucial — maybe he’ll improve on taking walks.
      And definitely agree on the Homer deal. I said that from the time they signed him. The Reds are paying him like an ace, but hasn’t proven to be much more than a No. 3 starter who can’t stay healthy. It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of this rebuild goes, with Bruce, Votto and Phillips all possibly on their way out if the Reds can find any takers … and the players waive their NTC’s which I think Phillips and Votto both have.


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