Cincinnati Reds Hitters Struggling in Spring Training


You hear it all the time: Spring Training numbers don’t mean anything. Yet, when your team is counting on a heavy offensive improvement to get them back into the playoffs, wouldn’t you like to see some evidence in the Spring that the hitters might be up to that task?  If you’re a fan of the  Cincinnati Reds‘, for example, how would you feel about a starting lineup that sports these OPS marks: .981, .883, .836, .788, .670, .542, .513, .437?

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At first glance, these numbers don’t seem too bad, especially the first four that belong to, respectively, Marlon Byrd, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Todd Frazier.  In fact, the only one of those numbers under the batter’s career average is Votto’s, and he is hobbling back from injury.

There are problems with even these big figures, though.

No way can Byrd hit .417, as he currently is, and he has zero home runs on the spring.

Votto, too, has built his OPS mainly through his typically excellent on-base percentage (.421), but he is hitting only .231 and has just one home run.

Even though these top-end numbers are a mixed bag, it’s the second tier of players that cause real concern.  Brandon Phillips, coming back from a thumb injury, sits at .670.  Zack Cozart is OPSing at a typically anemic .542, and that’s probably not far from the best he can do, which means the Reds are read to give away 500 or so at-bats again this season.

The bottom two guys on the ladder of OPS values above?

Devin Mesoraco and Billy Hamilton.

Mesoraco has been slowed by concussions, and the Reds are rightly handling him with kid gloves, but he is bound to be rusty once the season starts.

It’s not clear what’s going on with Hamilton, but he has just four hits in 23 at-bats with a homer run and a stolen base.  He’s also been caught once.  He was a slow starter last season, so maybe this is just par for the course for the young center fielder.

The Reds, though, can’t afford a slow start, especially not this year.  Not with the All-Star Game looming, and not with an urgency to win bearing down on them with each pitch that free-agent-to-be Johnny Cueto delivers.

Sure, it’s about as early as it gets, but it would be a lot more comfortable on the Riverfront if the bats were smoking heading into April.


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