Triple-A Trickledown: Louisville
After 20 straight games against American League opponents – and three straight games where the Chiefs allowed nine runs – Syracuse might be happy to return to National League baseball. And the Chiefs will start a stretch of 16 straight NL games against the Louisville Bats, the International League’s worst team record-wise by five games. What’s happened to the Reds’ Triple-A affiliate this season? Let’s check it out.
Catcher: Corky Miller, Dioner Navarro
The Reds are in fairly good hands at catcher with two major league veterans here in Triple-A. Navarro’s hitting .284 with nine walks to just 11 strikeouts for the Bats, and he’s played at least some part of each of the last eight seasons in the major leagues. However, the last three years have resulted in averages of just .218, .194 and .193 for Navarro. Miller, who played at least one game in the majors ever year from 2011 to 2010, is likely more for organizational depth at this point. Neither is likely to see much time in the majors outside of an injury, though, with Ryan Hanigan hitting north of .300 and top prospect Devin Mesoraco having a solid season.
First Base: Neftali Soto
Soto smashed 30 home runs last season at Double-A, but he’s posted a line of just .227/.281/.366 with six homers so far this season. The 23-year-old’s in his first full season in Triple-A, and he’s on the 40-man-roster, so Cincinnati will likely show patience with him. But with Joey Votto, one of the best players in baseball, starting for the Reds, there’s no need to worry about that position aside from an injury.
Second Base: Cody Puckett, Chris Valaika
A 40-man member, the 27-year-old Valaika could probably play anywhere in the infield if needed, and he’s been called up to the Reds each of the last two seasons. However, he owns a slash line of just .265/.299/.371 in his Triple-A career – there’s not too much patience or power there. Puckett, just called up from Double-A, is hitting .222 in eight games in his first stint in Triple-A. Up in the major leagues, former All-Star Brandon Phillips has a strangehold on the starting position, though there could be a utility spot available – neither Wilson Valdez nor Miguel Cairo is hitting above .200 this season.
Shortstop: Kristopher Negron, Miguel Rojas
Shortstop Paul Janish, hitting .315/.390/.521 in 23 games, would be the most promising option here, but he’s currently on the Disabled List with a broken wrist. Meanwhile, the Bats have relied heavily on Negron, who’s played in every game this season, but he’s hitting just .221. The 23-year-old Rojas is at .217 through 20 games, with almost no power or patience at the plate, so it’s likely the same situation as at second base – if the Reds need a change-up at utility infielder, Negron could get called up from the 40-man. But Cincinnati’s in good shape at the position with young Zack Cozart starting all but one game this season.
Third Base: Willie Harris
Harris, a former Chief (five games in 2009), was 3 for 35 with the Reds this season before being removed from the 40-man roster – and he’s just 11 for 57 with Louisville. This was Todd Frazier’s position, but the brother of last year’s Chiefs outfielder Jeff has taken over for the injured Scott Rolen up with the big league team. And Frazier has been tremendous, with a .597 slugging percentage thanks to 12 extra-base hits out of his 20 total hits.
Outfield: Daniel Dorn, Joey Gathright, Felix Perez, Bill Rhinehart
The only outfielder on the 40-man roster for Cincinnati, Denis Phipps, is on the Bats’ Disabled List with a .168 average. So more so than any position, the Reds are likely keeping their fingers crossed that none of their outfielders get injured. It’s likely that one of the utility players would be called up in an emergency, as none of the options here are thrilling for Cincinnati. Perez, in his third professional season from Cuba, is hitting .230 with just one home run. Rhinehart, acquired from the Nationals last season while at Harrisburg, is at .230 with just four homers. Dorn’s in his fourth straight season with the Bats, without a game of MLB experience, and Gathright was just signed out of independent ball. The best bet of the group might be Gathright, who’s played in the major leagues in seven of the past eight years before 2012 and might be one of the fastest players in baseball.
Starting Pitchers: Jeff Francis, Sean Gallagher, Chad Reineke, Wirfin Obispo, Brett Tomko, Pedro Villarreal
Four of the six starters here have pitched in the major leagues, with the exception of Obispo – today’s starter – and Villarreal. But, strangely enough, the only 40-man roster member here is Villarreal, a 24-year-old with a 3.70 ERA in four starts. He’s walked just two in 24.1 innings while striking out 18 in his debut season at Triple-A. Obispo’s making just his second Triple-A start of the season today, while the rest of the Louisville rotation has been generally average . Tomko does have an ERA of 3.18 in nine starts – despite an 0-5 record – but he’s walked 26 in 51 innings and he’s changed teams for the 13th time in his career. But Cincinnati won’t have to worry too much – the Reds’ rotation has been stiller this year outside of Mike Leake, but the young-right hander is one of the team’s top prospects and has improved over his last few starts.
Relief Pitchers: Scott Carroll, Nick Christiani, Carlos Fisher, Josh Judy, Jordan Smith, Kanekoa Texeira, Travis Webb
The worst ERA of any regular Reds reliever is Sean Marshall’s 4.24 mark, so we’ll spare you having to go through everyone of the Louisville relievers – especially because Jordan Smith is the only one on the 40-man roster. However, Smith’s 6.89 ERA ranks as the second-worst number on Louisville’s roster. The best Bat here has been Texeira, who’s sported a 0.81 ERA in 13 games. However, he’s walked 13 to just 10 strikeouts in 22.1 innings, so those numbers should dip soon. Judy, the former Indians right-hander, has also excelled, with a 3.27 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 22 innings.
Hope you enjoy today’s Chiefs/Bats clash and your Memorial Day. And don’t forget to email your ideas or tweet them at firstname.lastname@example.org or @ChiefsRadio.