Five Cincinnati Reds Players to Watch in Spring Training


The Cincinnati Reds haven’t played a game yet, but all players have reported to spring training, and baseball season is (finally!) almost upon us. As always, this year’s spring training brings with it a plethora of roster questions for the Reds. While the starting eight is basically set, spots in the starting rotation, bullpen, and bench are up for grabs and there are plenty of candidates to grab those jobs.

Those battles will undoubtedly be interesting to watch, but today we take a look at five specific players to keep an eye on during February and March:

Homer Bailey

With the trade of Mat Latos, Bailey is now the No. 2 guy in the Reds’ rotation. The $105 million man is coming off of right elbow surgery to repair a torn flexor mass and has said he’s not where he normally would be at the beginning of spring training from a physical standpoint.

Needless to say, the Reds will need Bailey to be healthy in 2015 and return to his 2013 form when he put up a career-best numbers (209.0 innings pitched, 3.49 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 199 strikeouts). Not only is he a big investment financially, but he’s now being asked to be the guy to follow Johnny Cueto in the starting rotation. Right now, there are questions about whether Bailey can be healthy for the start of the season or if he’ll need a stint on the disabled list and a few rehab starts in the minor leagues.

Bryan Price told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that the Reds will not send Bailey to the mound if he’s not where he needs to be physically:

"“That being said, we will get to a date where, if he’s not pitching in games, I wouldn’t consider having him on the active roster. It wouldn’t make any sense to force him through three or four starts in spring training and then deem him ready for his start against St. Louis or whoever else we play after the Cardinals, Cubs.”"

Until Bailey is able to make a start in spring training, his health will be one of the top storylines to follow in the coming weeks.

Tony Cingrani

Cingrani is in the same boat as Bailey in that he’s coming off of an injury-plagued season and will need to prove not only that his shoulder is healthy, but that he can stay on the field and be effective again.

Early reports from Spring Training are positive:

In his rookie year (2013), Cingrani wowed a lot of people with his ability to pitch so effectively with essentially just a fastball. In his second season, hitters started to figure him out and his inability to throw breaking pitches hurt him. With two open spots in the starting rotation, Cingrani is the favorite to grab one of them, but whether he’s developed breaking pitches will be key for him in locking down a rotation spot.

With quality secondary pitches and a healthy left shoulder, there’s hope that Cingrani can return to his 2013 form, where he went 7-4 with a 2.92 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and had 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings.

Raisel Iglesias

Another pitcher to keep an eye on during the spring is Iglesias, if for no other reason than he’s an exciting, but unknown prospect.

The buzz around Iglesias heading into Spring Training isn’t quite what it was with Aroldis Chapman in 2010, but many (including myself) are ready to see him pitch for the first time. Scouts have raved over the Cuban right-hander’s talent, but not many have seen him in action outside of his World Baseball Classic appearances in 2013 and his seven scoreless innings in the Arizona Fall League last autumn.

Here’s a snippet of a scouting report on Iglesias done by Baseball America’s Ben Badler:

"“Iglesias threw 88-92 mph at the World Baseball Classic in March 2013, but later that summer when Cuba played the U.S. college national team, he was sitting at 92-95 mph out of the bullpen. Iglesias throws a sweepy but effective 76-81 mph breaking ball that can be a swing-and-miss pitch at times, with erratic but improving control, and with the athleticism that bodes well for his ability to make adjustments.”"

A reliever in Cuba, Iglesias will transition to a starter with the Reds. How the 24-year-old adapts to the new role — and whether he can challenge for a rotation spot — will be something to watch as spring training unfolds.

Eugenio Suarez

Spring training will give Reds fans their first glimpse at Suarez, and a lot of people are intrigued about what the young shortstop can do with the bat.

From the time he was acquired from the Detroit Tigers, there has been speculation about whether Suarez could replace incumbent shortstop Zack Cozart (it was addressed by our own John Wilmhoff just last week).  General manager Walt Jocketty has even talked about it, saying that Cozart — who hit a career-worst .221/.268/.300 in 2014 — must improve offensively to remain the starter.

Cozart’s weakness is a strength for Suarez, who is regarded as a good contact hitter, putting up a .278/.362/.415 in his minor league career. Injuries to Tigers shortstops forced Suarez to the majors last season after playing in only 12 career games at the Triple-A level. Despite being rushed to the big leagues, Suarez still batted a respectable .242/.316/.336 with four home runs and 23 runs batted in.

While it’s unlikely that Suarez will take the starting job on spring training numbers, if the Reds are looking for an offensive spark during the season, the 23-year-old Venezuelan may supplant Cozart in the starting role.

Donald Lutz

Spring training will be critical for Lutz, who is out of options, meaning he would have to be placed on waivers before being sent to the minor leagues if he does not make the 25-man roster.

Lutz entered the radar of Reds fans after his big 2011 (.301/.358/.492, 20 HR, 75 RBI) and 2012 (.281/.343/.523, 23 HRs, 75 RBIs) seasons. In 2013, Lutz became known for being the first German-born player to play in the major leagues and for his glorious mustache:

Since his 2012 season, however, Lutz has regressed a bit as he’s bounced between Cincinnati and the minor leagues.

The Reds are in need of a power bat off the bench and Lutz definitely brings that with 80 career home runs in the minor leagues. Despite his previous success in the minors, Lutz hasn’t had much in the big leagues (albeit, he has had few real opportunities — only 113 plate appearances and 17 starts), so the spot will not simply be handed to him. He’ll have to beat out the likes of Brennan Boesch and Jason Bourgeois, among others, or his time with the Reds could be over.