Reds GM talks player development at caravan stop

Almost every available seat was taken by a Reds fan at Saturday’s stop of the Reds Caravan at the Air Force Museum. Others stood outside the roped-off area in Building 2.

Reds broadcaster Jim Day introduced General Manager Nick Krall, former third baseman Chris Sabo, minor-leaguers Tyler Callihan and Cam Collier and young Reds player and former Dayton Dragon Alejo Lopez. Then Day got right to it.

He asked General Manager Nick Krall about development. It’s the word on every fan’s mind as the Reds try to rebound from a 100-loss season, build around a young core and develop the next generation of Reds.

Before the event began, Krall and the others answered similar questions from local media. Here are five things learned from those conversations:

1. It’s about building and maintaining the pipeline: Krall doesn’t talk about putting together this year’s team or the one for the next few years as much as he talks about a pipeline from Daytona through Dayton and on up to Cincinnati that won’t dry up.

“Our player pipeline, if it’s strong, then our major-league team is going to be stronger,” Krall said.

Krall’s vision includes a core at the big-league level that the pipeline will continue to strengthen. When he talks abut the current core, he mentions second baseman Jonathan India, catcher Tyler Stephenson and starting pitchers Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft.

“I feel good about the young talent we have in our organization,” Krall said. “Some are in the big leagues and some are in rookie ball. If we can have that good, solid foundation, it’s going to help us build a good core in the big leagues.”

Lopez, 26, has played in 73 games with the Reds the past two seasons and batted .262 with a .307 on-base percentage. He advanced through the organization without a big prospect tag attached to him.

“It’s very noticeable what’s happening,” he said. “They’re building the minor-league system. They’re really getting all these young players and developing them, and I think that’s great for the organization.”

2. Lots of back-of-rotation prospects: Krall mentioned all the names that have been talked about as prospects for the last two rotation spots behind last year’s rookies Greene, Lodolo and Ashcraft.

The veteran prospects: Luis Cessa ended the season in the rotation. Luke Weaver, a free agent signing from Kansas City, has started 81 major-league games with a career ERA of 4.79. Justin Dunn, who was injured late last season, and Connor Overton, who pitched well late in the season, are in the competition.

Young prospects: Levi Stoudt, acquired from the Mariners at the trade deadline, and Brandon Williamson will get a shot.

Really young prospects: Andrew Abbott and Joe Boyle pitched well in Dayton and Chattanooga last year. Could either be on the same fast trajectory as Ashcraft?

“You never know how that’s going to work out,” Krall said. “Graham came up and started throwing more strikes. Sky’s the limit for some of these guys.”

3. Can’t have too many athletes: The Reds have drafted heavy at shortstop and have Jose Barrero, Matt McCain, Elly De La Cruz and Noelvi Marte all making a case to be the shortstop of the future.

De La Cruz dazzled in Dayton last year and did more of the same at AA Chattanooga. Barrero has big-league experience. In Chattanooga, last year McClain played second and short and De La Cruz played third and short. Marte played third in the fall league and Barrero has played some outfield.

“You obviously have one shortstop and fill in the rest, but having good athletic defenders across the board is a goal for us,” Krall said.

4. David Bell in good standing: Krall said Bell has been a good manager. He led the Reds to the playoffs in 2020, came close in 2021 and managed the rough waters of 2023.

“It was tough for somebody to have a bunch of guys traded out the clubhouse in the first 10 days of spring training,” Krall said. “We got ourselves behind the eight ball right away, but he did a good job managing that group of guys to continue to have a positive clubhouse at the end of the year.”

5. Lopez is optimistic: This season could be another long one, but Lopez, like Krall, is taking a longer view. And it starts with the three starters at the front of the rotation.

“Baseball is obviously a lot about pitching, so having those studs doing their thing is obviously going to help us out, and I think it’s really exciting for the fans,” Lopez said. “All three of them are great guys, great teammates. It’s obviously a great core for this team.”

Lopez, however, know sooner or later the development has translate into more than a future plan.

“It’s about winning,” he said. “I see the Reds winning. Teams have gone through really bad times, and it’s just part of baseball sometimes. Good teams come out of that.”

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