Miami Marlins Series Preview: Home Run Derby Practice for Giancarlo Stanton in Cincinnati?

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Jun 16, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Cincinnati Reds catcher Brayan Pena (29) and relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman (54) celebrate after the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Cincinnati won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Marlin Maniac: The Reds are off to a slow 30-35 start, what has slowed the team down and do you think they have enough to turn things around?

Matthew Wilkes: The No. 1 thing that has slowed the Reds down is injuries. Coming into the season, most expected that the team would only be successful if everything went right. Players like Joey Votto needed to return to form (which he has) and the team needed to stay healthy (that part hasn’t gone so well). With a weak bench and little help at the Triple-A level, the team hasn’t fared well after the injuries to crucial players like Devin Mesoraco and Homer Bailey.

Those haven’t been the only injuries either. Marlon Byrd fractured his wrist on June 2, Zack Cozart shredded his knee and will miss the season, and Brandon Phillips has battled a turf toe injury for most of the year. Rookie starting pitchers Raisel Iglesias and Jon Moscot are also on the disabled list, with Moscot not expected back this season. Given the team’s bad luck from a medical perspective, it’s hard to see them turning things around and making a playoff push.

MM: Who do you think is winning the Mat Latos trade from this off-season, the Marlins or Reds?

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MW: Right now, I would say the Reds are winning the trade. Mat Latos has missed some time with knee issues and hasn’t been all that effective when healthy, though his first start off the DL was impressive (and, of course, I pick him up in fantasy baseball and he’s getting torched as I type this). Meanwhile, Anthony DeSclafani has quietly put together a strong rookie campaign. He’s currently 5-4 with a 3.36 ERA, 3.61 FIP, 1.30 WHIP, 53 strikeouts, and 30 walks in 77.2 innings.

DeSclafani might not beat out bigger stars like Kris Bryant or Joc Pederson for Rookie of the Year voting, but he’s certainly deserving of consideration. Another advantage that I feel the Reds had in the trade is that they get six years of DeSclafani while the Marlins get only one year of Latos. Of course, if Latos helps lead the Marlins back to the playoffs, I don’t think their fans will be complaining.

For those wondering how the other piece of the Latos trade, catcher Chad Wallach, is performing, he’s currently playing for the High-A Daytona Tortugas and has struggled in 2015, hitting .226/.300/.332 with three home runs and 17 RBIs.

MM: The All-Star Game is in Cincinnati this season, is there a different vibe around the stadium because of it? How much more exciting is the game with it being played in your team’s stadium?

MW: There’s definitely a different vibe among the fanbase and around the city. I think many fans have been waiting a long time for the All-Star Game to return to Cincinnati, as it’s been 27 years since the city last hosted the Midsummer Classic. It’s not often you get to see some of the game’s brightest stars in one place at one time. The area around the stadium has been completely renovated over the course of the last several years in preparation and there are All-Star Game advertisements everywhere. Just last week, Cincinnati and MLB unveiled mustache statues (in honor of one of their mascots, Mr. Redlegs) that are located all over the city to commemorate the game. There’s definitely a buzz about the game and it should be great for Reds fans.

MM: Are Cueto and Chapman going to be Reds after the July 31st trade deadline? If not, where do you see them ending up? What kind of return is the team seeking?

MW: Personally, I think the Reds would be better off trading both before the deadline to start the process of restocking their farm system with some young talent. As to whether or not the Reds will actually deal them, I’m not entirely sure. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal recently reported that Reds’ owner Bob Castellini is not ready to concede this season and sign off on a sale of some of the team’s best players. That being said, I still believe Castellini will come around eventually if the team continues to struggle.

I’d be shocked if Cueto is still a Red after the trade deadline. His contract is up after the season and there’s no way the Reds are going to be able to afford him with the other huge contracts they currently have on the books. They’d be foolish not to deal Cueto and get some talented young prospects for him if the team isn’t in the playoff race. The Yankees have been heavily scouting the Reds’ ace, so that could be a potential landing spot.

I’m 50-50 on whether Chapman gets traded this season. The Reds would get a ton in return for one of the game’s most dominant pitchers, especially when you consider he’d be more than a rental player since his contract runs through 2016. However, that extra year may also may be a reason that the Reds end up keeping him, at least through the remainder of this season. Another reason I could see them holding on to Chapman is that he’s a fan favorite and people come to the ballpark to see him. It would be a silly reason, for sure, but not one out of the realm of possibility.

MM: How did the Reds do the draft earlier this month? What is the current state of the farm system?

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MW: The Reds took high school catcher Tyler Stephenson in the first round of this year’s draft. He’s got great power and scouts also rave about his defense behind the plate. For a team that doesn’t have a lot of position player depth, taking a catcher in the first round was a smart move. The top comparison I’ve seen for Stephenson is Orioles’ catcher Matt Wieters. If Stephenson turns out to be as good as Wieters, Reds fans would have to be thrilled.

Overall, the Reds have a a mid-tier farm system. Baseball America ranked it as the 17th best in baseball before the season. It’s a very pitching-heavy farm system, as seven of their top 10 prospects (per Baseball America) are pitchers. Robert Stephenson, their No. 1 prospect, throws up to 100 mph and currently sits in Double-A. It’s possible he could make his way to the big leagues at some point in 2015.

Their lack of hitting prospects has been part of the reason the big league team has struggled in the wake of so many injuries. Most of the top-hitting prospects they do have are still in the lower levels of the minor leagues and aren’t ready to contribute to the major league team.

Next: Pitching Matchups and Predictions