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The Reds' David Bell may not have managed his first official game yet, but he already knows when it's OK to back himself into a corner and when he's better off speaking in noncommittal terms.
Take his early impressions of Jesse Winker:
"He does need to continue to develop," Bell said, "as an everyday player."
Great. Winker has elite on-base skills, a Joey Votto-like batted-profile and enough evidence of power to think he could emerge as a 25-homer type, especially now that his surgically repaired shoulder is feeling better than it has in years.
"It was just little things I would do, in and out of the weight room or in and out of hitting BP or in the cage, and my shoulder would hurt during those activities and it doesn't anymore," Winker told MLB.com. "When I started doing my one-handed drills, it was like, 'Wow, I'm feeling nothing in my shoulder.' Honestly, it's been great."
OK, so what about rookie Nick Senzel, who's learning to play center field this spring after getting blocked at both third and second base?
"I feel like he can do it. There's no question, really, that he can do it," Bell said Sunday. "It's going to come down to what's best for him, what's best for our roster."
Again, great. As long as Senzel continues to hit this spring — and why wouldn't he? — we now know the Reds would be wasting everyone's time by sending him back to the minors.
So where does that leave Matt Kemp, an All-Star starter for the Dodgers a year ago but longtime defensive liability who saw his playing time drastically cut in the second half? That's when we get the seasoned politician:
"It's a great question, because he's been such a good player for so long," Bell told MLB.com Monday. "He's the kind of player that can carry a team. He's that kind of offensive player. He's been on good teams, he's been on great teams. He just brings so much."
Uh-huh. OK, you talked around the question, but what's the answer?
"Right now, what I've said to Matt is how I feel. We just have to let it play out, and we have to figure out a way to make it work," Bell said. "I do believe, and I've said it a lot, that things do work themselves out. How exactly that's going to happen, I don't know."
So ... Kemp is the odd man out. Got it.
Lest you think I'm reading too much into Bell's lack of clarity, here's what the author of the MLB.com piece, Reds beat writer Mark Sheldon, had to say:
"In the final year of his contract, Kemp is owed $21.5 million, but the Reds aren't on the hook for all of it," Sheldon wrote. "That could make it easier for the Reds to find a trade partner for Kemp, if needed, or to release him. On the flip side, if there's an injury or somebody struggles, Cincinnati having him would be a good plus."
You follow? The 34-year-old is either a contingency plan or a roster casualty.
It's good news for Fantasy owners because timeshares are of no use to anyone, and Puig, Winker and Senzel are undoubtedly the most exciting three of the Reds' choices for Fantasy purposes. Bell now has made it abundantly clear he's also leaning in that direction.
Pete Alonso has company
While the Reds' outfield situation has new clarity, the Mets' first base situation is becoming unexpectedly murky thanks to a surprising push from a forgotten talent.
Folks, Dominic Smith is hitting again.
He, of course, was the exciting prospect a year ago, but he showed up late for the first spring game and then was sidelined off and on by a quadriceps injury. His poor production at Triple-A combined with Pete Alonso's big production between two levels have brought us where we are today.
But Smith has made some adjustments to his swing. He has a new mask for combating his sleep apnea. He's also healthy, and it shows. With two doubles on a 2-for-4 day Monday, he's now 10 for 20 with a homer this spring.
Alonso, for what it's worth, homered and doubled in his three at-bats Monday, bringing his spring batting average up to .412 (7 for 17). It's still hard to imagine he won't be the Mets primary first baseman this season, especially since he's doing his part to prove himself.
But if the Mets needed an excuse to send Alonso down for a few weeks at the start of the season to buy an extra year of team control, Smith is making the case he deserves one last look.
"He's definitely doing that for sure,'' manager Mickey Callaway said. "He's putting great swings on the ball. He's got great energy and I love what I see so far."
Hold on a second, Hampson
Ryan McMahon may have changed the math there, though. With two more hits Monday, he's now 9 for 18 with three doubles, a triple and a home run. Hampson, meanwhile, is 5 for 16 with two homers and three steals.
Going by the numbers, then, it's a neck-and-neck competition. What's interesting to me, though, is how much second base McMahon has already played, starting four of the Rockies' eight games there. Hampson has played his share as well but has seen considerable time at other positions, perhaps with more of a super utility role in mind.
Could we be so lucky to get both?
Different swing for Brinson
With his second two-homer game Monday, Lewis Brinson is up to five home runs this spring. He's batting .438 (7 for 16) and has struck out only four times, this after striking out in nearly 30 percent of his plate appearances during a disastrous rookie campaign.
It's worth noting that it's still early in spring training, which means it's fair to assume Brinson is seeing an unusually large dose of fastballs. It's also worth noting that Monday's home runs came off Jeremy Hellickson and Erick Fedde, who aren't exactly the league's best and brightest.
But Brinson, of course, has an elite prospect pedigree. He was a top 30 prospect three years in a row, according to every publication of note, and the prize of the deal that sent Christian Yelich to Milwaukee (and Jonathan Lucroy to Texas before then). It'd be more surprising if he didn't make a leap at some point, and Marlins manager Don Mattingly thinks there's more to this spring's change than just the numbers.
"He had a pretty good spring last year, but it wasn't the same type of swings," Mattingly said. "It looks really good right now."
Time will tell, of course, but if nothing else, Brinson has put himself back in the sleeper conversation for five-outfielder leagues.
Mr. Holland's nope-us
As the outsider signed to a paltry $3.5 million deal, Greg Holland was fighting an uphill battle for the closer role in Arizona — one I thought he could win. He may have already lost it, though, with the way his spring training has started out.
Two outings, two homers, four earned runs. And while he lasted a full inning in Monday's, he also served up a double before leaving.
Most concerning, though, is the stuff — or lack thereof. He averaged less than 90 mph on his fastball Monday. Even starting out with the Cardinals last year, after skipping spring training, he was averaging 92.
For what it's worth, Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo sounds a lot more chill about it than I do.
"For me, it's a process with him," Lovullo said. "I know that he knows what he's got to get to, there's no panic in the runs he's given up or the mistakes that he's making. I know that he's going to get back to the fastball location that he's expecting, and the secondary stuff is always a very, very good weapon for him."
Still, I wouldn't be investing much in Holland right now.
You remember Jeff Samardzija, right?
In case you've forgotten, Samardzija entered last season pretty highly regarded as a consistent 200-innings man with strikeout-per-inning stuff. But his 2018 was an unmitigated disaster that began with him struggling to find his velocity in spring training and ended with him on and off the DL with shoulder troubles.
Well, he's already looking like his old self this spring, striking out four over three one-hit innings Monday against the Dodgers while routinely hitting 94 mph on his fastball.
"He looked good, didn't he?" manager Bruce Bochy said.
One change Samardzija has told MLB.com he plans to make this year is featuring his full secondary arsenal earlier in games, which he says is because he no longer feels pressured to throw 200 innings. But what it could actually mean is better ratios across the board, which itself may allow him to pitch six innings more consistently.
With his track record, he's certainly worth monitoring over the next couple weeks.
So how do you crush your 2019 Fantasy baseball drafts? And which can't-miss prospect needs to be on your roster? Visit SportsLine now to get the complete 2019 Fantasy baseball draft guide that includes rankings, auction values, tiers, prospects rankings and much more, all from a team of award-wining experts and a proven projection model.