While the Reds overall are playing much better baseball over the past couple of months, they are simultaneously carrying out an equally important goal. They are evaluating talent to see what they have and what they lack.
This is especially true with the pitching staff, as the everyday lineup is pretty well set. However, it is nice to see Jorge Cantu performing well and David Ross above the Mendoza line. The real revelations have emerged in the bullpen, where Jared Burton, Bill Bray, and Jon Coutlangus have all established themselves as reliable relievers who can really help the bullpen in 2008.
These three young pitchers have stepped up to take the load off the back of David Weathers, who was trying to do it all in the first half. All three have robust strikeout rates and strong grounball tendencies, which is what you need to survive in Great American Ballpark. While the walk rates need to come down, those four would make a nice foundation for a 2008 bullpen, which is music to the ear of Reds fans everywhere.
Unfortunately, the extended opportunity has also resulted in several players being dropped from consideration. At this point, it seems very clear that Phil Dumatrait is not a Major League pitcher. He's been given several starts, but cannot even get his ERA into single digits, so it's likely time to move on. Dumatrait was a long shot to contribute, but earned a look with his solid performance at AAA Louisville.
In addition, Stanford product Mike Gosling does not seem capable of holding down a job in a major league bullpen. He managed to post some decent numbers early, but the larger sample size has revealed him to be a poor bet.
Given how he's performed this year, it's hard to envision the Reds bringing Mike Stanton back in 2008, despite the fact that he's under contract. Unless Stanton improves in the early stages of 2008, he will be gone. He could be gone sooner, if the Reds can find a taker for his salary.
REMAINING QUESTION MARKS
There are still a few players on the bubble, who may make or break over the final month of the season. Gary Majewski, Marcus McBeth, and Brad Salmon are all still on the fence. Majewski has been better of late, but still not all that good. Patience in the organization is likely to be running out on Gary and he needs to step it up very soon. As for McBeth and Salmon, they both need to demonstrate that they can consistently contribute in 2008.
The Reds bullpen single handedly brought down the Reds season in 2007, so there is no way that the front office will allow it to happen again next year. Weathers, Burton, Bray, and Coutlangus seem like locks for the 2008 bullpen, but it remains to be seen who will claim the last three relief spots. The bottom line is that, as of now, the Reds have four quality relievers in the bullpen, which is three more than they had in the first half of the season.