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Bearcats in the Big Leagues: Ups and Downs of April

Josh Harrison and Ian Happ are both trying to find the right formula at the plate while some guys in the minor leagues are elevating their games.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

April is a time in the baseball season where players are figuring things out. Even after spring training, there are still problems to work on and newfound skills to cultivate. With plenty of baseball left to be played this year, let’s check in with all the former Cincinnati Bearcats who are making those types of adjustments right now.

Josh Harrison

The change to the American League continues to be a difficult one for Harrison. Even though we are still quite a ways from the time where we don’t have to give sample size warnings, Harrison is still struggling to find a rhythm at the plate. Over the last seven games, he has slashed .129/.152/.194 with just two extra-base hits. He has walked once in 33 plate appearances in that time. Somehow, his walk and strikeout rates are still improved compared with his marks from last year, but they are both far from the type of production he was was putting together as an All-Star in 2017. Even when he has been able to get the bat on the ball, it hasn’t always been effective, as Harrison’s soft contact rate is the highest its been since 2013.

When you put it all together, Harrison has been 98 percent below league average as a hitter based on OPS+ and to make matters worse, he might lose time to a minor injury. Harrison really needs to reverse course as soon as possible, especially as he continues to man the leadoff spot in the Detroit Tigers’ lineup.

Ian Happ

Down in the minors, Happ is still trying to work his way back to the big leagues. His efforts have been uneven in that department. In back-to-back games on April 14 and 15 he combined to go 4-for-9 with a home run but he has gone 1-for-11 in the three games since. In 55 total plate appearances with the Iowa Cubs, he has slashed .214/.267/.375 with seven extra-base hits. His plate discipline has lagged behind as well, with 22 strikeouts compared to just three walks. We don’t know for sure what Happ needs to do to get promoted back to Chicago but I’m pretty sure that’s not it.

Connor Walsh

Walsh was asked to go more than one inning for the first time this season earlier this week and the results were mixed. He allowed one earned run on two hits across 1 23 frames, as his ERA jumped to 2.45 for the year. He had tossed two scoreless innings across his first two outings with the Birmingham Barons and has struck out more batters (four) than innings pitched (3 2/3).

Ryan Atkinson

Atkinson is finding the life of a reliever one he can handle pretty well. After starting for most of his brief professional career, the Jackson Generals right-hander is being utilized out of the bullpen now and usually for extended stretches. He has thrown more than one inning in three of his five appearances this season and has given up just one run across 8 23 total frames. As MLB strikeout rates continue to rise, Atkinson is following suit, with 15 strikeouts this season. Trends are favoring relievers who can pitch multiple innings at a time and strike out a lot of batters. Atkinson is setting himself up nicely for that kind of future.

Ryan Noda

In his last 10 games, Noda is batting .333 across 39 at-bats. On Thursday night he was at his absolute best, producing four hits in as many at-bats with two RBI, two runs scored and a stolen base. A first baseman who can swipe bags isn’t a common occurrence, but Noda has four this season and as he also gets on base at a .368 clip, that will give him a chance to jump beyond Single A sooner rather than later.

Manny Rodriguez

Rodriguez has displayed a great eye at the start of the 2019 season. Despite batting just .250 in 11 games with the St. Lucie Mets, he has a .415 on-base percentage, with at least one walk in seven of his last 10 games. He still needs to start making more contact, but if he continues to make pitchers work, that should come to pass eventually.

Cam Alldred

Like Atkinson, Alldred is using his experience as a starter to create an effective repertoire as a reliever. He has thrown at least two innings in each of his last three appearances and has marks in ERA (1.04) and WHIP (0.92) that certainly look excellent on paper. Now he just has to keep this success going.

Connor McVey

Hits have been difficult to come by for McVey. He has just one in his last eight at-bats and is batting just .130 overall with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers while posting an OPS below .500. Even when he has gotten the bat on the ball, it hasn’t done a ton of damage, as he has yet to record an extra-base hit and has only driven in two runs.

J.T. Perez

Perez is still waiting for the Elizabethton Twins’ season to start.