Last Postseason Appearance: 2013
Last World Series Title: 1990
For the third-straight season, the Cincinnati Reds won less than 70 games, and finished dead-last in the NL Central. August was the only month in which the Reds had a winning record. They finished below .500 at home, and a dreadful 29-52 on the road.
Much like the last few seasons, the Reds struggled on the mound. They finished 28th in total bases allowed, 29th in ERA and walks, and dead-last in home runs allowed. Although he threw just 76 innings, Raisel Iglesias had the best WAR among all Cincinnati pitchers.
While the offense as a whole wasn’t great, it would have been good enough to get by, had Cincinnati obtained any sort of pitching. Among the 15 NL teams, the Reds ranked second in steals, sixth in home runs, and seventh in batting average, OBP, and SLG.
The big reason Cincinnati’s offense was able to stay afloat was Joey Votto. Votto, the NL MVP runner-up, finished first in OBP, walks, and times on base. He also ranked fourth in OPS, fifth in WAR, sixth in batting average, and 10th in runs scored. The King of getting on-base, Votto has now led the league in OBP in six of the last eight seasons. In 2017, he joined Gary Sheffield (1996), and Jason Giambi (2000), as the only players in the last 30 years to have a season with at least 160 hits, 35 home runs, 130 walks, .450 OBP, and 165 OPS+.
In his seventh season with the Reds, Zack Cozart made his first All-Star team. The shortstop had a career year, slashing .297/.385/.548 with 24 home runs and 240 total bases in just 122 games. Eugenio Suarez continues to improve as a big-leaguer, as the 26-year old hit 26 home runs and increased his walk rate to 13.3 percent, which is his career-high at any professional level.
2018: Around the Diamond
With Zack Cozart now a member of the Los Angeles Angels, Jose Peraza, who appeared in 143 games for the Reds in 2017, will start at shortstop. Peraza looked great in 2016, hitting .324 with 21 steals, but regressed a tad over a larger sample size in 2017. He is very fast, but lacks offensive skills.
Peraza began 2017 as the starting second basemen, but was eventually benched for Scooter Gennett. This was a good move by the Reds, as Gennett finished the season slashing .295/.342/.531 with 22 doubles and 27 home runs, including a four-home-run game in June. With Suarez and Votto manning the corner-infield positions, Gennett and Peraza up the middle, and Tucker Barnhart, who won a Gold Glove and finished second in defensive WAR, behind the plate, the Reds should get decent production out of their infield.
Left to right, Cincinnati has Adam Duvall, Billy Hamilton, and Scott Schebler. Duvall has a lot of pop, as he hit 33 home runs in 2016, and 31 more in 2017. He doesn’t hit for a great average, and does not walk much, but he will continue to hit the long ball and drive in runs for the Reds.
Hamilton, who, last season, finished second in the MLB in steals and triples, is essentially a lock to steal at least 50 bases. That’s awesome, but as a career .248 hitter, Hamilton needs to improve his approach to add more value. When he was up 1-0 in the count, Hamilton hit just .238. His teammate Joey Votto, in the same situation, hit .347.
In his first full-season as a major leaguer, Schebler hit 23 doubles and 30 home runs. However, the 27-year-old hit just .233. The Reds fourth outfielder, Jesse Winker, a first-round pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, is having a fantastic spring. The most likely candidate to start at DH when they visit AL teams, Winker is hitting .400 with five doubles and nine RBIs in 15 spring games.
On the Bump
After missing all of last season with elbow issues, Anthony DeSclafani is back on the injury report with an oblique problem. He may miss the start of the season, which means this Reds staff, at least on paper, looks like an absolute mess.
The one bright spot is Luis Castillo. The 25-year-old righty from the Dominican Republic started 15 games last season, and posted a 3.12 ERA with 98 strikeouts in just 89.1 innings. Before being called up, Castillo had a 2.58 ERA over 80.1 innings of work in AA. He has thrived at every level, and could become the Reds ace of the future.
Joining these men in the rotation will be Homer Bailey, and lefty Brandon Finnegan, who missed a good chunk of last season with shoulder injuries. This Spring, Finnegan was forced to leave a game after feeling tightness in his forearm, which is never a good sign. The last spot in this pitiful rotation will most likely belong to Sal Romano, Robert Stephenson, or Tyler Mahle. Romano posted a 3.17 ERA over his last eight starts in 2017.
To bolster up the bullpen, Cincinnati brought in Jared Hughes and David Hernandez. These two, along with Michael Lorenzen, and Wandy Peralta, should all play key roles in making sure Iglesias has a chance to earn some saves. Iglesias struck out 92 batters in just 76 innings in 2017. Translation, he is really good and could be one of the best closers in the game if the Reds provide him with more save opportunities.
Sooner than later, the Reds will be competing in the NL Central. Yes, they probably wasted Joey Votto’s whole career, but the future looks bright in Cincy. The Reds have five members on MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects list, including Nick Senzel, who ranks seventh overall.
Senzel, the second overall pick in the 2016 draft, is a tremendous hitter who hits the ball hard, walks a lot, and doesn’t strike out much. Last season, in 57 AA games, Senzel slashed .340/.413/.560 with 10 home runs and 34 RBIs. He has a fantastic arm, and looks to be an All-Star third basemen in the near future. Senzel looks like a younger version of Michael Young, who made seven All-Star appearances, and won a batting title in 2005.
Cincinnati’s top pitching prospect, Hunter Greene (No.21), has arguably the best fastball out of any prospect in the league. Green was selected second overall in the 2017 draft, and is just 18 years of age. He stands tall at 6’4” and his fastball hovers around 97-102 mph. A pure athlete, Greene would have been a first round pick as an infielder. His ceiling is incredibly high, but the Reds will have to give him time to develop.
Joining Winker as the other top outfield prospect for Cincinnati is Taylor Trammell (No.43). Tramell was recruited as both a football and baseball player for Georgia Tech, which explains his crazy athleticism. In 129 A-Ball games, Tramell hit 23 doubles, 10 triples, 10 home runs, and stole 41 bases. He can do it all on the diamond, and should have Reds fans feeling ecstatic about the future.
Tyler Mahle (No.84), has a 2.45 ERA in 14.2 innings of work this Spring. Last season, between AA/AAA, Mahle went 10-7 with a 2.06 ERA in 144.1 innings. Mahle looks as though he will eventually crack the Reds starting rotation.
2018 Prediction: 71-91
Early injuries to their already depleted rotation means that it will probably be another tough season for the Reds. However, Votto will continue to put up MVP-type numbers, and guys like Suarez, Hamilton, and Gennett will be worth following. Castillo could turn into an ace, and with the way Cincy’s prospects are playing, it will not be long until the Reds are relevant again.
Featured image by MLB.com
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