The Cincinnati Reds are 50-41 and in first place of the NL Central as the first half of the season is in the books. The first half had its share of exhilarating moments and triumphant victories. The wins came from all different angles, as well. Whether it was a rookie walk-off or a towering home run from a future Reds Hall of Famer, Cincinnati found myriad ways to get the job done.
With the first half behind them, what could the second half have in store for the Reds? Obviously there will be big wins and tough losses, but what moments could shape this season? Could the trade deadline bring in new pieces of the puzzle? Will the Reds stand pat and see the rebuild through to the end?
Here are three (relatively) bold predictions for the final 71 games of the 2023 season.
The Reds Finish Second in the NL Central
Okay, maybe this is not all that bold. Perhaps the bold part of this prediction is that they still make the playoffs this season.
The school of thought has long been that the Reds would have to win their division to find their way into the postseason due to a relatively weak NL Central. However, the NL as a whole has not been as good as expected, leaving the door open for a Wild Card berth in Cincinnati.
With just a one-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers, the Reds seem primed to tightrope their way to the finish line. But, the Reds do currently have a half-game lead over the Giants for the final Wild Card spot and the National League has just eight teams with a winning record. The Braves should coast to another NL East crown and it looks like either the Dodgers or Diamondbacks will win the NL West, with the other likely playoff bound. The Marlins are comfortably in the first Wild Card as well. In this scenario, the Brewers have edged out the Reds in the NL Central.
That leaves two wild card spots available for the remaining three teams that are currently above .500. Can the Reds just be better than one of the Giants and Phillies? I think so.
The Reds will be postseason bound in 2023.
Cincinnati Trades Christian Encarnacion-Strand
This seems sacrilegious. Why would the Reds trade their prized, power-hitting first base prospect when Joey Votto is in the last year of his deal? Does that not make the 2024 transition to CES perfect?
Keeping Encarnacion-Strand is certainly a possibility — more likely than not, honestly. But, what if the Astros call Reds GM Nick Krall and offer one of their many starting pitchers like Luis Garcia, J.P. France or Brandon Bielak? The Astros have the least WAR from the first base position in the MLB, according to Baseball Reference.
What if the Phillies, 25th-lowest WAR from first basemen, call the Reds? If the Phillies offer Cincinnati their second-best prospect, right-hander Mick Abel, the Reds have to listen. Abel is ranked the 43rd on MLB.com’s Top-100 prospects list while Encarnacion-Strand ranks 90th.
Also, do the Reds even need Encarnacion-Strand? With Elly de la Cruz and Matt McLain being the middle infielders of the future and Noelvi Marte looking like the third basemen of the future, that leaves one infield spot available. CES and Spencer Steer will have to battle it out for first base. Sure, Steer could play left field, but he is clearly more comfortable on the dirt and is playing at a near All-Star level as a rookie.
Yes, Encarnacion-Strand could be the designated hitter as well, but with the Reds rotating catchers like they have been and the team being built on positional versatility, there is a world where the roster just can not handle a play as pigeon-holed as he is.
Deal CES for an MLB-ready starter or a top pitching prospect and the present and/or future gets a whole lot brighter.
Joey Votto gets to 25 home runs
Joey Votto has hit seven home runs in his first 17 games back from a major shoulder injury. Included in that time frame is a massive six-game stretch where Votto went 0-18 at the plate. Votto seems to be rounding back into form, perhaps with even better power numbers than he has for his entire career.
He needs 18 more home runs over the final 71 games to reach 25 for the season. His current blistering pace has him on track for just over 29 long balls. He will likely slow down from there, but 25 home runs in roughly half a season of games is extremely impressive, especially for a 39-year-old.
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Featured image courtesy of Reds.com
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