The Cincinnati fanbase has gone through a rollercoaster of emotions in the last few years. This offseason was no different, as the club traded away several fan favorites in Jesse Winker, Eugenio Suarez, and Sonny Gray and lost Nick Castellanos in free agency. This caused a lot of fans to throw in the towel before the season even started. While from the outside it looks like the Reds will just be a pushover for a lot of teams I do not think that’s the case. Let’s take a look at why this team has the pieces in place to surprise a lot of people.
Every team in the league has its star players and for some reason, people forget how good some of these Reds players are and it starts with the Social Media Star himself Joey Votto. Arguably the biggest move this offseason was the Dodgers signing Freddie freeman, and if you look at their stats, it’s confusing why Votto is not getting the same love Freeman is.
In 152 fewer at-bats, Votto hit five more homeruns, had 16 more RBIs, and walked eight fewer times than Freeman. Votto is still an elite player regardless of his age.
If older players are not your cup of tea then do not worry the Reds have some young studs headlined by National League Rookie of the Year Jonathan India. India broke onto the scene last year and hit an impressive 21 homers with a .269 batting average and .376 on-base percentage.
They have some other young studs that we will get to later but for now, let’s talk about their Ace Luis Castillo. For the third year in a row, Castillo had an ERA under four. He started off extremely slow last year but after the first few months, he was one of the most dominating pitchers in baseball and will look to carry that into this season.
Old School Baseball
For the last few years, the Reds, like much of the league, have relied on the homer to produce runs. While that is fun and all, it does not always work and it’s very unpredictable. The Reds have done their best to build a consistent lineup with predictable outcomes.
You simply can’t score runs if you don’t have people on base and the Reds ran with that concept and added guys who are on base a ton. The league average for On Base Percentage is .317 and the Reds have NINE players with a higher mark than that. Another fact for you is the league average for walk percentage sits at 8%; well, again the Reds have NINE players with a higher percentage than that.
Another old-school tactic the Reds will be using this year is the platooning idea. In the history of baseball, it’s a fact that most right-handed hitters hit lefty pitchers better and vice versa. Following this idea means the Reds will have two drastically different lineups depending on if the opposing pitcher is right-handed or left-handed. This allows them to use players in situations where they have a favorable matchup and could lead to more success.
Every team has someone breakout every year, and for the Reds, this one was tough to choose. If I had to choose just one it would be Nick Senzel. Senzel has battled injuries so far in his young career and every time it feels like he’s about to break out something slows him down. In Spring Training, Senzel hit .382 with 11 RBIs. I think this is finally the year the former second overall pick produces like everyone once thought.
Time to turn up the heat a little and no I’m not talking about Hunter Greene. I think by the year’s end, Tyler Stephenson could be looked at as a top-five catcher in baseball.
Last year as a rookie, Stephenson hit .286 while splitting time with Tucker Barnhart who is now in Detroit. He only hit 10 homers but had a solid 21 doubles. I think he uses his six foot four 225 pound frame to tap into some of that natural power. I think Stephenson got a little overlooked by outsiders because Cincinnati also had the Rookie of the Year. Now that Tyler Stephenson is a full-time player, I expect him to put up some big-time numbers.
Other Young Players to Watch
We have talked about the roster turnover for the Reds already and with that comes playing opportunities for a lot of young guys. There are four main guys that really excite me. The three obvious ones being Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and Jose Barrero. All three of these guys are top prospects for a reason and do not need much of an introduction, and because of that, one person is being overshadowed and that is Dauri Moreta.
Moreta ended the year in the Majors after starting the year in AA due to his unreal year. Last year between AA and AAA he posted a 1.02 ERA with a 21 scoreless inning streak that forced the Reds to call him up, and he again forced his way onto the team after a strong spring.
Record Prediction 82-80
Again, I think this Reds team will be much better than people expect. My only worry for this record prediction is them potentially moving key guys at the deadline. If the majority of the team stays in place throughout the year, I think this team will compete for the last playoff spot.