Thursday, March 7, 2019

Cincinnati Reds 2019 season preview

Scott Schebler. Photo from the Cincinnati Enquirer


            2018 was another tough season for the Cincinnati Reds. After a 3-15 start, manager Bryan Price was given the boot, and Jim Riggleman went 64-80 the rest of the way. During that span, Riggleman managed his 1,500 game for five teams. He has the lowest winning percentage of any manager since 1900 who has managed that many games. Pitcher Michael Lorenzen hit four home runs, and he hit a home run every 7.75 at-bats (short sample alert). First baseman and franchise star Joey Votto hit one nearly every 42 at-bats, hitting 12 home runs, the lowest he has ever hit in a full season. This led to the Reds finishing under 70 wins for the fourth consecutive season.

             Offseason additions: LHP Alex Wood, OF Yasiel Puig, OF Matt Kemp, RHP Tanner Roark, RHP Sonny Gray, SS Jose Iglesias, LHP Zach Duke, OF Derek Dietrich, RHP Matt Bowman, C Kyle Farmer, RHP Odrisamer Despaigne, LHP Ian Krol, C Juan Graterol

             Offseason subtractions: CF Billy Hamilton, RHP Homer Bailey, RHP Matt Harvey, RHP Austin Brice

             Rotation
President Dick Williams added a lot to their rotation, bringing in Alex Wood, Tanner Roark and Sonny Gray in separate trades. Wood has a career 3.29 ERA in six seasons for Atlanta and Los Angeles. Roark has a career 3.59 ERA, including a 2.83 ERA in 210 innings in 2016. Gray has struggled after a trade to the Yankees, but was a a Cy Young finalist in 2015. Anthony DeScalfani wasn't that great after returning in 2018 from 2017, when he did not pitch at all. But, he was good for Cincy in 2015-16. Luis Castilo failed to build off an impressive 2017, and took a step back in 2018, but is still the ace of the staff. Tyler Mahle and Sal Romano are still young, and will make starts this year. Mahle could start the season in AAA with Romano in the bullpen.

              Bullpen
The Reds bullpen was surprisingly good in 2018. Closer Raisel Iglesias saved 30 game, with a 2.38 ERA. Another former starter, Amir Garrett, was tied for 11th in the league in holds with 21, arising as a set-up man. Jared Hughes and David Hernandez, both first year Reds in 2018, had a 1.94 and 2.53 ERA, respectively, with Hughes leading the team in appearances with 72. Michael Lorenzen, when not impressing at the plate, had a 3.11 ERA. Romano made 14 relief appearances in 2018. Depending on whether top prospect Nick Senzel makes the team, the Reds will go with 12 or 13 pitchers, with 13 without Senzel. Assuming Senzel starts the season in AAA, righty Matt Wisler and lefties Wandy Peralta and Cody Reed will fight out for the final spot(s).

               Catching
Tucker Barnhart hit a career high 10 home runs in 2018, but his OPS dropped 51 points to .699. Backup Curt Casali impressed at the plate at the end of 2018. Kyle Farmer, acquired from the Dodgers along with Wood and two outfielders we'll get to later, will start at AAA and has MLB experience.

                Infield
As Joey Votto hit a career low 12 home runs, he again led the lead with a .417 OBP. His power was seemingly taken by third baseman Eugenio Suarez, who enjoyed career highs in home runs (34), RBIs (104) and batting average (.283). Also having a great season was second baseman Scooter Gennett, whose .847 OPS was higher than Votto's, and he hit 23 home runs with a .310 batting average. Speedy shortstop Jose Peraza stole 23 bases. Senzel's natural position is third base, but with Suarez under contract, who signed a seven year extension before last season, Senzel moved to second base, which will be free as Gennett is a pending free agent.

                Outfield
Senzel also has been tried out at center field, and that's where he'll likely spend most his major league time in 2019, if he plays. Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, acquired in the Wood/Farmer trade, will play the corners. Scott Schebler was hurt by injuries in 2018, hitting just 17 home runs after 30 in 2017. Jesse Winker and Phillip Ervin are backup outfielders, and both hit seven home runs in 2018, but Winker's batting average (.299) was 47 points higher than Ervin's.

                Bench
The bench has already pretty much been described. It's Casali as the backup catcher. Ervin and Winker are extra outfielders. The extra spot will either go to Senzel, or more likely utility infielder Alex Blandino, who played in a nice 69 games last year.

                Lineup
SS Jose Peraza
2B Scooter Gennett
1B Joey Votto
3B Eugenio Suarez
RF Yasiel Puig
CF Scott Schebler
LF Matt Kemp
C Tucker Barnhart

                Rotation
Luis Castillo (R)
Alex Wood (L)
Tanner Roark (R)
Sonny Gray (R)
Anthony DeScalfani (R)

                 Bullpen
Raisel Iglesias (R)
Amir Garrett (L)
Jared Hughes (R)
David Hernandez (R)
Michael Lorenzen (R)
Sal Romano (R)
Cody Reed (L)
Wandy Peralta (L)

                  Bench
C Curt Casali
INF Alex Blandino
OF Phillip Ervin
OF Jesse Winker

                 Additional Information
Ballpark: Great American Ball Park
Manager: David Bell
GM: Nick Krall
World Series Championships: 5
2018 record: 67-95

                 Steal of the Decade
When the Reds were in rebuilding mode before the 2016 season, the first big trade came on December 16, 2015, when the team traded fan favorite Todd Frazier, coming off a season where he won the home run derby, to the White Sox in a three team trade. The White Sox sent Micah Johnson, Trayce Thompson and Frankie Montas to the Dodgers, non of which have worked out for them. The Dodgers gave up infielders Brandon Dixon and Jose Peraza, plus outfielder Scott Schebler, to the Reds. All three players played for the Reds in 2018. Dixon left via waivers in the offseason, but hit five home runs in 118 at bats in 2018. Peraza and Schebler are now every day players in Cincy, with Schebler hitting 30 home runs in 2017, and Peraza hit a career high 14 home runs in 2018, and has stole a combined 67 bases in three seasons. While Frazier hit a career high 40 homer runs in his first year in Chicago, his batting average has dropped significantly, and he is now on the Mets, fighting for playing time.

                   Prediction
While it was fun for Reds fans to see the team improve over the offseason, they still play in a very tough NL Central. Heck, if they were in the AL Central, they could win the division. But, back in the AL Central, they will fight with Pittsburgh for the cellar of the division.

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