NL Central Preview: Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds

Manager: David Bell (1st Season)

2018 Record: 67-95 (5th in Central)    2019 Payroll: $116,773,214 (16th in MLB)

Key Additions: OF Yasiel Puig, SP Alex Wood, OF Matt Kemp, SP Tanner Roark, SP Sonny Gray

Key Losses: OF Billy Hamilton (Royals), SP Matt Harvey (Angels)

The Reds have been very active in this off-season and it came as a bit of a surprise because they finished last in the NL Central last season. The NL Central is stacked this year and even with around a .500 record, the Reds are projected by most to be near the bottom of the division again this year. The Reds acquired Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood and Kyle Farmer for Homer Bailey (released by Dodgers), Josiah Gray and Jeter Downs. The Reds did manage to dump Homer Bailey’s salary, but also lost their 8th best prospect in Downs. Puig was a fan-favorite in Los Angeles and is likely to become the new fan favorite in Cincinnati after the departure of previous favorite, Billy Hamilton.

Alex Wood is a great get for a Reds’ pitching staff that desperately needs help. Wood was 9-7 with a 3.68 ERA last season and made 27 starts for NL champion Dodgers in 2018. This was just one year after he went 16-3 with a 2.72 ERA. Wood has been very effective for the Dodgers and is a solid addition for the Reds. The Reds also got Matt Kemp, who after seeming like his career was over, had an amazing first half last season before snapping back to a pretty dreadful second half. The Reds also acquired Kyle Farmer in the deal; the Dodgers #19 prospect heading into 2018 will likely backup Tucker Barnhart in Cincinnati this year although Curt Casali could get the job too. Farmer was stuck behind Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes and only got 68 big league at-bats last season and even played some at third. Overall, the Reds were able to get rid of Homer Bailey and his contract and acquire an exciting outfielder in Yasiel Puig, a really solid starter in Alex Wood, a big-name who probably won’t do much in Kemp, but who knows, and a competent young backup catcher who is major league ready.

Cincinnati also traded for Tanner Roark from the Nationals in a deal for reliever Tanner Rainey. This is another move to bolster the struggling rotation in Cincinnati. 32-year old Roark was 9-15 with a 4.34 ERA last season. It was by far his worst season in the majors, but if he can get back to the numbers he’s had previously he can be a force in the Reds rotation. Lastly, the Reds traded their 7th overall prospect, Shed Long, for Sonny Gray and Single-A pitcher Reiver Sanmartin. Sonny Gray is yet another known name who the Reds add to their starting rotation. Gray was bad last year with the Yankees though with a 4.90 ERA and a career high in walk percentage with 3.94 per 9 innings (previous high was 3.23 in 2016). There is hope for a turnaround however, as the Reds hired Derek Johnson as their new pitching coach back in November. Johnson was the pitching coach at Vanderbilt from 2002-2012 and coached Sonny Gray when he was there. If anyone can fix Gray, his college pitching coach might be the best option. In addition, the Reds did also bring in catcher Curt Casali who caught for Sonny Gray while at Vanderbilt.

The Reds bright spots in 2018 were almost all with the bats. The Reds had the 10th best batting average in the MLB and actually had times where their lineup was really hot. Scooter Gennett, Eugenio Suarez, and Joey Votto were great last season and are all back in the Reds’ infield alongside rising young shortstop Jose Peraza. Let’s see how first year manager David Bell will likely line up the Reds with some projected stats (Fangraphs) for the 2019 season.

2019 Reds Lineup (Projected Statistics)

SS Jose Peraza 11 64 0.281 0.323 0.398 -1.8 2.2
2B Scooter Gennett 19 76 0.262 0.314 0.427 -5.1 1.4
1B Joey Votto 18 74 0.278 0.409 0.464 0.3 3.5
3B Eugenio Suarez 29 82 0.257 0.348 0.400 -1.9 3.5
RF Yasiel Puig 27 86 0.276 0.351 0.502 0.5 3
LF Jesse Winker 15 62 0.285 0.377 0.439 -5.8 2
C Tucker Barnhart 9 47 0.247 0.323 0.373 5.2 2
CF Scott Schebler 19 62 0.240 0.313 0.435 -5.5 0.9
C Kyle Farmer 2 14 0.250 0.299 0.374 0 0.4
OF Matt Kemp 12 40 0.265 0.317 0.469 -0.4 0.1
OF Nick Senzel 7 30 0.275 0.338 0.444 0 1.4
IF Alex Blandino 3 14 0.232 0.316 0.361 -0.4 0.2

Some of the intrigue in this lineup is from the Reds top prospect Nick Senzel. We’ll see if he breaks camp with the big league team. He’ll be a talented young prospect for Reds fans to be excited about. There are solid hitters up and down the lineup, but projections do have most of the Reds’ hitters dropping off a bit in 2019. Scooter Gennett hit .310 in 2018, Suarez .283, Votto .284 and Peraza .288. Jesse Winker has a great approach and gets on base at a really high rate. He’s basically Joey Votto, but without as much power. The additions to the lineup do make the Reds more interesting, but I don’t think they make them much better.

One obvious problem we see with the Reds is their defense. Shown by the Fielding (Fld) rating on the table (0 is average). Almost the entire infield is below average. Puig is a little above average in the outfield, but Schebler and Winker are liabilities defensively. Senzel can help with that when he comes up, but the Reds defense is a major problem. Catcher Tucker Barnhart is by far the Reds best defensive player.

The Reds gaping problem in 2018 was pitching, and mainly starting pitching. They’ve definitely tried to address the issue with three additions to the starting rotation. Here’s how the starting rotation looks right now with projected stats for 2019 (Fangraphs):

2019 Reds Starting Rotation (Projected Statistics)

Luis Castillo 4.00 29 173 172 1.26 8.92 2.72 2.6
Anthony DeSclafani 4.33 26 153 142 1.29 8.36 2.5 1.8
Sonny Gray 3.88 26 145 141 1.33 8.72 3.31 2.3
Alex Wood 3.99 24 137 125 1.31 8.18 2.81 1.9
Tanner Roark 4.56 24 143 123 1.36 7.74 2.9 1.4

This is the best Reds rotation we’ve seen in years. Castillo can be electric with his upper 90s fastball and devastating changeup. If he can figure out his slider, Castillo can become a dominant pitcher and the ace of the staff. DeSclafani was a bright spot for the Reds for most of 2018. He had a 4.34 ERA heading into September before a bad final month brought his ERA to 4.93 for the season. Sonny Gray and Alex Wood are both intriguing gets in the offseason as I talked about earlier. Sonny Gray is somewhat of a question mark. Tanner Roark rounds out the rotation and despite a fairly high ERA, he will give the Reds innings and try to bounce back from what was not a great 2018. The Reds also have Tyler Mahle, who will be in the rotation for years to come and may get some starts in 2019.

2019 Reds Bullpen (Projected Statistics)

Raisel Iglesias 3.66 65 65 75 1.22 10.4 3.17 0.6
Jared Hughes 4.12 65 65 52 1.42 7.13 3.46 0.1
David Hernandez 4.26 55 55 56 1.29 9.09 3.04 0.2
Amir Garrett 3.91 55 55 61 1.30 9.97 3.68 0.2
Michael Lorenzen 4.46 47 54 46 1.44 7.58 3.72 0.0
Robert Stephenson 4.08 42 49 58 1.35 10.6 4.51 0.2
Wandy Peralta 4.27 30 30 26 1.48 7.92 4.43 0.0
Matt Bowman 3.85 15 15 14 1.34 8.69 3.46 0.1

The bullpen in Cincinnati is an area that doesn’t have many big names, but has some relievers who have been solid. Raisel Iglesias has been very good as the Reds closer recently and I don’t see any reason that will change. Amir Garrett was really impressive in 2018, the big lefty’s fastball-slider combination led him to have the highest strikeout percentage on the team in 2018. Jared Hughes is an extreme ground ball pitcher who can get a lot of double play balls. He had the highest ground ball percentage (5.4%) and lowest ERA (1.94) of anyone of the Reds staff last year. David Hernandez was also among the Reds best relievers, but was more of a fly ball pitcher with the lowest ground ball percentage on the team. He also had the third highest strikeout percentage behind Garrett and Iglesias. Lorenzen is very interesting because he may be in the best shape of anyone on the team. He has also been reportedly taking fly balls in the outfield. This only is intriguing because Lorenzen is the best hitting pitcher in baseball (he hit three home runs in one week last year including a grand slam). I don’t know how much of a long shot it is, especially with the Reds poor defensive outfield, but first year manager David Bell could give it a shot and that if nothing else, would be fun.

Reds’ fans can look forward to seeing these top prospects below sometime in the future.

Cincinnati Reds: Top 10 Prospects

Rank Name Age Highest Level Position ETA
1 Nick Senzel 23 AAA 3B 2019
2 Taylor Trammel 21 A+ LF 2021
3 Hunter Greene 19 A RHP 2021
4 Jonathan India 22 A 3B 2020
5 Tyler Stephenson 22 A+ C 2020
6 Tony Santillan 21 AA RHP 2020
7 Jose Siri 23 AA CF 2020
8 Vladimir Gutierrez 23 AA RHP 2019
9 Mike Siani 19 R CF 2022
10 Jose Garcia 20 A SS 2021

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