We’re back with the seemingly tireless David Wyatt (@DavidWyatt_), who has written his third season preview of this series, this time on the Cincinnati Reds. Check out David’s previous previews for the Cubs and the Pirates respectively. Feel free to comment below, and give David a follow on Twitter – he is a mine of baseball knowledge and tweets loads about NFL stuff too. Do head over to the excellent UK MLB Supporters Forum, where UK-based fans get together to discuss everything baseball, sports, and more besides, and where David is one of the admin team.
The Cincinnati Reds haven’t won the NL Central since 2012. 2014 was the last time the Reds made the playoffs and that also happened to be the last time the team had a winning record. It’s been a lean few years for fans from Ohio and 2017 wasn’t any different. Although they continue to at least put up competitive offensive numbers, the pitching staff stumbled to the 2nd worst ERA in the majors with a 5.17 ERA. They allowed 631 walks on the year (2nd worst), 248 home runs (worst) and also hit the most batters in the league. It’s not pretty and their ineffectively wild pitching resulted in the Reds finishing the season dead last in the NL Central with a record of 68-94. However there is reason for optimism and we’ll come to that below.
Comings and Goings
In: Jared Hughes (RP), David Hernandez (RP)
Out: Zack Cozart (3B), Bronson Arroyo (SP)
As you can see from above, the Reds haven’t exactly had a busy off-season. They took action to sure up a bullpen that was leaky at best last season. The Reds have a fantastic closer in Raisel Iglesias, but the problem last year was getting to him with a lead. Cincinnati will hope that by bringing in a veteran like Jared Hughes who has spent his entire career in the NL Central with the Pirates and Brewers, will help bridge the gap between the starter and the closer. He’ll be joined by David Hernandez who has 8 years of experience, and although he’s been inconsistent throughout his career, he’ll hope to bring some stability.
The Reds will always score runs as long as they have the likes of Joey Votto mashing home runs and Billy Hamilton stealing bases like a thief in the night. Eugenio Suaraz and Scooter Gennett will continue to anchor a lineup which scored 753 runs last year, and although that’s not on par with the likes of Houston (896), Yankees (858) or Cubs (822), it’s enough to be competitive if they can get the pitching required.
Which brings us to the big question mark when it comes to the rotation. The Reds have an enormous amount of potential talent, but their play-off chances will rest on the health of Homer Bailey, Brandon Finnegan and Anthony Desclafani who missed the entire 2017 season with an elbow injury. If all three can stay healthy, it’ll go a long way to securing the Reds rotation along with budding star Luis Castillo who pitched to a 3.12 ERA in his first season in the majors. However at the same time, Homer Bailey has been largely ineffective when he’s been healthy and the Reds have the likes of Robert Stephenson, Sal Romano and Tyler Mahle hunting for a rotation spot.
The Reds play in a very competitive division with the star studded Chicago Cubs, the much improved Milwaukee Brewers and the ever present St Louis Cardinals, they could be a surprise team, but it’ll take a big improvement for them to be playing meaningful baseball in September.
78-84 I see the Reds improving by 10 games on their 2017 season W/L column with the return of Desclafani and a full season of Luis Castillo. I like the addition of Jared Hughes to the bullpen, but I still think the bullpen will be the weakness when everything is said and done.
Joey Votto – It would be idiotic to put anyone but Votto here. He led the lead in OBP and OPS last year and he slashed to the tune of .320/.454/.578 with 36 HRs, 100 RBI and 106 runs. He’s heading towards the wrong side of his 30’s this year, but he’ll still be the best Reds player in 2018.
One to watch
Luis Castillo – Castillo was excellent in 2017, where he pitched to a 3.12 ERA in 15 starts. He struck out 98 in 89.1 innings and had a very reasonable 3.2 BB/9 innings pitched. Castillo has everything you need to be a star, he throws a lethal 98MPH four seam fastball and mixes it in with an 88mph changeup and an 85mph slider, when you add in his sinker, he’ll make a few batters very uncomfortable in 2018. Also look for Nick Senzel, one of the top prospects in baseball. He’s not hit beyond AA ball yet, but most believe he’s set for a call up at some point in 2018.