Even before the Cincinnati Reds pulled into Goodyear Ballpark in Arizona on February 18th to begin their preseason workouts, fans were wondering if this would be their breakout year.
New faces dot the diamond, such as Tyler Naquin, Dee Gordon, Sean Doolittle, and Noe Ramirez. Others have left. Trevor Bauer signed with the Dodgers, and Raisel Iglesias was traded to the Angels.
The reasons to look forward to this season outnumber the disappointments of 2020. So, let’s take a dive into the oldest team in MLB: your Cincinnati Reds.
The Cincinnati Reds Lineup
The inconsistency of the Reds’ 2020 lineup was frustrating for anyone watching their games. With no player batting above .255, there was great cause for dissatisfaction.
OPS+ is a statistic that measures a batter’s competence compared to the average league batter, adjusting for ballpark. 100 is league average OPS+. Any OPS+ above 100 is above average, and below, is worse than average. According to OPS+, 5 of the 8 Reds’ starters batted above league average: Jesse Winker, Joey Votto, Mike Moustakas, Nicholas Castellanos, and Eugenio Suarez. This is good news because, although the team seemed to be offensively challenged, the majority of the players were still above league average.
Further, Eugenio Suarez (102 OPS+) stated on February 24th, “When you watch it back, my last year wasn’t good. I don’t feel happy about last year. Talking about myself, not the team. We made the playoffs and everything. But especially on myself, I’m better than that. I’m not a .200 hitter.”
Suarez also stated: “This year in 2021, I hope, and I believe and I feel it’s going to be a special year for me. I’m going for 50 homers. I don’t know if it’s going to happen, but I will go for 50.”
Now, saying you’re going to hit 50 home runs is one thing, but doing it is another. However, a healthy Suarez is going to be one of the best power hitters in MLB, and if there are runners on base ahead of him, look for him to reach the 100 RBI plateau for a third time.
Even with his above average 110 OPS+, Joey Votto appears to be on the decline, with three straight seasons of mediocre (for Votto) production. The fan favorite, however, will remain your Opening Day first baseman. According to Steamer projections, he will continue to be offensively valuable in 2021, with a .257/.374/.437 slash line.
Nick Senzel will possibly be the most exciting player to watch for the Reds. He ranks #16 overall in the MLB in sprint speed, with a blazing 29.3 ft/s. Senzel will be your starting 2021 center fielder. His offensive production should increase as he becomes more comfortable playing at the Major League level.
LF, Jesse Winker .255/.388/.544
1B, Joey Votto .226/.354/.446
3B, Eugenio Suarez .202/.312/.470
RF, Nick Castellanos .225/.298/.486
2B, Mike Moustakas .230/.331/.468
CF, Nick Senzel .186/.247/.357
C, Tucker Barnhart .204/.291/.388
SS, Jose Garcia .194/.206/.194
P, Sonny Gray
Tyler Naquin (OF), Kyle Farmer (C/UTIL), Max Schrock (UTIL), Shogo Akiyama (OF), Aristides Aquino (OF).
Cincinnati Reds Pitching
The rotation was the strongest part of the Redlegs’ 2020 campaign, with four of five starters possessing an ERA below 4. The loss of Trevor Bauer was an enormous hit to the starting five, and there are two starter positions open. It is hard to project who may win these positions, but the best bet would be Wade Miley (5.65 ERA) and Tejay Antone (2.80 ERA).
Luis Castillo will be your Opening Day starter, and likely the ace of the club. His 2020 campaign showed again that Castillo is one of the most devastating pitchers currently in the game. With his signature wipeout changeup, look for him to build upon the success of 2020 and come into 2021 ready to compete for a Cy Young Award.
Potential Starting Rotation
Luis Castillo (RHP)
Sonny Gray (RHP)
Tyler Mahle (RHP)
Wade Miley (LHP)
Tejay Antone (RHP)
Cincinnati Reds Bullpen
Sean Doolittle (LHP), Amir Garrett (LHP), Michael Lorenzen (RHP), Lucas Sims (RHP), and Jeff Hoffman (RHP).
These arms should counter any weakness that might hinder the starting rotation.
Sean Doolittle has been one of the top closers in MLB for the last 4 years, recording 78 saves from 2017-19. A subpar 2020 provided Doolittle the opportunity to test the waters of free agency, and the Reds signed him on February 8th just a few days before Spring Training began.
During Spring Training, Doolittle and Amir Garrett will compete for the Reds’ closer job, and we expect this battle to continue into the season. Amir Garrett will likely win this fight, as he is younger by 6 years, and possesses a certain fire that is required in all closers.
This should be an exciting year for all fans in the National League Central division, as the title is currently a toss up between four teams. The Cincinnati Reds are the dark horse candidate to win the division, but it’s not out of their reach. If Suarez follows through on his promise to hit 50 homers, Senzel breaks out and becomes a regular, and Castillo continues as a top pitcher, then the path to that title could become clear.
The Cincinnati Reds Opening Day record, since their inception in 1881, is 67-71-1. Since 2010 their record is 6-5. They open the season at home versus the division-favorite St. Louis Cardinals, with a three game set spanning April 1-4. At the opposite end of the schedule, however, they close the season with a three game set at PNC Park against the division hacky-sack Pittsburgh Pirates.
Alternative Fantasy Baseball
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