The Reds have won fewer than 70 games in three straight seasons. They’ve only made the playoffs three times over the last 22 years. Cincinnati last won the World Series in 1990.
Their failure remains on the pitching side of the game. Last year the Reds allowed 869 runs, which was 15 more than 2016 (854) and 280 more than their last playoff season in 2013. Cinci finished 29th in the majors in ERA (5.17) and 27th in bullpen ERA (4.65).
The Reds’ offense improved in each of the last four years. They scored 753 runs (15th) in 2017 with 219 home runs (12th).
In the offseason, Cincinnati lost SS Zack Cozart, P Scott Feldman, and RP Drew Storen to free agency. The Reds signed RB David Hernandez and RP Jared Hughes for bullpen depth.
The starting rotation has more risk than reward while the bullpen has a chance to be competitive in the late innings. The Reds don’t have enough talent to make a run at the playoffs. Their offense will need a couple of young players to show growth to ranks in the top half of the league in power and runs.
All in all, 2018 is just another rebuilding season for Cincinnati.
1. OF Billy Hamilton
Hamilton continues to be one of the best speed outs in the game. He has over 55 steals in each of the last four seasons in the majors while offering more upside if/when Billy is able to play a full season. It’s just crazy looking at his minor league career where he stole 155 bags in 2012 and 396 in 2,026 at-bats. Hamilton still strikes out (21.0 percent) too much for his skill set with a below-par walk rate (7.0). His CTBA (.321) offer very little upside in batting average without putting more balls in play. He has a weak RBI rate (12) and no chance of breaking out in power based on his low average hit rate (1.354). Last season Billy struggled against lefties (.210 BAA). Almost half of his production in RBI (17) and SBs (28) came over the first two months of the season. For the fourth straight season, Hamilton let down Fantasy owners in September (2014 – 65 at-bats, 2015 – 23 at-bats, 2016 – 9 at-bats, and 2016 – 50 at-bats). In his career, he had these steal totals by month (38, 41, 47, 44, 47, and 26). HIs HR/FB rate (3.0) remains in a Judy-like area. One stop shopping for steals with runs being the other category of value. Just a .255 hitter with a chance at 100+ runs and 75+ SBs with 600+ at-bats.
2. 3B Eugenio Suarez
Suarez finished with above league average stats in runs (87), HRs (26), and RBI (82) in 2017 while showing growth in his walk rate (13.3). His K rate (23.3) was a career best while still grading below the league average (20.3). Eugenio had a rebound in his CTBA (.359) while remaining a drag in batting average (.260). Suarez played well over his first 31 games of the season (.327 with 23 runs, seven HRs, 22 RBI, and one SB over 110 at-bats). He struggled from that point on until the All-Star break (.211 with five HRs, 22 RBI, and two SBs in 185 at-bats). Over the second half of season, Eugenio hit .268 with 40 runs., 14 HRs, and 38 RBI over 239 at-bats. His swing was slightly better against LH pitching (.276 with six HRs and 19 RBI over 127 at-bats). He finished with a career-high HR/FB rate (17.9). With Nick Senzel almost ready to push his way to the majors, Suarez could be shifted back to short forcing Jose Peraza into a super utility role. Nice steady bat who has some batting average risk while owning an 80/20/80/10 type skill set.
3. 1B Joey Votto
Votto led the NL in walks (134) for the fifth time in his career leading to the highest on-base percentage (.454) in the NL for the six-time over eight years. Joey had the lowest K rate (11.7) of his career while continuing to have an elite walk rate (19.0). Votto had a career-high average hit rate (1.804), but he did have a step back in his CTBA (.376 – .415 in 2016 and .417 in 2015) despite maintaining a high batting average (.320). Joey crushed RH pitching (.331 with 26 HRs and 72 RBI over 405 at-bats) with a high level of success vs. lefties (.292 with ten HRs and 28 RBI over 154 at-bats). His HR/FB rate (19.7) was slightly below his last two years (21.6 and 22.0). His step forward in HRs (36) was helped by his highest fly ball rate (38.0) since 2009 (39.3). A great player with the best approach in the game. Votto’s huge walk total does take away from his chances to hit home runs. Joey had an elite RBI rate (18 percent in 2016) only once over the last six seasons. Nice foundation batting average bat who will score over 100 runs. I can’t see much more than 30 HRs and 100 RBI with regression expected in his fly ball rate.
4. OF Adam Duvall
Duvall had almost identical seasons in HRs (33 and 31) and RBI (103 and 99) over the last two years. Hidden behind his RBI total was one of the best RBI chances (490) in the game. Adam had 114 more RBI chances than 2016 (376), but he had a huge drop down in his RBI rate (14 – a loss of five percentage points). His AVH (1.932) and CTBA (0.350) fell in line with his recent resume. Duvall shaved off a few strikeouts (26.3 percent K rate) with more regression in his walk rate (6.0). His swing had more value vs. LH pitching (.279 with ten HRs and 25 RBI over 140 at-bats). Adam played his best ball over his first 49 games (.271 with 14 HRs and 45 RBI) while fading badly over the last two months of the year (.216 with eight HRs and 27 RBI over 199 at-bats). Duvall has a fly ball swing (48.6 percent in 2017 and 47.3 in his career), but his HR/FB rate (14.9) was lower than 2016 (17.9). With two strong seasons on his resume with power, he should maintain his full time starting job. If Adam comes out of the gate slowly, it may create a better opportunity for Jesse Winkler. The upside of 40+ HRs and 120 RBI with a rebound in his HR/FB rate and RBI rate.
5. 2B Scotter Gennett
Gennett entered 2017 as a role player with the Reds. He only had 98 at-bats over the first two months, which led to minimal production (.296 with three HRs and 18 RBI). A four-home run game on June 6th cleared the way for a great run over the last 95 games of the season (.303 with 66 runs, 24 HRs, and 77 RBI over 350 at-bats). A fortunate Fantasy owner could have used his hit finished to cover a Trea Turner or Carlos Correa injury over the summer. Scooter still struggles with lefties (.248 BAA), but he did have four HRs and 20 RBI over 109 at-bats. His bat was very good against RH pitching (.310 with 23 HRs and 77 RBI over 352 at-bats). His K rate (22.9) was a career high while still having a short walk rate (6.0). Gennett nearly doubled his 2016 HR/FB rate (10.5 – 20.8 in 2017) with only a slight uptick in his fly ball rate (37.6 – 34.3 in his career). His average hit rate (1.801) was well above his previous resume. Also, Scooter has a spike in his CTBA (.392). Over his career in the majors, Scooter only hit .208 against lefties with six HRs and 35 RBI. Almost all of his HRs (six) and RBI (34) against LH pitching came over 2016 and 2017. His lack of resume does make him a tough player to trust. I’d set his bar at .280 with 15 HRs and 75 RBI and hope he doesn’t hit his way into a platoon role.
6. OF Scott Schebler
Schebler had a nice jump in his average hit rate (2.082), which was supported by his minor league resume. His CTBA (.316) was below his best season in the minors while finishing with a weak RBI rate (12). Both his K rate (23.5) and walk rate (7.3) came in below the league average. Scott offered the most power in April and May (16 HRs and 30 RBI over 181 at-bats). After the All-Star break, Scott hit only .197 with eight HRs and 22 RBI over 178 at-bats while missing about three weeks in August with a left shoulder injury. His power is inviting, but Schebler only hit .215 against righties (24 HRs and 49 RBI over 339 at-bats). Over 134 at-bats vs. LH pitching, he only had one walk and 30 Ks, but Scott still showed power (six HRs and 18 RBI). Schebler finished with his highest HR/FB rate (22.4) of any season in the minors. I trust that he has a 30+ home run skill set with some underlying speed (62 SBs over 2,523 at-bats in the minors. With 500+ at-bats, Scott has the makings of a .250 hitter with 80+ runs, 30+ HRs, 80+ RBI, and a chance at double-digit steals.
7. C Tucker Barnhart
With Devin Mesoraco failing to stay healthy over the last three seasons, Barnhart looks to be in line to have the starting catching job for the Reds in 2018. He has a weak minor league resume (.260 with 13 HRs and 170 RBI over 14.24 at-bats), but he made some strides in his game in the majors over the last two seasons. HIs walk rate (9.9) was a career while delivering his lowest K rate (16.1) of his career. Tucker showed growth in both his average hit rate (1.490) and CTBA (.331) in 2016 and 2017. After the All-Star break, Barnhart hit .268 with five HRs and 31 RBI. This success projected over 450 at-bats would have been 12 HRs and 76 RBI. His swing path leads to a low fly ball rate (27.8) and a weak HR/FB rate (8.3). Low-grade C2 in deep leagues with a chance at 10+ HRs and 50+ RBI with a season-long starting job.
8. SS Jose Peraza
Peraza ended up being a Fantasy bust in 2017. He had the best opportunity of his career in the majors (487 at-bats), but his batting average (.259) and steals (23) fell well below expectations. His CTBA (.302) was fell back from his success in the majors in 2016 (.375) while coming in at his lowest output over the last five seasons. Jose has a fading average hit rate (1.254). His walk rate (3.9) barely has a pulse while being tough to strikeout (13.5 percent). The Reds gave him starting at-bats (193) in April and May leading to one HR, 16 RBI, and 14 SBs. The hot bat of Scooter Gennett pushed him into a declining opportunity (99, 75, 67, and 53 at-bats per month) over the last four months of the seasons. Over six seasons in the minors, Peraza hit .299 with 11 HRs, 204 RBI, and 220 SBs in 2,127 at-bats. Bottom of the order type hitter with 50+ SB upside. His batting average should have a correction in 2018 while still offering z negative value in home runs and RBI. Possible .285+ with 65+ runs, 5+ HRs, 45+ RBI and 35+ SBs.
OF Jesse Winkler
I have mixed emotions about the chances of Jesse Winkler earning an everyday starting job in the majors in 2018. His approach (K rate – 13.2 and walk rate – 12.2) has been very good at AAA over the last two seasons. If you add in a .308 batting average, Jesse has the feel of a top of the order hitter. The downside is his lack of speed (22 SBs over 2,062 at-bats in the minors) and fading power at AAA (five HRs over 679 at-bats). His swing was more impressive in 2014 at High A (.317 with 13 HRs, 49 RBI, and five SBs over 205 at-bats suggesting 25+ HRs in the majors. With the Reds last season, Winkler had a slight step back in his approach (K rate – 17.5 and walk rate – 11.0) while flashing power (seven HRs in 105 at-bats) over the last two months of the season. Jesse is a former first-round draft pick (2012 – 49th) with a major league approach. His swing looks ready to be a part of the starting lineup with the Reds, but too many empty power nights will hurt his chance of being a productive Fantasy option this year. Late round flier where a Fantasy owner buys his average with the hopes of hitting on a breakout season in power.
3B Nick Senzel
Senzel was the second overall pick in the 2016 MLB June Amateur Draft. Over his two short seasons in the minors, he hit .315 with 21 HRs, 105 RBI, and 32 SBs over 698 at-bats. Last year Nick played about a half of a season at AA (.340 with 10 HRs, 34 RBI, and five SBs in 209 at-bats. His CTBA was above .390 in each level while owning a better than league average K rate (18.9). Senzel also has strength in his walk rate (10.9) potentially giving his a two-hitter opportunity in the majors. His best asset going forward will be his approach at the plate followed by sneaky speed at third base. Nick has an average hit rate of about 1.629 in the minors, which paints him as 15 HR guy early in his career with the Reds. This season he’ll start at AAA with a June call-up to the major being a likely outcome. There is no one blocking him at the major league level with Eugenio Suarez being an option to switch to shortstop. A nice steady player who will offer value in runs, batting average, and SBs early in his major league career.
Devin Mesoraco C) – Mesoraco has been downgraded to a backup catching option after missing 391 games over the last three seasons. His latest injury was a broken left foot after being hit by a pitch last August. Since his big year in 2014 (25 HRs and 80 RBI over 384 at-bats), Devin hit .191 with six HR and 17 RBI over 236 at-bats. He’s only 29, so Mesoraco could still produce a playable season if he stays healthy. Late gamble at C2 in a deep league where there is no downside if he fails.
Dilson Herrera (IF) – Dilson will compete for a utility infield role on the Reds in 2018. Over three seasons at AAA, Herrera hit .289 with 33 HRs, 156 RBI, and 22 SBs over 989 at-bats. Both his walk rate (7.4) and K rate (18.9) are close to the league average. Last year Dilson missed half of the year with bone chips in his right shoulder that required surgery. He has a 15/10 type skill set if ever given a starting job in the majors.
Phillip Ervin (OF) – Phillip has a flashy skill set over his five seasons in the minors. He only hit .251 in 1,908 at-bats, but Ervin hit 50 HRs while stealing 137 bases. Over 470 at-bats at AA in his career, Phillip hit .238 with 15 HRs 53 RBI, and 40 SBs while improving at AAA in 2017 (.256 with seven HRs, 40 RBI, and 23 SBs over 363 at-bats. Viable cover for Billy Hamilton.
1. SP Luis Castillo
Castillo had an interesting path to the majors. Over his first three seasons in the minors, he made 94 appearances as a reliever leading to a 2.67 ERA, 147 Ks, and 32 saves over 141.1 innings. In 2015, Miami moved him into the starting rotation at Single-A where his game started to emerge (2.98 ERA and 63 Ks over 63.1 innings). After handling AA in 2017 (2.69 ERA and 81 Ks over 80.1 innings), Cinci called him up to the majors. Luis packed an elite fastball (97.9) plus two edge secondary pitches (changeup – .124 BAA and slider – .091 BAA). Most of his mistakes (nine HRs) came off his four-seam fastball (.250 BAA). His walk rate (3.2) is a bit too high while being a step back from his minor league resume (2.4). Real short resume, but his arm is developing into an ace especially with more growth in his command. Last season Castillo pitched 169.1 innings between AA and the majors, so he shouldn’t be on an innings limit in 2018. Luis should win double-digit games with a sub 3.50 ERA and a chance at 200+ Ks.
2. SP Anthony DeSclafani
Anthony developed a bum right elbow in early March leading to a season-long battle. The Reds gave him a platelet-rich plasma injection at the end of March, but DeSclafani was only able to toss 6.2 bad innings (14.85 ERA) in the minors. His issue was with a UCL strain, which points to possible TJ surgery. Headed in 2017 had this profile, DeSclafani started 2016 on the DL with a bad oblique injury leading to ten missed weeks. He allowed three runs or fewer in his first eight starts (2.50 ERA) and 15 of his first 17 starts (2.93 ERA). Anthony lost his command (eight walks over 16 innings) over his last three starts of the year. In those games, he had two disaster outings (nine runs and 18 baserunners over ten innings). On the year, DeSclafani has a winning walk rate (2.2) while his K rate (7.7) is trending upward. His arm still has plenty of risk against lefties (.303 with 11 HRs over 254 at-bats) while doing a nice job vs. RH batters (.206). His AFB (93.9) was a career high. Batters struggled to hit his secondary pitches (changeup – .188 BAA, slider – .202 BAA, and curveball – .215 BAA). His downside in HRs came against his four-seam fastball (seven HRs over 94 at-bats – .372 BAA) and his sinker (eight HRs over 190 at-bats – .268 BAA). Over four seasons in the minors, Anthony had a 26-17 record with a 3.30 ERA and 323 Ks over 376.1 innings. He adjusted the grip of his curveball before 2016 leading to more swings and misses. Risk/reward player with his spring training news being the key to his draft value.
3. SP Brandon Finnegan
There wasn’t a lot to Finnegan’s 2017 season. He pitched great in his first start (seven shutout innings with one walk and nine Ks). Brandon lost his command in his next two outing (eight walks over three innings) before landing on the DL for a couple of months with a left lat strain. In his fourth appearance of the year in late June, Finnegan left after three innings (three runs and seven baserunners) with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He ended up having shoulder and on both shoulders in July. Brandon is expected to be fully healthy heading into 2018. Here’s a look at his profile going into 2017:
There is no doubt Finnegan is tough to hit (.236 BAA in 2016 and .231 in his career), but he walks way too many batters (4.4 per nine) with a ton of HRs allowed (29 over 172 innings). After wondering his way through May, June, and July (4.93 ERA). Brandon showed growth over the last two months of the season (2.47 ERA with 59 Ks over 54.2 innings), but he still walked 4.1 batters per nine innings. Finnegan offered more upside against LH pitching (.218 BAA). He allowed 27 of his 29 HRs to righties even with a respectable batting average against (.241). His AFB (92.8) was about league average. Batters rarely hit his changeup (.133 BAA) with a high level of success with his slider (.216 BAA). The key for him is better location with his sinker (.280 with 13 HRs allowed over 1069 at-bats). Over 32 games in the minors, Brandon went 0-10 with a 4.27 ERA and 88 Ks over 84.1 innings. His walk rate (4.3) was his downfall while his K rate (9.4) offers upside. Sneaky arm who needs to improve his strike-throwing ability. If he shaves off 15 to 20 walks over the same total of innings pitched in 2016 (172), Finnegan would see his K rate grow leading to a possible 3.25 ERA. His lack of elite fastball does limit his upside without a huge step forward in his command.
Not a bad gamble as a backend arm if his spring reports are positive. Finnegan is going to have plenty of WHIP risk early in his career.
4. SP Homer Bailey
There’s been a whole lot of ugly in Bailey’s pitching lines over the last three seasons (8-13 with a 6.39 ERA and 1.723 WHIP). After missing the first 11 weeks in 2017 with a right elbow injury (bone spurs) that required surgery in early February, Homer had two disaster starts (14 runs and 18 baserunners over 4.2 innings) in late June. Over the last three months of the season, he allowed three runs or fewer in ten of 16 starts. Unfortunately, when he was bad, Bailey crushed Fantasy teams (37 runs and 64 baserunners over 29 innings). His AFB (94.0) was below his best success in 2013 and 2014 (95.2). He still has a split-finger fastball (.203 BAA) of value, but he pitched behind in the count (4.2 walks per nine) led to a sharp decline in his K rate (6.6). Before having TJ surgery in 2015, Homer had a 4.17 ERA with the Reds over 998.2 innings with 829 Ks highlighted by his 2013 season (3.49 ERA and 199 Ks over 209 innings. With no issues heading into the 2018 season, Bailey has a chance to be much improved this year. Only a backend flier with a short leash if his spring training reports are positive. Early success could lead to a trade to a contender.
5. SP Tyler Mahle
Over five seasons in the minors, Mahle has a 43-28 record with a 2.85 ERA and 515 Ks over 558 innings. He pitched great at AA (7-3 with a 1.59 ERA and 97 Ks over 85 innings) and AAA (2.73 ERA with 51 Ks over 59.1 innings) earning him a call-up to the majors in 2017. His walk rate (1.9) in the minors was elite with a solid K rate (8.3). With the Reds, Tyler repeated his ERA (2.70) over four starts, but he walked 11 batters over 20 innings (5.0 per nine). His AFB (93.3) is about league average while throwing a slider (.091 BAA) with success over short innings in the majors. His changeup still needs development. Mahle is a fastball pitcher who will have some growing pains in the majors until his secondary stuff becomes more relevant. He should win a starting job out of spring training. I’d set his bar at 3.75 ERA with 150+ with over 175 innings pitched in the majors while understanding his arm has more upside.
6. SP Amir Garrett
Garrett made the Reds starting rotation out of spring training in 2017. He teased Fantasy owners with his early success over his first three starts (1.83 ERA and 21 Ks over 19.2 innings) highlighted by an explosive game on April 19th (two runs over seven innings with 12 Ks). It only took one start (nine runs and 12 baserunners over 3.1 innings) to ruin any early season gains. From April 24th to June 20th, Amir pitched his way out of the majors (10.24 ERA and .300 BAA) when he allowed an astounding 18 HRs over 38.2 innings. Garrett wasn’t much better in the minors (5.72 ERA) while struggling in his last four games of the season with the Reds (ten runs, 23 baserunners, and four home runs over 12.1 innings). Amir had a platelet-rich plasma injection in his hip over in the offseason, which was the reason for his poor year. In 2015 and 2016 in the minors, Garrett had a 2.49 ERA with 265 Ks over 285 innings. His command (3.6 walks per nine) has been an issue in the minors. He had a fastball that had win range of outcomes in 2017 in the majors (March – 93.4, April 92.0, May – 91.6, June -m 92.0, and September – 93.6). Batters crushed his four-seamer (.334 with 16 home runs over 186 at-bats) while his slider (.169 BAA) and changeup (.167 BAA) played well. The bottom line here is the command of his fastball in and out of the strike zone plus regained health. Amir has a lot to prove, but he does have upside when throwing strikes.
7. SP Robert Stephenson
Walks (4.1 per nine) have haunted Stephenson in his minor league career leading a losing record (34-43) and a relatively weak ERA (3.93). Despite failing to conquer AAA in his three chances (4.22 ERA and 216 Ks over 232.2 innings), the Reds gave Robert a chance to prove himself in the majors in 2017. As a reliever in April and May, he had a losing 8.03 ERA and .320 batting average against followed up by two poor starts in July (7.45 ERA and .316 BAA). Over the last two months of the season, Stephenson pitched with more confidence (2.50 ERA, .205 BAA, and 52 Ks over 50.1 innings), but he did still walk 28 batters (5.0 per nine). HIs AFB (94.2) is hittable (.309 BAA and ten HRs over 181 at-bats) while his slider (.140 BAA) and curveball (.167 BAA) graded favorably. Robert can’t be a viable major league arm long term without cleaning up his walks (5.6 per nine in 2017) and his HRs allowed (21 over 121.2 innings in his major league career). Could develop into a Fantasy relevant pitcher, but he has too much downside at this point in his career. At a minimum, Stephenson needs a walk rate under 3.5 to be a consideration.
CL Raisel Iglesias
Raisel did a nice job in his first season as the full time closer for the Reds. He converted 28 of his 30 chances. His lack of production in saves forced a Fantasy owner to find a third closing option to be competitive in saves. His arm has risk against lefties (.256 BAA) while issuing 20 of his 27 walks to them over 129 at-bats. Iglesias dominated RH batters (.163 BAA). Over his first 54 games, he had a 1.82 ERA and .193 BAA), but Raisel lost his way over his last nine games of the season (6.17 ERA). His AFB (96.5) was the best of his career while relying on an elite slider (.124 BAA) and serviceable changeup (.250 BAA). His next step will require him to shave off some walks (3.2 per nine) to sustain a low ERA. Live closing option, but his save chances will be at the mercy of a weak pitching staff in front of him. Let’s shoot for 35+ saves with a run at 100+ Ks and a sub 3.00 ERA.
RP David Hernandez
The Angels made a nice move in late April to acquire Hernandez from the Braves to help improve their bullpen depth. Over his first 44 games, David had a 2.01 ERA and 41 Ks over 40.1 innings. His arm started to lose value in mid-August with the Diamondbacks leading to rough finish to the year (6.14 ERA and .317 BAA). Hernandez was only about a league average pitchers against RH batters (.267 BAA) despite an elite BB: SO ratio (1:26). His stuff offered an edge against lefties (.200 BAA). His AFB (94.0) was a step lower than his previous seasons. David throws a winning curveball (.151 BAA) while batters handled his cutter (.286 BAA) and four-seam fastball (.264 BAA) at times. Possible improvement for Cinci’s bullpen, but Hernandez will still have some down days when he’s serving up home runs.
RP Michael Lorenzon
There were times in 2017 when Lorenzen looked like he was going to make a nice step forward. He struggled over his first nine games (6.00 ERA) before finding his rhythm over his next 17 contests (0.81 ERA, .177 BAA, and 17 Ks over 22.2 innings). His arm had too many down days over the last three and half months of the season (5.73 ERA) due to poor walk rate (4.1). Batters only hit .244 against him with about the same success against RH (.242 BAA) and LH (.246 BAA). His AFB (97.4) points to more upside. Lorenzen pitched well when using his sinker (.231 BAA), curveball (.200 BAA), and slider (.105 BAA), but his cutter (.351 BAA) was worthless. In 2016, Michael only walked 2.3 batters per nine leading a nice ERA (2.88) out of the bullpen. Last year he issued 3.7 walks per nine while maintaining his K rate (8.7). There’s upside here if/when he figures out how to throw more strikes. The Reds may give him a chance to win a starting job in spring training. Over four seasons in the minors, Lorenzen had a 2.77 ERA with 129 Ks in 188.2 innings. Worth a flier if his opportunity breaks toward a starting role.