In recent years, many teams have had success selling off at the deadline to bolster the farm system. Think of the success the Yankees had selling off McCann, Chapman, Miller and Beltran to completely turn around their farm system. With that said, most non-contending teams should use this precious time before the deadline to at least think about selling off assets to build for the future.
However, there is one non-contending team that I would argue is not nearly as far away from contention as one might think. The Cincinnati Reds. At 46-58, this team is a far cry from a Big Red Machine, but upon closer review there is a lot to be optimistic about with this team.
Here’s a hot take on the Cincinatti Reds –
In 2019 – The Reds will be the best offense in the National League. And here’s why:
When you’re talking about the Reds offense, there’s only one place to start and that’s Joey Votto. At 34, Votto is on the back nine of his career but still has a ton of productivity left in his bat. Additionally, Votto’s profile at the plate should age well with his renowned plate discipline and otherworldly ability to get on base. Since 2014 – Votto has posted the following wRC+ each season 128, 174, 159, 165, 133, meaning on average he is about 50% more effective than the MLB average hitter at creating runs for his team. Granted, there has been a drop off in Votto’s power this season (9HR, .144ISO) following 2017 where he finished with 36 homers and a .258 isolated power. Regardless, we’ve seen Votto post absurd second half numbers in previous years – and there’s no reason to believe this season will be any different.
If someone is going to challenge Votto’s throne as the King of Cincinnati, it’ll be Venezuelan native Eugenio Suarez. The 27 year old third baseman showed promise in 2017 slashing .260/.367/.461 with a 117wRC+, but has taken it to a new MVP caliber level this season with a .305/.389/.588 and a 156wRC+. With stars like Harper and Bryant having down/injury riddled seasons, a strong case can be made for Suarez as the NL’s most valuable player this season. The tandem of Votto and Suarez is devastating for opposing pitchers and one of the most formidable 1-2 punches in the league.
For one, Scooter has one of the best names in baseball – but aside from that he has been a top three second baseman in all of baseball over the past two seasons in terms of wRC+, trailing only Altuve and Jose Ramirez. Though he grades out as average in terms of defensive metrics, that type of production from a second baseman gives the Reds a real advantage at the position almost every night. An All-Star for the first time this season, Gennett is on an extremely team-friendly contract making just 5.7M this season and will become a free agent following the 2019 season. Gennett is one of the major names being floated around in Reds’ trade rumors this season, but if Cincinnati management can hold onto him, Gennett should be part of the next great Reds team.
While Gennett, Votto and Suarez garner most of the attention around Reds’ offense, it is Jesse Winker who I believe truly makes the offense a dynamic threat going forward. Winker, 24 was having an extremely solid rookie season before a shoulder injury recently cost him the remainder of 2018. A top 100 prospect coming into the season, Winker has long been thought of as a patient hitter with great bat-to-ball skills with the potential to make an impact at the top of the Reds’ order. When Winker went down with the injury, he was slashing .299/.405/.431 which is certainly nothing to sneeze at. But when you look closer at the numbers, Winker begins to closely resemble his teammate – Joey Votto.
3 Impressive Stats about Jesse Winker
- After a sluggish start, Winker is only hitting .362/.465/.554 with 6 homers since the start of June.
- Winker has a 14.7% BB rate (12th in MLB)
- Winker is one of seven players in the MLB walking more than he strikes out. The others, Andrelton Simmons, Jose Ramirez, Carlos Santana, Joey Votto, Alex Bregman, Mike Trout. Not bad company.
With all that said, when J-Wink returns from his injury, he’ll be the perfect option to bat atop the Reds’ lineup and score a million runs in front of Votto and Suarez.
The Reds’ are definitely going to score LOTS of runs with this offense. That’s without even mentioning Scott Schebler (120 wRC+) or Nick Senzel – the #4 prospect in all of baseball who was knocking on the door of the MLB before a season ending injury. With this team, the only question mark will be their pitching.
I’ll admit the Reds’ pitching staff is not good (4.80ERA, 4.87FIP). But there are some things that are encouraging about these arms going forward. Luis Castillo was expected to take a step forward this year following a strong second half in 2017, that has not happened. Instead, his velocity has dropped by about 2mph on average and his ERA has ballooned to over 5.00 because he can’t stop giving up homeruns. His walk rate has decreased from 8.9% to a miniscule 7.7% – while his strikeout rate has also dropped from about 27% to around 21% this season. This would seem to coincide with Castillo’s drop in velocity, but his swing and miss rate has actually ticked up this year from 12.6% to 14% this year. With increased SwStr% and decreased K-rate, the only explanation is that Castillo is generating his swings and misses early in the count instead of with two strikes, which I would think would normalize. Additionally, his 1.57HR/9 is unsustainable, and should regress back to somewhere closer to 1.00HR/9. With his devastating changeup and strong swing and miss profile (6th in MLB in SwStr%) I expect him to bounce back and have an excellent 2019.
Note: SwStr% usually pretty good indicator of success – only names ahead of Castillo include Cole, Corbin, deGrom, Sale, Scherzer.
To go along with Castillo, the Reds have the makings of a really good bullpen. Raisel Iglesias, Amir Garrett and Jared Hughes produce a ton of strikeouts which is exactly what you want at the end of ballgames, and are more than adequate to serve as 7th, 8th and 9th inning stoppers.
Despite a strong bullpen, the Reds will desperately need to add a reliable starting pitcher before the start of next season. There are a few names that they should take a look at this offseason, including JA Happ, Charlie Morton, Patrick Corbin. All three of these arms provide lots of strikeouts, which means less opportunity for balls to leave hitter friendly Great American Ballpark. One of these arms, in addition to another reliable bullpen arm like Kelvin Herrera, Ryan Madson or Jeurys Familia and the Reds are a contender next year.
In conclusion, the Reds have played better since the beginning of June (26-22). Votto is having a down year, and Luis Castillo will be better. Shout it from the rooftops, the Big Red Machine will rise again.