2018 Season Preview: Cincinnati Reds

This piece is part of the Replacement Level 2018 Team Preview Series. An introduction to the series, as well as a brief explanation of the projections used, can be found here.

2017 Review

Record

Pythag Record

BaseRuns Record

Runs Scored

Runs Against

68-94

70-92

72-90

753

869

With a third-straight last-place finish in 2017, and five years since their last playoff appearance, there is a stronger sense of urgency in Cincinnati to make good on the slow bleed of talent. But, in a division that already boasts two of the majors’ best young teams in the Cubs and Cardinals, plus an up-and-coming franchise in Milwaukee, it may be difficult to find an opening for a club whose best assets are still a few years away.

Offseason in Review:

Key Additions – David Hernandez, Kyle Crockett

A team without significant aspirations of contention in 2018 has unsurprisingly stayed quiet through the slow offseason, handing out only one MLB contract to Hernandez. He was rather forgettable from 2013-16, losing the 2014 season due to Tommy John, but has thrown 50+ innings in seven of nine big league seasons and was completely dominant in 2017 before a mid-season trade back to Arizona. Left-handed Crockett was claimed off waivers, normally not a notable transaction, but features a surprisingly good sinker/slider combo that could make him an effective and desirable low-cost addition.

Key Losses – Zack Cozart, Scott Feldman

Nearly all of the Reds’ 2017 squad is under contract for at least one more season, which could be taken one of two ways. Feldman finished second on the team in innings at 111, which is more significant than it sounds for a very young staff that ended up bottom-2 in ERA, FIP, and WAR. Former solid-regular Cozart blew up in 2017, doubling his career mark for wins in a single season; unfortunately, the Reds were unable to find a trade partner at the deadline and no qualifying offer means that door is closed.

2018 Projections

ZiPS

Steamer

Pecota

 70-92

74-88

74-88

No significant deviations are expected in Cincinnati, as the best they can really hope for, given the likely quality of play in the Central, is marginal improvement . With top prospects starting to arrive, a successful season for the Reds won’t necessarily be decided by their record. Instead, they’ll look to put themselves into the conversation for surprise contender in 2019 and solid threat by 2020.

Key Players:

It’s shocking we’ve gone all this time without talking about franchise icon Joey Votto, but here we are. Votto’s contract is certainly movable despite his age and defensive limitations, as he’s quietly one of the best hitters in the majors year in and year out, though the Reds don’t seem at all interested in cashing in that value. Relief ace Raisel Iglesias led the squad in pitching WAR and should definitely be on the move, hopefully returning far more talent than fellow Cuban Aroldis Chapman. Speaking of that highly questionable pitching staff, it will be led by Luis Castillo, coming off 90 very strong innings in 2017, who possesses the latent to do much more than eat innings.

Key Minor League 2018 Impacts:

The Reds will need some explosions from the upper minors, and the driest powder comes from third baseman Nick Senzel, generally considered a top ten overall prospect and fresh off a huge debut season. Jesse Winker’s 2017 MLB debut featured far more power than he’s shown in the past, though his high-contact profile may still let him be an average regular in left field if the homers don’t stick. At some point, Cincinnati will need someone to pitch, and Tyler Mahle is likely more an innings-eating mid-rotation starter than the ace Castillo could be.

Future Outlook:

More than anything, the Reds are hard to trust. Trades of quality players including Johnny Cueto, Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman, and Brandon Phillips netted relatively little. Top prospects Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed, Billy Hamilton, Brandon Finnegan, Amir Garrett, and Phil Ervin haven’t panned out; a trend that largely continued in 2017. In a highly competitive NL Central, against teams with deep pockets and well-regarded systems, it will be difficult for the Reds to find an opening in the next few years.

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