The World Series is happening and, correspondingly, I found myself looking at the rosters of the competing teams recently while pining for the Reds teams of a few years ago. The Cubs, of course, are a juggernaut, but I’ll admit that I hadn’t paid much attention to Cleveland this year. Their roster struck me because it shows us something similar to what we should all be hoping for if the rebuild goes how it’s supposed to go.
Consider the offensive side:
A simplified version of Cleveland’s offense goes like this: It has four legit contributors in the forms of Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis, Jose Ramirez, and Carlos Santana (who would play first full time for an NL team). After that, it’s some decent, but flawed players and a complete disaster at catcher (Cleveland catchers “generated” -0.8 WAR in 2016). Their bench is the most ordinary bench you can imagine.
The Reds, of course, already have Joey Votto and he can be counted on to be in the contributor column for a few years. Billy Hamilton, too (think of Hamilton as a poor man’s Lindor and Votto as a rich man’s Santana). After that, everything the Reds have is a notch below what Cleveland has.
But Cleveland has spent a few years graduating players and the Reds are about to do that, too. Nick Senzel will be a contributor soon. That’s three. And then you’ve got the scrum in the middle infield and corner outfield spots that should produce something close to league average within a few years. Catcher is also a weak spot for the Reds, but they aren’t as poorly equipped as Cleveland.
N0w, about that pitching:
They have an ace in Corey Kluber and then a whole bunch of guys who were pretty good. It reminds me a lot of the recent run of Reds teams, where the Reds seemed to put a number 3 starter on the mound every night except for when Johnny Cueto was pitching (Reds fans did not understand how lucky they were to have Mike Leake as their number five starter).
Right now, the Reds only have Anthony DeSclafani and he feels like a number two or three to me. They need someone to reach his full potential (my money’s on Amir Garrett) and three or four other guys to become reliable. This does not feel unreasonable.
My point isn’t that the Reds are going to be in the series next year. Rather, Cleveland provides a reasonable scenario to hope for. When Cleveland was bad, their offense was okay and their pitching was terrible. Then, things came along. It was a bit up and down as different players had to mature, but the process happened. What we see with Cleveland is not how things will go for the Reds, but how they could go. It’s the best case scenario.