There are things I’m good at. One of those things is convincing myself the Reds will be better. So, today, I thought it wouldn’t be the worst thing to talk about the best-case scenario for 2018. Except I don’t really like best-case scenarios. They’re outlandish. I’m more a fan of the 80th percentile or so. So I’m gonna do that instead. And here’s what I think:

Possible Lineup 1:

  1. Jesse Winker, RF – 3.5 WAR
  2. Nick Senzel, 2B – 4.0 WAR
  3. Joey Votto, 1B – 6.5 WAR
  4. Eugenio Suarez, 3B – 4.5 WAR
  5. Adam Duvall and/or Scott Schebler, LF – 2.5 WAR
  6. Tucker Barnhart/Devin Mesoraco, C – 3.5 WAR
  7. Jose Peraza, SS – 2.0 WAR
  8. Billy Hamilton, CF – 3.5 WAR

Possible Lineup 2:

  1. Jesse Winker, RF – 3.5 WAR
  2. Nick Senzel, 3B – 4.0 WAR
  3. Joey Votto, 1B – 6.5 WAR
  4. Eugenio Suarez, SS – 4.5 WAR
  5. Adam Duvall and/or Scott Schebler, LF – 2.5 WAR
  6. Tucker Barnhart/Devin Mesoraco, C – 3.5 WAR
  7. Scooter Gennett and/or Alex Blandino, 2B – 3.0 WAR
  8. Billy Hamilton, CF – 3.5 WAR

Either lineup would be excellent. I think the first is MUCH more likely, but if Suarez can play an adequate short, it would improve the offensive potential significantly. (No, Alex Blandino cannot play short, trust me.) Anyway, the point is that the Reds have the potential to be average or better everywhere on the diamond positionally. The top half of that lineup is VERY dangerous. Especially if Nick Senzel fulfills his potential and wins Rookie of the Year.

The Rotation:

  1. Free Agent – 5.0 WAR
  2. Homer Bailey – 3.0 WAR
  3. Luis Castillo – 4.0 WAR
  4. Tyler Mahle – 3.0 WAR
  5. Sal Romano and/or Robert Stephenson – 2.0 WAR

Yes, yes, I know in the best case scenario, Disco is there. But this isn’t the best case. It’s the 80th percentile (or something) and he’s pitched 123 innings in the last two years. I just can’t make myself believe. You can sub Finnegan in there somewhere if you want, but at this point, these guys have arguments just as strong as his and they weren’t hurt all year. Either way, this is a very good rotation where Homer is his old self and the Reds make a big signing and the young guys all grow into themselves just like you’d want. It’s probably less likely than the lineup scenario, but none of the individual projections is ridiculous.

They’re only optimistic. And again, the Reds are average or better everywhere here. in 2017, there are only four starting pitchers with 4.0 WAR or better according to FanGraphs and only 34 who are 3.0 or better.  For the Reds to then have four such pitchers, well, that’d be one of the best staffs in the league.


The team outlined above stuns everyone and wins the Central going away. What do I think will really happen? I think the lineup will be solid. Certainly upper-half. Possibly one of the 4 or 5 best in the league depending on how the infield shakes out. I think the rotation will settle in around average with at least one young guy really stepping up and making a case to be a truly elite starter. I do think the Reds sign someone, but I have no idea who. I just know this rotation needs a stabilizer because, while the sorting is more or less complete there will, certainly, be some bumps yet.

Overall? I think they’ll actually contend for the wildcard. And no, I’m not kidding. If the Central is mediocre again next year, the Reds might have a shot at the division, too. We mostly know who can play now and who can’t. Now we get to see what they can do and how much ownership is willing to invest to get them over the top.

56 Responses

  1. Scott Carter

    Hope springs eternal within the human breast…. You have convinced me.

  2. Kap

    Good article Jason. I just don’t think they will sign a top of the rotation free agent. Signing Yu Darvish or even Alex Cobb will more than likely be out of the Reds price range. Doesn’t mean that they will not trade for one however. With their farm system and getting another top 10 pick next year, they have the resources to trade for Stroman, Archer, or Fulmer. You’re correct in saying that it is up to the front office to make this happen.

    Otherwise, the lineup looks very solid. Just have to hope the rotation can keep them in games long enough to win

  3. tim

    did mahle, romano, and stevenson fare well against any good teams this year? or did they just dominate the likes of the pirates and mets? watching them pitch against the cardinals and red sox – contenders – this past week was not encouraging.

    • Jason Linden

      Well, Mahle only had 4 starts, so you really have to judge him by his minor league numbers.

      As for the others. I dunno. Everyone pitches worse against the good teams. That’s why they’re good. Worry about the overall numbers, they’ll tell a more accurate story than a start here and there.

      • Jason Linden

        Random aside, but this kind of thing always makes me thing about RISP numbers. Over a career, players will generally be about 5% better with RISP. Why? Because your more likely to come to bat with RISP if you’re facing a bad pitcher. And, obviously, you’ll tend to do better against bad pitchers than good ones.

      • Scott Carter

        That is an interesting thought and I think that would mostly prove true. I say mostly because from the seventh inning on a batter is just as likely to face a back of the bullpen pitcher, if runners get on in scoring position, particularly in the ninth inning. (It would be interesting to see that stat (hitting with RISP in the ninth) My position is that good hitters get on base over 30% of the time regardless of runners on base or not.

      • Patrick Jeter

        Also a few other prevailing thoughts as to why:

        1) The first baseman holding the runner on allows more singles through the right side

        2) Some pitchers are less effective from the stretch

        3) Zone rate tends to go up when men are on base, more strikes to hit

      • lwblogger2

        These all make sense, especially #2

  4. Jim Walker

    Way long on Mahle, like maybe 130 percentile positive. Yes, he could make your projection; but, he could just as easily have the same sort of issues as BobSteve, Reed, or Garrett have had after being highly touted.

    Four MLB starts with the numbers Mahle has put up just is not enough to project him this high. His FIP (4.00) and particularly xFIP (5.78) suggest he has been somewhat to very lucky. The only way we will find out is as he gets more reps.

    • JB WV

      Yeah, Mahle should start at AAA regardless of ST unless everyone else projected falls on their face. It’s good to have available quality down there anyway, and if he continues his stellar pitching there it won’t take long to bring him up. Stephens can join him down there, and probably Garrett, and maybe Cody Reed depending on who goes to the pen. I have a hard time considering Rookie a bona fide prospect; not yet anyway. His control needs a lot of work.

    • Jason Linden

      I disagree. His minor league peripherals are much better than Stephenson, Reed, or Garrett. He’s never had any serious control issues. The little bumps with the Reds are, I assume, rookie hiccups. His progression has been been better than any other pitching prospect in the organization except for maybe Castillo.

      • Old-school

        Mahle has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues….Romano really doesn’t either…give both the ball every 5 th day and see what they do for 12-15 starts. Or trade one as part of a package for your top tier guy.

      • Jim Walker

        I’m not saying Mahle needs to be consigned to AAA to prove anything. If he comes into camp and pitches his way past the competition into the rotation that’s where he should be, just like Garrett was to start 2017. Then what happens, happens.

        He pitched just short of 165 innings this season, the most he has pitched in any professional season to date. To make 3.0 WAR he is likely going to need 190-200 innings at a consistent quality level. Does he have that in him in his age 23 season? Should the team expect it from him? Castillo is nearly 2 years older than Mahle. I think at their respective ages that makes a huge difference in projecting their WAR across a season.

      • Da bear

        More important than total WAR is WAR efficiency. I’d rather have another 170 innings of Mahle plus 30 innings of whoever the next AA stud is than 200 innings of say a Homer Bailey or Feldman type.

        Kershaw missed time, Wood missed time, Hill missed time…..lets expect few starters to pitch a whole season without issues and relish having the depth that appears to exist.

        The starting staff shouldn’t be seen as consisting of only 5 starters. The Dodgers pitching staff prior to September expansions consisted of 7 or 8 starters each of whom would be a top 3 starter on the Reds (including 5 who would be ‘aces’).

  5. Old-school

    I like it.
    Judging by Bryan Price’s comments today that Jesse Winker may not even make the 25 man roster out of spring training in 2018….as the other 3 outfielders didn’t lose their starting position….you.might want to rerun the numbers with Hamilton 1.2 WAR at the leadoff.

    • Jason Linden

      Bryan Price doesn’t set the roster. Also, there are things you say because they’re true and things you say because you know the players are listening.

    • lwblogger2

      I agree with what Jason said but still, that wasn’t what I wanted to hear from Price about Winker. What does the guy have to do to impress him? If I was his agent, I’d be talking to Williams about my guy wanting out and laying out the case for why he’s a starting corner OF.

    • Jim Walker

      Perhaps this is evidence of the org continuing to cling to the pitching, speed, and defense model for building a team?

      I also agree with LW’s point about audience and would include among the listeners other teams the Reds might be looking to off load an outfielder to, especially one who runs well, plays great defense, but is an offensive lost cause.

      • old-school

        JIm, I think you hit the nail on the head. Pitching, speed and defense. Not that I don’t agree with the first.

        WJ didn’t retire. He simply got away from the 24/7/365 part of the job to take on a “special adviser” role. He is part of the executive FO team. Bryan Price wouldn’t say that about Winker unless he knew he had the support from WJ and BC.

        Without Peraza grabbing the SS role this year, I expect they will make a run at Cozart. They value defense and for that reason Suarez is staying put- just as BP did at 2b a decade ago when Felipe Lopez was traded. Hamilton will start in CF and bat leadoff and Duvall will start in LF and hit 4-6. Suarez will stay at third. Winker will be traded with a young starter and another prospect for a controllable pitcher.

        2018 lineup:

        Hamilton 1.5 WAR
        Cozart 3 WAR
        Votto 5 WAR
        Duvall 1.7 WAR
        Suarez 3 WAR
        Gennett 2 WAR
        Schebler 1.6 WAR
        Barnhart 2 WAR
        Ervin 4th outfielder 1 WAR
        Senzel- stay in AAA.

        New Pitcher 2.5 WAR
        Bailey 1.5 WAR
        Castillo 3 WAR
        Finnegan 1.0 WAR
        Disco 0.3 WAR
        Mahle/Romano/Stephenson- 1 traded, other 2 combine for 1 WAR

      • Sliotar

        I rounded up Old School’s totals slightly and came up with 31 Wins Above Replacement.

        48 is the standard replacement level for wins (I believe), so that would put the Reds at 79-83 in 2018.

        That feels about right, that the ceiling for this club is .500, if Price manages the same as this year, and especially if Winker is traded. (Yikes) (Sad emoji)

        If all that plays out, the real fun in Reds Country would begin, seeing if Dick Williams retained Price after a 5th straight non-winning season, under the guise of “we’re turning the corner.”

  6. Louis Cook

    I’ll take any lineup that doesn’t include Peraza.

    • KDJ

      I don’t think the team can afford to have nine at bats from Peraza and Hamilton in a game.

  7. lwblogger2

    Are you sure that rotation isn’t 95th percentile? There is a top-tier, super all-star ace, a guy who would be a #1 on most staffs sitting at #2, two guys who would be #1s on some teams and #2 on many others, and even the worst guy is a solid #3 starter (league average)… Did I say 95th percentile? I think I meant 98th percentile.

    • Jason Linden

      Yeah, it probably is more like 95th or something. Really, it’s all about health. That’s what kills most rotations.

      • lwblogger2

        That’s certainly true. I’d love to see 180 IP out of Homer. If he can be a solid #3 kind of starter again, I’d call it a win for the Reds.

    • Sliotar


      I don’t know if this is supposed to be taken seriously at all, or if it’s just, “Hey, another stinky year is finishing, but here is a dream for the off-season.”

      The starting pitching projections are….ambitious, to say the least. Besides putting a bunch of raw kids at or near the top of their profession, all next year….where is this mythical 5 WAR free agent pitcher at?

      Darvish and Arrieta aren’t 5 WAR, and the Reds are not paying $30 million per for 4-5 years to get them.

      Even if the Reds could spare the farm assets for Chris Archer (they can’t), he isn’t 5 WAR this year, and Tropicana Field is much more pitcher friendly than GABP.

      • Sliotar

        There are reasons why the Twins are about to be the first team in MLB history to lose 100 games one season, and make the playoffs the next.

        To think that the Reds in 2018 will be the second to do so feels highly, highly unrealistic.

      • Sliotar

        Not that the Reds lost 100 games this year (though it feels like it), but that the turnaround in one season would rank in the Top 10 or 15 all-time.

        It’s very difficult to get the NFL-style turnover, where a bunch of new teams make the playoffs each year, in MLB.

  8. Sean

    You assume Price can resist the urge to bat Hamilton lead off. I don’t think he can do that.

  9. IndyRedMan

    Personally, I’d be happy with a couple of affordable young pitchers that add depth like lefties Blake Snell and Matthew Boyd. Find one guy (preferably LH?) that can make the rotation and one that can help in the pen. They have enough talented arms to fill it the rest of the pitching staff. The free agent list scares me? Darvish has a ton of mileage? Maybe Lance Lynn, but he’s in his 30s already as well? We should’ve went all out for Sonny Gray!

    The offense should be top 10 in runs scored…no excuses. Price shouldn’t even be able to screw that up!

    • james garrett

      No way they score a lot of runs if Billy,Peraza,and Tucker get 400 at bats or more.Throw in the pitcher and its 4 guys with no power and 3 don’t get on base.Can’t hide that many guys in a line up regardless even if the others hit a bunch of homers and have a high obp.Nothing against these guys at all its just what happened this year.Line up 2 scores a bunch of runs because Winker and Senzel have got on base at a high rate

      • IndyRedMan

        I can’t see how both Billy and Peraza play a lot next year? Senzel, Suarez, and Scooter are all far superior to Peraza offensively. They have to play those 3 unless they trade someone? Billy will probably play, but hopefully the heat will come down on Price enough on Billy that he’ll drop him to 9th? Winker just had 6-7 starts with 6-7 runs scored. What else do they want? I can’t take another year of this stupidity. I won’t! Another year of watching other teams fans celebrate wins at gabp. No…not doing it.

      • james garrett

        I hope you are right Indy.I just fear it won’t happen.I mean unless he is hurt Winker should be playing these last 6 games.

      • lwblogger2

        Don’t you know? Winker apparently hasn’t even done enough to show that he belongs on the 25-man in 2018. I get perhaps the powers that be wanting to keep him hungry for the show over the off-season and into spring training, but what’s coming out of Price’s mouth is confusing the crap out of me. If I’m the GM, I’m looking to move one of my corner OF.

  10. larry

    Good article Jason. I’m a little higher on Romano than you are, but concur on Mahle, Bailey and Cstillo. If bob/steve is up to it, we may not need to get another starter, barring injury. And maybe Lopez, Disco or Finnagan make it back to health…I’m optimistic.about the pitching. I’m not convinced Price will bat hamilton at the bottom of the line up (ideal), and I fear he won’t start Winker for130 games.

  11. CI3J

    I would be much more hopeful for 2018 if the Reds actually had a forward-thinking manager.

    • brunsfam

      This is exactly correct. You want to turn the corner?.. then you must have a new leader. We’ve proven that mediocrity is attainable – now let’s get a Manager that knows how to win!

  12. AJ Gatewood

    I know a few others made this point, but what makes you think Price will do anything but bat Hamilton and Peraza 1, 2?

  13. Steven Ross

    You really think Price is going to bat Winker leadoff? Not a chance.

  14. Scott Carter

    Winker not in starting lineup again today.

    • Grand Salami

      And delivers a 2 out PH solo shot in the 8th to make up a run the bullpen gave away the previous inning. Leads all Reds OF in OPS by nearly 100 points.

      If he is traded, then I am buying 100 Walt jockeys bobbleheads on eBay and burning them in effigy. If he doesn’t start next year then they are Bryan Price bobbleheads.

  15. Abdul

    Get rid of peraza and insert gennett.

  16. Tom

    Is the avoidance of super-2 status calculated in the Senzel WAR?

    Also, I’d like to see a 4-5 guy rotation in the OF to maximize recovery time for Duvall and Hamilton while getting plenty of at-bats for Winker and even Ervin. I think Hamilton’s impact can be maximized with selection of when he plays or enters games. A great punt returner can change a football game but they don’t play every down. If a closer is a specialized pitching position, maybe Billy is the the opener – to be used in circumstances that maximize the havoc he creates and the defense he possesses while minimizing the impact of his propensity to make outs.

    Man, if Peraza is your primary infield sub, that’s not the worst situation. I really like a Votto, Gennett, Suarez, and Senzel IF.

  17. TR

    Hope springs eternal, but I doubt Bryan Price will make Winker the regular right fielder and bat him leadoff and put Hamilton, if he’s still around, in the 8th. spot. Also I doubt the FO will make a move to get an established starting pitcher to stabilize the rotation by trade or free agency. For those reasons and the unclear perspective on the starting rotation, I think the Reds will struggle in 2018 to reach .500.

  18. james garrett

    Call me nutty but I am not really worried so much about the starting pitching unless we have a bunch of injuries again.League average performance gets the Reds a bunch of wins if the offense is tweeked some.Cozy is gone for sure but we can’t just put Peraza in that spot and go with the same starters as we did in 2017 and I fear that is exactly what will happen.Billy and Peraza hit 1 and 2 and Votto commits suicide and the year is lost.Bob and crew support Price 100% and he will do just exactly what he wants to do and my money is on him doing it.

  19. KDJ

    What are the odds that the Reds sign a second tier pitcher who has never spent a day on the DL, but in his second start gets injured and is out for the season?

    • Patrick Jeter

      Or, he is injured before throwing a single pitch, a la Ryan Madson.

  20. Grand Salami

    Re-sign Coz for this run. You have the payroll, he’s earned it and your elevation of Senzel to start the year seems very very optimistic.

    • Grand Salami

      Oh and ‘earned it’ sounds like past tense perspective but that wasn’t the intent.

      Coz has earned it by developing a new approach at the plate and becoming a hitter I’ve never seen before. Anyone have the stat on pitches seen in season? This year alone may be more than 12 and 13 combined when he played all season for both.

  21. WVRedlegs

    If anyone saw Reds GM Dick Williams on the pre-game show before Sunday’s game, I think the GM might have his sights on Cozart and Gennett returning for 2018. I just don’t think he is going to let Cozart walk, and I have a hard time believing he will trade Gennett now. Position player-wise, I now believe he will try to keep the band together for 2018 and possibly 2019.
    Williams’s term he used about the pitching was he was looking to “augment” the starting rotation. A free agent did not sound likely. A trade is looking more likely. You could just tell in Williams’s voice, he wants better starting pitching to go with this Reds offense. And he sounds like he will go get it. It also sounded like a little regret in his voice for not doing something earlier this year about the starting pitching.

      • lwblogger2

        Yes, because apparently that extra money that the Reds are supposedly willing to spend on payroll doesn’t exits. I mean if they are so tight on budget that they front-loaded Barnhart’s contract so they could have the less than $2-million of payroll flexibility it provides in 2019 (vs 2018) then I don’t see there being much money really there.

  22. nicolecushing

    When there’s no hell to pay for losing, a team will continue to lose.

    The Reds have gotten into the mindset of thinking that their performance over the last three years has been acceptable. (Their words may say otherwise, but their deeds–or lack thereof–show that this is the case.)

    The team will continue sucking for several more years. Best hope is an eventual change of ownership.

    Hate to be Debbie Downer, but I think there are a load of intangible / sports psychology factors at play with the organization. I hope I’m wrong.

    • brunsfam

      I hope you are wrong also, but the facts/actions seem to align with your first sentence. I’m envious as I see the full stands in Cleveland, KC & Milwaukee. Even the White Sox announcers are hopeful regarding their manager and young players.

      I do not have the same sense of optimism regarding the Reds organization. I do not feel the Reds organization is leading in terms of any aspect of the game (advance scouting, advanced metrics, can-win attitude, personnel decisions, player development, minor league teaching, trade execution, coach/manager succession planning, etc.) It appears to this fan that we are a reactive, small-market organization with less room for error.

      Look at SL. There stands are full and they put a quality team on the field year after year. They part ways with their superstars, plug the holes and keep competing. In Saint Louis they expect a winner – the pressure is constant and is good! What does SL have that Cincinnati does not have? Management and a fan base that demands a winner!

      It’s been 40 years since the Reds were a championship caliber organization that expected to win. Now we are a bottom 6 franchise in wins and attendance. And we’re OK retaining the manager of a team that has finished last in the NL Central three years running.

  23. Carl Sayre

    I find a lot to like about your first lineup!!!!! The problem is I find a lot to dislike about your first lineup also!!!!! I like the fact that you.found a way to allow Duvall and Schebler to be part of it because their BATS work well in GABP!!!!!! I think Saurez has matured enough that he can handle playing SS now!!!!! He has had the tools since he came to the Reds! I DO NOT think that Peraza will ever to justify play defense well enough to!!!!!!!!!!!