It’s been a rough season for the Reds in terms of wins and losses, but that’s not how a rebuilding team is measured. If you’ve watched this team day in and day out, you’ve seen encouraging progress. Fans are always looking for something new, something they can find to hold onto the hope that one day it will make the team good again. There’s always something that fans can take away from a season, even if in the midst of a rebuild.
Here are four things we can take away from 2017:
1). Slap a C on his jersey–Joey Votto is the leader of the team and whether he wanted it or not, it seems he’s embraced that role. No one knows what goes on in the clubhouse behind the scenes, but if video highlights and media coverage are any indication, it’s clear Votto is the Reds’ leader. He’s the veteran on the team, and everyone wants to emulate his success.
He’s more of a Scott Rolen-esque leader, leading by example more than by talk (though again, we don’t know because we aren’t in the clubhouse every day). Many players talked highly of Rolen and his leadership, and Votto is the same way. Teammates look up to him. Eugenio Suarez has tried to imitate his approach at the plate, and I’m sure he’s not the only one. Every successful team needs a veteran presence, and for the Reds, it’s Votto.
2). Speaking of Suarez, we have learned this season that he is a star. With a 119 wRC+ and a 4.4 WAR (both career highs) in his breakout season, Suarez has proven he should be the third baseman of the near future. His defense has also drastically improved to the point that he might be considered for a Gold Glove if a guy named Nolan Arenado didn’t also play in the National League. Instead of Reds fans thinking Nick Senzel is the heir apparent at third, they’re wondering where Senzel will play when he makes his debut. It’s a good problem to have, and the Reds likely already have some kind of plan in place.
3). Barring any off-season trades, an outfield competition should happen next year. Jesse Winker is ready for the big leagues. In 127 plate appearances, he’s hitting .292/.370/.531 with an OPS of .901, 20 runs scored, 33 hits, seven home runs, 14 RBI, and 14 walks. Even when he comes off the bench, he’s performed well, with five hits in 15 at-bats, including two home runs. Given Adam Duvall and Scott Schebler’s second-half slides and Billy Hamilton’s inability to consistently get on base, Winker should get the opportunity to compete for a roster spot. But again, it’s a good problem when a team has multiple options.
4). Injuries suck, and the Reds have been no stranger to them. No team will ever be able to prevent injuries, but it seems like the Reds have had more than most the past couple of years. It puts the rebuild behind schedule when key players like Devin Mesoraco and Anthony DeSclafani miss large chunks of the season for multiple years. While they aren’t up-and-coming players, they are still key parts to the Reds’ future, given their past success.
While injuries give more opportunities for younger players to prove their worth, when a team is trying to win, it wants the best players on the field. Those best players might not be the rookies. When young players are injured, like Brandon Finnegan or Amir Garrett and Rookie Davis at Triple-A, it can prolong the rebuild because the young players aren’t getting the experience they need. Injuries can’t be predicted, so it’s frustrating for fans to wait longer than they’d like for a winning team.
After another 90-loss season that saw huge gains from many players, this off-season will be one of the more interesting ones, as GM Dick Williams and the front office mull over possibilities, such as trading high on Scooter Gennett or keeping him for next year in hopes he’ll continue the success. However, there’s much more optimism this time than a year ago. The Reds are trending in the right direction, and it will be exciting to see what next season brings.
Don’t you think?