This week’s respondents are Chad Dotson, Matt Habel, Steve Mancuso, Clay Marshall and Tom Mitsoff.

Our Daily Reds Obsession: Which Reds position player will we be talking about at the end of 2018 as being the biggest positive surprise? 

Chad: Jesse Winker. Winker has done enough to earn a starting spot in the big leagues in 2018, and I see no reason why he shouldn’t receive regular playing time. There will be ups and downs — there always are for young players — but the 24-year old Winker is poised to make a run at the National League Rookie of the Year award in 2018. In 137 plate appearances this season, Winker’s first taste of big league pitching, all he did was hit .298/.375/.529 with 7 home runs.

We’re talking about a guy with a career minor league on-base percentage of .398. He may never be a star, but I see Winker as a safe bet to be an above-average hitter in the major leagues for a long, long time. I’ll take that.

Matt: Scott Schebler had a good 2017 despite his shoulder injury that really affected his performance in the second half. With a first half wRC+ of 117, he was on pace for significant improvement over his 2016 campaign. I think the drop in performance has rightfully put his future with the club in question, but in my opinion he should be given the benefit of the doubt. At 27 years old, if he can come back in 2018 and maintain that first half level of offense for a full season and maybe even improve a bit, I think he definitely becomes a core piece for the team.

Steve: Jesse Winker and Scott Schebler are solid answers, but it’s hard to figure what the Reds will do with outfield playing time. If either of them get 600 plate appearances, they’ll be a big positive bat. I’m going to say Joey Votto. Votto had perhaps his best all around season in 2017. He drastically reduced his strikeouts and further reduced his already low number of pitches swung at that were out of the strike zone. He hit with power and for average. He led the league in on-base percentage. At age 33, every one of his offensive metrics was better than his own career average and he started all 162 games. I don’t expect Votto to slow down in 2018 and at the end of the season we’ll be talking about what a great year he had – continuing to surprise us in his mid-30s.

Clay: Although it’s hard to say such a thing of someone who conked 30 home runs, I think Scott Schebler still has untapped potential. His 2017 numbers were marred by a shoulder injury, but once he recovered, I found myself wishing that Adam Duvall — whose second consecutive second-half swoon was dizzying — would ride the bench for the rest of the season so that Schebler, Jesse Winker and a platoon of Billy Hamilton and Phillip Ervin could see things through. If Hamilton is traded, Schebler likely becomes the Reds’ centerfielder, and although he won’t make as many highlight reel-worthy plays, I’m guessing his defense will be better than anyone expects.

Tom: The biggest offensive surprise in 2018 will be Jose Peraza. In his rookie year, 2016, Peraza batted .324 with a .352 on-base percentage in 72 games. This year, he began the season as the everyday second baseman, and experienced what many young players do after the league has seen them a few times – pitchers learned how to get him out. He had a bad first half by comparison: .254 with little power and only five walks in 323 at-bats. Peraza worked with hitting coach Don Long on his stance and approach at the plate, and improved to .268 with 15 walks after the All-Star break. I would like to pick Jesse Winker for this, but I just don’t know if Dick Williams is going to create a place for him to play by trading one of the incumbent outfielders.

42 Responses

  1. Ethan L

    Winker…if Price let’s him play.

    • David

      And really, that’s a big “if”. Price is kind of stubborn like that.

      • Ethan L

        We need to move someone or else I feel that Winker will appear on milk cartons in mid April.

  2. David

    Either the biggest surprise or the biggest bust: Devin Mesoraco.

    We know what he is capable of doing when physically sound. If he can avoid injuries, etc. he may put up 30 hr. Which is why it is now ok to trade Duvall, who is a great guy, but may get the Reds something else they need more.
    Winker can take over left field.

    Offensive surprise for 2018
    1) Devin Mesoraco
    2) Phil Ervin
    3) Jose Peraza
    4) Dilson Herrera

    Winker and Schebler doing well for 2018 would not constitute a “surprise” to me.

    I don’t really think Peraza will show much improvement, and I have my doubts as to how much Herrera can even play or hit, after shoulder surgery.

    • Colorado Red

      Do not think Devin will get much playing time at catcher.
      Tucker has really started to look good.

  3. Shchi Cossack

    I agree that Winker and Schebler could have outstanding seasons in 2018, IF they get 600+ PA with Price managing the lineup. Since the OF situation is completely unresolved as we head into the 2017-2018 off season (congrats to the Stros!), my pick for the biggest positive surprise is another big IF. If DW signs Cozart, he will reward the Reds with fully healthy quads, a fully healthy knee and the experience to properly manage his playing time to play at peak performance. Cozart starts 120 games at SS and contributes another 20 games as a pinch hitter and defensive replacement. He’s a finalist for the NL gold glove at SS and contributes a second consecutive 5.0 WAR season. He also wins the 2018 Joey Votto award for the player best refuting the age-regression performance falloff, presented by none other than Joey Votto himself in an on-field ceremony prior to the NL wildcard playin game hosted at GABP.

  4. Reaganspad

    I agree with the old Cossack

    I see donkeys

  5. cfd3000

    2017 was a pretty good year for the Reds offense, and yet we don’t know who will play every day anywhere except 1B and 3B, and there’s even a small chance that Suarez slides to SS. I find that distressing. For that reason there ARE a lot of IF’s. So I’ll answer by saying the entire offense will surprise the league. Barnhart/Mes, Votto, Gennett/Senzel, Cozart/Peraza (or the new guy), Suarez, Winker/Duvall, Hamilton/Ervin (or the new guy), and Schebler will be a monster offense, especially if it doesn’t include Peraza and/or Hamilton. I’m hoping to be surprised by the makeup of the starting eight – Peraza, Hamilton, Duvall out and Winker, Senzel and a new SS and CF in. Votto will drive in 120 for those guys, and five guys could score 90+ runs each. Not a prediction but at least a possibility.

  6. TR

    Winker, if the GM tells Price to make him a regular.

  7. scottya

    If Scooter is traded and Peraza plays SS. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say Dilson Herrera. His career minor league ops is over 800 and it’s sink or swim for him this season with the Reds. He gets healthy and ops over 800 with slightly plus defense resulting in a 3 win season.

    • lwblogger2

      Not likely to happen but I really like it! Bold! I also think Herrara can hit. Just a matter of playing time and if the shoulder actually heals properly.

  8. WVRedlegs

    Going to go out on a limb and say it will be the Reds new CF, AJ Pollack. Pollack returns to form and hits .315/.385/.475 from the leadoff spot and 2nd spot. Pollack, a RH hitter, has a career BA vs. LH pitchers of .288 and vs. RH pitchers .286. That will do with he and Winker alternating in the 1 and 2 spots in the lineup ahead of Mr. Votto.

    • doofus

      I like the outside the box thinking.

  9. Sandman

    This is unrelated to this article. A little while back (like, maybe, a couple of weeks ago…perhaps) I believe it was Mr. Dotson told me to go read the Sports Illustrated article about the Houston Astros and how they are doing things in their front office. Side Note: one thing the article didn’t answer for me (if I read the right one…which I believe I did) was why SI predicted that the Astros would win the WS this year. What did this particular writer see in what the Astros were doing that made him/her confidant enough to make that claim/prediction. No matter which way you slice it that kind of prediction takes supreme confidence and big cahones (lol).

    But the biggest question I have is for Chad or any of the Redlegnation writers who might have the most information about what the Reds are attempting (whoever’s most equipped to answer the question as best they can…I guess). Here it is: Are the Reds doing anything close to what the Astros are doing? I believe I remember hearing something from last year after the stupid Cubs won the WS about how the Reds were kinda following the Cubs model. (Or at the very least it was suggested that the reds should follow the cubs model…but I think it was the first one). So are the Reds following the Cubs model, Astros model or their own model. I realize they can’t follow the Cubs and/or Astros model exactly bcuz I think one or both of those teams may be in larger markets. I could be wrong I suppose. But…what are the reds doing?

    There was one thing I got from the article though that I didn’t expect…and that’s how fragile pitchers are. Pitching seems to be the most fragile position in baseball. That would make sense bcuz I believe I read something awhile back that said that the human arm wasn’t designed to twist and contort like they have to on some pitches…or something to that effect. Anyways, I digress.

    • IndyRedMan

      Houston has almost all homegrown talent except for Verlander. That’s the model that everyone wants….draft great young potential that actually pan out in the major leagues. Prob is most teams don’t lose 100 games multiple times in a row and then watch nearly all their top kids become stars like Altuve, Correa, Springer, etc.

      The Cubs aren’t even close to that! Rizzo was already there and Bryant is the only other young star at this point. Their other youngsters could develop, but not like Houston’s monsters! Plus their pitching is all getting old….Arrieta is prob gone.

      • Colorado Red

        The cubs have a lot of money to spend. Houston also now has a good amount.
        Reds do not. That is one major difference.

    • doofus

      They’re following the “Red’s” model, whatever that is.

    • Matt WI

      I dunno. The Reds seem like they only went half-in on the Astros or Cubs style, but was is more glaringly missing is a true commitment toward and targeting of players with some OBP. Outside of high hopes for Senzel to rake… the Reds don’t have a Correa, Altuve, or Kris Bryant waiting in the wings. Losing doesn’t help if you don’t have good talent evaluation.

      • earmbrister

        Matt, I generally agree with you, but the whole Astros style vs the Reds being “half in” got me curious. The Astros were bad YEARS before the Reds were bad. Specifically, Houston:

        2011 – lost 106 games
        2012 – lost 107 games
        2013 – lost 111 games (yes they only won 51 games that year)
        2014 – lost 92 games

        In response, the Astros talent evaluation yielded the following:

        2012 – Drafted 1st overall – Correa (HR)
        2013 – Drafted 1st overall – Mark Appel (K) (mixed results, then shoulder problems)
        2014 – Drafted 1st overall – Brady Aiken (backwards K) (unsigned, elbow problems)
        2015 – Drafted 5th overall – Kyle Tucker (Triple/HR – AA – Top Prospect)

        So, the Astros drafted 1st overall 3 straight years, and struck out 2x’s. With the 5th overall pick in the 4th year, the Astros got a top prospect, but it being a 2015 pick, time will tell.

        ** Altuve – was an undrafted FA in 2007. Initially cut by Houston, but then signed for a $ 15k bonus

        The Reds:

        2015 – lost 98 games
        2016 – lost 94 games
        2017 – lost 94 games

        Their drafts have yielded:

        2016 – Drafted 2nd overall – Nick Senzel (Triple/HR – AA – Top Prospect)
        2017 – Drafted 2nd overall – Hunter Greene (TBD – but throws 100 mph, certainly better than Aiken)
        2018 – Drafting 5th overall – ???

        If you ask me, the Reds have done a better job of drafting (yes, at the top, where it generally matters) compared to the Astros (those Astros 2013 and 2014 picks really hurt). Of course, with the Reds’ drafts being VERY recent, no one has made the MLB roster yet, and thus can’t be truly graded.

        In regards to the OBP concern, the Reds have the following draftees that have demonstrated a strong batting approach:

        Jesse Winker (2012)
        Nick Senzel (2016)
        Hunter Greene (2017) – we’ll never know, lol
        Taylor Trammell (2016)
        Tyler Stephenson (2015)
        Shed Long (2013)
        Jeter Downs (2017)
        Stuart Fairchild (2017)

        I’d contend that the jury is still out on the Reds’ rebuild, mainly because it’s 4 years later than the Astros’ rebuild. Meanwhile, the recent prospects that the Reds have targeted, largely have had a strong OBP However, it compares favorably to the Astros’ rebuild.

    • lwblogger2

      “What are the Reds doing?” That’s the $1,000,000 question Sandman and I gotta tell you, that from where I’m sitting, I can’t figure it out. I thought I knew what they were doing with the rebuild but honestly, the 2017 season pretty much confused the heck out of me. I don’t think they are following the Cubs or Astros models. Near as I can tell, maybe they are trying the Royals model. That’s pretty much a blind guess though. I’m not even really 100% sure who’s running the show. You’d have to think Williams is, but is he really? He talks about having Walt Jocketty’s years of experience as a voice and I’ve gotta wonder just how much of an influence Walt Jocketty still is on the organization? I wish I had an answer for you Sandman, I really do. Unfortunately, in this case, I think your guess is as good as anybody’s here.

  10. JB WV

    I won’t say Winker because it won’t be a surprise. His plate approach is ML caliber and he seems fully healthy now, so I expect him to do well (playing time considered). Peraza will move to short and become a pain for opposing pitchers hitting seventh or eighth, hitting the ball with authority and continuing to improve his plate discipline.

  11. Sandman

    I do want to say one more thing though that I meant to include in my previous comment. I didn’t want the Astros to win the WS. I’m not entirely sure why but I think it had something to do with how they were built.

    It took me a couple of weeks to get around to reading the article bcuz I wasn’t sure if I wanted to. See, ever since I got on Twitter a little while ago and I started to follow relegation the very first thing I remember about RLN is how every one of the writers was railing against the “old” way of doing things in baseball and how every one of them was praising Sabermetrics and/or Analytics and how it was the way of the future. Change, progress, etc.

    For some reason this didn’t sit right with me. I had never even heard of sabermetrics/analytics before following RLN, so when I get on here and I read all this stuff, it was like a giant slap in the face. For some reason, I identified with the old way of doing things in baseball. Tradition! The old ways produced champions but I suppose that could be chalked up as it having to produce a champion bcuz, otherwise, what would be the point?

    As much as I hate to admit this, I have come around on SOME things in Sabermetrics/Analytics but not all. Not sure if I’ll ever come fully around about this. Guess I still wanna hold onto the old ways. I think the biggest reason for this was seeing how Roberts managed some of his SP’s for the LAD in the WS. There was at least 2 instances that I noticed where he pulled his SP after only 4 innings even though they were still effective and doing good. In both instances the cameras showed the pitchers in the dugout after being pulled and they…were…not…happy, AT ALL! Downright ticked! And I agree with the pitchers there. Why on earth would you pull your starter after only 4 innings if he was still doing good or even great? After the first incident I noticed, the announcer specifically said, “managing by analytics!”, with a hint of, “this could be a problem” and/or “this isn’t right” in his voice as he said it. I can understand if your starter is struggling through 4 innings and you pull him. But not if he’s doing well. That’s playing to the situation, playing matchup and I care nothing for it. What does it matter the matchup if your SP is mowing people down anyway? It almost seems as if the mgr doesn’t trust his starter in that situation even if the starter’s still effective.

    But that’s just my opinion. I know some of you will likely disagree. To each his own I guess. Sayonara for now.

    • Ethan L

      I totally agree with your take on yanking starters too early. I don’t know if those are analytical moves. I’ve heard here on RLN that it takes 800 ABs for batting average (one indicator of offense) to stabilize. I think “matchups” are silly and the above reason is one supporting argument. Also, the lefty/lefty thing is so annoying and overrated IMO. I call what Dave Roberts did micromanaging. It’s making a move for the sake of making a move.

    • WVRedlegs

      I come from the old school. It wasn’t easy getting used to the new analytics. But they are more helpful in many ways.
      It really shouldn’t be old vs. new, though. That is the mistake many make. The new analytics should be viewed as old + new = more information for better player evaluations. Those that say RBI’s are a useless stat are dead wrong. But to use mostly RBI’s and maybe HR’s to evaluate hitters is also dead wrong. Once you become more comfortable with the new analytic stats you will find a happy medium between the two. You don’t have to know the formula for figuring out the new stats, but understanding what the numbers mean goes a long way to accepting the newer analytics. My goal next year is to learn more about the O-swing% and Z-swing% numbers.

      • Sandman

        WVRedlegs, I agree with what you said. But sometimes I like to figure things out for myself but some of the formulas are situation specific and others are just too complicated for me so I’m forced to just accept them at face value.

    • JREIS

      I feel sabermetrics/analytics or the “new way” is basically a system that allows the small market teams to compete, albeit periodically, with the larger market clubs.

      it is one way, but not the only way. which frustrates the heck out of me. the age of sabermetrics basically began in the mid 1990s and guess what , the reds have not won a playoff series since the mid 1990s. in fact we have only had a handful of winning seasons since then.

      and the reds have had our share of players that are a sabermetric’s dream, including Votto and Dunn but it hasn’t translated into a lot of success. it is even more frustrating because we have more sabermetric dream players as our top prospects including Senzel and WinkER. Guys that can get on base, hit for some power but not much else.

      the wise guys of the Reds media say 2019 will be the year our analytics will catch up with the rest of the league and we will compete again but my old fashion eye test tells me different. I Feel we can compete again but we have to start getting more athletic. our best teams in our history have always been athletic and fast as hell. we had 168, 210, 166 stolen bases in our last 3 world championship years. if we trade billy we will be lucky to crack 50 next year.

      yes times have changed. the 3 run homer is king In baseball now and speedy players are as common as a 2 dollar bill now but still, I feel it is worth at least exploring other ways to try to win.

      • Sandman

        JREIS, it’s my understanding that as part of this current rebuild the reds were gonna sink some money into creating or upgrading their analytics department. More so than ever before. So, even if Analytics has been around since the mid ’90s, it would appear that the Reds cared little about it until now. That would explain the handful of winning seasons from 1990 on. Another thing I heard at the start of this rebuild is that this rebuild was the start of a new direction that would virtually eliminate the need for future rebuilds. I don’t suppose it’s possible for a team (let alone a small market team) to completely eliminate having to rebuild. But the talk was about sustaining competitive play once this new direction takes hold (if it takes hold). I suppose we’ll just have to trust it even if it doesn’t ever seem like it’s going to end.

    • lwblogger2

      I join Ethan in agreeing with you on pulling starters early. It’s crazy in my opinion. Look, a pitcher, any pitcher, is prone to being “on his game”, “off his game but getting by”, or “off his game and really struggling”. Taking a guy out, who doesn’t seem to be struggling to get by but in fact seems to be fairly dominant, and putting in another pitcher just because the analytic data suggest that the 3rd time through the order the pitcher is “more likely” to struggle is a bad, bad idea. What should you do there if you are a manager? You leave the guy in there who’s getting guys out and not seeming to struggle, having to work out of big jams to get through innings. You look for signs of him actually struggling as you have someone getting loose in the bullpen. You don’t necessarily have that bullpen arm getting hot but you have him loosening so he can get properly warmed up for a quick change. It’s easy, very easy, to stall for warmup time in the post-season after all.

      As for why I feel this way, as mentioned, any pitcher can be on/so-so/off on a given day. When removing a pitcher who seems “on his game” for another pitcher, you run the risk of putting a guy in who isn’t “on his game”. Analytic data doesn’t take that variable into account when looked at in a vacuum. It only is able to suggest an outcome that is more likely… Does that make sense to people?

  12. Preach

    I’m going to say Scooter. I dont think his numbers in 2017 were a one time thing, and it will come as a suprise to many when he has outstanding numbers in 2018.

    I rank Peraza as a close second, and he might have been first however I think the presence of Scooter will limit some of his playing time. Peraza has a high ceiling, IMO, and is due to break out. As his OBP climbs his speed will increase his value.

    • IndyRedMan

      Scooter…yes! Throw him in the mix w/Winker and Suarez. I don’t see it w/Peraza? Todays game is home run derby and obp….which isn’t his game? I’ll be hugely disappointed (but not surprised) if they carry Billy and Jose in the lineup again?

  13. JREIS

    call me crazy but I think Billy Hamilton is going to have a big year. I think he ditches the switch hitting gig and just focuses on batting from the left side. I expect him to continue to improve especially if we have winker hitting behind him. I feel he will get a lot of good pitches to hit this year. expect him to hit about .275 this year.

  14. redsfan06

    Does Senzel count? If he is called up whenever the Super 2 date passes, I expect him to be a solid contributor to the line-up.

    • Redleggingfordayz

      I second this thought actually. Winker is my close second place.

  15. IndyRedMan

    I guess it just really depends on what your expectations are? I’m guessing Senzel will have a little bit of a learning curve. For all the hype around Andrew Benintendi…his ops was .776. I’ll guess .800 for Senzel. Suarez was .828….how about .875? Geno’s eye is great but his swing is still long. I’m going to say .828 might be around the limit for now? Winker…maybe .850? Scooter was at .874 and most RLN members want him traded or think it was a fluke? Would a .850 campaign surprise people? Not me. I think he can pull that off if Price would limit his atbats vs lefties. Winker would seem to have the highest ceiling with the surprising power he showed, but he barely faced any lefties? Is he going fulltime? This is a tough riddle to solve?

  16. bouwills

    Adam Duvall, just because everyone else expects him to be traded or benched. He surprised positively in 2016, he surprised positively in 2017. Guess what?

  17. Shchi Cossack

    With Upton staying with the LAA, the trade market for Duvall and/or Schebler just got a boost.

  18. old-school

    If we are talking positive surprise candidates , I will channel horse racing and pick a good 25-1 long shot, since Joey Votto is a 3-5 favorite and Winker is 3-1 and Schebler 5-2 and Gennett is entrenched at 2b now and just claimed the 30-1 longshot winning ticket for 2017.

    Dilson Herrera.

  19. CI3J

    I agree with Tom (and a few other posters on here): Peraza is set for a huge step forward in 2018 if he’s given the chance. He just finished his age 24 season, and as some observed, he went through a minor “sophmore slump” in the first half of the season. Things seemed to start to come together for him in the second half, and right around that time Price decided to bench him, ostensibly, because Scooter playing would give the team more chances to win. (I’m not even going to go into how utterly idiotic such a way of thinking is, given the context.)

    I’m looking for Peraza to continue to build off of what he accomplished in the 2nd half, as both his body and mind continue to mature. He’s still about 4 years away from his “peak”, so there is still plenty of time for him to grow into a decent MLB hitter. I think 2018 is where we start to see the future Peraza emerge, if Price gives him the chance to play.

  20. lwblogger2

    It won’t be Scooter as long as the Reds continue to be dead set against platoon situations. Scooter cannot hit LHP nor does he show anything to suggest that will change. Votto will hit. If Winker hits, will it really be a surprise? Hitting for good power may surprise but I still don’t think he’ll be a 20-25 HR guy over season. So, where does that leave me?

    Everyone is down on Peraza. If he has a strong season, I think a lot of folks, aside from a handful who have predicted him as the player above, will be surprised. I see him having a good contact season with better BABIP luck than average. I also see him having a better walk rate, because he pretty much has to and his walk rate was better late last season. Will it be league average? Probably not, but it won’t be dreadful like it was most the year. I think maybe 6% or 6.5%… Combine that with a .300 average with some doubles and you at least have a solid MLB player, assuming above-average defense up the middle. I think Peraza may do that this year if given the chance.