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.