Since the last time the Reds had a winning season (2013 for those keeping count), I’ve been telling everyone who deigned to mock our tortured fandom: “Just wait for 2018. The rebuild will be done in 2018.” Well, we made it, but guess what: There’s another long season of disappointment ahead.
Due to injuries, questionable veteran signings, and a whole bevy of promising pitchers deciding to struggle together, the Reds’ rebuild took a turn toward futility about a season ago. It still feels like the team is on the cusp of something, but what that is or when it will happen is truly anyone’s guess.
This season, rather than continue a mantra of forward-looking optimism, I want to be a bit more realistic and focus on the present. There’s no doubt in my mind that the results of the overall season will be disappointing, but still, I’m expecting a few bright spots along the way.
1. Nick Senzel’s Everything
I have more faith in Nick Senzel being an All-Star caliber infielder than I have in Mark Zuckerberg’s desire to take over the world. No prospect has ever made me this irrationally excited. (I was really low on Jay Bruce, and the Jesse Winker hype has gone through too many ups and downs to stay fun.) If Nick Senzel is not on the Opening Day roster, I will (editors willing) write an angry blog post about how it is the greatest travesty to befall this organization and how Bob Castellini, Dick Williams, and Bryan Price have finally forced me to become a Braves fan. If Nick Senzel is on the Opening Day roster, the Reds will win the World Series. Book it.
2. Luis Castillo’s Continued Emergence
I’m going to steal from an old Fangraphs article real quick, but according to Eno Sarris, “In sum, we’ve got a flame-throwing righty with one plus secondary pitch and another average one. If we count the fastball as a plus, then we get to compare him to pitchers like Michael Fulmer and Luis Severino, two other righties with similar profiles.”
Michael Fulmer (2017): 25 starts, 164.2 IP, 3.67 FIP, 16.9 K%, 3.5 WAR
Luis Severino (2017): 31 starts, 193.1 IP, 3.07 FIP, 29.4 K%, 5.7 WAR
Reds’ 2017 ace (Scott Feldman): 21 starts, 111.1 IP, 5.04 FIP, 19.7 K%, 0.7 WAR
Is it woefully optimistic to blindly trust Mr. Sarris and believe that Castillo will land somewhere between Fulmer and Severino in 2018? Probably, but even if Castillo only produces half of what Fulmer did, he’ll still be worth a full win more than their previous ace.
3. Another Top 5 Draft Pick
For the third year in a row, the Reds will pick in the first five slots of the draft. The last time that happened was from 1983 to 1985 and guess who they picked up in that last year? Just future Hall of Famer Barry Larkin.
The Reds have already made two extremely promising selections in Senzel and Hunter Greene over the past two years, so why not get irrationally excited about the third to come? In their Way Too Early Mock Draft, Baseball America has the Reds going for high school 3B Nolan Gorman. Personally, I would prefer the Reds go for a college guy who wouldn’t need too much time in the minor leagues, and with the college season just underway, it’s probably too soon to know who will emerge in that category.
Nick Madrigal of Oregon State, Jeremy Eierman of Missouri State, and Griffin Conine of Duke should all be college names to watch moving forward.
4. Joey Votto’s Antics
Joey Votto is easily a top five player in the MLB right now and I would argue top three (Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, Votto, Max Scherzer, Jose Altuve). But if you’re a Reds’ fan and you’ve been a Reds’ fan, you already know this.
Enjoying Votto’s play has become so routine that it seems to banal to add onto this list. However, Joey’s emergence as premier Reds’ jokester now that Brandon Phillips has ventured on deserves all the mentions possible.
There’s heckling Joey:
Joey Votto laying an absolutel savage verbal beatdown on some heckling fans 😂🤣 pic.twitter.com/7Boqe4la7d
— Baseball Swag™ (@Baseballswag_) May 24, 2017
And determined Joey:
Joey won't rest until he sends one into orbit. 🌗🛰 pic.twitter.com/dmHLEymZ1G
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) August 16, 2017
And Mountie Joey:
— Bob Ratliff (@MiddletownBuck) July 2, 2017
And finally best friend Joey:
New Angels infielder Zack Cozart is bringing the donkey Joey Votto gave him to California https://t.co/M3ycJwGg8F
— Big League Stew (@bigleaguestew) December 17, 2017
None of us deserve Joey Votto. He alone will save 2018.