So, last night on Twitter, I made the egregious suggestion that Scooter Gennett was likely not a player to count on over the long term. Correspondingly, my mentions caught fire like dry brush at a fireworks show.
Today, we’re gonna do something. We’re gonna look at every player currently playing a prominent role on the Reds and ask two questions: 1. Is this player likely to improve based on accepted aging curves and 2. Is this player likely to be above average in 2 years. That is, position-by-position, how close are the Reds to being on a championship track?
C – Tucker Barnhart (age 27): Improve? No. Above Average 2020? Yes.
Tucker is currently at his peak and generally understood to be above average thanks to his impeccable defense and adequate bat. There’s no reason to expect a decline yet, but he also likely is who he is.
1B – Joey Votto (age 34): Improve? No. Above Average 2020? Yes.
When you start on top of Everest, it’s a long way to go until you’re below sea-level.
2B – Scooter Gennett (age 28): Improve? No. Above Average in 2020? No.
I mean, there’s a chance he’s above average in two years. His decline won’t be steep yet, but many people discount how much his defense hurts his value (he has been the worst 2B in baseball over the last two years by A LOT). He’s unlikely to maintain a 140 OPS+ for the rest of the year and the best-case is probably something akin to last year where he’s an above average hitter and a 2.5-3 WAR player. Meaning that, at age-30, he’s more likely than not to be a touch below average.
SS – Jose Peraza (age 24): Improve? Yes. Above Average in 2020? Uh…. Um…. Probably not.
One of my pet peeves about Reds fans (and probably all fans, frankly) is their short-sightedness. They can’t believe the Reds let Justin Turner or Edwin Encarnacion go, but they’re also always ready to kick a struggling young player to the curb. You can’t have it both ways. Anyhow, the deal with Peraza is that his profile doesn’t bode well at this point. He’s a contact hitter, but needs to hit the ball harder for that to be enough. So yeah, he’s young enough that it could happen, but also old enough that I’m forced to say that it’s not the most likely scenario.
3B – Eugenio Suarez (age 26): Improve? Maybe a touch. Above Average in 2020? ABSOLUTELY.
The Suarez deal looked great at the time and continues to look great. He’s been the best player on the team so far this year and looks even better than last year. He’s also an excellent example of why you shouldn’t give up on players who are good enough to be in the majors at a young age. He debuted during his age-22 season and was below average as recently as his age-24 season. But he adapted and developed and is now situated to be one of the best players in the league for several years with a very good chance at being one of the best 3Bs in Reds history (yes, seriously, I’ll try to do a post on this at some point).
OF – Adam Duvall (age 29): Improve? No. Above Average in 2020? No.
Everyone who thinks the Reds should extend Gennett should ask themselves how they felt about late-bloomer Duvall in May of last year, which is when he should have been traded.
OF – Scott Schebler (age 27): Improve? No. Above Average in 2020? No.
He hasn’t been above average yet. He has been about a league-average hitter who rates poorly on defense. So, yeah.
OF – Jesse Winker (age 24): Improve? Yes. Above Average in 2020? Yes.
Winker is always going to be hurt by his defense. However, there’s no reason to think his recent offensive struggles are going to be a long term issue. He’s unlikely to have the power that is traditionally expected from a corner outfielder, but he will have some power and he will also get on base A LOT. It is however, important to understand that Winker is unlikely to ever sustain all-star level play. He’s the kind of solid player every winning team has.
OF – Billy Hamilton (age 27): Improve? No. Above Average in 2020? No.
It’s been fun, Billy. Sadly, I think we’re all aware that his speed is dropping just a little. Since his other tools haven’t developed enough to compensate, he’s likely at the end of the line and should be a bench player at-best.
SP – Homer Bailey (age 32): Improve? No. Above Average in 2020? No.
Yeah. You know how it is.
SP – Luis Castillo (age 25): Improve? Yes. Above Average in 2020? Yes.
Early season hiccups aside, Castillo is a ray of summer sunshine in the pitching wasteland we’ve seen the last few years.
SP – Tyler Mahle (age 23): Improve? Yes. Above Average in 2020? Yes.
Tyler Mahle took a no-hitter into the 7th at one point. He is 23. Let’s be happy about him.
SP – Sal Romano (age 24): Improve? Yes. Above Average in 2020? Probably.
Romano has had some very rough starts lately, but we’ve also seen him have excellent starts that were clearly the product of skill and not luck. He has the lowest ceiling of the three young pitchers currently in the rotation, but, like Winker, he’s the kind of solid player every winning team has. He also seems a good example of the kind of player who can handle learning at the major league level.
RP – Amir Garrett (age 26): Improve? Maybe a little. Above Average in 2020? Yes.
It seems like he’s a relief pitcher now. But he’s a pretty excellent one.
Raisel Iglesias (age 28): Improve? No. Above Average in 2020? Yes.
A very high-value trade candidate, but I also won’t complain if he’s closing games for the Reds for a long time.
Michael Lorenzen (age 26): Improve? Maybe a little. Above Average in 2020? TBD
Lorenzen is at the end of his development curve and has been hurt a lot and had a lot of pretty mediocre runs. It’s hard to really know what the Reds have here.
Filling the Gaps
The Reds probably need the following pieces in the next couple of years in order to compete: 1 or 2 outfielders, a shortstop, a second baseman, 2 starting pitchers.
That’s a lot, but there should be help coming:
At second, things are incredibly rosy. Nick Senzel exists (and let’s all chill on the vertigo worries, the most likely outcome – by far – is that it subsides as more time passes and eventually ceases to be an issue at all); Dilson Herrera — who we’ve all forgotten about — is healthy, crushing it in Louisville (there have never been doubts about his bat), and still only 24; and Shed Long is 22 and ready for a promotion. Alex Blandino is a utility guy who is almost certainly capable of spelling others when the need arises. Surely, given this crop, the Reds can manage some sort of middle infield combo. As a fantastical aside, if ownership really wanted to show it was committed to winning, it could drop $300M at Manny Machado‘s feet and start him at short.
In the outfield, Taylor Trammell and TJ Friedl are both still in the lower levels, but hitting very well and could move quickly. One thing that I’ve said on here a few times and which is worth paying attention to is this: Research shoes that control of the strike zone is the best predictor of major league success. For a real life example, go look at the minor league walk rates of Jay Bruce and Joey Votto. This is also why I’m not panicked about Winker. Trammell and Friedl both walk a lot and Trammell is only 20, so on track to graduate to the majors at 21 or 22 depending on how much he moves this year. This also figures to be an incredible offseason where outfielders are concerned. So, if the Reds wanted to break the bank, they could.
The starting pitching situation is interesting. Brandon Finnegan and Anthony DeSclafani exist on the periphery. As do Cody Reed and Robert Stephenson, but it’s hard to count on any of them (though there’s still a lot of hope for Finnegan). Most of the talent is a little bit away, but you also never know. There will be a lot of free agent options this year, and the Reds probably don’t need an ace, so this could be a could place to spend. One of the interesting things I’ve been looking at lately is that it seems (I need to look deeper) that once a pitcher gets into his 30s without major injury, he can be counted on to chug steadily along for a while with slight declines until his arm finally breaks down. There are more elite seasons from pitchers over 35 in MLB history than there are from hitters over 35. But, as it stands, pitching is the place where there is the most hope on the current roster and the least help in the minor leagues.
Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.