Breathe in, hold for five seconds, and…release. Woosah.
What a wild first half for the Reds. After starting the year 3-18 (kind of hard to believe, right?) they battled back and finished the first half 43-53. The Reds saw a manager get fired, the Opening Day starter get injured, the offense turn from joke to juggernaut, and the arrival of “Da Wink”. We saw the Reds’ best starting pitching come from a guy that wasn’t even on the roster to start the year (because he’s the hero Cincinnati deserves, but not the one it needs right now), and we saw Scooter Gennett continue to prove that he’s good. The first half brought us MVP like numbers from Eugenio Suarez and a continued wait for top prospect Nick Senzel.
And that’s only scratching the surface. Admit it…despite the wins and losses, the first half of the season was kind of fun. The Reds are starting to reap the fruits of their labor when it comes to the rebuild and it looks like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. The first 96 games brought us more story lines than we could have imagined.
Without further ado, let’s look at the top 5 story lines for the second half of the season:
This is an obvious one. The Reds are going to make some trades, it’s just a matter of when and who. What will be captivating is who the Reds trade and what they trade for. They could move current MLB assets like Matt Harvey, Billy Hamilton, Adam Duvall, or Scooter Gennett to get pieces for the future or they could really make a splash and move top prospects like Nick Senzel, Hunter Greene, or Taylor Trammell to try and fill a positional need for years to come. The Reds are in a weird position where they really don’t have to be buyers or sellers. That being said, I would be absolutely shocked if they didn’t make any moves before the trade deadline.
2. Homer Bailey’s Role
Is there a more polarizing player on the Reds roster right now than Homer Bailey? It will be interesting to see what the future has in store for him. He’s currently signed through the 2019 season. There have already been rumblings that he’s going to return to the rotation when healthy, but with the emergence of so many good, young pitchers it’s hard to justify him getting his spot back in the starting rotation. Will the Reds put him back into the rotation, put him in the bullpen, or straight up release him?
3. Jim Riggleman’s Future
Jim Riggleman saw his number called when Bryan Price was fired a couple months ago and has filled in admirably as interim manager ever since. He has guided the Reds to a 40-38 record since their miserable 3-15 start and has yielded support from players and media members. Although there are many other factors that play into the Reds turnaround, bunting aside, you can’t ignore the job that Riggleman has done. I think it speaks to his work when a guy like Joey Votto says: “He’s on top of us. He expects us to play a certain way. He challenges us. I think he brings a good energy to us during the game, after the game. He listens well. He’s really done a very good job.”
I’ll be curious to see if the Reds conduct a full managerial search at the end of the year or if they offer Riggleman an extension. It’ll also be interesting to see if Riggleman is courted by other teams, especially with a club like the St. Louis Cardinals reportedly expressing interest in him for their full time managerial job.
4. Eugenio Suarez: Batting Title, MVP, Triple Crown
Did anyone have a better first half of baseball that no one is talking about than Eugenio Suarez? He is currently 5th in the NL in batting average, 8th in home runs, and 2nd in RBIs…and that’s all while missing 16 games due to a fractured thumb. It’s not out of the question that Suarez could make a run at a batting title in the second half of the year. It’s also a real possibility that he could be considered for MVP if he continues to put up the numbers he did in the first half of the season. Let’s also not overlook the outside chance of his pursuit of the Triple Crown. I truly believe he will be near the top of the NL in average and RBI by the end of the year; it’s only a matter of if he can continue to make up for lost time when it comes to home runs. He is currently 5 behind the league leader.
5. The Starting Rotation
You could argue that the biggest piece holding this Reds team back from being good to great is the starting rotation. Although the rotation has improved from last year to this year, there is still room for growth. Things to keep an eye on in the second half of the season include the durability and effectiveness of Anthony Desclafani, the inevitable call up of Robert Stephenson, the continued improvement of Tyler Mahle (is this his ceiling?), and what happens with Sal Romano (bullpen or starter?). Luis Castillo’s effectiveness will also be something worth paying attention to in the second half. His ERA has inflated by almost two runs this season. That’s a concern for a guy that many thought could be a legitimate top of the rotation starter.
There you have it – my top 5 story lines for the second half. What are your top 5 story lines for the second half of the season, Nation?
Jeff is Cincinnati born, Ohio University educated. Reds baseball has been a central theme of his family ever since his mom and dad helped him skip school to attend Opening Day. Jeff has been accused of having a “man crush” on Joey Votto and longs for the day that he gets to witness the Reds finally win a playoff series. You can follow him on Twitter @Gaaangs