It is now spring (at least as far as baseball is concerned) and time for optimism to abound. This season, I’ll be dropping in every couple of weeks or so to see how the Reds are progressing along the path to being a championship team. For this first edition, I thought I would be nice to be as optimistic as possible. That is, what is the best we can hope for? For this exercise, I try to peg each player to what is probably their 75th percentile performance or something close to that. It’s mostly an academic exercise and really unlikely to happen. But it’s fun, and I’ve always been pro-fun.

While writing this, I also decided to do a poll on each of the following players to see what the Nation thinks will happen this year.

The Lineup

Tucker Barnhart, Catcher – As a hitter, Barnhart likely is who we’ve seen the last few years. According to the metrics, his defense wobbled in the wrong direction last year. We’ll assume a bounce back and give him a little extra credit because it’s his age-28 season. 2.5 WAR.

What does the poll say?

Joey Votto , First Base – This one is simple. We just assume a return to form. Votto manages a wRC+ somewhere around 160 and generates, say 6.5 WAR.

What does the poll say?

Scooter Gennett, Second Base – My skepticism is long noted on these electronic pages, but I don’t know everything. So let’s say I’m wrong and he duplicates last year 4.5 WAR.

What does the poll say?

Jose Peraza, Shortstop – I have been a believer in Peraza since I first saw him hit at Louisville. He’s had his ups and downs, but last year, it came together. He’ll still be 24 on Opening Day and it’s not crazy to think we could see a little more growth yet. 3.5 WAR.

What does the poll say?

Eugenio Suarez, Third Base – Ah, the glory of young stars. Let’s imagine a Suarez who doesn’t have a slump to end the season and who returns to his 2017 defensive form. 5.5 WAR.

What does the poll say?

Yasiel Puig, Right Field – Every single projection system thinks he’ll be better than last year. And if we’re trying to aim above significantly above the 50th percentile, we have to give him some credit above that. 4.0 WAR.

What does the poll say?

Nick Senzel, Center Field – Meet your 2019 Rookie of the Year. 4.0 WAR.

What does the poll say?

Jesse Winker, Left Field – No one doubts the bat. It’s just a question of how bad his defense will be. Let’s say it will be poor, but not embarrassing. 3.0 WAR.

What does the poll say?

That would really do, wouldn’t it? That’s maybe the best lineup in baseball, which shouldn’t be a surprise because even at the 50th percentile, the Reds figure to score lots of runs this year with at least one projection having them leading the NL in scoring.

The Rotation

The fun part about the rotation is that, with the exception of maybe Tanner Roark, I can imagine every one of them having a crazy good year, in theory.

Alex Wood – Let’s assume he pitches more than he has the last few years and pitches like he did in 2017. That’s good for 4.0 WAR

What does the poll say?

Luis Castillo – Ever just taking the 2017 edition feels like it doesn’t quite get it right. Castillo is such an enormous talent. I can imagine a world where he puts up 7 or 8 WAR, but that’s too bold for even these projections. Let’s take 2017 with 2018’s walk rate. 4.5 WAR.

What does the poll say?

Sonny Gray – Reunited with his old coach, magic happens, and he return to his 2015 form. 4.0 WAR

What does the poll say?

Anthony DeSclafani – Maybe the biggest wild card on the staff simply because we don’t know how much he’ll pitch. But if he pitches? 3.0 WAR seems right for our best-case theme here.

What does the poll say?

Tanner Roark – Roark has been very solid his entire career, but never really great. 3.0 WAR.

What does the poll say?

Conclusion

Is there any chance my best-case happens? Well, quantum physics tells us that, somewhere, everything that can happen does happen. So, yes. There’s a chance. That said, I have 8 of the 13 discussed players listed at 4.0 WAR or better. According to FanGraphs, there were only 52 players in all of baseball who had 4.0 WAR last season. Even the 1976 Reds only had 6 players do it. It is extremely unlikely. The polls feel more possible, though, and they make it clear that you, in general, believe the Reds are going to be A LOT better this year. Even the lineup in these polls would represent something like a 6-win improvement over last year, which is excellent for a team that was no slouch offensively.

But this is all in fun. I’ll get to more serious posts soon enough. Right now, the Reds are generally projected to be on the edge of contention. But it’s the beginning of March, and every season should start with starry-eyed optimism.

10 Responses

  1. Matt Hendley

    I am more optimistic this year then any year since 12, we will see.

  2. CFD3000

    Just as, statistically, the chances that every important Reds hitter and pitcher performs at a 75th percentile level relative to projections is, essentially, nil, the same is true for the more pessimistic poll results. I think a 6 win improvement over last year is unlikely and would be very disappointing. IF the main Reds stay mostly healthy it’s hard for me to see them being any worse than an 80 win team.

    I’ve said this many times before, but replacing the worst hitter in the league with an all star (Puig or Kemp instead of Hamilton), and the worst pitcher in the league with a solid starter (Wood or Gray instead of Bailey) might be enough to get this team to or near .500. Add in a healthy Jesse Winker, an ROY candidate in Senzel and a rebounding hall of famer in Votto and they could (could) contend for a playoff slot. Health or lack of it will be a huge factor, but if this is the “optimism is fun” post Jason then the Reds are a playoff contender in 2019. I can’t wait to see if it actually shakes out that way. Now that would be fun.

  3. gusnwally

    When I was a boy I remember a year when the Enquirer ran a Reds scrapbook Every day they had a different player. It included a picture, a small bio and some stats. My dad bought me the official scrapbook with the binder type loops. I was so excited and could not wait for every day and a new page. Kind of a bummer when you got a backup infielder instead of a star. Well this might be the most excited I have been since then. I see a solid offensive team with a pretty darn decent pitching staff. A large portion of that excitement has to do with Jesse Winker and Nick Senzel.Matt Snyder at CBS has his power rankings out and lists the Reds at 18. That is quite an improvement. Lets hope he is right. The get Kahns to put photos of the Reds in the hot dogs again.

  4. WVRedlegs

    It is definitely a better feel going into this spring than it has been since the 2012-2013 years. But I am going to keep my optimism in check until about March 26 or 27th, a couple of days before Opening Day. There is still a lot of time for the dreaded injuries to rear their heads. The minor leaguers in big league camp will be transferring back over to minor league camp later this week. The regulars and ones vying for 25 roster spots will be getting more playing time now and a chances for an injury will go up some. With the roster being crunched as spring training ends a trade may be one way to alleviate the build up of players in a couple of areas. I’d rather see a trade or two instead of ending up DFA’ing a player or two of the caliber that might not make the 25 man roster. Don’t want to lose them for nothing in return. Once the 25 man roster is pretty much set and the overall health of the team is good coming out of ST, I can let my optimism out of the box.
    But yes, looking for a better and a more fun year in 2019.

  5. scottya

    To me, the two most important player performances this season will be Scooter Gennett (if he’s what he’s been the last two season’s, high babip) and Sonny Gray (can he be consistently good at around a 4.10 era). If both perform to their past two season averages, this team will surprise.

    Other important performances: Votto (age 35 season), will he decline more than expected? (hoping for the tony gwynn decline) Desclafani, will he be healthy and produce close to his career sierra (4.02)?

    Injuries or lack thereof will play a significant role as always, but the depth of the bench and pitching depth (Mahle, Reed, Sims, Romano etc.) mute that at least a bit.

  6. Brian Baute

    But what’s your best case projection for the team as a whole? I say 87 wins, earning one of the Wild Card spots. Reds win the Wild Card game then lose in the NLDS. That seems unlikely but feasible; hard to see this team winning a playoff series this year.

  7. Streamer88

    I think expected win totals can be affected by two poorly measured contributors- is the team “trying to win” and how good is the bench and those waiting at AAA?

    The first one speaks to how much the manager attempts to win on get away days and on the second game of a doubleheader. The second speaks to being able to insulate from injury, and, “stealing” a game or two when you’re playing your bench and resting starters.

  8. Sliotar

    Nothing wrong with optimism about this year’s Reds team.

    What was not addressed was the potential weakness of this team, IMO …. the bullpen. And, I can understand why poll questions were not asked (a lot of guys are fairly non-descript to the general public).

    Who is closing? If Iglesias is in the Brewers “Hader” role (or Alvarado for TB)…Hader had only 12 saves in 2018. Knebel and Jeffress each had more.

    Jared Hughes? Feels like hold role is his ceiling. Hernandez? Hurt, at the moment.

    Garrett? Looks like a possibility but has not done it before.

    So much of the Reds hopes relies on Iglesias excelling in his new role and staying healthy all year … AND … someone reliable getting the last outs on many nights.

    • Shchi Cossack

      Bullpens are notoriously unpredictable from year to year. That’s why large investments in relievers entails significant risk. With that said, there’s really no reason to predict a faulty performance from the bullpen in 2019. In fact, I expect the bullpen to perform better in 2019 than it did in 2018. Most (6) of the key performers from the 2018 bullpen will return, with the addition of Duke and 1 or 2 additional relievers from a large selection of candidates.

      Missing from the 2019 bullpen will be:
      Peralta (45.1 IP, 79 ERA+, 4.55 FIP, 1.00 SO/BB)
      Stephens (38.1 IP, 86 ERA+, 5.22 FIP, 1.6 HR/9)
      Brice (37.1 IP, 73 ERA+, 5.87 FIP, 2.2 HR/9)
      Finnegan (20.2 IP, 58 ERA+, 7.13 FIP, 2.2 HR/9, 0.93 SO/BB)

      Using the best relievers in the highest leverage situations will trump a closer role every time, and some of those high leverage situations will certainly be closing games.

  9. TBone

    Another source of optimism for me is the vast improvement in depth over 2018. The
    Reds gave >1000 at bats to sub-replacement level ‘hitters’ like Duvall, Blandino, Dixon, etc. Nearly all of those will be made by Kemp, Dietrich, Senzel, Schebler etc. in 2019. Similar case for the back-end of the bullpen: >200 IP by Brice, Stephens, Rainey etc. for a combined WAR of nearly -6. These should be replaced by Duke, Romano, and (hopefully) more innings from the starters. Looking forward to Opening Day!