For the first time in five years, excitement abounds among Cincinnati Reds fans longing to see a competitive team on the field again. How will the active offseason impact the 2019 campaign? With Opening Day less than 24 hours away, prediction season is here. The staff at Redleg Nation took a crack at answering some important questions about the upcoming season. We mostly focus on the Reds, but we also delve into some postseason predictions as well.
In total, 17 writers submitted predictions: Nick Carrington, Jordan Barhorst, Steve Mancuso, Jackson Thurnquist, Matt Habel, Jim Walker, Nick Kirby, Wes Jenkins, Chad Dotson, Jeff Gangloff, Doug Gray, Jason Linden, Ashley Davis, John Ring, Grant Freking, Nick Doran, and myself. You can see our full predictions in the Google Sheet linked at the bottom of this post. But for now, let’s dive into the most common and interesting predictions for 2019.
How many games will the Reds win this season?
The Reds haven’t surpassed 70 wins since the 2014 season, losing 90 games in four straight years. Each writer expects that trend to stop in 2019.
The average prediction was 82 wins, which would give the team its first winning season since 2013. Everyone who responded expects the Reds to win at least 78 games (Jordan, Matt H. and Nick D. all agreed on this). The highest prediction was 91 wins (Jason). The most common answer was 84 wins, which seven writers predicted.
Who will win the NL pennant?
Although the Dodgers have won the last two NL pennants, we got a wide variety of answers to this question. The Phillies — who added Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen, and David Robertson in the offseason — were the most common pick (Nick C., Steve, Jackson, Jim, Nick K., and Ashley). Three writers went with the defending NL champs (Jordan, Chad, Doug), and the same number chose the Braves (Matt H., Wes, Nick D.) and their star-studded young core. The only other team two get multiple picks was the Harper-less Nationals (Matt W. and Jeff). The Cubs (Grant) and Brewers (John) were picked by one writer apiece.
And now we get to the question everyone is waiting for: Did anyone pick the Reds to win their first NL pennant since 1990? Yes! Jason was the lone writer who envisions the Reds playing in the World Series this October.
Who will win the World Series?
The staff leans heavily in favor of the American League, which has won three of the last four titles. Of the 16 writers who predicted this question, 15 went with an AL team. The Astros are the overwhelming favorite, with 11 writers choosing them to win their second championship in three years (Matt W., Steve, Jackson, Matt H., Wes, Chad, Jeff, Ashley, John, Grant, and Nick D.). Only one other team, the Yankees received more than one pick (Nick C., Jordan, Nick K.) after bolstering their starting rotation with James Paxton and Gio Gonzalez. Doug is the only writer who believes the Red Sox will repeat as World Series champs. And — you guessed it — Jason is going with the Reds.
Who will bat leadoff the most for the Reds?
This question isn’t quite as pertinent without Billy Hamilton on the roster and several solid options to take the first at-bat of every game. But it’s still not quite clear who David Bell will pencil into the top of his lineup most days. Scooter Gennett led off a lot in spring training before going down with a groin injury. That could leave the job to Jesse Winker, who was one of five players with 250 plate appearances to walk more than he struck out last year. Winker is Bell’s choice for the Reds’ Opening Day lineup. Twelve writers chose Winker (Matt W., Nick C., Jordan, Steve, Jackson, Nick K., Chad, Doug, Jason, Ashley, John, and Grant). Jose Peraza also received three votes from Jeff, Nick D., and Matt H., although Jeff adds that he’d rather see Scott Schebler as the leadoff man. Wes was the lone writer to pick Nick Senzel, while Jim said it would be whoever starts in center field on the given day.
Who is most likely to be traded during the season?
With so many players on one-year deals, the Reds could be active over the summer. They may also need to clear a spot for Senzel when he returns from his sprained ankle and inflamed service time injury. That was the thinking of most writers in going with Matt Kemp. Only four people chose another player: Steve and Matt H. picked Alex Wood, Jordan chose Yasiel Puig, and Jackson went with David Hernandez.
What Reds hitter will be the biggest surprise?
We have a lot of different answers on this one for what should be strong Reds offense in 2019. Schebler (4), Jose Peraza (4), Winker (3), and Tucker Barnhart (2) were the players to get multiple votes. Joey Votto, Phil Ervin, Derek Dietrich, Puig, and Michael Lorenzen received votes as well.
What Reds pitcher will be the biggest surprise?
The answers were similarly varied for the pitching staff. Almost everyone picked a starter, but five writers went with relievers here. Sonny Gray (4) was the most common answer. Robert Stephenson (3), who was the last player to make the Opening Day roster, was second. Tyler Mahle and Anthony DeSclafani received two votes. The rest of the picks were Luis Castillo, Tanner Roark, Zach Duke, and Lorenzen.
Which hitter will be the biggest disappointment?
Even in what should be a better season for the Reds, not everyone will live up to expectations. Barnhart (6) was the top answer. Considering he’s a defense-first catcher, the Reds would probably be alright with him being the biggest disappointment at the plate. Puig was next with three votes. As Jim explained, he doesn’t think he’ll be bad — just that he won’t live up to lofty expectations. Kemp, Peraza, and Senzel all received multiple votes, although the Senzel votes came with the same caveat as Jim’s vote for Puig. Gennett also received a pick from Nick C., who thinks the injuries will slow him down. Jim also cast a vote for Votto for the same reason as his Puig pick.
Which pitcher will be the biggest disappointment?
The answers were all over the place on this one. Six different pitchers received multiple picks. Hernandez and Tanner Roark led the way with three apiece. Certainly understandable given Hernandez’s peripherals last year (4.12 xFIP) and Roark’s low ceiling compared to other pitchers in the rotation. Lorenzen, Duke, Castillo, and Wood all got two. DeSclafani and Gray received a vote apiece.
After a career low in 2018, what will Joey Votto’s slugging percentage be in 2019?
Last season, Votto had the worst power output of his career in a largely healthy season. He hit only 12 home runs and slugged .419. Will he return to the Votto of old in 2019? Every writer believes he’ll improve on his power from last year. The predictions range from .481 (Matt W.) to .563 (Wes), which would be the fourth-highest slugging percentage of his career. Seven writers in total believe he’ll eclipse the .500 mark again, though only three (Wes, Chad, Steve) feel he’ll meet or exceed his career percentage (.530).
When will Nick Senzel be called up?
At this time last year, it seemed unlikely we’d be asking this question again in the 2019 predictions. But here we are. Senzel has been the talk of Reds fans since he was sent to minor-league camp last Friday, meaning he won’t make the Opening Day roster. He also sprained his ankle on Monday, further muddying the waters. (Note: Some of these predictions were submitted before that occurred). Senzel is expected to remain in a walking boot for 7 to 14 days and won’t resume game activity for a few weeks after that.
The earliest prediction is April 15 (Steve, Jackson), which is when the Reds could call him up and still get a seventh year of team control. That seems unlikely now after the injury. Jason believes Senzel will be up as soon as he’s healthy. Grant has the latest 2018 date (June 14). Chad believes we won’t see Senzel until April 15, 2020 — what a downer!
Who makes the most starts in center field this year? Who is the Opening Day center fielder in 2020?
We know Scott Schebler is the Opening Day center fielder. Will he get the most starts there, or will Senzel usurp the throne? Ten writers picked the latter, believing the job is Senzel’s when he’s called up. For what it’s worth, the Reds plan for him to continue playing the position in Triple-A rather than moving to second base to cover for the injured Gennett. Six others feel Schebler will remain the center fielder for most of the year. Nick D. believes Jose Peraza will ultimately take over the position.
As for next year, the answers were scattered. There’s an even split between Senzel (Matt W., Ashley, John, Grant) and Schebler (Steve, Wes, Chad, Jackson). Jackson believes Taylor Trammell will take over the position later in 2020, as does Nick C., who has Phil Ervin or a stopgap free agent as his Opening Day center fielder next year. Matt H. and Jason think Trammell gets the nod right off the bat next year. Jordan went big and chose George Springer, who would require a trade since he’s not a free agent until after the 2020 season. Nick K. believes the Reds will sign a free agent.
Who will lead the Reds in home runs?
The answers mostly came down to two players: Puig and Eugenio Suarez. It came down to the wire, but Suarez squeaked by with the victory, 8-7. Chad and Wes believe Votto will not only regain his power but once again lead the Reds in dingers.
Who will lead the Reds in innings pitched?
Everyone in the rotation except Alex Wood received a vote here. Roark is the collective pick of Redleg Nation with seven votes. He’s as safe a bet as anyone, having pitched at least 180 innings in four of the last five seasons. Five writers chose Opening Day starter Castillo to lead the team in innings pitched from start to finish. Three others picked Gray, and Steve thinks DeSclafani will finally stay healthy for a full season to lead the Cincinnati staff.
How many innings will Michael Lorenzen play in center field? How many homers will he hit?
This isn’t necessarily the most important question on the list, but it is the most intriguing one. Lorenzen finally got some time in center field during spring training, and Bell plans to use him there. How much is anyone’s guess. Is it all talk, or will he see significant time in the outfield?
None of our writers expect him to see many innings, although notably, everybody thinks he’ll get at least some playing time in center. The guesses range from six (Jason) to 50 innings (John), with most people falling somewhere between 20 and 30.
Lorenzen figures to see work as a pinch hitter even if he doesn’t play much center field. He hit four home runs in 34 plate appearances last year. Six writers (Grant, John, Jeff, Chad, Jim, Jordan) expect him to top that mark this year. Jason was the only writer who thinks Lorenzen will not hit a home run in 2019.
Who are the Reds most likely to sign to an extension?
MLB has seen a wave of extensions over the last month as teams try to lock up players through arbitration and circumvent service time games while players seek financial security in an uncertain free agent market and labor environment. If the Reds join the fray, who do we think they’re most likely to lock up?
The votes went to six different players, most of whom have multiple years of control left: Castillo (2), Senzel (3), Peraza (2), Winker (2), and DeSclafani (2). The Reds will face interesting decisions with a long list of impending free agents. Our writers think Wood (6) — the leading vote-getter — and Puig (3) are the two most likely to get extensions to stay in Cincinnati beyond 2019. John believes the team will re-sign Roark.
For those interested, you can view each writer’s predictions here. And feel free to make some predictions of your own in the comments!