Each Monday morning, we’ll ask a few of our authors and friends of the site to answer an important question concerning the Reds. Their replies are meant to start the discussion. Please offer your own answers in the comments.

“Which Reds player will be most important in determining their success?” 

Chad Dotson: I’m going with Yasiel Puig. Certainly, the Reds will need Puig to hit, as his bat is essentially replacing Billy Hamilton’s in the lineup. If you look at it through that lens, it’s an opportunity for a massive upgrade offensively — assuming Puig hits. With Scooter Gennett injured and Nick Senzel excommunicated, Puig’s contributions will be even more crucial. Even more importantly, Puig has a chance to energize this team and this fan base for the first time in a while. When he’s playing well, he’s as much fun to watch as anyone in this game. If he can be a key contributor to a team that plays well early in the season, this could be a very fun summer indeed — and Puig’s antics will be delightful to watch every day. If he fizzles while the team loses … it will get ugly in a hurry.

Nick Kirby: It’s hard to pin down just one Red that will determine the teams success in 2019. It will take productive seasons from multiple players for the Reds to succeed. If you had to look at just one player, I would have to go with Sonny Gray. The Reds have great position player depth, so I don’t think you can pick anyone there. You pretty much know what you will get with Roark and DeSclafani in the rotation. The Reds are also banking on Castillo’s continued development. The guy they are rolling the dice with the most is Gray. They extended him with the belief that pitching coach Derek Johnson can fix him. Gray’s success or failure in 2019 might tell more than just wins and losses, it might tell if this new shift in coaching philosophy and the effort put into that is successful.

Steve Mancuso: Eugenio Suarez has huge variance in how he might perform this season, both to the good side and bad. Beyond that, the Reds don’t have an obvious replacement for his production at third base. Last year, Suarez was hitting .294/.375/.556 (wRC+ 145) on September 1. But the Reds slugger hit just .227/.320/.375 (wRC+ 85) the rest of the way. Maybe Suarez got worn down. He had a broken thumb in April. Or maybe another 90-loss season broke his spirit. Suarez’s defense also suffered, falling from well above average in 2017 to below average in 2018. Which Suarez the Reds get: 6 months of Good Suarez, 4 months of Good Suarez or something worse is a huge W-L variable.

Matt Wilkes: They’ll need good starting pitching, but it’s hard for me to single out one player in the rotation. Luis Castillo developing into an ace would be huge. Even if that doesn’t happen, I think that group will collectively be better and put the Reds into .500 territory. Joey Votto is who can take them into playoff contention. The burden on his shoulders isn’t quite as significant as it has been in recent years when he didn’t have as much firepower around him. Yasiel Puig’s presence and Eugenio Suarez’s breakout help immensely. But if vintage Votto re-emerges, it takes this offense from good to one of the best in the National League. He doesn’t necessarily need to hit 35 home runs again, but a .300/.400/.500 slash line would go a long way—especially if he’s getting more plate appearances out of the two hole.

13 Responses

  1. P Jeter

    I think Scott Schebler will end up being the catalyst. If he’s hitting high in the lineup (maybe just in Kemp lineups?) and playing CF, he is more of the Billy replacement and Puig is more of a Schebler replacement, if you want to think of it that way.

    We already know his defense is going to be iffy, so his bat needs to carry the day. If he doesn’t have a good season at the plate (~105 wRC+) then it is likely that he ends up with fewer WAR than a ~60 wRC+ Billy Hamilton would have amassed.

    • Patrick Jeter

      This is just a test comment.

  2. CFD3000

    I agree with Nick. I think Sonny Gray is a key to the 2019 success. If he’s a near ace this is a playoff contending team. If he struggles then contention is much less likely. There are enough good hitters in this lineup that some subset will have a really good year: Winker, Votto, Puig and Suarez are all good enough to end up with MVP votes in a good year, and Senzel, Peraza, Schebler and a healthy Gennett could all hit at all-star levels. Surely some of them will.

    And the same is true with the rotation. Some of the top 5, plus Mahle, Reed, and perhaps Lorenzen and even Stephenson could be very good. Some will. But I think it’s Sonny Gray who’s the make or break guy. I’m ignoring yesterday’s frozen flop and looking forward to good baseball in good baseball weather.

    • Tom Mitsoff

      I also agree with Nick. Gray could potentially be the “stopper” the Reds have not had since Johnny Cueto.

    • LWBlogger2

      I also agree with Nick. I think Gray, especially considering his extension, is a linchpin for success on this 2019 squad. The Reds are taking a gamble on him and they need that gamble to work out. If he’s a #2, #3 type in a playoff caliber rotation, then the Reds should have a decent year assuming the other starters perform as expect. If he’s a #4/#5 type starter or the starter he was with the Yankees in 2018, the Reds have thrown some good money down the drain. Sure a younger guy may step it up but the Reds almost have to give Gray plenty of time to try to succeed and if he doesn’t it will probably be too late for one of the young guys to really make a difference.

      As for the other comments you make, I’m not sure that Winker falls into the MVP vote category, even in a good year. I see a very solid MLB hitter and there may be an All-Star appearance or 2 or 3 in his future if all goes very well for him. I don’t see an MVP in the making though.

  3. matthew hendley

    I would actually wager that Dietrich and Iglesias (Jose) would need to be key contributors off the bench. With actual depth and the ability to rest players or replace injured players without a loss in production would be important to the Reds having a good season.

    Side note one: to anyone that actually attended a game. Is Jose Iglesias’s walk up music really ‘baby shark’? or are my ears and the broadcast deceiving me.

    Side note two: Maybe this is nothing, but I have noticed that Votto has returned to the Rolling Stones ‘Paint it black’ as his walk up music. This could be an indication that he believes in the Reds being a Force in baseball this year again as the last time he was using this music was when the Reds were a force in the Central. Of course, it could be nothing and he just liked the music.

  4. WVRedlegs

    There are so many to choose from. They all will have important roles to play. I think I might go with a combo of Winker and Schebler since both seem destined for the most leadoff AB’s. If they falter in the leadoff spot the only other alternatives will be Peraza, J. Iglesias, or Dietrich.

    Iglesias should never bat leadoff. His career line in the leadoff position .143/.172/.214 in just 29 PA’s. He gets an overwhelming majority of his career PA’s in the 8th and 9th holes. Overall, he has hit .264/.306/.345 vs. RHP and .288/.340/.421 vs. LHP.
    Peraza is decent in the leadoff spot. His career line there is .289/.329/.403 in 398 PA’s. Peraza has gotten most of his PA’s in the 7th and 2nd holes. Overall, he has hit .275/.314/.374 vs. RHP and .300/.332/.405 vs. LHP.
    Surprisingly, Dietrich has done fairly well there. His career line in the leadoff spot is .277/.372/.413 in 384 career PA’s. Overall, he has hit .259/.343/.435 vs. RHP and .232/.299/.373 vs. LHP.
    Reds might look to have Dietrich play more vs. all these RH pitchers they are going to face in the near future. And let him leadoff a little. Dietrich may be near the top of this list in the absence of Scooter.

  5. Sandman

    I think, when you’re looking at the success of the Reds this season, you have to look at the starting pitching. And not just one of those guys…ALL of them.

    • Mason Red

      Agreed. If there isn’t consistency from the pitching staff then it’s going to be a struggle. And personally I think Puig is going to be an absolute train wreck.

  6. TR

    Pitching is front and center. Luis Castillo is in his prime, and if he can have a solid year it will be a key in getting the Reds moving towards contention.

  7. Brian

    In my option there is a five-way tie for first when it comes to the most important red this year.

    1. Castillo
    2. Gray
    3. Roarke
    4. Desclafani
    5. Wood/mahle.

    Our offense is significantly better than our 2012 version that won 97 games. It’s never been a secret that great pitching wins championships

  8. Oldtimer

    Votto. Must be more like 2017 than 2018 Joey. Age 35 is where some careers tail off. Pete Rose was as good as ever from 35 to 40. Votto should be able to do the same.

  9. doofus

    Pitching. Pitching. Pitching. Pitching. Pitching. Pitching. Pitching. Pitching. Pitching. Pitching. Pitching. Pitching. Pitching. Pitching. Pitching. Pitching. Pitching. Pitching.