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.