Since I announced that it was gonna be time for me to step back from Redleg Nation, I’ve been thinking about how to leave things. Nobody wants to blow the series finale, afterall. Eventually, I decided to frame it around an admission, which isn’t really an admission:

I don’t know anything.

All of the analysis I’ve ever done on this site has been written with that in mind. Sometimes, my diction was probably more forceful than it should have been, but I was really writing about what seemed to me the most likely to happen (or what maybe could happen, depending on the goal of piece). And how I determined that is pretty simple. Numbers. Yes the advanced numbers. Or advanced-ish. And relying on those numbers meant I was right (Suarez, Duvall, Scooter, Phillips) more often than I was wrong (Votto this year, Scooter last year, Peraza maybe).

But I’ve also always had some general rules of thumb that go basically like this:

  1. Make sure I know what “average” is because it changes every year.
  2. Don’t take numbers seriously until 200 PA have happened. (I’m looking at all of you who want to sign every player with a hot start and bench every player with a cold start.)
  3. Don’t take numbers entirely seriously until you have about 400 PAs (sample size matters so much)
  4. A full season of PAs should be taken with a grain of salt if it is substantially different from what the player has done in the past.
  5. Young players often get better. Old players always get worse (eventually).
  6. Young players are 26 and under. Old players are 33 and over. From 27-32 assume what you see is what you get (unless it varies wildly from past performance).
  7. There’s lots of stuff we don’t know.
  8. Relief pitchers should never be trusted.

So with all that said, here’s what I imagine for the guys who will be on the Reds next year:

Hitters:

Eugenio Suarez will keep doing what he’s been doing, but the power might drop if MLB messes with the ball again. He’s the best current candidate on the team for a crazy good year.

Jesse Winker will hit righties very well. Phillip Ervin will hit lefties very well.

Joey Votto will be an above average hitter still. Yes, he’s declining. But except from the time from the start of the season until May 24 this year, he’s been a very good hitter, just not prime-Votto.

Aristides Aquino will hit well, but not as well as a Winker-Ervin platoon. If I were to guess, I’d say a wRC+ of 120 or so.

Nick Senzel will take a big step forward.

Tucker Barnhart will hit like he has throughout his career and his defense will continue to be good now that he’s been shown how to frame pitches.

Freddy Galvis will hit some homers, but otherwise be an unimpressive hitter.

Derek Dietrich will hit better than Freddy Galvis, but he still can’t play short.

Josh VanMeter, if he gets enough playing time, will be about a league-average hitter.

If the Reds want to compete, they need to add 4-6 position player WAR from OUTSIDE the organization. That means whatever talent they acquire has to be that much better than the talent it replaces.

Pitchers:

Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray will be about as good as they were this year.

Trevor Bauer will be better, but he won’t be like he was in 2018.

Tyler Mahle will be much better than many people think he is as part of his effort to be even more underappreciated than Mike Leake was.

Anthony DeSclafani will be somewhere between fine and good.

No one knows what the bullpen will be like even if they add pitchers and anyone who tells you they do know what it will be like is lying or misinformed.

If the Reds go out and spend the money they have and make the trades they can make (yes, they will have to give up their top prospects), then they can absolutely compete for the Central next year. It’s important to remember that the Reds had a much better run differential than would normally be the case for a team with their record. They’ve underperformed. Probably thanks to bad luck. It’ll probably get better next year.

It’s been great talking baseball here for the last ten years. Everybody make sure to tease Doug plenty for me. Bye, all.

37 Responses

  1. BK

    I suggest targeting Grandal and Moustakas to obtain the offensive WAR we need. Keuchel would be my top target to upgrade the pitching. Bullpens are so important, but very difficult to project. Save the prospects for the bullpen upgrade at the trade deadline. This is the year to be very aggressive on the free agent front as the Reds have payroll space and there appear to be good value matches at our weak points: C, 2B, LH starting pitching.

  2. wkuchad

    Jason, will you be writing about the Reds somewhere else?

  3. lost11found

    “Joey Votto will be an above average hitter still. Yes, he’s declining. But except from the time from the start of the season until May 24 this year, he’s been a very good hitter, just not prime-Votto.”

    Free advise to the other writers on the site. Statements like this reveal that we can’t take you seriously on a given player. It’s a ‘how did you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?’ type of statement. Apart from nearly one-third of the season, JV was a very good hitter. I like Joey, and he will retire as one of the best reds hitters of all time, but we can be honest here with one another I think.

    The hazard in statistics is that they will always describe the past better than they will predict the future.

    Despite my contrariness, Thanks for all the writing you’ve done over the year Jason, especially for your eyewitness views of the Bats, and the reporting you’ve done there. It’s been very informative and enlightening.

    Oh… and one last thing……#viewermail!

    • Rut

      Fwiw, will miss your articles here.

      Also would be nice to get a little info on what seems to have been a huge transition here at RLN.

      Rarely see Chad write anything, Steve seems to have moved on to his new “advanced” site, and Jason moving on to who knows where.

      Not sure if it was interpersonal issues or other, but too bad the folks who have been here for years no longer appear to be working together.

      Best of luck to you Jason, hope you still opine from time to time like the rest of us plain old posters!

      • LWblogger2

        I feel 100% the same. I don’t really think it’s a “bad blood” thing. I enjoy the newer writers but the old-timers bring me back. It’s tough seeing them go, especially since I’m not on Twitter anymore and have never had a FB account.

    • Michael Smith

      @lost11found

      What part of the statement about Votto is wrong? Terrible start, well above average from that point on. You are correct stats will only tell you what happened and are not predictors of the future except they do tend to tell you who the player was and is likely to be until father time wins. If you are trying to say father time is winning I think you bet is reasonable.

      • lost11found

        Ehh, not wrong, it conveyed a sense that votto is better than what he is now. The statement was trying to minimize the terrible start he had. Especially when viewed next to his comments on the Podcast (nothing to see here, move along). A third of the season isn’t a small portion and the portion where he’s been ‘good’ has seen some games missed due to injury. My statement about simple honesty is one more of ‘don’t try to pull the wool over my eyes’ and was not meant to say he was factually incorrect.

        I think in the next couple years or so votto will have one last great season where everything goes right for him, but what we’ve seen the last two seasons (diminished pop, more K’s) is what we should probably expect.

  4. scottya

    Jason,

    Thanks for your writing here. I’ve enjoyed reading your thoughts and occasional missed projections (right along side you there). I hope your right about aquino (120 wrc+).

    I think the catching position is the most cost (payroll and or prospect cost) efficient way to begin the upgrade for 2020.

    Tucker Barnhart Career WRC+ 88 vs RHP
    1. Robinson Chirinos – Career WRC+ 130 vs LHP 96 vs RHP
    2. Yasmani Grandal – Career WRC+ 119 vs RHP & 114 vs LHP (would be high cost to payroll, but worth it if short term)

    Chirinos and Barnhart would be a good tandem, with chirinos getting by far the most of the ab’s.
    Grandal and Casali would be a top in the league tandem with Casali only getting occasional stars.

  5. Scott C

    We will miss you Jason. If this was your last article it was a very fine article. I hope that many will realize that jumping on and off bandwagons is not a pleasant thing. Yes it can stir up some controversy, but lets all please look at the bigger picture, before we rip a player or hail him as the next Babe Ruth.

  6. Shchi Cossack

    Happy Trails Jason. The Old Cossack will miss your opinions and contributions.

    As I see the offseason shaping up, it hinges on one transaction and that transaction fits Jason’s stipulated WAR improvement. The Reds must sign Yasmani Grandal. If this doesn’t happen, then there is little to no chance of being truly competitive in 2020.

    This will be difficult and risky. A 31-year-old catcher does not have a long career trajectory and injuries are more likely than not for an aging catcher, but Castellini and Jocketty put the Reds in this terrible position by botching the transition from aging players to a well-planned and executed rebuild, then botching the rebuild entirely. Ownership either ponies up the cash to fix the problem or the Reds simply ride off to inconsequential status for the next decade.

    Grandal will be a very tough signing. He is an elite talent at the most difficult position in baseball. He will be signing his final significant contract as a professional player and he can choose where he wants to play. Obtaining a ring will certainly factor into that decision process. The Reds would have to convince him they are serious and committed to winning and also outbid the proven contenders needing an elite catcher.

    Grandal (5.0 WAR)
    Casali (0.9 WAR)
    Barnhart (0.4 WAR)

    The Reds should find a nice market for Barnhart if they can sign Grandal.

    The rest of the offseason moves (and there should still be additional significant moves) would fall behind signing Grandal, but the addition of Grandal would make an immediate transition in the Reds prospects for success in 2020.

    • greenmtred

      Cossack, I too will miss reading Jason’s contributions. My concern about Grandal is the one you mention: age. Particularly at catcher. If there’s a real chance that 2020 is the year, then it’s probably a risk worth taking (not my money, anyway), but I have lots of doubts that there will be anything more than marginal improvement. Then we get to 2021. Grandal is an expensive 32 year-old catcher, Bauer is gone and Joey is 56. On the other hand, they need to do something bold and effective. I also always enjoy reading your comments. You’re one of the last of the old guard.

    • Aaron B.

      I have a huge problem with your strategy, and I say that with all due respect knowing that I agree with you like 90% of the time usually…. but Grandal is entering the age where catchers are converted to other positions.. whatever advantage you seek by positional scarcity is nullified by the fact he will not be catching and/or be available for less games as a result of the toil of catching. We need to improve what we got more than anything else.. there is huge potential there and that is why the Reds invested in coaches to work with these guys… we aren’t about to cut bait with anyone under contract who hasn’t shown progression or has minor league options we can utilize like O’Grady and Blandino.. does Peraza still have one left I think so.. so yes there is opportunity to improve the team thru free agency but I don’t like a crazy deal on a 31 year old paying top market price it’s just nuts. Look at the steals we made on Suarez, Gray, Castillo.. heck even Bauer was a result of flipping a washed up Homer Bailey and maybe he is dicey but he has more upside than Bailey I think we all agree on that. Point is, the one space I know available is for a good solid left set up man.. although I think Garrett is that and more, but one more guy like that and we are golden in the pitching dept. and can focus on improving the offense without selling out for the short term like you are ambitiously suggesting.

  7. RP

    I’m sorry, why do we forgive Joey for being TERRIBLE for 1/3 of the season!!???

    If I was terrible at my job from January through April, I would be fired.

    His awful start (and Puigs) SANK this team.

    • Michael Smith

      @RP,

      I am checking to see if you have been one of the best in the world at your job. If you have you would survive a below average couple of months.

      • RP

        This couldn’t be further from the truth, ask our sales department.

        Plus, he wasn’t “best in the world” this year, he was just good.

        Weak argument.

      • Mason Red

        Who was the alternative at 1B RP?

  8. Brock

    Thanks Jason and good luck! Your Votto love fest matches my own, and you will forever be a kindred spirit of mine because of this. I look forward to many more Coffee and Votto tweets in the future.

    Also, when you do write something occasionally for The Hardball Times, please link to in on Twitter so we can read it.

    Long live the oxford comma!

  9. Michael Smith

    Also thank you for every thing you have done over the years including dealing with all the Virginia Cavaliers talk.

  10. Old-school

    Thanks for your time and contributions.

    2020 starts and ends to me with a healthy starting pitching staff and a healthy productive combo of Nick Senzel and Joey Votto. If NS and JV combine for 1.7 WAR again- nothing else matters. The rebuild has always been about book-ending the greatest hitter of this Reds era with the greatest prospect since Jay Bruce. The holes at catcher and 2b offensively are huge as well. But Nick Senzel and JV need to combine for 5-6 WAR in 2020. Add on Suarez at 4 and Grandal at 4 and a healthy productive LF and 2b and the offense is back. But it starts at first base and in CF.

  11. Steven Ross

    Jason, as you ride off into the Reds sunset….all the best. Now if I may:

    Tucker Barnhart will hit like he has throughout his career. If he hits anything like he has the September, we’re all in trouble. Bell slotting him 5th is mind numbing. I think we can do better at Catcher and Manager.

  12. Old-school

    As bad as the Reds Aroldis Chapman trade went, the Pirates hold out for the moon on Felipe Vazquez and not trading him just blew up. Pirates FO has been awful.

    • Colorado Red

      Cannot predict what happened with him.
      Not going comment on what he may have done.
      But that is not the FO fault.

      • Old-school

        The Fo traded Austin Meadows and Tyler glasnow for Chris Archer.. worst trade ever.. now the pirates FO overvalued #1
        lefty reliever at trade deadline abd refused to trade him….. And now get not only nothing but set back back the franchise years. This is Aroldis part 2.

  13. CFD3000

    Jason –
    Thank you. I’ve enjoyed your thoughts, your optimism, your enthusiasm, your insights, and your words of caution on this forum. I’ve enjoyed your interactions with one Chadwick Dotson on the RLN Radio podcasts. And I recently read Anna Karenina almost entirely because of you. I sincerely hope we haven’t heard the last on RLN from you Mr. Linden, but either way you’ve made my experience here a better one. Thank you!
    – Chris DeBlois

  14. RedNat

    Thank you Jason for your work on RLN. I a free wit about 75 % of the things you said which is by far the highest percentage of any writer. Lol

    Man 2020 seems like a mess right now.

    Suarez will be our 3rd baseman and Votto will be are 1st baseman. Are rotation is basically set but other than that ,question marks everywhere else. My problem is it is hard to imagine Senzel and Winker being fully healthy next year and they are supposed to be the core of our rebuild. Can vanmeter Aquino and Ervin lead the team if these 2 are injured. So far they have held their own but haven’t been able to push the reds over the edge into competitiveness. Hard to imagine 1 or 2 free agent signings would make a huge difference in our overall record unless our young players step up.

  15. Chris Holbert

    When I look at the American League Wildcard standings, I see Oakland and Tampa Bay at the top. Both teams have less less money, and are similar markets, yet somehow they seem to be competitive, more often than the Reds, maybe that is a model the Reds need to take a look at.

  16. Steven Schoenbaechler

    I hope for:

    1) Restock the bullpen. I hope that will include 1-2 more lefties down there.

    2) Find some offense.

    3) Develop the minors

    The first 2 may not be so difficult, given we are suppose to have a tubload of money to use (any forecast how much more specifically will be available). I don’t see how we can do it trading, though. We don’t have that much to trade with. I don’t see how we can do it with FA, either. With the positions we would look for (SS, 2nd, and C), there’s not that much out there that I believe we would pay for. So, either way, I believe the Reds are going to need to be creative with their moves.

    I believe we would use an OFer, preferable CF, and bring Senzel back to the infield. He’s hurting himself too much running into the wall. People can say how they love how he gets after that ball. But, honestly, I would prefer him to allow a hit and protect himself against the wall rather than get the out and get injured for another 3-8 weeks.

    And/or I believe we should go after Rendon and move Suarez to SS, the position he came up playing. I would take Suarez’s offense from SS any day of the week over any other SS.

    Some people say they don’t trust Suarez at SS. But we just put two infielders at CF the last several years, and they did fine. And, now, you are saying you can’t make a SS out of a 3rd baseman who came into the league playing SS? That doesn’t make sense to me. Oh, sure, he’s not your prototypical SS type. But, like I stated, if the Reds are going to improve for next season, I believe the FO is going to have to be creative.

    One idea for starting pitching, I wouldn’t have a problem bringing back Roark as a starter. Overall, I would rather get a left hander in the starting rotation, also. But, even before that, i would like to see some quality pitchers up there. And, Mahle just didn’t cut it. I would put Roark up there with Gray, Disco, Castillo, and Bauer anytime. And, when Bauer leaves after next season, we still have a quality starting rotation.

  17. David Moore

    Step 1 – Give Cleveland whatever they want for Lindor
    Step 2 – Sign Gerrit Cole
    Step 3 – Sign Yasmani Grandal
    Step 4 – Print World Series tickets

    • greenmtred

      Step one might doom the chances of a WS. A team composed of Lindor, Cole, Grandal and the Dayton Dragons might languish at the bottom of the division.

  18. lost11found

    I am not sold on Grandal as being the fix for catcher spot. His bat will play (maybe), but his defense is ….(trying to be nice)….err…. a problem. He was exposed in last years WS by Boston. People don’t run very much nowadays, and not much reason to in regular season, but a few well-timed SB in the playoffs can make a big difference. Teams might take that risk when the reward is highest.

    If they shore up 2B, and only have weaker production from SS and C, which are usually defense first positions, they might be able to roll with that.

  19. LWblogger2

    Dang it Jason. I’ve always enjoyed your writing, even when I don’t agree with you; which doesn’t happen too often. I’m not on social media anymore so won’t see you pop up on a Twitter feed either.

    Keep doing you and best of luck in whatever you endeavor to do. My email address is tied to every comment so feel free to reach out anytime.