The Cincinnati Reds lost 95 games in 2018 and weren’t expected to compete in 2019. However, the Reds surprised many by hanging in the playoff race until the middle of the summer. They weren’t mathematically eliminated until September 16th, following a loss to the Cubs. They showed plenty of improvement and have reasons to be hopeful about 2020.
2019 Cincinnati Reds Positives: Pitching
Over the last few seasons, the Reds struggled mightily with pitching. However, that changed in 2019. The Reds saw their team ERA drop from 4.63 (14th in the NL) in 2018, to 4.18 in 2019 (4th in the NL). They found a legitimate front-end of their rotation in Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray. Castillo broke out with a 15-7 record, 3.25 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 218 strikeouts in 185.2 innings pitched. In addition, hitters managed only a .200/.287/.341 line against him, and his strikeout rate jumped to a career best 28.8%. Castillo’s performance earned himself his first ever All-Star Game selection.
Gray meanwhile bounced back very nicely from a disappointing 2018 season. In 170.1 innings pitched, Gray had an 11-7 record, 2.80 ERA (over two runs lower than 2018), 1.09 WHIP and a career-high 199 strikeouts. Gray’s 5.7 bWAR for the season is also a career-high. His performance earned himself his second career All-Star Game selection.
The Reds also began experimenting with turning Michael Lorenzen into a two-way player. Lorenzen pitched well, picking up six saves and turning in a 3.06 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 79.1 innings pitched. Additionally, Lorenzen played 75.2 innings in the outfield and contributed a respectable -1 DRS without comitting any errors.
2019 Cincinnati Reds: Strong Offensive Seasons
On the offensive side of the ball, the Reds called up outfielder Aristides Aquino, and he was very impressive. Though he’s cooled down a little bit, Aquino still owns a .255/.307/.564 (118 OPS+) line with an impressive 17 homers in just 197 plate appearances. Jesse Winker also had a solid season, posting a .269/.357/.473 (112 OPS+) with 16 homers and 38 RBI in 384 plate appearances. Aquino and Winker could occupy two of the Reds’ outfield spots for years to come.
Eugenio Suárez built on his strong 2018 season with an even stronger season this year. In 638 plate appearances, Suárez has hit .273/.354/.577 (135 OPS+) with a career-high 49 homers. While he has struck out a career-worst 186 times, a career-best 11.1% of his plate appearances resulted in extra-base hits. His ISO rose .243 in 2018 to an impressive .301 this year. Suarez looks like a key part of the middle of the Reds’ line-up for years to come.
Negatives: Offensive Struggles
Outside of Aquino, Winker, and Suarez, the Reds offense struggled mightily. They averaged only 4.33 runs per game, which was the fourth lowest number in the NL.
Most alarmingly, Joey Votto showed more signs that age has caught up with him. His .261/.357/.411 (98 OPS+) batting line was the worst he’s put up in the big leagues. His 1.6 bWAR this season is the lowest he’s put in any full season he’s played. His strikeout rate jumped to a career-worst 20.2% and his walk rate went down from 17.3% in 2018 to 12.5% this year.
While those numbers are good for most big-leaguers, those are well below Votto’s standards. The worst part about this situation is that the Reds are paying Votto $25-million every year through 2024, taking him through his age-40 season.
Derek Dietrich got off to a rip-roaring start this season, cranking out 17 homers and 36 RBI over the first two months of the season. However, he cooled off considerably and only hit one more homer before the All-Star Break. He still was hitting a solid .221/.349/.544 with 18 homers and 40 RBI at the break. Since then though, Dietrich has hit a horrid .071/.257/.179 with just one homer and three RBI in 70 plate appearances. Dietrich looked like a potential extension candidate earlier, but now he will likely find himself looking for another team after this awful second half.
Young Players Disappoint
In 2018, Jose Peraza broke out for the Reds with a .288/.326/.416 (98 OPS+) line with 182 hits, 14 homers, and 23 steals in 683 plate appearances. Unfortunately for him and the team, he struggled to an ugly .239/.285/.346 (62 OPS+) with six homers in 403 plate appearances. Peraza’s bWAR dropped from 2.3 in 2018 to an ugly -0.9 mark this year. His strikeout rate also rose to a career-worst 14.4%.
In addition, the Reds called up highly-touted prospect Nick Senzel, and he didn’t quite meet expectations. While he showed some signs of greatness, he’s batted a meager .188/.242/.313 from August 1st until he had season ending surgery on his shoulder. His overall line of .256/.315/.427 (89 OPS+) with 12 homers and 42 RBI shows that he may not be handling big league pitching very well. Senzel also struggled to adjust to his new position in centerfield, posting a subpar -1 DRS in 799.2 innings.
Iglesias’ Struggles Creates Closer Problem
After three straight dominant seasons as closer, Raisel Iglesias took a step back this year. While his strikeout rate rose to 12.0 K/9, his ERA rose from 2.38 in 2018 to 4.16 this year. He still managed to put up 34 saves, but he also blew a career-high six save opportunities.
Raisel Iglesias’ WHIP rose to 1.22 and opposing batters managed a .743 OPS against him, almost a full 100 points higher than in 2018. With the emergence of Michael Lorenzen, Robert Stephenson, and Amir Garrett as reliable relievers, Iglesias’ job as closer could be in jeopardy if he continues to disappoint.
On July 31, the Reds traded Yasiel Puig to the Indians and top-prospect Taylor Trammell to the Padres as part of a three-team trade to acquire former all-star pitcher Trevor Bauer. Bauer, who was a bit of a clubhouse problem in Cleveland, has been shelled ever since he got to Cincinnati. In 10 starts with the Reds, Bauer has a 2-5 record with a 6.39 ERA (72 ERA+), 1.35 WHIP, and 12 homers given up in 56.1 innings pitched (1.9 HR/9).
While Trevor Bauer‘s strikeout numbers for the year are still very high (253 strikeouts in 213 innings, 10.7 K/9), Bauer has coughed up 34 homers this year after only allowing nine in 175.1 innings pitched a year ago. With just one more year of team control, Bauer’s tenure in Cincinnati may be cut very short.
The Reds have plenty to be excited about. Their pitching staff looks like it will continue to improve, with Castillo and Gray under team control for at least another three years each. If Bauer can right the ship after his disappointing 2019, the Reds could have a lethal rotation of Castillo, Gray, Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani. They should look for a fifth starter this offseason to further solidify the rotation.
Even though the offense struggled this year, the Reds’ lineup has promise. Young players such as Senzel, Aquino, Winker and Peraza should continue to develop and prosper. The power threat of Eugenio Suarez will remain in the middle of the line up for the next few seasons. The success of the offense will likely hinge on if Joey Votto can fight off father time. If Votto can play like his vintage self, the line-up could be one the scariest in the NL.
The Reds’ most attractive trade piece this offseason is Raisel Iglesias. With the demand for relievers high, trading Iglesias could net the Reds some solid pieces for the future. Additonally, Iglesias could easily be replaced by one of Lorenzen or Garrett as closer.
Overall, the Reds showed a ton of improvement this year. They have a very young team, and look like they could be a contender as soon as next season.
Author Twitter: @maktheknife2000
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