2020 Record: 31-29
Third Place, NL Central
Team ERA: 3.84 (7th)
Team OPS: .715 (19th)
What Went Right
It starts with, well, the starting pitching. Trevor Bauer delivered a dominant 1.73 ERA, 0.795 WHIP, and 100/17 K/BB ratio over 73 regular-season innings (11 starts) before striking out 12 batters across 7 2/3 scoreless frames in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series against the Braves. The 29-year-old has a good shot at being named the 2020 NL Cy Young Award winner when that honor is handed out next month. Luis Castillo made 12 regular-season starts to the tune of a 3.21 ERA with 89 strikeouts in 70 innings and then tossed 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball in Wild Card Series Game 2. Sonny Gray faded somewhat down the stretch and didn’t get a chance to pitch in the playoffs, but he held a 1.94 ERA at the beginning of September. Jesse Winker led the way offensively, busting out for a team-high .932 OPS with 12 home runs in 183 plate appearances. Eugenio Suarez, despite battling lingering effects from offseason shoulder surgery, slugged a club-best 15 home runs in 58 games. Nick Castellanos had 14 homers and appeared in all 60 games in the first year of a four-year, $64 million contract signed in January. In the bullpen, Raisel Iglesias, Amir Garrett, Lucas Sims, and Tejay Antone all finished with ERAs in the 2.00s, and trade-deadline acquisition Archie Bradley yielded just one run in 7 2/3 innings following his pickup from the Diamondbacks on August 31. Cincinnati qualified for the expanded 16-team postseason as the No. 7 seed in the National League and played its first postseason game since falling 6-2 to the Pirates in the 2013 National League Wild Card Game.
What Went Wrong
Speaking of the 2020 playoffs, the Reds became the first team in the history of Major League Baseball to be held completely scoreless in a multi-game postseason series, falling 1-0 in to the Braves in Game 1 of the National League Wild Card Series -- a game that went 13 innings -- and then 5-0 in Game 2. They still haven’t won a postseason series since 1995, when they swept the Dodgers in the best-of-five NLDS. After stumbling out to a 1-4 start to begin the 2020 regular season, the Reds didn’t climb above the .500 mark until the final week of September. Joey Votto it 11 home runs in 54 games but finished with a career-low .226 batting average in the ninth year of a 12-year, $225 million contract extension inked back in April 2012. The 37-year-old first baseman is owed $25 million in each of the next three seasons with a $7 million buyout on his $20 million team option for 2024. Shogo Akiyama, signed out of Japan last winter for three years, $21 million, struggled to a .245 batting average and .297 slugging percentage over his first 183 plate appearances as a major leaguer. He barely played against left-handed pitching, and when he did, he slashed .190/.261/.238. Nick Senzel again had trouble avoiding the injured list and batted just .186/.247/.357 with two home runs and two stolen bases in 23 games when healthy. Wade Miley, brought in on a two-year, $14 million deal after a strong 2019 in Houston, made only four starts and two relief appearances while fighting groin and shoulder troubles. Dick Williams stepped down from his role as team president on October 7, citing a desire to take on a larger role in his family’s multi-regional real estate company.
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** Luis Castillo (52.1 ADP), Eugenio Suarez (77.2 ADP), and Trevor Bauer (84.5 ADP) were all top-100 picks in the average Yahoo draft and met the hype -- or even exceeded it -- in terms of expected fantasy production. Sonny Gray (107.1 ADP) and Raisel Iglesias (127.9 ADP) both fared well too. But infielder Mike Moustakas (100.3 ADP) was not one of the 53 different major leaguers to reach double-digit home runs during the condensed 2020 campaign -- he had eight -- and he posted his lowest batting average (.230) since 2014. Moustakas is under contract for three more seasons, at a total of $52 million guaranteed, and will hopefully be able to take advantage of the power-friendly conditions at Great American Ball Park in the years to come.
** Nick Senzel had an average draft position of 230.5 this spring on Yahoo, but that was mostly due to the shoulder labrum repair that he required in late September 2019. He gained some renewed buzz during redraft season in July before appearing in only 23 games in 2020 due to a groin issue and multiple COVID-19 scares. Senzel is only 25 years old and still possesses the kind of power-and-speed skillset that is ever-tantalizing in the fantasy world, but it hurts his stock that the Reds seem to view him only as an outfielder. Of his 973 career innings on defense, only 1 1/3 have been on the infield. He was originally drafted as a third baseman.
** Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle, and Wade Miley can be safely locked into Cincinnati’s starting rotation for 2021, but that No. 5 spot is a bit up in the air at the moment. Trevor Bauer is probably going to be too expensive to retain -- we’ll believe that he is open to a one-year deal when we see it. Michael Lorenzen is the most intriguing internal option. He registered a 1.91 ERA with 29 strikeouts over his final 28 1/3 innings this year and made two encouraging starts for the Reds as they got hot down the stretch in September.
** What’s the deal behind the plate? Tucker Barnhart was named one of three finalists for the National League Gold Glove Award at catcher, but Curt Casali far out-produced him offensively, and the Reds have to be giving at least some thought to turning the reins over to 24-year-old former first-round pick Tyler Stephenson, who tore up the Arizona Fall League in 2019 and put up a 1.047 OPS this summer across his first 20 major league plate appearances. He homered on the second pitch he saw as a big leaguer back on July 27 against the Cubs.
** It’s hard to know what to make of Aristides Aquino. He was a fantasy darling in the second half of the 2019 season, tallying 19 home runs and 47 RBI over 56 games alongside an .891 OPS, but the 26-year-old spent most of 2020 traveling back and forth between Cincinnati and the Reds’ alternate training site. Aquino drew only 56 plate appearances at the MLB level and hit .170/.304/.319 with two home runs. It might help his cause in both the short and long term if MLB sticks with the universal DH rule, but there’s no official word yet on that front.
** There were only nine saves converted by Reds pitchers in 2020 -- eight by Raisel Iglesias and one by Amir Garrett. The job should belong to Iglesias leading into the 2021 campaign coming off a 2.74 ERA and 31/5 K/BB ratio in 23 total innings this year, but Cincinnati management has for years expressed a desire to use Iglesias in more of a flexible role. Archie Bradley is under team control for next season and may be worth a late-round dart throw in drafts next spring. Garrett has become a proven high-leverage option as well.
Team Needs: A front-line starting pitcher, assuming Trevor Bauer walks. And the Reds have to somehow, someway get better in the contact-rate and OBP departments. They finished the 2020 season with a combined .212 batting average, which ranked dead-last among all 30 major league clubs. And their combined .312 on-base percentage ranked 24th.