2016 Record - 68-94
Fifth Place, NL Central
Team ERA: 4.91 (28th)
Team OPS: .724 (23rd)
What Went Right
It was another rebuilding year for the Reds that saw a second straight sub-70 win season. The roster turnover that began with an offseason trade of Todd Frazier continued at the deadline when Jay Bruce was shipped out of town. There were some bright spots in Cincy in 2016, though. Adam Duvall ran with his first full-time major league gig, slugging 33 home runs and driving in 103 runs while earning a trip to the All-Star Game. Joey Votto got off to a slow start but then had an historic second half that saw him bat .408/.490/.668 with 15 homers and 55 RBI. Jose Peraza and Scott Schebler took advantage of regular playing time down the stretch, batting .366/.387/.484 and .290/.357/.461, respectively, from August on. Waiver claim Dan Straily turned out to be the club’s most reliable starter, putting up a 3.76 ERA and 1.19 WHIP over 191 1/3 innings. Former starters Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen in the second half helped to stabilize what was a very leaky bullpen for most of the season, posting a collective 2.43 ERA and a strikeout per frame between them in relief.
What Went Wrong
Devin Mesoraco was dealt a second consecutive lost season, undergoing shoulder and hip surgeries. He won’t be allowed to resume catching drills until sometime in January. The Reds struggled for continuity in their rotation beyond Dan Straily and Brandon Finnegan, as no one besides those two made more than 20 starts. Anthony DeSclafani did pitch well when healthy (3.28 ERA, 1.22 WHIP in 20 starts) but he missed the first two months of the season with a nagging oblique injury. Top prospect Cody Reed really struggled in his chances (7.36 ERA, 1.80 WHIP in 10 starts), and so did John Lamb (6.43 ERA, 1.64 WHIP in 14 starts) before going down with a flexor mass strain in his pitching arm. Homer Bailey’s rehab from Tommy John surgery featured some starts and stops, and he didn’t make a start in September due to a biceps issue. When he was healthy, the veteran righty struggled with a 6.65 ERA and 1.83 WHIP over six starts. The aforementioned Reds bullpen was an absolute mess for the bulk of the season, as they blew 25 saves and set a major league record by allowing 103 home runs.
**Can Adam Duvall repeat his 2015 breakout performance next season? Duvall finished tied for sixth in the National League with his 33 home runs and fifth in the NL with his 103 RBI. The power isn’t new for the 28-year-old, as Duvall clubbed at least 27 dingers on three different occasions in the minors. He also proved to be surprisingly adept defensively in left field. The issue with Duvall is his plate discipline. Only four players in the NL wound up with more strikeouts (164) and he drew only 41 walks, finishing with a .241 average and lowly .297 on-base percentage. Great American Ball Park obviously caters well to Duvall’s power, but can he make enough contact and avoid lengthy slumps?
**What, if anything, can the Reds expect from Devin Mesoraco in 2017? After ripping 25 home runs in an All-Star season in 2014, Mesoraco has been limited to just 106 plate appearances over the last two seasons due to injury. In 2015, it was left hip surgery. In 2016, it was left shoulder surgery and then right hip surgery. At last check, Mesoraco is set to resume catching drills in January. The hope seems to be that he’ll be ready to go come Opening Day, but the Reds would be silly to count on Mesoraco for everyday catching duties next season, especially with Tucker Barnhart coming off a solid year. Even at a position that can be a fantasy wasteland, Mesoraco is a risky proposition in 2017.
**Can the Reds find regular at-bats for Jose Peraza? The Reds decided against carrying Peraza as a bench player on the Opening Day roster and then used him sparingly in multiple stints from May-July. Then, with both Zack Cozart (knee) and Billy Hamilton (oblique) banged up down the stretch, Peraza saw regular starts in the final six weeks and batted .366/.387/.484 with two homers and 11 stolen bases across 163 plate appearances. Hamilton will be back in center field and probably in the leadoff spot in 2017, but the Reds could free up a regular job for Peraza by trading Cozart or Brandon Phillips. The 22-year-old could be a difference-maker in fantasy leagues with his speed.
**What will the Reds do about their closer job? JJ Hoover began the season as the club’s closer but was quickly booted from the role and wasn’t even on the 40-man roster by the end of the year. The Reds used a few different guys to get saves after that before eventually settling on Tony Cingrani. In the final few weeks of the season, it was Raisel Iglesias’ turn. Manager Bryan Price hinted on the last day of the season that he could use Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen in multiple-inning closing situations in 2017. It’s an interesting idea and could work with both pitchers being former starters. However, it could wind up being a headache for fantasy owners if the save opportunities are split up evenly. Iglesias flashed plenty of promise in the rotation, but it looks like he’ll probably remain in the bullpen going forward as the Reds try to keep him healthy.
**What can the Reds get out of their young starters next season? Anthony DeSclafani, Homer Bailey, Dan Straily and Brandon Finnegan should be locked into the rotation in 2017. The Reds have some intriguing options to fill the No. 5 spot in Cody Reed, Robert Stephenson and John Lamb, but all three have been inconsistent at best in their chances in the majors to this point. There’s also top prospect Amir Garrett, who should debut at some point in 2017. Stephenson might have the best raw stuff of the group but has to improve his control. Reed looked polished and ready to go before he was called up but then allowed a whopping 67 hits and 12 homers with a 7.36 ERA in 10 starts. Lamb has flashed strikeout upside but has put up a 6.17 ERA over 24 big league starts and had his 2016 season end early with a flexor strain.
Key Free Agents: None
Team Needs: Signing a veteran starter to fill out the rotation and give the younger pitchers more seasoning probably wouldn’t be a bad idea. Of course, that’s what the Reds thought they were doing last spring when they brought in Alfredo Simon (whoops). Some bullpen help also has to be on Cincinnati’s radar.