2017 Record: 68-94
Last Place, NL Central
Team ERA: 5.17 (29th)
Team OPS: .761 (10th)
What Went Right
Joey Votto had an MVP-worthy season, batting .320/.454/.578 with 36 home runs and 100 RBI while becoming the first Reds player since 1975 to start all 162 games. He got on base 321 times, breaking his own franchise record of 319, set in 2015. Votto finished first in the National League in wRC+ (165) and OPS+ (168), which both account for the fact that he gets to play his home games at Great American Ball Park, one of the more offense-happy stadiums in the major leagues. Luis Castillo arrived in Cincinnati in June and showed the stuff of a front-line starter, posting a 3.12 ERA, 1.075 WHIP, and 98 strikeouts over his first 89 1/3 big-league innings. He can be locked into a rotation spot for 2018. Billy Hamilton played his usual brand of elite-level defense in center field and remained a menace on the basepaths. His stolen base totals since the 2014 season are aesthetically pleasing: 56, 57, 58, 59. Scooter Gennett, a late-March waiver claim from the Brewers, put up a career-best .874 OPS with 27 home runs and 97 RBI. He had a four-homer game in June and hit four grand slams throughout the season, becoming the first player to accomplish both feats since Lou Gehrig in 1932.
What Went Wrong
Reds pitchers surrendered 821 runs, by far the highest total in the National League, and opposing hitters managed an .810 OPS against the Cincinnati pitching staff -- tied with the Tigers for the worst mark in the majors. Homer Bailey posted a 6.43 ERA and 1.69 WHIP over 18 starts in the fourth year of a six-year, $105 million deal. He is still owed $49 million. Amir Garrett made the Reds’ rotation out of spring training and looked great in his first three starts, but the wheels fell off from there and he wound up with a 7.39 ERA in 70 2/3 innings. Michael Lorenzen emerged as a top setup man last year at age 24 but struggled to a 4.45 ERA in 83 innings this year at age 25. Devin Mesoraco continued to languish on the disabled list with a variety of injuries, logging only 165 plate appearances and finishing with just six home runs and 14 RBI. Jose Peraza batted .259/.297/.324 in 143 games, after slashing .324/.352/.411 in 72 games as a rookie in 2016. The organization’s rebuilding effort showed little signs of significant progress, outside of an impressive June draft class.
** Cincinnati’s offense was a source of some fantasy goodness. The obvious standout was Joey Votto, who got back into the power game this year with his highest home run total and RBI total since his MVP campaign in 2010. Billy Hamilton still can’t hit, but he remained highly valuable as a base-stealer and would have finished first overall in that category if not for an early-September thumb fracture. Adam Duvall produced 31 home runs and 99 RBI as the Reds’ primary cleanup hitter, despite batting just .249 with a .301 on-base percentage. Scott Schebler batted just .233 with a .307 on-base percentage, but he also reached 30 home runs. Eugenio Suarez managed a career-best .828 OPS, along with 26 home runs and 82 RBI. All of these players will be back in 2018 and so will Scooter Gennett, pending possible (maybe even likely) offseason trade activity.
** Zack Cozart is scheduled to become a free agent five days after the World Series and will almost certainly be changing cities. The 32-year-old shortstop posted an excellent .297/.385/.548 batting line with 24 home runs, 63 RBI, and 80 runs scored in 122 games this season, earning his first All-Star nod and finishing second on the team in WAR. Moving away from Great American Ball Park will probably hurt Cozart’s power projections for 2018, but he could also shape into a decent mid-to-late round sleeper if he lands in the right situation.
** Raisel Iglesias had a late-season fade, but he still finished with a strong 2.49 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 63 appearances, striking out 92 batters over 76 innings. Reds manager Bryan Price talked this spring about using a matchups-based approach to the ninth inning, but Iglesias got the call more often than not and tallied 28 saves in 30 opportunities. The 27-year-old right-hander is on a team-friendly contract that runs through 2020.
** Outfield prospect Jesse Winker made a strong first impression, batting .298/.375/.529 with seven home runs and seven doubles across his first 47 major league games. He wasn’t much of a counting stats compiler in the minor leagues, but Great American Ball Park can help that cause and the 24-year-old former supplemental first-round pick has turned in well-rounded slash lines at every level of professional baseball.
** Jose Peraza is going to take on a larger role next season, his poor output from 2017 be damned. Regular starts will yield regular stolen bases and if he hits well enough to claim a spot near the top of the Reds’ lineup the fantasy returns could be great. Peraza batted second 19 times in April before manager Bryan Price pulled the plug.
Team Needs: Pitching, pitching, pitching, and maybe another high-OBP bat.