Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

2017 Cincinnati Reds Team Outlook

Senior Fantasy Baseball Expert Shawn Childs previews the Cincinnati Reds heading into the 2017 season.

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds have won fewer than 70 games in the last two seasons due to a pitching staff that ranks at the bottom of the league in just about every category. In 2014, Cinci allowed 612 runs. The next season that number jumped to 754 following by another massive regression in 2016 (854 runs – 100 more than 2015 and 242 more than 2014). They finished 14th in the NL in ERA (4.91) and 29th in the majors in bullpen ERA (5.09) with 23 wins, 32 losses, and 28 saves. The Reds relievers walked the most batters in baseball (297).

The Reds didn’t lose any player of value to free agency. The waived SP John Lamb who was eventually traded to the Tampa for cash. Cincinnati sent SP Dan Straily to the Marlins for OF Isaiah White and SP Luis Castillo, and RP Austin Brice. RP Drew Storen was signed to compete for the closing role. They also added SP Scott Feldman.

Cinci ranked 8th in the National League in runs (716) and 10th in HRs (164). They scored 76 more runs than 2015 (640).

In 2017, their starting lineup has a chance to be improved if C Devin Mesoraco can stay and gain his previous form. The combination of OF Jose Peraza and OF Scott Schebler should be more than serviceable as the third outfielder. The rest of the starting lineup has enough talent to be competitive in many games.

The starting rotation has three arms with possible upside (Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Cody Reed), but there will be growing pains. A healthy season by Homer Bailey would be a nice step in the right direction.

Their best pitcher (Raisel Iglesias) appears destined to be the closer in 2017 to help keep his arm healthy. Overall, the bullpen should be improved with the addition of Drew Storen and the potential upside of Michael Lorenzen.

A good season would be a record about .500 with their success to the development of their pitching staff.

1. OF Billy Hamilton

Durability is becoming a concern for Hamilton after missing 91 games over the last three seasons. Billy has more than 50 steals in each of his last three seasons with an improving success rate (87.9). His SB total over the last two seasons projected over 550 at bats would be about 77 SBs per season. Even with an uptick in batting average (.260), Billy had a career high K rate (20.2) while showing growth in his walk rate (7.8). Last year he missed time in late April with a thumb issue, a concussion in June, a knee injury in mid- August, and an oblique issue in early September that ended his season. Hamilton needs to improve against lefties (.221). In July and August, he hit .260 with 33 runs, no HRs, five RBI, and 35 SBs over 200 at bats. If Billy repeated his attempt rate in these two months over a full season, he would steal over 100 bags. His swing path is changing to produce more ground balls (47.7 percent), which is a positive due to his ability to beat out ground balls for hits. Two category player who is dead in the water in HRs and RBI. His high SBs total is a great asset when he’s running and steal healthy. Between .250 and .260 with 100+ runs and 80+ SBs with 550 at bats.

2. SS Jose Peraza

Over six seasons in the minors, Peraza hit .299 with 11 HRs, 204 RBI, and 220 SBs over 2127 at bats. Jose had a low K rate (10.7), but he needs to take more walks (5.0 percent) if he wants to hit near the top of the batting order. The Reds gave him 241 at bats in the majors leading to a .324 batting average with three HRs, 25 RBI, and 21 SBs. Over his last 36 games of the season, Peraza hit .366 with two HRs, 17 RBI, 11 SBs over 153 at bats. Jose doesn’t have a clear path to at bats, but the Reds want to get him into the starting lineup. He could be a super utility player or steal the starting shortstop job. I’d like to see him hit next to Hamilton to see the upside in speed by both players. His approach points to the bottom of the order. Peraza is only 22, and he should continue to improve. Maybe 450 at bats with 75 runs, five HRs, 40 RBI, and 40 SBs. Easy player to overvalue as his playing time isn’t a lock. Update: With Phillips no longer on the roster, Peraza will have a very good chance of playing every day thus raising his projections by about 20 percent.

3. 1B Joey Votto

For the 5th time in seven seasons, Votto led the National League in on-base percentage. His K rate (17.7) was his lowest total since 2008 (17.3) while maintaining an elite walk rate (16.0). His CTBA (.415) has been .400 or higher in four of his last five seasons. Over the four months of the seasons, Joey hit .378 with 20 HRs and 67 RBI. This offset his slow start to the year as far as batting average (.213 over 178 at bats) while being productive in May (.200 with seven HRs and 19 RBI). He hit well against righties (.330 with 24 HRs and 75 RBI over 397 at bats) and lefties (.314 with five HRs and 22 RBI). His HR/FB rate (22.0) was his second highest of his career while finishing almost the same as 2015 (21.6). He tends to hit a low volume of fly balls (29.7 percent – 32.9 in his career). I like the rebound in his RBI rate (18), but the lack of talent in front of him in the batting order led to two straight years with low RBI chances (2014 – 354 and 2015 – 375). Solid .300 hitter with close to a 100/30/100 skill set.

4. OF Adam Duvall

After spending most of 2014 and 2015 at AAA (.278 with 57 HRs, 177 RBI, and seven SBs over 856 at bats), Adam was finally able to breakthrough in the majors at 2017. He finished with 33 HRs and 103 RBI supported by his high AVH (2.068). Adam does struggles with strikeouts (27.0 percent) with a below par walk rate (6.7). Both numbers had more strength on his minor-league resume (walk rate – 8.0 and K rate – 19.6). He had a low batting average against both RH (.242) and LH (.238). Duvall was the most productive in May and June (.257 with 20 HRs and 50 RBI). Over the second half of the season, Adam hit .232 with 11 HRs and 48 RBI over 284 at bats. Over six years in the minors, he hit .268 with 130 HRs, 440 RBI, and 23 SBs over 2690 at bats. His power is for real while his minor-league resume points to growth in his K rate leading to possible uptick in batting average. I don’t think his RBI rate (19) will be repeatable. Possible .250 with 30 HRs and 90 RBI if he doesn’t have regression in his K rate.

© Kenny Karst-USA TODAY Sports

5. C Devin Mesoraco

Over the last two seasons, Mesoraco has only played in 39 games leading to no HRs and three RBI over 95 at bats. Devin started 2016 with a slow recovery from hip surgery, which came in June of 2015. By early May, the Reds placed on the DL with a left shoulder injury that ended up being a torn labrum. Mesoraco had surgery to repair the issue in mid-May. Cinci decided he needed a second surgery in June to fix a torn labrum in his right hip. With no real data over the last two years to plan for 2017, here’s a look at his 2014 season: His 2014 season looks impressive on his resume when Devin set career highs in runs (54), HRs (25), and RBI (80) with a strong RBI rate (21) and strength in his AVH (1.952) and CTBA (.374). His K rate (17.7) has been above average in every season in the majors except 2014 (23.4) while adding an edge in his walk rate (9.8). This season (2015) a Fantasy owner must decide if his success in 2014 is repeatable. In his first three years in the majors, Mesoraco had a HR/FB rate around 10.0 with a jump to 20.5 in 2014. His swing path was more fly producing in 2014 (43 percent) as well. Over eight seasons in the minors, he hit .267 with 60 HRs, 236 RBI, and eight SBs in 1628 at bats. I'm going to write off 2015 and respect his growth in 2014. I'll set the bar at .270 with 60+ runs, 20+ HRs, and 75+ RBI. With one season of value on his resume and multiple injuries over the last two seasons, Devin will be a tough player to trust. I’ll set the bar 15 HRs and 60 RBI and hope for upside. The Reds expect him to be ready for the start of spring training.

6. 3B Eugenio Suarez

Suarez did a nice job repeating his power (21 HRs) and RBI rate (16), but he made weaker overall contact (CTBA – .341). His AVH (1.657) supported his rise in HRs while his minor-league success in this area points to more upside. Eugenio has weakness in his K rate (24.7) while his walk rate (8.1) moved to league average. His swing had the most value against lefties (.276 with nine HRs and 21 RBI over 127 at bats – .528 slugging) with his failure tied to RH pitching (.240 with 12 HRs and 49 RBI over 438 at bats). Suarez was more productive before the All-Star break (15 HRs and 40 RBI) with a poor batting average (.228). He made better contact over the second half of the year (.272) with regression in power (six HRs and 30 RBI over 254 at bats). His HR/FB rate (13.5) was slightly improved over 2015 (12.1). Over seven years in the minors, Eugenio hit .276 with 41 HRs, 251 RBI, and 71 SBs over 2136 at bats. Showing growth with a chance at a 20/80/15 skill set. His lower K rate (20.3) in the minors points to a neutral batting average.

7. OF Scott Schebler

Schebler did a nice job over a half season of at bats in the majors, which leads to a future 20/80 player. His K rate (20.9) was just above the league average while falling below the league average in walks (6.7 percent). Schebler struggled in his limited at bats (41) against lefties (.195 with one HR and six RBI). Over the last two months of the seasons, he hit .290 with eight HRs and 32 RBI over 193 at bats. Over six seasons in the minors, Scott hit .276 with 100 HRs, 383 RBI, and 62 SBs over 2514 at bats. Even with an active power swing, he hit a high number of ground balls (52.6 percent) in 2016 in the majors. His AVH (1.632) came in lower than his minor-league success. 30+ HR power with a weak opportunity as far as a slot in the batting order to start his career. His possible downside against lefties points to a platoon role until he proves he can handle them. Intriguing power source with some underlying speed.

8: SS Zack Cozart

Over the last two seasons, Cozart has 25 HRs and 78 RBI over 658 at bats. His AVH (1.684) has been in more favorable area over the last two years while his CTBA (.308) remain in an area to restrict the upside of his batting average. After hitting the ball well in April (.361 with two HRs and nine RBI over 72 at bats), Zack hit .228 over his last 303 at bats with 10 HRs, 32 RBI, and three SBs. He developed a knee injury in mid-August, which ended his season in the middle of September. The Reds tried to move him in the offseason to clear a spot for Peraza in the starting lineup. Cozart only hit .226 against lefties over 106 at bats with six HRs and 15 RBI. His K rate (16.5) was in line with his career resume while his walk rate (7.3) was a career high. I’m sure Zack will getting 400+ at bats. Possible 15 HRs and 60 RBI with a below par in his batting average. It appears his speed won’t ever become a factor in the majors. Update: Zack gains some value since my writeup thanks to Jose Peraza getting a full time starting job at second base. Cozart should receive over 500 at bats due to the Phillips’ trade.

BN: OF Jesse Winker

Over five years in the minors, Winkler hit .296 with 54 HRs, 274 RBI, and 20 SBs over 1763 at bats. Jesse had a sharp drop in his AVH (1.270) while flashing more length on his hits 2013 (1.650) and 2014 (1.802). He has a high walk rate (14.0) with strength in his K rate (16.2). In 2016, Winkler missed time with a wrist injury that cost him a month of the season plus it was a factor in his low HR total (3). High average bat with the skill set to hit second in the batting order. His power will develop with more experience in the majors. With 380 at bats at AAA (.303 with three HRs and 45 RBI) on his resume, Jesse should get a shot in the majors at some point in 2017. Sneaky upside and his game may work well hitting between Billy Hamilton and Joey Votto.

Bench Option

C Tucker Barnhart – With a better than expected opportunity due to the injury to Devin Mesoraco, Tucker set a career high in every offensive category in 2016 (.257 with seven HRs and 51 RBI over 377 at bats). His K rate (17.1) and walk rate (8.6) were above the league average. Improving backup catcher with short-term replacement value.

IF Arismendy Alcantara – After player well over 278 at bats in his rookie season in 2014 (10 HRs, 29 RBI, and eight SBs), Alcantara has been unable to earn a job in the majors due to his high K rate (31.9). Over eight years in the minors, Arismendy hit .275 with 64 HRs, 346 RBI, and 160 SBs over 2884 at bats. He struck out 21.9 percent of the time in the minors. Nice talent with upside once figures out how to control the strike zone better.

OF Desmond Jennings – Injuries have killed Desmond value over the last two seasons. He’s never played a full year in his seven years in the majors. In 2015 and 2016, he missed 231 at bats. He’s career .245 hitter with 55 HRs, 191 RBI, and 95 SBs over 2076 at bats. Jennings will compete for a reserve outfield job while possibly being the RH platoon option with Scott Schebler.

1. SP Homer Bailey

Bailey is a perfect example why you don’t draft pitchers coming off major injuries. He had TJ surgery in May of 2015. Homer made his 2016 debut on July 31st when he allowed two runs and seven base runners over 5.2 innings. He flashed elite upside in his third start (no runs and three hits over six innings with 11 Ks). After four starts, Bailey had a 3.66 ERA with 27 Ks over 19.2 innings. His arm blew up in his last two outings of the year (nine runs and 15 base runners with no Ks over 3.1 innings). Homer didn’t pitch again after due a right biceps issue, which was the reason for his two poor outings. His AVB came in at 93.9, which was below his success in 2013 and 2014 (95.2). In his big K game in August, his fastball averaged 95.1. In his last two disaster starts, he lost the life on his fastball (91.8 and 91.3). His curveball (.125 BAA) and split-finger fastball (.200 BAA) held value while his slider (.267 BAA) was only league average. Bailey has upside with a favorable walk rate (2.9) in his career. With a full offseason of recovery, he should be back to full strength this spring. Homer has the potential to have a sub 3.50 ERA with 175 Ks in 200 innings pitched.

© Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

2. SP Anthony DeSclafani

DeSclafani started the year on the DL with a bad oblique injury leading to 10 missed weeks. He allowed three runs or fewer in his first eight starts (2.50 ERA) and 15 of his first 17 starts (2.93 ERA). Anthony lost his command (eight walks over 16 innings) over his last three starts of the year. In those games, he had two disaster outings (nine runs and 18 base runners over 10 innings). On the year, DeSclafani has a winning walk rate (2.2) while his K rate (7.7) is trending upward. His arm still has plenty of risk against lefties (.303 with 11 HRs over 254 at bats) while do a nice job vs. RH batters (.206). His AFB (93.9) was a career high. Batters struggled to hit his secondary pitches (changeup – .188 BAA, slider – .202 BAA, and curveball – .215 BAA). His downside in HRs came against his four-seam fastball (seven HRs over 94 at bats – .372 BAA) and his sinker (eight HRs over 190 at bats – .268 BAA). Over four seasons in the minors, Anthony had a 26-17 record with a 3.30 ERA and 323 Ks over 376.1 innings. He made an adjustment on the grip of his curveball prior to 2016 leading to more swings and misses. Developing arm with a chance to throw 200+ innings in 2017. The key here is better location of his fastball in the strike zone. Anthony should have a sub 3.50 ERA with a chance at 175+ Ks.

3. SP Brandon Finnegan

There is no doubt Finnegan is tough to hit (.236 BAA in 2016 and .231 in his career), but he walks way too many batters (4.4 per nine) with a ton of HRs allowed (29 over 172 innings). After wandering his way through May, June, and July (4.93 ERA). Brandon showed growth over the last two months of the season (2.47 ERA with 59 Ks over 54.2 innings), but he still walks 4.1 batters per nine innings. Finnegan offered more upside against LH pitching (.218 BAA). He allowed 27 of his 29 HRs to righties even with a respectable batting average against (.241). His AFB (92.8) was about league average. Batters rarely hit his changeup (.133 BAA) with a high level of success with his slider (.216 BAA). The key for him is improving the location of his sinker (.280 with 13 HRs allowed over 1069 at bats). Over 32 games in the minors, Brandon went 0-10 with a 4.27 ERA and 88 Ks in 84.1 innings. His walk rate (4.3) was his downfall while his K rate (9.4) offers upside. Sneaky arm who needs to improve his strike-throwing ability. If he shaves off 15 to 20 Ks over the same total of innings pitched, Finnegan would see his K rate grow leading to a possible 3.25 ERA. His lack of elite fastball does limit his upside without a huge step forward in his command.

4. SP Scott Feldman

Feldman has an ERA under 4.00 in his last four seasons in the league while showing risk in his WHIP in each of his last three seasons (2014 – 1.303, 2015 – 1.311, and 2016 – 1.377). He made four starts in April (3.97 ERA) before being sent to the bullpen. During this period, Scott allowed 11 walks and 37 base runners over 19.2 innings, which led to him spending most of the rest of the year in the bullpen. His command was much improved out of the bullpen (eight walks over 52.1 innings – 11 over 24.2 innings in the starting rotation). Feldman struggled with LH batters (.325). His AFB (91.0) had more zip in the bullpen. Scott threw a cutter as his number one pitch with no success (.352 BAA). His only pitch of value was his curveball (.221 BAA) Pure inning eater with a low walk rate (2.2) and losing K rate (6.5).

5. SP Bronson Arroyo

Arroyo missed the last two seasons due to TJ surgery in 2014 and right shoulder inflammation in 2015. Here’s a look at his 2016 profile: Arroyo signed a minor-league contract in January of 2016. He had TJ surgery in June of 2014 which gives him 21 months to recover. Over his last two and half years in the majors, Bronson had a 3.86 ERA with 300 Ks in 490 innings. His walk rate (2.4) has been stronger with age (2.0 in 2014), but he has no value in Ks (4.9 K rate in 2014 - 5.8 in his career). In 2014, his AFB (85.4) was the lowest of his career (87.2 in 2013). He threw a slider as his number two pitch followed by a changeup and curveball. With 15 years of major league experience, Bronson has a very good chance of being a back-end innings eater for the Nationals in 2016. His arm has no real upside with plenty of disaster risk. The Reds signed him for insurance while hoping he could eat up some innings until one of the year arms develops. Losing flier at age 40.

6. SP Cody Reed

Over four seasons in the minors, Reed had a 3.66 ERA with 292 Ks over 332.1 innings. He battled his command in 2014 at A ball (3.9 walks per nine) leading to a bad season (3-9 with a 5.46 ERA). His arm was much improved in 2015 at three levels in the minors (13-9 with a 2.41 ERA and 144 Ks over 145.2 innings). He tried to make the jump to the majors in 2016, but he had no success getting batters out (7.36 ERA and 1.084 WHIP) while allowing 12 HRs over 47.2 innings. At AAA, Cody threw the ball well (3.08 ERA and 65 Ks over 73 innings). His AFB in the majors was 93.9. Batters crushed his four-seam fastball (.402 BAA and .756 SLG) and sinker (.342 BAA and .658 SLG). Reed has a lot to prove in 2017 before being trusted as major league option.

Amir Garrett

Garrett was unimpressive over his two seasons in the minors (4.87 ERA) while walking 4.5 batters per nine. Over his last two years in the minors between three levels, Amir had a 2.49 ERA with 265 Ks over 285 innings. His walk rate (3.7 in 2016) is still a negative. Over 12 games at AAA last season, he had a 3.46 ERA with 54 Ks over 67.2 innings. Garrett throws a mid-90s fastball with a developing slider that has chance to be a plus pitch. His changeup still needs work. His command will get exposed at the next level. Player to follow in 2017.

CL Raisel Iglesias

Raisel made five starts in April (3.49 ERA and 29 Ks over 28.1 innings) before going on the DL for almost eight weeks with a right shoulder injury. The Reds decided to move him to the bullpen when he return from the DL in June. Iglesias was electric in July (no runs over 18.2 innings with 22 Ks helping him earn some save chances over the last two months of the season. In August and September, he had a 3.41 ERA with 26 Ks and six saves over 26.1 innings. Raisel held an edge against righties (.171 BAA), but his lack success against lefties (.266 with five HRs allowed over 139 at bats) may lead to him splitting saves in 2017. His walk rate (3.0) needs to improve. His AFB (94.9) was a career high. Batters struggled to hit his four-seamer (.222 BAA), sinker (.232 BAA), and slider (.168 BAA). Intriguing closing option as his arm could make a huge step forward if he throws more strikes. Iglesias needs to figure lefties before becoming a stud in the 9th.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

RP Tony Cingrani

Tony converted 17 of 23 saves chances while posting a terrible walk rate (5.3) and weaker than expected K rate (7.0). Cingrani struggled in April and May (4.43 ERA) due to walking 16 batters over 21.1 innings. He threw the ball well in June and July (1.90 ERA), but he only struck out 10 batters over 23.2 innings. He turned into a train wreck over the last two months of the season (6.88 ERA with 14 walks and 34 base runners allowed over 17 innings). Tony has never been able to live up to his minor-league resume (16-7 with a 1.67 ERA and 333 Ks over 253.1 innings). His AFB (95.0) was a career high. Batter struggle to hit his four-seam fastball (.228 BAA) while his slider (.333 BAA) isn’t where it needs to be. Cingrani issued 27 of his 37 walks to RH batters while having the most success against lefties (.207). His arm has lost its luster due to his inability to throw strikes. Possible saves when facing lefties in the 9th, but Iglesias is the much better option.

RP Michael Lorenzen

Lorenzen missed the first seven weeks of the season with a right elbow injury suffered in spring training. When he returned to the mound in late June, the Reds used him out of the bullpen. He struggled over his first eight outings (4.26 ERA). After the All-Star break, Michael had a 2.75 ERA with 36 Ks over 39.1 innings. He did a better job vs. LH batters (.202). Over four years in the minors, Lorenzen had a 2.77 ERA with 129 Ks over 188.2 innings while splitting time as a starter and in relief. His AFB (97.3) was elite in the bullpen. He threw his cutter (.197 BAA) as his number one pitch followed by a plus sinker (.170 BAA). Mike needs to locate his four-seamer better (.324 BAA and .559 SLG). In relief in 2016, he had the best command of his career. Dark horse for saves with also having a chance of emerging back in the starting rotation.

References

Baseball America Prospect Handbook. (n.d.).

Baseball-Reference. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.baseball-reference.com/

Brooksbaseball.net. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.brooksbaseball.net/

Fangraphs. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.fangraphs.com/

Roster Resource. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.rosterresource.com/mlb

Rotowire. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.rotowire.com/

RotoWorld. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.rotoworld.com/

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