2016 Cincinnati Reds Predictions: The Starting Eight

August 15, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Cincinnati Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton (6) runs to first after hitting a single in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
August 15, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Cincinnati Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton (6) runs to first after hitting a single in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

The start of another Spring Training brings the season of projections and prognostication upon us yet again. In this four-part series, I’ll be taking a look at what I expect each Reds’ player to do this year. Given that the Reds are openly in a rebuild for the first time in several years, projecting this year’s 25-Man Roster will be even harder than usual. Because of this, I have to make several assumptions about the roster that may or may not end up being true. First, I’m assuming that, due to the failure to trade Brandon Phillips, Jose Peraza will be spending the year at AAA. Second, I’m assuming that Scott Schebler wins the everyday Left Field job. Third, I’m assuming that Jay Bruce starts the season with Cincinnati, although that may not necessarily be the case. Fourth, I’ll be assuming that everybody will stay healthy. While this is obviously unrealistic, projecting games missed due to injury is tricky and usually wildly inaccurate. With that being said, here is my prediction for the 25-Man Roster:

The Starters:

  • 1B Joey Votto
  • 2B Brandon Phillips
  • SS Zack Cozart
  • 3B Eugenio Suarez
  • C Devin Mesoraco
  • RF Jay Bruce
  • CF Billy Hamilton
  • LF Scott Schebler

The Bench: 

  • 1B/OF Adam Duvall
  • C Tucker Barnhart
  • OF Jake Cave
  • IF/OF Ivan DeJesus Jr
  • OF Yorman Rodriguez

The Rotation: 

  • RHP Anthony DeSclafani
  • RHP Raisel Iglesias
  • RHP Homer Bailey*
  • LHP John Lamb**
  • LHP Brandon Finnegan

The Bullpen: 

  • RHP JJ Hoover
  • RHP Jumbo Diaz
  • LHP Chris O’Grady
  • RHP Blake Wood
  • LHP Tony Cingrani
  • RHP Caleb Cotham
  • RHP Michael Lorenzen

*Will miss start of season.
**Will miss start of season.

For these articles, I’ll be taking a look at several projection models and their forecast for each player, in addition to FanGraphs’ crowdsourced fan projections. I will then state whether or not I agree with the projections and why, before giving my own projections. With that being said, let’s get started!

#1) Joey Votto

2016 ZiPS Projection: .286/.429/.486, 19 HR, 63 RBI, 4.6 WAR
2016 Steamer Projection: .283/.418/.479, 21 HR, 73 RBI, 4.5 WAR
2016 Fan Projection: .308/.442/.517, 24 HR, 108 RBI, 6.1 WAR

Joey Votto’s projection highlights why I like to look at the fan projections that some people write off as unimportant along with the model projections. Model projections are, by nature, conservative. This is why both ZiPS and Steamer project Votto to regress to a BABIP that he has never sunk to in a full, healthy season. Fortunately for the Reds and Votto, I think the fans are much closer here than the models. Votto hasn’t hit under .300 in a full season since 2008, and nothing last year suggested that 2016 would change that. For the reasons I explained in my 2016 Bold Predictions article, I think there is reason to suspect some power regression from Votto, which both the models and the fans seemingly concur with. While I boldly stated in that article that Votto could hit less than 20 bombs, a more conservative estimate would put him in the 22 homer range, which is actually about the midpoint of all 3 projections above. Barring an injury or slump, Votto should both be one of the best hitters in baseball again and one of the highlights of the 2016 Reds.

My 2016 Prediction: .315/.465/.510, 22 HR, 85 RBI, 6.5 WAR

#2) Brandon Phillips

2016 ZiPS Projection: .270/.309/.376, 11 HR, 66 RBI, 11 SB, 1.7 WAR
2016 Steamer Projection: .266/.306/.385, 12 HR, 56 RBI, 10 SB, 1.5 WAR
2015 Fan Projection: .272/.309/.362, 9 HR, 49 RBI, 13 SB, 1.3 WAR

Brandon Phillips did the seemingly impossible last season: he reversed a 4 year production downcurve at age 34. He did this mostly with the help of good luck on balls in play and a changed approach. Phillips, who has notably stated that he changes his approach to fit where he hits in the lineup, was asked to hit atop the lineup for much of last year. This led to an approach where, instead of trying to hit for power or “help” the team by swinging at pitches out of the strikezone in order to create outs with men on third for RBIs, he hit for average and got on base. Unfortunately, with the Reds gutting their lineup, Phillips will likely be asked to hit third or fourth. In addition to a very likely regression on his average on balls in play- his .315 BABIP was 21 points over his career average, something not likely to be repeated in his age-35 season- him changing back to a power-centric approach could prove to begin trending downward again. Additionally, I don’t see him matching his 23 steals from last season. Pitchers will no longer be caught off guard with him on the bases now that he could be viewed as a SB threat, and a lower OBP will naturally create fewer opportunities to steal bags.

My 2016 Prediction: .260/.300/.360, 14 HR, 75 RBI, 10 SB, 1.0 WAR

#3) Zack Cozart

2016 ZiPS Projection: .247/.287/.379, 9 HR, 42 RBI, 1.5 WAR
2016 Steamer Projection: .245/.290/373, 10 HR, 47 RBI, 1.3 WAR
2015 Fan Projection: .253/.296/.392, 13 HR, 50 RBI, 1.9 WAR

Reds fans rejoiced last season when, for the first month of the season, Cozart appeared to learn to hit at age 29. He hit a respectable .280/.318/.500 while blasting 4 homers in April, but regressed heavily as the season went on before ending his season via injury in June. Cozart, who will turn 31 next season, has been a .245/.284/.375 hitter for his career, keeping his spot in the lineup almost exclusively due to high level defensive play. At age 30, we just have to accept that Cozart is what he is: a light hitting great defensive shortstop, hot start last year notwithstanding. This is all compounded by him returning from a major injury. Because of this, and him exiting his prime years, he could regress beyond his career offensive numbers and may even struggle to play at his usual level on defense. If you’re looking for Cozart to prove that last season wasn’t a fluke, you will probably be disappointed.

My 2016 Prediction: .230/.270/.350, 10 HR, 45 RBI, 1.0 WAR

#4) Eugenio Suarez

2016 ZiPS Projection: .254/.311/.415, 18 HR, 65 RBI, 2.3 WAR*
2016 Steamer Projection: .254/.311/.410, 14 HR, 53 RBI, 1.8 WAR*
2015 Fan Projection: .273/.333/.434, 16 HR, 71 RBI, 2.5 WAR*
* WAR total does not reflect move to 3B.

Suarez is an interesting case. The word on Suarez before he was called up was that he was a very patient hitter at the plate, with an advanced approach. However, when he came to Cincinnati, he blended in with the rest of the team by posting a paltry 4.3% walk rate. However, he managed an above average slashline by virtue of a very high .341 BABIP and a surprising 13 homers. I don’t buy Suarez hitting .280 again, but I think he’s a better walker than he showed with Cincinnati last season. Additionally, a move to third base could hit his overall value pretty hard as his bat doesn’t play quite as well there. To demonstrate this, Suarez’s 105 wRC+ was third in the NL for shortstops with at least 300 PAs. However, a 105 wRC+ would have ranked 20th last year at third base- tied with Luis Valbuena. I think the power he showed last year was legitimate, however, and that he shouldn’t have any problem cracking 20 HRs in a full season’s worth of PAs.

My 2016 Prediction: .250/.330/.420, 20 HRs, 60 RBI, 2.0 WAR

#5) Devin Mesoraco

2016 ZiPS Projection: .243/.320/.421, 9 HR, 30 RBI, 1.1 WAR (241 PA)
2016 Steamer Projection: .243/.314/.431, 16 HR, 50 RBI, 1.8 WAR (400 PA)
2015 Fan Projection: .258/.331/.437, 18 HR, 64 RBI, 2.8 WAR

Devin Mesoraco hit .468/.509/.787 in April of 2014. That’s a 1.297 OPS- let that sink in. As good as that figure is, it also served to skew his overall season numbers. Mesoraco probably won’t approach a .273 average this season, but the power he showed in 2014 appears to be legitimate, as he was fairly consistent power-wise all season. I doubt he’ll hit 25 homers again- partially because of limited playing time due to recovering from a major injury, and partially because of regression to the mean. When it’s all said and done, if he can catch, he will be a legitimate power threat at the catcher position with respectable rate stats.

My 2016 Prediction: .240/.310/.430, 20 HR, 65 RBI, 2.0 WAR

#6) Jay Bruce

2016 ZiPS Projection: .244/.311/.451, 25 HR, 88 RBI, 1.7 WAR
2016 Steamer Projection: .235/.305/.432, 23 HR, 74 RBI, 0.7 WAR
2015 Fan Projection: .246/.317/.452, 25 HR, 82 RBI, 1.5 WAR

Let’s just put it out there- Jay Bruce has been an absolute disaster for the last two seasons. You can blame his injury for his .217/.281/.373 performance in 2014, but such an excuse isn’t viable for his 2015. This has coincided with horrible defensive ratings, when he used to rate at about average or slightly above, resulting in a -0.8 WAR mark over the last two seasons. You can certainly, at least partially, blame poor luck as his .251 BABIP last season was well below average. I don’t think he’ll hit in the .220s again, but I also don’t think he’ll do much better than that. His power has remained fairly consistent, and he shouldn’t have a problem blasting 25 homers. But, with a poor slashline coupled with poor defense, it won’t boost his value all that much.

My 2016 Prediction: .240/.305/.440, 25 HR, 80 RBI, 1.0 WAR

#7) Billy Hamilton

2016 ZiPS Projection: .250/.299/.340, 5 HR, 62 SB, 13 CS, 2.1 WAR
2016 Steamer Projection: .250/.301/.347, 7 HR, 59 SB, 2.3 WAR
2015 Fan Projection: .250/.303/.323, 3 HR, 59 SB, 2.3 WAR

Surprisingly, I’ve been somewhat optimistic on Billy Hamilton. While he’s done absolutely nothing with the bat since the first half of 2014, he’s provided significant value with his defense and baserunning. If he could get on base at an average clip, he could legitimately threaten 100 steals. I think the first step in boosting Hamilton’s hitting is getting him to stop switch hitting. He doesn’t want to do it any more, and he hasn’t hit at all from the left side. However, the Reds, as they tend to do, are ignoring the facts as well as the plea from their own player, in hope of a few more bunt hits a year. The problem with this logic is that Hamilton is so fast that he doesn’t need the advantage of batting lefty to beat out infield hits, he can do that on his own. With him showing no improvement at hitting as a lefty (he hit just .220 vs RHP last year as a LHB), it’s time to give up the experiment. If he can convince the Reds to let him hit how he has always hit before joining the Reds’ organization, his stats will see a boost. However, even if they keep the asinine attempt to keep him switch hitting up, there is reason for hope. His BABIP of .264 is the likely culprit for his horrible average in 2015, and I think we’ll end up getting something close to 2014 Hamilton, only with improved baserunning.

My 2016 Prediction: .250/.305/.340, 5 HR, 75 SB, 20 CS, 3.0 WAR

#8) Scott Schebler

2016 ZiPS Projection: .229/.292/.402, 18 HR, 63 RBI, 0.1 WAR
2016 Steamer Projection: .231/.289/.402, 8 HR, 25 RBI, 0.0 WAR
2015 Fan Projection: N/A

Schebler is the Wild Card. I legitimately have no clue what his role in 2016 will be. He could end up being the team’s every day left fielder, or he could end up spending 2016 in the minors. However, I’m listing him here because I think he’s the best option for the everyday job. Schebler was an interesting prospect heading into 2015, as he impressed with a .365 OBP and 28 HRs the year prior. He struggled a bit in AAA to begin the season, but did manage a .825 OPS in 40 MLB PAs. Schebler is one of my more optimistic predictions- I like both that he was able to hold his own in the MLB last year (although in a very small sample size) as well as his solid hitting in the minors prior to 2014.

My 2016 Prediction: .240/.305/.430, 20 HR, 60 RBI, 1.0 WAR

That’s it! Here’s how I could see the Reds’ lineup shaking out at the beginning of the season:

  1. Billy Hamilton: .250/.305/.340/.645
  2. Eugenio Suarez: .250/.330/.420/.750
  3. Joey Votto: .315/.465/.510/.975
  4. Brandon Phillips:  .260/.300/.360/.660
  5. Jay Bruce: .240/.305/.440/.745
  6. Devin Mesoraco: .240/.310/.430/.740
  7. Scott Schebler: .240/.305/.430/.735
  8. Zack Cozart: .230/.270/.350/.620