How The 2016 Reds Can Have A Winning Season

Feb 18, 2016; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher John Lamb (47) plays a ground ball during workouts at Cincinnati Reds Development Complex. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 18, 2016; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher John Lamb (47) plays a ground ball during workouts at Cincinnati Reds Development Complex. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

The 2016 Cincinnati Reds are in full rebuild mode that has diminished expectations.  However, here’s how the Reds can have a winning record in 2016. 

To say the 2016 Cincinnati Reds have fallen from the top of the NL Central elite would be an understatement.  USA Today has predicted the Reds to lose 101 games in 2016. Let’s take a look at each part of the Rebuilding Red Machine and what can be done this year to win.


The Reds offense in 2015 was not good. As a team, the Reds had a .248/.312/.349 line with only 640 runs scored–good for 12th in the NL in batting average and runs scored. The Reds lost their 3B slugger Todd Frazier who had an All-Star first half of the season but an awful second half. Also LF is completely left open. So, how do the Reds improve? It all comes down to where two top prospects will land in the Reds organization and lineup.

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Jose Peraza was the key piece in the Frazier deal.  Peraza is a completely different hitter than has typically been in the Reds organization, because he has very little power and doesn’t walk a lot.  However, he also does not strike out often and seemingly makes contact every at bat. He has very good speed and could be a great leadoff hitter, if he can get back to his pre-2015 OBP, or a near-perfect 2-hole hitter. The trick will be where will he play in the field?

While Brandon Phillips will likely be the starting second baseman again this year, that does not mean Peraza won’t see lots of playing time. Phillips will be 35-years-old this season, which means rest will be needed for him. Looking back through the history of baseball, to get the most out of aging middle infielders you need to rest them around 30 games.  Prime example? Joe Morgan, at 35-years-old, hit .250/.379/.376 in an All-Star Season for the Reds in 1979. Phillips had a great year last year and if he continues to hit .294/.328/.395 he will be deserving of playing time with Peraza getting 30-35 games in at second base (if Price will give Phillips the rest he needs).

Now, Peraza also played SS and CF in the Braves and Dodgers organizations and both of the current Reds in those positions are very suspect at the plate. Moving him around the field should give him the 100-120 games you would expect from a rookie.

The other prospect that must get playing time this year on the major-league level is Jesse Winker.

Winker has a career minor-league line of .292/.397/.471.  As a comparison, Joey Votto had a minor-league line of .289/.385/.486.  I am in no way comparing Jesse Winker to one of the best hitters in baseball, that would neither be fair nor accurate; however, those numbers are something to be excited about. He looks to be the most-talented outfielder the Reds have in their organization, which includes Jay Bruce and Billy Hamilton. If he has a good spring he has to make the 25 man roster.

With the return of Devin Mesoraco to the line up, and if Peraza and Winker both make the team (and perform at the level they did in the minors), this offense will surprise people. The bench will greatly be upgraded, compared to recent years, and I expect the Reds offense to greatly improve and put them in a position to win a large number of games.


Pitching is where the success of not only 2016 lies but also the entire premise of the rebuild.  The Reds lost one of the best pitchers in baseball in Johnny Cueto at the trade deadline last year, along with veteran pitcher Mike Leake.  In the offseason an already weak bullpen lost its best pitcher when Aroldis Chapman was traded to the Yankees.

The Reds have a number of potentially good starting pitchers.  However, large question marks remain.  Out of the pitchers that had an opportunity to play last season, only Rasiel Iglesias showed glimpses of potentially being the future “ace” of the rotation; although, Anthony DeSclafani also pitched well.  The rest of the rotation should be a wide open competition in Arizona.  The minor league performances of Robert Stephenson and Cody Reed should give the Reds more options to choose from as well.  If the Reds choose the best five starters out of Spring Training, they should do much better than the post-trade deadline performance of the Reds last year.

The bullpen is the biggest question of the team, with only J.J. Hoover having a defined role at this point. He bounced back in 2015, going 8-2 with a 2.94 ERA and 1.116 WHIP; however, a point for concern with Hoover is he had an awful last month of the season giving up 10 runs in 7.1 innings pitched.

Beyond Hoover the bullpen is impossible to predict at this point.  If some of the pitchers that don’t make the rotation move into the bullpen role, such as Brandon Finnegan, it could be very good. If a couple of the veteran pitchers signed in the offseason, such as Blake Wood, end up with prominent roles on the team like Kevin Gregg did last year it may be a worse season than some predicted.

Other Factors

One thing that can not happen in 2016 like it has the past two years is injuries.  One of the biggest reasons a team with very little turnover went from one of the best teams in baseball to the second worst in just three years were the key injuries in 2014 and 2015.  While the Reds have added a lot of organizational depth with the trades made since last July, they are still in no position to withstand multiple injuries like the past two years, especially in the pitching core.

Another change that needs to be made is the in-game management of the team.  The number of one-run games the Reds have lost over the past two years falls on the way Bryan Price has managed this team.  The last two years the Reds have gone 40-67 in one run games, plus they have been a part of 23 walk off losses in this span–while only winning 10 games in walk off fashion.

Price has a tendency of leaving pitchers in too long by multiple batters and not having anyone warming up to bring someone in if the starter gets in trouble.  Hopefully the removal of Jay Bell, replacing him with former MLB manager Jim Riggleman, will make a huge difference in these stats.  Plus, Price should be in the hot seat from Opening Day this year–despite the reduced expectations.

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Some have argued that this year wins and losses don’t really matter as long as they play the game fundamentally sound.  I reject that thinking for two reasons.  One, if the Reds do play fundamentally sound baseball and do the little things right, they will win more than they lose.  Secondly, you can’t build winners by accepting losing.  When the players enter the Reds clubhouse there is a mural of a full Great American Ball Park with the title “Prepare to Win” and above the doorway from the clubhouse to the dugout it says “Expect to Win”.  Even with a team full of young players that philosophy should not change.

The Reds could surprise a lot of people this year if Walt Jocketty and/or Dick Williams allows the best 25 players to make the team.  If they continue to slow the progression and adjustments of their top prospects in the organization the prediction of 101 losses by USA Today might be kind.  With Peraza, Winker, Reed, and Stephenson all on the horizon of joining the team, I have a lot of hope that 2016 will be much better than 2015–and if everything goes right we might even be surprised with a winning team.