Best Cincinnati Reds Ever: Reggie Sanders v. Aroldis Chapman


First Round Matchup No. 6 Reggie Sanders v. No. 11 Aroldis Chapman


A seventh round pick by the Cincinnati Reds in 1987, Reggie Sanders spent his first eight seasons in Cincinnati. In his first full season, 1992, Sanders finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting behind a few names you may recognize: Eric Karros, Moises Alou and Tim Wakefield. Three years later and Sanders was an All-Star, produced an impressive 28 home runs, 36 stolen bases, 99 RBIs while slashing .306/.397/.579 with a .975 OPS and garnered enough MVP votes to finish sixth.

He appeared to be on his way to stardom with the Reds, asserting himself as one of the game’s most prolific outfielders. But injuries forced him to play just 167 games over the next two seasons and he played 140 games in a season just once — never with the Reds. He didn’t touch 20 home runs again in his Reds’ tenure, never hit better than .268 and found himself bouncing around to seven different organizations over his final nine seasons.

He finished his Reds career with 125 HR, 158 SB and a .271 AVG. He also chipped in 152 doubles and 33 triples in what resulted in a career of wishful thinking. Still, Sanders’ impact on the Reds and beyond did not go unnoticed. He won a World Series in Arizona, became a member of the 300-300 club and ultimately had one of the best seasons for an outfielder in a Reds uniform.

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Sanders was on the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot, but did not receive a vote therefore exhausting his eligibility. However, he did have a WAR (39.6) better than 13 of the other 18 who were not elected that season and was higher than every other player who didn’t not receive one vote. Sanders’ career WAR was also higher than Lee Smith.

Sanders was placed on the 2014 ballot for the Reds Hall of Fame but was not elected. Opinions differ on whether he should be in or not, but as it was optioned out on Redleg Nation Sanders was maybe the best player on the 1995 division winning team despite playing alongside MVP Barry Larkin.


Aroldis Chapman was the Cincinnati Reds’ bonus-baby in 2010. Signed for $30.25 million as an international free agent, Chapman drew praise for his velocity and, well, his velocity. While spending the first six years of his career with Cincinnati, Chapman made four All-Star appearances, set the record for fastest pitch (105.1 mph) in MLB history, was the fastest reliever to reach 500 career strikeouts and set the record for most consecutive games (49) with a strikeout.

Originally a starter before defecting from Cuba, the Reds were unsure of his future role. After starting 13 of his 39 appearances in Triple-A in 2010, he made 15 MLB appearances — all in relief — later that season.

He has struck out at least 106 batters with at least 33 saves in each of the last four seasons including a 2011 season where he sported a 1.51 ERA, struck out 122 and walked just 23 in 71 2/3 innings. He only allowed 35 hits, finished eighth in the Cy Young Award voting and received some MVP votes.

In his six years — the last four as the Reds’ closer — Chapman has a 2.17 ERA, 146 saves, 1.016 WHIP, and 546 strikeouts in just 319 innings. He has consistently been in the conversation for best closer in baseball over the last four years and has dominated the game as much as any closer before him.

Chapman did appear to be going the route of the rotation before the 2012 season before a plethora of injuries to the Reds’ bullpen prompted Dusty Baker to slide him into the back end of the pen. From that point forward — due to his dominance and repeated 100+ mph fastballs, his role in the bullpen was accepted as the norm. It’s a shame we’ll probably never get to see what Chapman could have been as a starter — with the Reds or elsewhere — but, even in just six years, he may be the best closer the Reds have ever had.

An offseason trade sent Aroldis to the Yankees as the Reds brought back Caleb Cotham and a trio of prospects.

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