The Cincinnati Reds had some bad defensive play in 2016 and need to play better defense in 2017.
In 2016 Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, and Joey Votto were all in the bottom third of the league defensively last season while playing for the Cincinnati Reds. Bruce was traded to the New York Mets last season for Dilson Herrera. The Reds, meanwhile, traded Phillips in February to the Atlanta Braves.
Votto worked hard on his defense this spring, including passing on playing for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic. Instead, Votto stayed in Goodyear and worked on his defense. The concern is that this could be the beginning of age taking its toll on the perennial National League MVP candidate.
Fans should see immediate improvement in right field as Scott Schebler should be an upgrade over Bruce. Bruce wasn’t an awful defender, but year to year he was inconsistent. Schebler is below average in left and center, but above average in right.
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For the first time in a long time, the second baseman is someone other than Phillips and it should result in a defensive upgrade. If Dilson Herrera somehow had beaten out Jose Peraza, the defense could have been bad again. With Peraza as the opening day second baseman, the defense is already better than what it was last season.
With a younger pitching staff the Cincinnati Reds will strikeout fewer batters than normal.
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A pitcher rarely retains his strikeout rate when he initially enters the majors. Robert Stephenson saw this last year and the same can be expected from Amir Garrett. The good news is that Brandon Finnegan may begin to see his strikeout rate begin to creep back up.
The new veterans also have low strikeout rates compared to other teams’ free agents. Bronson Arroyo and Scott Feldman both pitcher to contact.
Drew Storen has a high strikeout rate, but not like former closer Aroldis Chapman or even the Reds’ current Cuban, Raisel Iglesias.
Even if the pitchers do better than expected regarding strikeouts, the Reds need to be more consistent on defense. The bullpen was responsible for blowing more than its fair share of leads last season, but there is more to it than that. The defense’s lack of consistency helped contribute to the early issues in the bullpen.
The Reds’ should be better at the start of the 2017 than they were at any point in the 2016 season, unless Herrera becomes the starting second baseman. The next hurdle will come when Zack Cozart moves on mid-season. Peraza will shift to his natural position of shortstop where he is a step down from Cozart.
This is part of the rebuilding process. The Reds will have to figure out who can play where and how well. Once that happens they can begin to figure out who will be on the team in the future.