Despite a slow off-season, the Cincinnati Reds expect an improvement in 2018
The Cincinnati Reds have lost more than ninety games in each of the last two seasons. So far this offseason, the Reds have only signed one relief pitcher to an MLB contract. They also have lost All-Star shortstop Zack Cozart to the Los Angeles Angels.
Offensively, the Reds are hoping for a repeat of 2017 from first baseman Joey Votto and second baseman Scooter Gennett. Votto had a career high 139 runs created en route to a second place finish in the National League MVP race. Meanwhile, the Reds are looking forward to entire season of Gennett as the starting second baseman.
In the outfield the presence of Jesse Winker should be an upgrade. He will siphon plate appearances from center fielder Billy Hamilton, if the Reds don’t trade the defensive specialist. Winker led all Reds outfielders in OBP in 2017.
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Shortstop is the danger position for the Reds. Jose Peraza couldn’t produce offensively as the everyday second baseman last season and was below average defensively at short last season. Right now, the Reds are going into spring training without a net for Peraza, aside from prospect Alex Blandino.
If the Cincinnati Reds make an improvement in their record, it will come from the pitching staff
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The Reds have spent the off-season continuing to build a strong bullpen. Last year Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen established themselves as the high leverage relievers. This off-season the Reds added veteran Jared Hughes from the Milwaukee Brewers to help in the middle innings.
The biggest single improvement could be at the front of the starting rotation. Last season, Luis Castillo only came up to make fifteen starts going four and four. In 2018 thirty starts and twelve wins is a reasonable expectation.
The return of Brandon Finnegan should also help. He may only be a .500 pitcher at this point in his career, but he could make every start. Whether he helps in the rotation or the bullpen, Finnegan’s consistency is invaluable to a young staff.
With the health of Homer Bailey and Anthony DeSclafani in question, the advancement of two young pitchers could make the difference. At the the end of 2017 both Tyler Mahle and Sal Romano appeared ready to step-up. Both will have a chance to make a splash in 2018.
It is the starting staff that will allow the Reds to move forward in 2018. The offense just needs to be a bit more consistent. The OBP of Winker should help on that front.