Newly acquired outfielder Matt Kemp recently said the Cincinnati Reds offense is one of the best in the National League. Is he right?
People outside of Cincinnati might laugh, but newly acquired outfielder Matt Kemp wasted no time endearing himself to his new fan base. The former Los Angeles Dodgers All-Star stated that he believes the Cincinnati Reds to have one of the best offenses in the National League. While his proclamation may seem odd to some, Reds fans know that Kemp is onto something and it’s one of the reasons that the excitement surrounding baseball in the Queen City is so high.
"“We added guys to the bullpen, added guys to the starting rotation, added some more good bats in the lineup that was already doing pretty good. If you look at our offense, there was a lot of guys that had really good years last year. Put that all together, I feel like our offense can be up there with pretty much anybody in the National League.”"
Those were Kemp’s words, via USA Today, in a conversation with members of the media on February 12th, and I don’t think he’s too far off. Sure, there are some holes in the lineup and some players need to prove that their success last year is repeatable, but on paper, the Cincinnati Reds have the potential to matchup offensively with just about every team in the National League.
First, Matt Kemp may not even be part of the Reds’ starting lineup when the team takes the field against the Pittsburgh Pirates on March 28th. Though he’s making $21M next season, Kemp seems to fit best as the team’s fourth outfielder behind Yasiel Puig, Jesse Winker, and perhaps Nick Senzel.
Puig crushed 23 home runs last season, Kemp had 21 of his own, and Winker hit 7 in an injury-shortened season where he was in a four-man rotation in the outfield. Senzel possesses the ability to hit for average and hit for power. If he stays healthy, the rookie could have a very successful 2019 campaign.
We need not focus on All-Star infielders Scooter Gennett and Eugenio Suárez. If both players are able to play up to the same level that they displayed last season, Reds fans can look forward to another trip to the Midsummer Classic for both Scooter and Geno. The two combined for 57 home runs and 196 RBIs last season. It’s highly likely that we’ll see those two hitting in the middle of the batting order.
Joey Votto is on another level, and while the six-time All-Star and former MVP had a down year by his standards in 2018, fans should have every expectation that Votto will return to form in 2019. Even in a down year the veteran first baseman led the National League in on-base percentage. His power numbers were down, as he only hit 12 homers, but I’d expect that to change rather quickly in 2019.
So, perhaps the two biggest question marks on the Cincinnati Reds offense are behind the plate and at shortstop. Let’s look at Tucker Barnhart first. No, he hasn’t won a Silver Slugger Award and I don’t expect him to. However, out of all the players on the Reds roster, no one is going to have a bigger chip on his shoulder than Barnhart.
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The Reds seriously entertained the idea of trading for J.T. Realmuto this offseason, and who could blame them? Realmuto is quite possibly the best catcher in the game and, at the very least, is the best offensive catcher in the National League. The Phillies acquired Realmuto last week ending any speculation that the Reds would ship Barnhart out of town.
Tucker Barnhart is the one player, to me, who may improve the most under the tutelage of new hitting coach Turner Ward. Matt Kemp will embark on his second season with Ward as his coach and the veteran outfielder, who’s played on five different teams, had nothing but positive things to say about Ward.
"“We have a great relationship. He’s taught me a lot. We had a good season last year. He’s a great hitting coach. I look forward to working with him some more.”"
Ward will also be a great influence on José Peraza as well. I know so much hype is surrounding Yasiel Puig, Nick Senzel, and the revamping rotation, but no one on the Reds roster intrigues me more heading into the 2019 season than Peraza.
Last year, Peraza saw career numbers in his first full season as the unquestioned starting shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds. Peraza hit .288 with 14 home runs and 58 RBIs. He also led the National League in singles and came very close to breaking Barry Larkin‘s record for hits in a single season for a shortstop.
Peraza showed power from the right side, speed on the base paths, and a keen eye at the dish. Given the track record of Turner Ward, I expect Peraza to flourish under his guidance. While some suspect Peraza will be near the top of the batting order, I’d look for him to find a nice spot in the No. 7 hole. However, if his on-base percentage improves, I could see him make a move toward the top of the order.
So there you have it Reds fans, a dangerous lineup to to bottom if I’ve seen one. That doesn’t even take into consideration Scott Schebler, who could be a player without a starting position depending on how Senzel fairs in the outfield. Schebler was no slouch in 2018, slashing .255/.337/.439 with 17 homers and 49 RBIs.
Okay, National League, you’ve been warned. The Cincinnati Reds offense has the potential to be one of the best in the league. A lot can happen between now and Opening Day, but for now, it looks like this club is going to score a lot of runs.