2. Tyler Mahle, Reds right-handed pitcher
This is where things get interesting. While I don’t expect the Cincinnati Reds to move on from Luis Castillo before the start of the 2022 season, I don’t think we’ll see Sonny Gray in a Cincinnati uniform beyond the upcoming 2021 season. While he’s under a very affordable contract, Gray’s value at the July trade deadline may be enough to net the Reds some prospects moving forward.
While most Reds fans would hate to see Gray leave the Queen City, what we saw from Tyler Mahle in 2020 should give the fanbase hope. Mahle took the opportunity gifted to him due to injuries to both Anthony DeSclafani and Wade Miley and turned it into a firm grasp on the No. 3 starter heading into the 2021 season.
Mahle is under team control, just like Luis Castillo, through the 2023 season. Mahle will come much cheaper than Castillo, but the right-hander has finally started to live up to the potential that saw him climb through the team’s farm system before breaking into the big leagues in 2018.
Tyler Mahle saw his strikeout-rate skyrocket in 2020 from 23.2% to 29.9% according to FanGraphs. Mahle also cut down on his HR/9, trimming it from 1.74 to 1.13. If Mahle can keep the ball in the ballpark, he’s got a great chance to impress during the upcoming 2021 season.
Mahle, like Castillo, could be a candidate for a contract extension, but I doubt Cincinnati will entertain the idea of locking up Mahle until they’ve done so with their ace. Mahle’s cost is fairly low in 2021, and unless he greatly surpasses expectations during the upcoming season, he’ll still be very affordable moving into the 2022 season.