Cincinnati Reds: 5 players most likely to have a breakout season

Mar 21, 2021; Mesa, Arizona, USA; Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jesse Winker against the Chicago Cubs during a Spring Training game at Sloan Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 21, 2021; Mesa, Arizona, USA; Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jesse Winker against the Chicago Cubs during a Spring Training game at Sloan Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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Tyler Mahle #30 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches.
CINCINNATI, OH – AUGUST 4: Tyler Mahle #30 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /

Tyler Mahle, Reds right-handed pitcher

This is the year that Tyler Mahle cements his spot in the Cincinnati Reds rotation for years to come, or becomes a back-of-the-rotation starter who’s spot will be in jeopardy next spring. I’m going with the former, as Mahle proved last season that he has the makeup of a middle-of-the-rotation starter.

I believe Mahle’s performance last season was one of the reasons we heard Sonny Gray’s name emerge in trade rumors this offseason. Mahle put up solid numbers in 10 games last season, posting a 3.59 ERA and 3.88 FIP in nearly 50 innings of work. The biggest difference was Mahle’s success at keeping the ball in the ballpark.

In 2018, Mahle saw 22 balls leave the yard during his rookie campaign. In 2019, an eye-popping 25 home runs were allowed by the right-hander in as many starts. That 1.75 HR/9 was a scary number, but last season saw the California native bring that down to 1.13 according to FanGraphs. The question is, can Mahle maintain that over the course of a 162-game season?

Tyler Mahle also saw his strikeout-rate jump from 23.2% in 2019 to 29.9% in 2020. If the right-hander can maintain that standard, batters will struggle to get hits off Mahle all season. Unfortunately, Mahle’s walk-rate jumped too. The 26-year-old must cut down on the number of walks and keep the ball in the yard.

With a strong crop of talented, young pitchers on their way up through the Reds minor league system, the 2021 season is a chance for Mahle to stake claim to one of those starting spots moving forward, or be in danger of losing it to one of the youngsters next season. Look for a breakout season from Tyler Mahle in 2021.