The Cincinnati Reds are in the thick of the playoff race in the National League. Cincinnati trails NL Central Division-leader Milwaukee by just four games, and play three games against the Brewers coming out of the All-Star break. The Reds are also 3.5 games back of the Wild Card. In order to get into the postseason, these three players must improve in the second half.
All-Stars Jesse Winker and Nick Castellanos have carried this Reds’ ball club all season. When the chips were down, it was usually Winker or Castellanos who came up big and willed their team to victory.
The Reds have also received solid contributions from some some unexpected sources. Tyler Naquin has been a huge shot in the arm for this year’s team, and rookies Tyler Stephenson and Jonathan India have injected life into some of the veteran players. You also cannot overlook the spectacular start to the 2021 season from southpaw Wade Miley.
Still, if the Cincinnati Reds hope to make a playoff push, some of the players David Bell had hoped to rely on prior to the start of the season must show up in the second-half. Which three players must play up to their potential down the stretch in order to help secure a spot in the 2021 postseason?
1. Reds must get more out of reliever Amir Garrett.
Prior to the 2021 season, the Reds traded Raisel Iglesias and non-tendered Archie Bradley. This may have been foolish on the part of the Cincinnati’s front office and ownership. But I also believe that Nick Krall and the coaching staff had faith in Amir Garrett filling the role of closer.
That idea couldn’t be further from the truth this season. While AG does have six saves, David Bell has not shown complete trust in Garrett to close out games; nor should he. Garrett’s 2.60 HR/9 the highest it’s been since his rookie season in 2017. While Garrett’s strikeout-rate is still high, his 13.9% walk-rate is not acceptable.
However, the Reds cannot just abandon the idea of turning to Amir Garrett against tough left-handed hitters. Bell’s only other options are Cionel Perez and Sean Doolittle. Neither of those options should fill the Reds’ skipper with much confidence.
The bottom line is, Cincinnati is not going to make a playoff push if Josh Osich is their best left-handed option out of the bullpen. Amir Garrett has always relied heavily on his slider, but locating his fastball is key during the second-half of the 2021 season. The Reds must be able to count on AG when a left-handed hitter is in the batters’ box late in games.