The playoffs, obviously, are still going, but it’s time for Reds fans to start looking at next year and I found myself with an itch to do an analytical post and so here we are. I wrote a piece several weeks ago about the best case scenario for the Reds next year. But today, I want to look at what’s reasonable. That is, how good or bad can we reasonably expect the Reds to be. I’m going to assume they go with the pieces they have, but for a few exceptions:

  1. I assume the Reds will invest in the bullpen this offseason.
  2. I assume BP will not be starting, since the Reds have indicated that they will look to trade him again. If he isn’t traded, I assume he will take a smaller role or be released.
  3. I assume Cozart is traded.

I’m going to use the FanGraphs version of WAR for my estimations. Neither version of WAR is perfect, but it’s my personal feeling that FanGraphs does a slightly better job of separating pitching talent from fielding talent, whereas I feel that Baseball-Reference sometimes assigns credit/blame to both the fielder and the pitcher.

Okay, let’s go.

The Lineup

  1. Billy Hamilton, CF, 3.0 WAR – Yes, Hamilton has shown great improvement. He’s also shown himself to be somewhat fragile. If he plays an entire year, I can imagine him posting a total as high as 4.5 or 5 WAR. Similarly, barring catastrophic injury, I have a hard time imagining him below 2.0. He’s an above average player and potential all-star.
  2. Jesse Winker, RF/LF, 2.5 WAR – Many people misinterpreted my Jesse Winker profile by focusing too heavily on his negatives. He should finally get a chance next year and he will hit. I have him pegged as more or less average in his first year for two reasons: (1) Adjustment to MLB; and (2) I need to see the power come back before I rate him higher. Winker had a wrist injury and an unfavorable ballpark this year (seriously, come watch flyballs die in left-center here in Louisville). But he’ll get on base more than anyone on the team except Votto.
  3. Joey Votto, 1B, 5.0 WAR – He should probably bat 4th, but whatever. Go away Votto haters, I got nothing to say to you. Best hitter in the National League.
  4. Adam Duvall/Scott Schebler, RF/LF 2.0 WAR – Here’s the one where people are going to yell at me. Okay, fine, but here’s what I see. Duvall, I believe, was at his absolute peak last year and figures to decline (28-year-olds don’t really develop more). He also saw pitchers adjust to him after his torrid May and was a below-average hitter (.232/.296/.461, 95 wRC+) from June until the end of the year. Do I think he is a useful part? Yes, I do. Do I think he is the best player on the team as some suggested? Absolutely not. He and Scott Schebler may not start the year platooning, but I’ll be surprised if they don’t finish it that way because if Duvall is given the job and posts numbers like he did after May, the Reds will quickly start looking for a new solution. Schebler had a similarly hot streak toward the end of the year but is also getting long in the tooth for a prospect.
  5. Eugenio Suarez, 3B, 2.0 WAR – I’m assuming we’ll see a slight improvement now that he’s adjusted to playing third. He was a very good third baseman toward the end of the season and his hitting also improved after a May swoon. It’s not unreasonable to assume that the new position might have messed with him a bit. I’m a Suarez booster, but he doesn’t have enough of a track record for me to place him any higher than this. I do think he has the potential to significantly over perform 2.0 WAR. His performance is probably a good bellwether for the kind of year the Reds will have.
  6. Jose Peraza, SS, 1.5 WAR – Still very much an unknown with lots of potential. He could be a bust and he could be an all-star, we’ll just have to see. It does seem likely that this will be his first full-season in the big leagues, so he’ll get a chance to prove it. The walk rate worries me, but the speed could make up for it.
  7. Dilson Herrera, 2B, 1.5 WAR – See Peraza, Jose. Very hard to say what he’ll do. He has more pop than Peraza and a better plate approach, but we need to see him in the big leagues for an extended shot before making judgments.
  8. Tucker Barnhart/Devin Mesoraco, C, 0.5 WAR – Reds catchers combined to be worth 0.1 WAR last year primarily because there was no one decent to stick out there when Barnhart needed a day off. Tucker Barnhart is the perfect backup catcher, but he’s not a starter. If, by some miracle Mesoraco becomes a physically functional baseball player again, this number will be out performed. Without Mesoraco, it’s basically a replacement level position and we’ll be sending well wishes to Chris Okey and Tyler Stephenson down in the minors.

Overall:

The Reds are above average or better at 2 positions, average-ish at 5, and below average at 1. The end result is probably an offensive/defensive team that hovers around league average in terms of production. Better if some of the kids really turn out, or if Mesoraco comes back from the dead.

The Rotation

Let’s be real. The Reds are going to need more than 5 starters this year. Let’s also not get crazy thinking that Michael Lorenzen or Raisel Iglesias will be among them. Maybe that should happen, but it isn’t likely to. So, I’m going to go 8 deep here, listing them in order of how much I think they’ll contribute.

  1. Anthony DeSclafani, 3.5 WAR – If he’s healthy, he’s good. Currently the staff ace.
  2. Amir Garrett, 2.0 WAR – Among the big pitching prospects, he’s the one who garners the most good feeling and seems to have the best chance of fulfilling his potential. He may or may not start the season with the Reds and his innings will be limited, but I’ve seen him enough and heard enough good things. He’ll be a good pitcher. Also, be careful when looking at his numbers from last year, he had a couple of games where his mechanics got out of whack and he imploded as a result. He was very good in the vast majority of his games.
  3. Brandon Finnegan, 1.5 WAR – A much better second half makes him seem like he might get it together and avoid the bullpen. We’ll see, of course, but if he can continue to improve, he’ll contribute.
  4. Dan Straily, 1.5 WAR – Regression, regression, regression. Straily saved the Reds’ behinds this year. And maybe he can do it again, but he’s not young and the peripherals don’t line up.
  5. Cody Reed, 1.5 WAR – We all know Cody Reed got knocked around. It is also literally impossible that there wasn’t some bad luck involved there. Among pitchers with at least 10 starts, only Disco had a lower xFIP, which is something, at least. Also, lots of guys get knocked around in their first trip to the majors. I think Reed will be okay. His stuff is legit. We’ll see how the change up comes along.
  6. Homer Bailey, 1.0 WAR – Coming back from Tommy John surgery isn’t as easy as people make it out to be. I actually don’t think it’s likely at all that Homer produces 1.0 WAR. I think, however, there are equal chances that he’s unable to pitch and that he comes back and is very effective. We won’t know which until the spring.
  7. Robert Stephenson, 1.0 WAR – Again, I don’t think this is a likely result. Stephenson has started to get into squabbles in the organization and what it really all boils down to it that he needs to get his walk rate down. It hasn’t budged in 3 years. Either he gets it together and becomes a very good starter or he doesn’t and Reds fans have their heads explode over a prospect bust. We will see.
  8. Other Minor League Guy, 0.0 WAR – Rookie Davis probably has the inside track here, but once Tyler Mahle is ready, he’ll probably pass Davis, since he has better stuff. This is the position where you’ll likely see a guy coming up and down all year.

Overall:

You’ll probably see a pretty decent 1-2 combo for most of the year, though who is in that combo is likely to change. There is a ton of uncertainty here with both a very high ceiling and a very low floor. For instance, it is possible that you could get a 4 WAR season from Disco, 3 WAR from Homer, 3 WAR from Garrett, 3 WAR from Reed, and 3 WAR from Stephenson. That would give the Reds a fantastic rotation. It’s also possible that almost everyone busts and we see what we saw this year. The result is probably somewhere in the middle and an average-ish pitching rotation.

Bullpen/Bench

With Lorenzen and Iglesias, the Reds have a good back of the bullpen. Given that that the Reds are also going to spend a little money here, it’s reasonable to assume the bullpen will be greatly improved and something like average. The bench will also probably be fine as they have plenty of depth guys who should be non-embarrassing, which is pretty much all you ask from your bench.

Conclusion

.500. That’s what you can expect, and it shouldn’t be surprising. In 2016, the Reds were one game under .500 after the ASB. Next year will also be when we start to see how the rebuild is really going. Nick Senzel will continue to progress, there will be another high-end draft pick, and the Reds will get a sense for where they might need to spend money on the free agent market. Not everyone will pan out, but neither will everyone bust. It is a transitional year, but given the ceiling of some of these players, it could also be a pleasantly-surprising year.