Since the last time the Reds had a winning season (2013 for those keeping count), I’ve been telling everyone who deigned to mock our tortured fandom: “Just wait for 2018. The rebuild will be done in 2018.” Well, we made it, but guess what: There’s another long season of disappointment ahead.

Due to injuries, questionable veteran signings, and a whole bevy of promising pitchers deciding to struggle together, the Reds’ rebuild took a turn toward futility about a season ago. It still feels like the team is on the cusp of something, but what that is or when it will happen is truly anyone’s guess.

This season, rather than continue a mantra of forward-looking optimism, I want to be a bit more realistic and focus on the present. There’s no doubt in my mind that the results of the overall season will be disappointing, but still, I’m expecting a few bright spots along the way.

1. Nick Senzel’s Everything

I have more faith in Nick Senzel being an All-Star caliber infielder than I have in Mark Zuckerberg’s desire to take over the world. No prospect has ever made me this irrationally excited. (I was really low on Jay Bruce, and the Jesse Winker hype has gone through too many ups and downs to stay fun.) If Nick Senzel is not on the Opening Day roster, I will (editors willing) write an angry blog post about how it is the greatest travesty to befall this organization and how Bob Castellini, Dick Williams, and Bryan Price  have finally forced me to become a Braves fan. If Nick Senzel is on the Opening Day roster, the Reds will win the World Series. Book it.

2. Luis Castillo’s Continued Emergence

I’m going to steal from an old Fangraphs article real quick, but according to Eno Sarris, “In sum, we’ve got a flame-throwing righty with one plus secondary pitch and another average one. If we count the fastball as a plus, then we get to compare him to pitchers like Michael Fulmer and Luis Severino, two other righties with similar profiles.”

Michael Fulmer (2017): 25 starts, 164.2 IP, 3.67 FIP, 16.9 K%, 3.5 WAR

Luis Severino (2017): 31 starts, 193.1 IP, 3.07 FIP, 29.4 K%, 5.7 WAR

Reds’ 2017 ace (Scott Feldman): 21 starts, 111.1 IP, 5.04 FIP, 19.7 K%, 0.7 WAR

Is it woefully optimistic to blindly trust Mr. Sarris and believe that Castillo will land somewhere between Fulmer and Severino in 2018? Probably, but even if Castillo only produces half of what Fulmer did, he’ll still be worth a full win more than their previous ace.

3. Another Top 5 Draft Pick

For the third year in a row, the Reds will pick in the first five slots of the draft. The last time that happened was from 1983 to 1985 and guess who they picked up in that last year? Just future Hall of Famer Barry Larkin.

The Reds have already made two extremely promising selections in Senzel and Hunter Greene over the past two years, so why not get irrationally excited about the third to come? In their Way Too Early Mock Draft, Baseball America has the Reds going for high school 3B Nolan Gorman. Personally, I would prefer the Reds go for a college guy who wouldn’t need too much time in the minor leagues, and with the college season just underway, it’s probably too soon to know who will emerge in that category.

Nick Madrigal of Oregon State, Jeremy Eierman of Missouri State, and Griffin Conine of Duke should all be college names to watch moving forward.

4. Joey Votto’s Antics

Joey Votto is easily a top five player in the MLB right now and I would argue top three (Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, Votto, Max Scherzer, Jose Altuve). But if you’re a Reds’ fan and you’ve been a Reds’ fan, you already know this.

Enjoying Votto’s play has become so routine that it seems to banal to add onto this list. However, Joey’s emergence as premier Reds’ jokester now that Brandon Phillips has ventured on deserves all the mentions possible.

There’s heckling Joey:

And determined Joey:

And Mountie Joey:

And finally best friend Joey:

None of us deserve Joey Votto. He alone will save 2018.

15 Responses

  1. Phil

    I think there are a few reasons to let Senzel start in AAA.
    1) It sounds like he will be trying to play a couple new positions defensively. A little time to get comfortable at 2B, SS, and/or LF makes sense.
    2) After 57 very good games in AA to end last season, it is not unreasonable to want to see him continue his success in AAA.
    3) The extra time in AAA gives the Reds more time to see Herrera, Blandino, and/or Scooter and help decide where everyone might fit once Senzel does come up.
    4) $$$ – The extra time spent in AAA at the beginning of this season is worth the future financial savings.

  2. Bill

    If Senzel has an outstanding spring & Peraza has a bad spring & they send Senzel to AAA I’ll say the Reds are more interested in savings money than winning games.

  3. David

    I predict PAIN!!!

    Un-seriously, though, I think the Reds could push to 81 or 82 victories this year, but the key is always and still……pitching. I think Senzel will show up in Cincy sometime this year, barring an injury, but pitching is still the key.
    Castillo is a potential ace in the making. Not just his stuff, but his demeanor on the mound.
    I don’t expect Desclafani to make it through the year. He will get hurt again. Finnigan… talented but….meh. Unpredictable. Homer will be solid and at times very good, and occassionally turrible.
    I think Sal Romano and Bob Stephenson are ready. And there is always the possibility that Mike Lorenzen becomes a starter again.
    There are enough arms, just how good will they be?

    I mean, how could you not be excited about Phil Gosselin being on the bench? It’s almost like Skip Schumacher making a comeback! Catch the fever!

    • Scott Carter

      Oh yeah! The reincarnation of Skip Schumacher. Who wouldn’t be excited about that.

  4. JB WV

    What to expect? The unexpected. I’ve shaken my crystal ball a couple of times already and it’s just as cloudy as it was a couple of months earlier. My one somewhat confident prediction (hold your breath): the injury bug won’t be nearly as bad to our starters as last year. There you go. Bank on it.

  5. Adam M. Singhoff

    Exactly. Senzel has never played above AA, never played 2nd base professionally, and would lose a year under contract by being on the Opening Day roster. Personally, I would write an angry letter to the front office if they did put him on the Opening Day roster.

    • Wesley Jenkins

      Oh I know Senzel will never make the Opening Day roster cause of Super 2, it’s more dramatic effect than literal interpretation. However, I completely disagree with the Nick needs time in the minors point. Regardless, give him til the Super 2 date to get his legs under him at 2B then bring him up. If THAT doesn’t happen I will be penning that letter, literally.

      • scotly50

        He absolutely should be on the opening day roster. Not because he is worthy but so the team can mangle him out of another year of earning his true salary.

  6. Scott Carter

    Great Post. We all need a great laugh during the off season of nothingness. I would however suggest you take some anger management classes in preparation for Senzel starting in Louisville to make sure the Reds gets that extra year of salary protection.

  7. Kap

    I want the Reds to make a Scott Rolen-type move(circa 2009) during the trade deadline. Whether it is realizing that the team needs a center fielder (I like Kiermaier and I’ve said it before) or shortstop for the future or knowing that they will need another frontline starter from a team that finally realizes that it is time to rebuild (Stroman, Archer. Duffy, and Fulmer come to mind).

    This is of course the team is heading in the right direction and not stalling out like they did this year (injuries and poor performances). Only way to give us remorsefully,sorrowful and a little deranged fans any glimpse of hope.

  8. big5ed

    I get starting Senzel at AAA for purposes of getting the 3 weeks or so that gives them another year of control, ala Kris Bryant of the Cubs. They could always spin it as they want him to get some time in at 2B, or RF, or whatever.

    But keeping him in AAA for about 65 games solely to avoid Super Two status is just cheap. Sure, it in theory saves them some money, especially in 2020, but so what? If Senzel is as good as they think he will be, by 2020 they will be wanting to lock him up beyond his free agent year, anyway. And if he doesn’t pan out to be all that good, the bringing him up in late April won’t really cost them any money.

    Warehousing him in Louisville would also teach Senzel the early lesson that the Reds are more interested in saving a few bucks than in actually winning, which is a lesson that Eugenio Saurez has just learned over a minor difference in arbitration. I’ve never believed that it is good business to chisel your employees.

    All this assumes that Senzel actually shows he is ready, which is not a given. But at some point, and that point is now in my opinion, the Reds’ business interest is to show that they are serious about winning. Stowing one of their better players in AAA for 7 extra weeks or so does not show that they are serious about winning. If he belongs in Cincinnati, then play him in Cincinnati, the accountants notwithstanding.

    • jazzmanbbfan

      BIG5ED, I normally agree with the vast majority of your posts but I have to disagree with this one. The Reds are not going to win anything significant this year and thus, to me it makes no sense to bring Senzel up until he is past Super Two status. If this year most people were projecting them to make a serious run at the playoffs and Senzel was viewed as one of the keys to that happening, then I could see it. Otherwise, nope.

    • JB WV

      Senzel is going to play multiple positions at AAA, including ss by all reports. If he can play short at the ML level this would be a real advantage for the Reds providing a strong bat at a critical defensive position. It would certainly be worth the wait if he can do it. It also gives the FO time to find out if Peraza is an everyday ss. Win win. If both succeed that’s a great problem to have. If neither can do it, you explore other options. And if one is better than the other, you have your solution.

      • David

        Don’t forget, there is always Caalten Dahl. He’s back from a year of injury. Could be a future Reds SS. Let’s wait for him. What’s a couple of more years, anyways? Rebuild…forever!!!

  9. Redgoggles

    What to expect?……Louisville to be amazing! If they aren’t, then we need to remove the wool from our eyes.