Each Monday morning, we’ll ask a few of our authors and friends of the site to answer an important question concerning the Reds.
“Which Reds player will have the most surprising breakthrough season and what statistical milestone do you expect from him?”
Nick Carrington: Scott Schebler will have a surprisingly good season for the Reds, even though he may get only 350-400 plate appearances. On July 14 last year, Schebler was hitting .278/.351/.470 with a 120 wRC+ when he injured himself and missed over a month. After the injury, he hit .202 and slugged only .368.
That was the second straight year that Schebler hit really well when not injured. He’s 28 years old, in his prime, and due for a healthy year. While Spring Training stats are of limited value, Schebler has looked comfortable at the plate in 42 plate appearances, walking 11 times and striking out only 6.
In 2019, Schebler hits .275/.360/.480, closer to his 2018 season pre-injury. He pounds 20+ home runs and plays solid defense on the corners and passable defense in centerfield. Schebler’s emergence gives him a fighting chance to regain his starting spot in 2020 when Yasiel Puig leaves via free agency.
Nick Doran: Jesse Winker will bat .300/.400/.500 and hit 25 home runs. Only four players accomplished that feat last year: Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Christian Yelich and J.D. Martinez. That may seem like an outlandish prediction for Winker but keep in mind his career slash line is .299/.397/.460 in 136 games over the last two years.
My projections for Winker’s 2019 stats are much more aggressive than Steamer, ZiPS, PECOTA and THE BAT — probably because Reds fans know something those projection systems don’t know: Winker’s shoulder is now healthier than it has ever been. He has played with an injured shoulder the last two years and that has now been surgically repaired. I think we will see a new level of performance from him, especially in terms of home run power.
Kourage Kundahl: The safe choice would be a rebound for Scott Schebler, who — healthy right arm and all — should more closely resemble the 30-homer hitter from two seasons ago than the one that struggled to stay in the lineup last year. But I think José Peraza deserves your attention following his 2018 breakout, clouded mostly by an OPS+ a rounding error below average (97).
Beside riding his launch angle gains to the tune of a career-high 14 home runs, he also challenged Barry Larkin’s single-season hit record among Reds shortstops, falling four short of surpassing the Hall of Famer’s 1990 total. Though he’s expected to man second base in Scooter Gennett’s absence, Peraza is the best bet for Cincinnati’s first 200-hit season in over 40 years… guess who. Only Sean Casey (197 in 1999) has come close since.
Sean Lahman (website): Jose Peraza’s aggressive approach and soft contact have caused many to wonder if he’d ever hit well enough to remain an everyday player. But he made an adjustment last year that raises the tantalizing possibility that he could be an offensive standout.
In May, Peraza changed his launch angle, attacking pitches with more of an upward trajectory on his swing. The result was more line drives and fly balls, and an explosion of offense. From May 26 to July 31, Peraza hit .330/.384/.455, and in August and September, his new approach translated into a surprising burst of power. Peraza hit 9 HRs over the last 50 games, ending up with 14 for the season. Half came on the road.
If he can continue with this approach, Peraza could be the most surprising hitter for the Reds in 2019. Look for him to hit over .300 and more importantly, post an on-base percentage north of .350. While he’s unlikely to hit 20 home runs, look for him to use his speed to translate more of those drives into extra base hits.
What’s your answer? (limit 150 words)