If you have made the strange choice to pay attention to me at all, you are aware that I’m enthusiastic about this current edition of the Reds. But I also try to be aware of my bias.
Every year, FanGraphs does a ranking-by-position series and I thought it would be interesting to take a look at where they think the Reds are in each spot around the diamond. The nice thing about this series is it does look at depth. So, From the highest ranking position to the lowest ranking position for the Reds:
Position: MLB RANK, NL RANK
First Base: 4, 4 – Ah, Joey Votto. Still expected to be one of the very best in the league.
Right Field: 8, 5 – The outfield for the Reds has been so mediocre for so long, it’s really nice to have somebody like Yasiel Puig out there. And FanGraphs thinks he’s going to be good for the Reds.
Center Field: 10, 4 – FanGraphs believes (as do I), that this job will be Nick Senzel‘s soon. Yes, he hurt his ankle, and that figures to delay things a bit, but probably not too long, based on the reports. I’d guess start-of-May instead of mid-April.
Third Base: 12, 8 – There’s an important caveat here. We are quite literally in the golden-age of third basemen. Eugenio Suarez, according to the projections, figures to be second only to Votto in WAR on the Reds, but he’s only projected to be the 12th best third baseman in the league. He is a fabulous player, and we are lucky to have him on our favorite baseball team.
Starting Rotation: 16, 12 – Hey, league average-ish! What a relief, huh?
Left Field: 18, 11 – It’s all about defense here. Depending on how comfortable you are dismissing outfield defense in GABP, Jesse Winker (who will get the majority of time in left) could push this ranking to a well above-average spot.
Shortstop: 21, 12 and 2B: 21, 13 – Now we get to the caveat. Or do we? Scooter’s injury doesn’t really affect this ranking in a significant way because: 1. He only figures to miss about 1/3 of the season and 2. He actually doesn’t really project to be any better than Jose Peraza or Jose Iglesias. All three figure to provide very similar value in very different ways. Peraza, no doubt, has the most upside because of his age. It’s also worth noting that after June 1 of last year, his batting line of .305/.344/.465 was very slightly better than Scooter Gennett‘s .292/.347/.456 line (though, obviously, I know they play games in April and May as well). Peraza is someone lots of folks seem to be tabbing a breakout candidate, and if it happens, he could make the Reds look very smart for sticking with him through the tough times.
Catcher: 23, 15 – This is the bottom of the pile. FanGraphs thinks the Reds have the worst catching setup in the NL. This is thanks almost entirely to the recent integration of pitch framing metrics.
The Bullpen – I’ve said this many, many, many times before, but I do not believe there is any value in trying to predict relief pitchers. Still, FanGraphs has the Reds at 22nd in baseball and 13th in the NL. But seriously, relief pitchers are as predictable as March weather.
The NL is LOADED this year. I had kind of a vague sense, but looking at where the Reds rank in MLB compared to where they rank in the NL is fascinating. Overall, it’s not remotely surprising that everyone has the Reds finishing around .500 with half the team expected to be above average and half the team expected to be below average. But we’ll see. The NL Central is a strange division this year and it feels like one or two breaks will be enough to tilt it in favor of one team. If there was ever a division where one win in April might make a difference, it’s this one.
I’m not sure what to make of these rankings, but some of them are odd and look off at first glance. It is hard for me to imagine that there are 7 3rd basemen in the NL alone who are better than Eugenio Suarez. Arenado? Sure. Machado? Yes. Bryant? Probably. After that I’d take my chances. And as for Votto he’s probably not the best in the NL (Goldschmidt) but he was as recently as 2017, and I’d take him over Rizzo or Freeman or anyone else. And you can’t convince me that Barnhart / Casali will be the worst catching combo in the league. I’m going to remember to check that one between Reds playoff games in October.
Most of all, though, it’s certainly possible that there will be 11 better rotations in the NL this year. The Mets and the Nationals and the Dodgers will be better even if the Reds starters have a good year. But I can easily see the Reds rotation collectively in the top half of the league so long as they stay healthy. I too am optimistic Jason. Even more than these predictions. Go Reds!
It blows my mind that Suarez is barely above average in this crazy world. Golden age is apt and correct way to describe what we are seeing. Suarez could have a great career going forward and never make another all star team and not be snubbed.
Fangraphs projections are nice and all, but none of these fancy forecasting tools can predict the intangibles of how team chemistry factors in to the final record. Watched opening day. On Thursday these guys came to win and looked like they were having a ton if fun. Hitting is contagious and they will feed off the energy all season. Not saying the Reds are WS locks by a long stretch, but they may surprise us all this year.
Team chemistry is nebulas and unmeasurable, but I think it is an important element in a winning team
Did you say this was before Scooter’s injury? I have a very hard time believing someone who hit .310/.357/.490 last year and 124 OPS+ past 2 years is only better than 2 players at 2nd in the NL. I know defense factors into it, but I can’t see his defense lowering his value that much compared to the rest of the field.