The Cincinnati Reds are still searching on the market for upgrades on their roster. After adding Trevor Bauer at the trade deadline in 2019, then picking up Mike Moustakas and Wade Miley earlier this month in free agency – the goal is clear: The Reds are going for more than just .500 in 2020. And with that plan in mind, they are hoping to not be done adding pieces. They’ve been linked to the top outfielders on the free agent market this month, reportedly discussing things with Marcell Ozuna, Nicholas Castellanos, and even Corey Dickerson.

On paper in the 2019 season, Cincinnati was better than their record. You have certainly seen the stories, and they popped up throughout the season, of how the team’s runs scored and runs allowed numbers suggested a better record than the Reds had. At various times the record was significantly better on paper than it was in the actual standings. As the season went on, the two numbers got a bit closer to one another. Ultimately the record of the Reds was 75-87, not exactly what they were hoping for. Their pythagorean record based on their runs scored and runs allowed, however, suggested their true talent record was 80-82.

When building a team for 2020, that’s probably where the Reds should start at with their assumptions, not the 75-87 that they finished. When the offseason began, Dan Szymborski, creator of the ZiPS projection system and writer/analyst for Fangraphs/ESPN and BBWAA member noted in his Elegy for the Reds that heading into the offseason they were an 82-85 win team. That didn’t feel like it would be enough to make the playoffs, but the team went out and picked up some upgrades since then.

Clay Davenport updated his projections right before Christmas and his system seems to like the Reds more than anyone else in the National League Central. Four teams in the division project to finish at .500 of better. But it’s the Reds at the top with an 86-76 record, three games better than the Cardinals, four better than the Cubs, and five better than the Brewers.

The division is close, top to bottom. But it’s also a division that, unlike the others, doesn’t seem to have a clear favorite (the American League Central is also decided by just three games, but the other divisions aren’t closer than eight games). With how close the teams seem to be, each win or loss could be magnified.

Projecting the Players

Over at the link to Davenport’s projections you can get the full details on what each player on the team is projected for. I don’t want to simply copy and paste all of the work, but do want to highlight a few of them.

The newly signed additions

As noted above, the Reds have added two free agents thus far, bringing in second baseman Mike Moustakas and starting pitcher Wade Miley. Let’s start with the bigger signing of the two, Mike Moustakas.

Davenport’s projection system has Moustakas providing 3.6 WAR on the year, hitting .258/.328/.467 with 25 home runs, a triple, and 30 home runs on the season. That’s a line that’s worse than what he posted in 2019, but it’s also one that provides more WAR. My assumption here is that the system isn’t projecting a “juiced baseball” in 2020, making lower lines more valuable because the league as a whole will be hitting less.

Wade Miley seems to be in line to be the teams 5th starter, assuming everyone is healthy. The projection for the newly acquired left-handed pitcher is fine for a 5th starter, but is certainly a step back from where he’s been recently. Davenport’s projections have a 4.65 ERA in 133.0 innings and providing 0.9 WAR. Among the starters with at least 15 projected starts (six guys, including Tyler Mahle) that’s the worst of the group.

The not-quite rookies

Last season saw several rookies make their debuts with Cincinnati. The trio of Nick Senzel, Aristides Aquino, and Josh VanMeter all saw a decent amount of playing time with the Reds. The projections for the three players are interesting. Let’s take a quick look at what Davenport’s system has for them in 2020.

In terms of WAR, that’s a big uptick from Nick Senzel. There slash line is up across the board, and so is the playing time. For Aristides Aquino there’s some give and take. There’s still plenty of power from The Punisher, but his slash line takes a big hit as all of the components go south from where they were in 2019. When it comes to Josh VanMeter, the big question is where will he play? But Davenport’s system does believe that when he does play, he’ll be improved on what he did in 2019. Each of the components in his slash line are upgraded from where they were last season.

There’s some interesting stuff to sort through in the data. If you wanted to, you can download the projections for every player in baseball over at the link above. Or you can just download them by team by clicking on the team in the standings. Take a look and see if anything sticks out to you.

34 Responses

  1. RedsFan11

    Just wish the Reds will pony up and get one more bat. I think then there would be a chance !

  2. Bill J

    Doug, is Moose hitting 25, 30 or 55 home runs? Hope it’s 55.

  3. Hotto4Votto

    Obviously projections are what they are at the end of the day, largely educated guesses but fun to look at nonetheless. But there seems to be a lot of optimism in this particular projection. He’s projecting for Moustakas to be more valuable than he’s typically been. Projecting a big bounce back from Votto, and significant upticks in value (largely due to health I’m guessing) in Senzel and Winker. I understand the upticks for Senzel and Winker, especially with their age and factoring in good health. The upticks for Votto and Moustakas (on the wrong side of 30) leave me scratching me head a bit as to what the reasoning is. I wonder if the change in ballpark is helping Moustakas? Or if history is weighing in Votto’s favor?

  4. CFD3000

    Hard to imagine the Reds having worse offense than in 2019. The only player who had a career year was Suarez, and there’s no reason to expect him to go backwards much as long as he’s healthy. Everybody else except perhaps Moustakas has room to improve based on health (Senzel, Winker, Barnhart), experience (Senzel, Aquino, VanMeter, and even Ervin), or just plain talent and hard work (Votto). And the starting pitching should be terrific. I expect Bauer to find his form, and Miley to learn how not to tip his pitches, and Disco to be healthy from Opening Day. They’ll be good. So at that point the difference between 84 wins or so and 90 wins or so comes down to upgrades in the bullpen. If Iglesias can get hisnhead straight, and guys like Mahle and Reed are better than the Hughes’ and Hernandez’ of 2019 then there’s your division title. It’s definitely possible. Can’t wait to see what other upgrades the front office might make to further improve the team, and can’t wait to see what happens when they start playing real games. Bring on 2020.

  5. greenmtred

    They’re going to need to show me. As it stands now, I have little faith that the Reds will be serious contenders. This is probably mostly because the past five years have driven the last shreds of optimism out of my head, but it’s partly because I’m not buying in advance that many of the hitters will improve, or that the pitching won’t be disappointing for some reason–injuries, most likely. Last year’s Reds may have been better than their record, but that is as close to a meaningless statement as I can imagine.

    • Colorado "Let it Snow again" Red

      Yes, but, the rest of the NL Central is not doing anything either.
      For it may be possible to win the Central with 87 wins .

    • John Neiweem

      Amen to your comments.

      The Reds have been deeply disappointing the past 6 years and I for one do not share his enthusiasm.

  6. RedNat

    I believe it was the defense that was the big reason we underperformed as well as terrible baserunning. Even more than poor hitting. I think these could be Achilles heels next year as well

    • Colt Holt

      Doofus, as always, you are a light in a dark place.

  7. TR

    My guess is the Reds will contend for the NLC if injuries are not a big factor. Still a lot of time for further upgrades.

  8. B-town fan

    I think the offense under achieving last year was certainly a factor but not the only factor in the Reds not being closer to the pythagorean based record of 80 – 82. I think Bell over managed the pitching staff, especially in the first half of the season, pulling the starters to soon in games and overusing the bullpen, and managing to many games like it was a playoff game , which had detrimental effects on the bullpen in the second half of the season. As the old adage says, a Major League baseball season is a marathon not a sprint. Hopefully Bell will learn from the previous season and tone down the bullpen use, and rely a little more on the starters.

    • Slicc50

      I totally agree with you there doofus. I’m hoping he can be a little more of the 2017-18 Suarez in 2020. The HR’s are great and all, but counting on those to come is what helps cause a team to go 24-33 in one run ball games. Hopefully Eugenio just got a little HR happy with the juiced ball in 2019. He is a better hitter overall than he showed last season.

    • greenmtred

      I’ll add the question: What would we be thinking about Suarez if the ball hadn’t been juiced?

  9. JayDubz

    This is somewhat tangential, but I really hope that the Reds can avoid another 3-15 start to the season. I know that it requires some combination of preparation and luck. Hopefully the Reds will do their part on the former and be beneficiaries of the latter.

    • TR

      A good point. I know it’s rather old-fashioned to feel that a winning spring training record particularly in the last two weeks of ST is a good omen, but I think it is to get the regular season off on a positive note.

    • DrunkenViking

      .197 team batting average through the first 20 games….I try not to remember

  10. Bill J

    All projections are based on everyone being healthy the whole year, but it seems like the Reds have recently have had more than their share of injuries. Let’s hope everyone stays well this year.

  11. Colorado Red

    Dickerson is off the table,
    Dickerson has agreed to a two year deal with the Mullets.
    (or are finalizing the details)
    Details not released. per MLBTR

    • DrunkenViking

      I would find it a little funny if Puig ends up back in RF.

    • earmbrister

      Good. We have a LFr in Winker.

      Dickerson didn’t sign for all that much: $17.5 MM for 2 years.

  12. DrunkenViking

    Let’s not forget Vanmeter who had a .2 WAR and Farmer who had a .3 WAR…..

  13. centerfield

    Less player flexibility is probably a blessing as it mutes some of Bell’s switching. The name of the game is hitting and pitching, good defense is great but hardly necessary in today’s style of play. A fairly set lineup will give the players a comfort zone which should improve confidence and performance.

    • greenmtred

      Fewer than half of the outs recorded are strikeouts. Hitting is important, pitching is important and so is defense. The “three true outcomes” only include one outcome that is an out, and you still need three outs to retire the other side.

      • centerfield

        Keep in mind that fewer than half of those “balls in play” actually require significant fielding skill.

      • greenmtred

        True enough, Centerfield. But a small percentage of batted balls have a significant impact on the game’s outcome, too.

  14. DrunkenViking

    MLB trade rumors projected Didi and Yasmani to sign with the Reds. We see how that went.

  15. earmbrister

    Old School — I agree, let’s go into battle largely with the players we’ve got. If the Reds land a reliever or Shogo, ok. However, I’m not trading the farm or Senzel or Winker for 2 years of Lindor. We’ve suffered for too long to turn around and quickly mortgage the future at the first signs of daylight.

    Gotta wonder the motivation with Shogo though. Is he part of a platoon with Aquino in right? Lefty/righty?

    • DrunkenViking

      Could be platooned and insurance for often injured Senzel.

    • earmbrister

      DV — That’s what I’m thinking. Maybe Shogo has nothing to do with any potential trade of Senzel, but is the Reds way of providing insurance for Aquino and Senzel.

  16. Michael Smith

    LF platoon could put up that kind of war. Both destroy the opposite hand pitching

  17. Don

    For 2020 success Bell managerial style has to change, He seemed to not put the players in positions where they were comfortable and the hitting approach for more OBP and less HRs up and down the lineup is a must.

    Going to do my best to reserve judgement until the Reds play their 1st 30 games in March and April. If they have 18 to 20 wins on May 1st the 2020 season has possibilities, if they have 12 or 13 wins then it will be another what if/hoping season to make up for a slow start.

    Bell has to figure out a way to have the team ready for the season. The wins and losses for games in April are worth the same in the standings as the September games.

    • TR

      Manager Bell is who he is. Change in that area will only happen if the Reds do not contend in 2020-21. Is the new year here yet? I miss baseball, especially after the Bengal’s dud of a 2-14 season. Let’s go Reds. More offense is needed. Enough of the rumors.

  18. Tom

    If it were better for the Reds to have Suarez play 2B and Moose play 3B, would Suarez happily move?