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.