The offseason hasn’t gone the way that the Cincinnati Reds had hoped it would. The one stated goal of the offseason for the organization was to acquire a shortstop that could be the teams starter in 2021. As of today, a week away from the start of spring training, that mission has been a massive failure. The internal options have a handful of big league starts at the position between the group of them. That could always change if the team goes out and makes a trade to fill that spot, but their failure to address the position reflects in the latest 2021 season projected standings that has the Reds in 4th place in the National League Central.
Baseball Prospectus released their PECOTA projections last week for all of the players. Now they’ve released the PECOTA projected standings, as the teams are built today, for the 2021 season. The division isn’t as close as you’d think, with Milwuakee projected to win the division by four games over the Chicago Cubs. The Reds are projected to finish 79-83, two games behind the St. Louis Cardinals and 10 games behind the Brewers.
Looking at the individual PECOTA projections it feels like they may be underselling a few players – Tyler Stephenson, for example, is projected for a .679 OPS this upcoming season. Sonny Gray being projected with an ERA of 4.04 also feels a little bit high and could give Cincinnati’s pitching a bit more wiggle room. But most teams probably have some examples in their projections like that. The fact of the matter is, PECOTA believes the Reds are 10 wins worse than the Brewers, and that is a very significant difference to make up.
It wasn’t just the PECOTA standings that were projecting that Cincinnati would finish in 4th place. Dan Szymborski wrote about the Reds winter being a “disaster” for Fangraphs on Tuesday afternoon after their failure to acquire a shortstop all offseason long. Within the article he shared the ZiPS projected standings for the 2021 National League Central as each team stands today. The order for the division is a bit different than the one from PECOTA, but the Reds projection is nearly the same, finishing in 4th place with a 78-84 record. ZiPS has the Cardinals at the top of the division with 85 wins.
Much like the PECOTA projections, ZiPS does look like there’s some underselling of a few players – Tyler Stephenson once again jumps out as a guy that could look a lot better than his projection of a .670 OPS suggests – but most teams probably have players in their organization that fall along similar lines.
The article from Szymborski sums up how many feel about the Cincinnati Reds offseason. The division was wide open for the taking when the offseason began, and for the most part, the division didn’t do much of anything. Within the last week there have been some moves made within the division, but for the Reds their moves have been rather small with Sean Doolittle’s signing being far-and-away the most significant (on paper).
There’s some upside for the Reds, but once again thanks to the offseason lack of activity, it certainly feels like if Cincinnati is going to make the playoffs that it’s going to be because so many things went right for them along the way rather than things went just as expected. The Reds need their players to remain healthy, and they need more than a few of them to perform much better than they are projected to if they are going to finish above .500, much less contend for a playoff spot.