Playing Pepper 2017: Cincinnati Reds

Back in 2009, I had the idea of doing a season preview of each team by asking bloggers that followed that club questions and posting the answers.  We’re back for the ninth edition of Playing Pepper!  We’ll cover one team a day from now right up until Opening Day (not counting weekends).  This series is brought to you by our new United Cardinal Bloggers podcasts site, where you can find all the info and new episodes you need to enhance your Cardinal fandom.  Now, let’s play some pepper!

Cincinnati Reds
68-94, fifth in NL Central
Last year’s Pepper

There was little pretty about last year’s season in Cincinnati.  There were some highlights, such as Joey Votto‘s second half, but the most flammable bullpen that I can remember in a long while erased a lot of the positives that might have happened from the hitters or some of the starting pitchers not named Alfredo Simon.  The Reds have been in a funk for a bit as they struggle with rebuilding versus contending and it would be surprising if 2017 was the year things clicked.

That being said, there’s hope in Cincy and we’ve got some bloggers to talk about it.  A few notes–originally Brandon, Shawn, and Brian answered question two about Brandon Phillips before he was dealt to the Braves.  I’ve added their additional comments in italics after their original answer.  Secondly, we mourn the closing of Chris Sabo‘s Goggles, one of the more unique takes on the Reds I’ve ever seen.  Brian agreed to give Pepper another spin even as the blog has slipped into history.

Blogger Blog Twitter Podcast
Brandon Kraeling Red Reporter themusketeer Red Reporter
Shawn Weaver Cincinnati Reds Blog coweaver
Brian Chris Sabo's Goggles Goggles17
Chad Dotson Redleg Nation redlegnation Redleg Nation Radio
Nick Vorholt Blog Red Machine blogredmachine

C70: Was it a good offseason for the team? Did they do what they needed to do? Is there any move you wished they had made that they didn’t?

RR: So far, I think it’s hard for Reds fans to complain about how this offseason has gone. They were never going to be major players on the trade or free agent market, and they’ve made a couple of shrewd moves to bring in some lottery tickets on minor league deals. The two big league moves they’ve made have both been pretty positive, bringing in Drew Storen to shore up an awful bullpen and cashing in on Dan Straily’s bounce back season.

Truth be told, the Reds didn’t really have a lot to do this offseason. They don’t really have any high-profile trade chips at this point, they’re not even going to try and compete in 2017, so their job is to make room for the young players coming through and figure out what they’ve got in their farm system. They’ve accomplished that so far.

CRB: The Reds have traded most of their tradeable players, so they were limited in offseason moves. They made a good one recently, dealing Dan Straily off a career year to get three prospects, including one in most evaluators’ top 100, Luis Castillo. After shortstop Zack Cozart (hopefully) shows he is healthy in spring training, the Reds will try to make a deal with him.

CSG: The one thing the Reds needed to do this offseason was unload players, not pick up new ones. In order to free up spots for some of the young guys, Cozart and Phillips were the two most important pieces that needed to be moved and it didn’t happen (yet). In the case of Cozart, I blame the Reds for not figuring out a way to get a deal done (it should’ve been done before the All-Star Break last season). In the case of Phillips, the Reds’ hands are kind of tied (more on that in my next answer). I will say that the the Dan Straily deal has the potential to be incredibly lopsided — in the Reds’ favor… for once. 

RN: I guess? This was a strange off-season for the Reds, as the club is at a point in the rebuilding process where they have accumulated a number of assets, and now they need to see where all the pieces fit. For example, the Reds have lots of young options in the infield — Jose Peraza, Dilson Herrera, Eugenio Suarez, Nick Senzel, Arismendy Alcantara, among others — and 2017 will be the season for these guys to prove where (or if) they belong in the club’s long-term plans. The situation with the young pitchers is similar. Over the coming months, the Reds will much more information at their disposal, and they’ll be able to make better decisions about where the roster is still weak.

And that’s the reason the team didn’t do much in the off-season; until they know with a little more certainty what the young guys can do, it didn’t make sense to dip into the free agent market. Cincinnati did sign two pitchers, Drew Storen and Scott Feldman, but — consistent with the goals of the rebuild — signed neither to long-term contracts. Storen will help shore up a bullpen that looks to be much improved over last year’s historically bad version. Feldman is likely a starter to begin the season. He might remain in the rotation all season, but the hope is that the young guys — Cody Reed, Robert Stephenson, Amir Garrett — will grab the brass ring and push Feldman to the bullpen.

The Reds made two significant trades in the off-season. First, they traded Dan Straily to the Marlins for three prospects, including two power arms (Luis Castillo and Austin Brice) who could be contributors to the next good Reds team. Straily is a great guy, and no one was excited to see him go, but this was a no-brainer. The Reds grabbed Straily off the waiver wire just before last year’s Opening Day, and he had an unexpectedly good season. But the analytics indicate that he’s exceedingly unlikely to repeat that performance, and Reds GM Dick Williams deserves kudos for selling high on Straily and getting a good return.

The other trade…well, see below.

BRM: This is a difficult question. Mostly the answer is yes. The team is young and it needed to get older. They also needed to keep all of their top prospects.  What the Reds did great this off-season was sign some good non-roster invitees, particularly Bronson Arroyo and Louis Coleman. They also did a nice job scouring the waiver wire.

More than anything else, the trade of starting pitcher Dan Straily was disappointing.  The Reds are going to have to start keeping young veterans sooner or later and Straily was a great opportunity. With him anchoring the back end of the rotation for the next 2-4 years the prospects would have had time to develop. Now Tim Adleman, Amir Garrett, and Robert Stephenson may all be forced into the rotation to start the season.

Signing Drew Storen and Scott Feldman will help the pitching depth, but neither should last the whole season. They should both be flipped when the bullpen is established enough to do without the duo. That the Reds may end up with Feldman in the rotation due to Homer Bailey‘s injury makes the middle of the ball game muddled for the bullpen.  The additions of Nefi Ogando via waivers and Austin Brice in the Straily deal could both be nice moves. Ogando looks like he could develop into a ground ball, mid-inning reliever. Brice looks like he could develop into a closer or a number five starter depending on which way the Reds want to go.

Of course for position players, moving on from Brandon Phillips was the highlight of the off-season. The Reds began the rebuild prior to the 2014 season when they got rid of Dusty Baker, Ryan Hanigan, and Arroyo. Phillips should have been traded that off-season too.  The two players that will benefit the most from the move are Jose Peraza and Jesse Winker. Peraza will be able to settle in as the everyday second baseman and bat somewhere in the top half of the order to start the season. Winker now has a chance to stay up with the big league team because he can back-up all three outfield positions with Peraza at second.

The hole that the Reds still have is at everyday catcher. Optimistically, Mesoraco will play in 115 games. That means they still need 80-100 games from another catcher between pinch running and defensive replacements. Tucker Barnhart may be capable of that, but there are the best case scenarios.  If either one of them falls short, there will be a huge hole behind the plate. The move to pick up Stephen Turner in the Rule 5 Draft was good. He may end up being the everyday catcher if he can hit at the big league level.

Not getting a better catching option than Rob Brantly as insurance for Devin Mesoraco and Tucker Barnhart leaves the Reds vulnerable both offensively and on their pitching staff. They really needed to solidify the catching situation. Barnhart is an underrated catcher, overall, but he has proven himself unready to be an everyday catcher. Most alarming for Reds’ fans is his CERA from last year. Not only did Barnhart have the highest CERA in all of baseball last year for a regular but he had a positive differential. In other words, the Reds allowed more earned runs per nine inning with Barnhart behind the plate than on average. Usually, that is the stat of a back-up catcher.

They did move Brandon Phillips which they needed to do desperately. Getting Jose Peraza an everyday position to play should help the Reds offense and Peraza’s defense. The biggest concern on this front is that Peraza ends up being a second baseman defensively rather than a shortstop.
They also added Desmond Jennings and Ryan Raburn late in the off-season to provide some pinch-hitting options. The Reds didn’t need to do that, but is something that was a good idea. They eventually need to get a manager with work experience as a manager from elsewhere, but that wasn’t for this off-season.

On the pitching front the Drew Storen signing is a positive. The Reds needed someone who can be flexible as to his usage after letting Ross Ohlendorf walk away. Ohlendorf may not be a fan favorite, but he did everything that the team asked him to last season.  Ohlendorf had long outings and short outings. He came in late and he came in early. Most importantly, he was the best pitcher in a historically bad bullpen the first half of last season.

I would have brought back Ross Ohlendorf in a heartbeat. He is a veteran of the MLB who changed himself from a starter to a reliever and could have been a great mentor for the prospects. He never got a fair shot last season and the fans should be ashamed.  At the end of the season Ohlendorf’s ERA+ was 92 or the MLB ERA was 92 percent of his final ERA. That means that Ohlendorf was just below average over the length of the season. He also faced more batters in relief than at any previous time in his career.  He was taking one for the team and the Reds’ response was to let him sign a one year deal to play in Japan. Three times last season he came on in the middle of an inning where Tony Cingrani had already blown the save and Ohlendorf took the loss. You take away those three losses and suddenly Ohlendorf is 5-4.  Ohlendorf pitched more big league innings last year than he had since 2010 when he was a starting pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates. While carrying this much of a load he maintained a strikeout/walk ratio of 2.13. He also maintained an average of more than a strikeout per inning.

The Reds really needed to prepare for life without Homer Bailey. He cannot seem to stay healthy. With the trade of Dan Straily they didn’t seem prepared for ended up happening with Bailey.  The Reds also need to get better at being honest with the fans. Telling us Bailey is having a great off-season a week before he comes up lame is ridiculous. Cincinnati is a great baseball town and the fans understand the facts of the game.

The relief pitching market was also awfully expensive this season. Reds’ reliever Blake Wood has similar career peripherals to new Saint Louis Cardinal Brett Cecil. Cecil is going to earn more than three times the amount of money this season that Wood will.  Raisel Iglesias is in a similar position. He will be eligible for arbitration following the 2017 season. He is penciled into the primary set-up role supporting Michael Lorenzen as the closer.  Auctioning off Wood and Iglesias would have made more sense than trading Straily. Wood likely won’t be around when the Reds are ready to compete again and Iglesias could be expensive. The Reds need to make deals like these to maintain a good average age and an affordable roster.
The Reds also should have signed a veteran catcher with starting major league experience. Kurt Suzuki was a name tossed about and he is still available. The hotter names were former Red Ryan Hanigan and Chris Iannetta.  Re-signing Ohlendorf, trading away Iglesias and Wood, and signing Suzuki are the three moves that made sense this off-season that didn’t happen. All three are aimed at helping the young pitchers develop. That is the key for this season for the Reds.

C70: Apparently Brandon Phillips blocked a trade to the Braves. Are you glad he’s sticking around (it’s not the first time he’s blocked one) or would you like to move on? (See note above)

RR: As a fan who’s interested in watching this rebuild come to fruition, I think the BP era in Cincinnati should probably be over. The Reds have done everything they can to do right by him and trade him to good situations, and he’s perfectly happy going against their wishes and vetoing any deal.

I’ve enjoyed watching BP have the prime of his career here, and he’ll probably end up in the Reds Hall of Fame. I’ll be cheering for him then. But it’s hard for me to believe that he’s doing anything but sullying that relationship as he finishes his career with the Reds. He’s not the future here, and everyone knows it. I think he knows it. The best situation for the Reds is to give those ABs to someone who isn’t Brandon Phillips.

We’ll see how it goes, it’ll sure be fun to watch.

Addendum: I’m surprised that BP pulled a 180 and agreed to a trade to the Braves. It seems like everyone is happier, including BP himself, so I’m glad that the move materialized and that he changed his mind. For him, he gets a chance to start every day, a situation that might not have happened in Cincinnati. Cincinnati gets to give a season’s worth of 2B at bats to Jose Peraza, who looked great starting 4-5 days a week toward the end of last season. Dilson Herrera will probably benefit as well, as he looked to be the one who would have been awkwardly taking those starts from Phillips, especially as the season wore on. The return wasn’t much, and a large portion of the fan base are upset that the team was willing to trade a fan favorite, but on the field it was absolutely the right move.

CRB: Brandon Phillips has been a great guy to have in Cincinnati for more than a decade, and he is great at interacting with the fans. That said, the Reds need to move on and will certainly not pursue a new contract with him after this season. He might find his playing time decreasing as the season progresses.

Addendum: The trade of Phillips opens up playing time for Jose Peraza, the speedy slap-hitter who was used as a supersub in the second half. If they can deal Zack Cozart, Dilson Herrera is next in line for some time, with Herrera at 2B and Peraza at SS.

CSG: You’d be hard-pressed to find a Reds fan who doesn’t like Brandon Phillips. You’ll also have trouble finding a Reds fan who doesn’t wish that he was playing for another team. He’s a lot of fun to watch, and still has many upsides, but he simply can’t help this Reds team — now or in the future — so it’s time for the Reds to get whatever they can in a deal. But no-trade clauses are the player’s right, so if Phillips wants to refuse a trade, that’s his call. My guess is that he’ll be sent to a contender before the All-Star Break.

Addendum: People are saying that Brandon Phillips waived his no-trade clause to play for the Braves, but the truth is, calling this a trade would be a disservice to the word trade. The Reds essentially paid the Braves ($13 million of the $14 million contract) to take Brandon Phillips off their hands. Obligated to do something in return, the Braves sent two players to the Reds who will never make the team. Fine. It opens up a spot on the field for Jose Peraza. Whatever.

Phillips denies ever invoking his no-trade clause back in November for a rumored Braves deal, but of course he’s going to say that. He doesn’t want his new team to think he didn’t want to play there. And the Reds (wisely) chose to stay out of the conversation, choosing not to confirm or deny Phillips’ version of the story.

He’ll be missed — without a doubt — but the Reds can’t continue with their don’t-call-it-a-rebuild-we’re-not-rebuilding with Phillips still on the field, so it’s time to move on and hope the young guys pan out.

RN: Phillips did block a trade (or three), but later reconsidered and he’s now in line to be the starting second baseman for his hometown Atlanta Braves. I wish him the best of luck.

It was time for Phillips to move on. The Reds have a glut of young infielders ready to play in the big leagues, and wasting time on a 36 year-old second baseman — even one who has had such a distinguished career — always seemed like a terrible idea given where the Reds are on the rebuild life-cycle. Peraza and Herrera will be the main beneficiaries of Phillips’ exit, and the Reds really need to find out whether those two kids can play (both were highly-rated prospects at one time). Phillips wasn’t going to be a member of the next good Reds team. Peraza or Herrera might be, but the Reds won’t know until they’re given a shot. They’ll get that shot in 2017.

While it was time for Phillips to move on, however, it’s bittersweet. Phillips was an All-Star and a Gold Glove winner, and he spent 11 good years in a Reds uniform. He’s one of the best second basemen in the franchise’s history, and he’ll have a spot in the team Hall of Fame one day. As noted baseball analyst and historian Billy Shakespeare once said: “Parting is such sweet sorrow that I shall say goodnight till it be morrow.”

BRM: Oh, Brandon Phillips, he was the most beloved Cincinnati Reds player that didn’t understand when his time was up. Judging him purely on his on the field contributions, no one wanted to see him go. Judging him on his contact with the media, few wanted him to stay.  Fans outside of Cincinnati proper may not realize that Phillips was one of the major contributors to the Reds Community Fund in both action and time. He had a celebrity bowling benefit, he had a commemorative glove made by Wilson to raise funds for the Ronald McDonald House of Atlanta in 2012, and he donated time and money to help build urban baseball fields in greater Cincinnati among many other charitable initiatives. That is the part of Phillips that Cincinnati will miss the most.  In history Phillips will likely go down as the second best second baseman in Reds’ history, after Hall of Famer Joe Morgan.

From a baseball vantage point, thank goodness Phillips has moved on. His defense and baserunning both tanked in 2016. He also was blatantly disrespectful about the Reds trying to trade him the past two off-seasons.  Phillips is still an average starting MLB second baseman defensively and offensively, but he is making money like a top ten second baseman. The Reds need second base clear to play Jose Peraza.

Phillips also repeatedly tweeted about his disagreements with the front office without addressing the specifics. The Reds tried to trade him to the reconstructed Arizona Diamondbacks and the Washington Nationals, where his buddy Dusty Baker manages, last off-season. This off-season it took two attempts to trade Phillips to his hometown Atlanta Braves before he finally accepted the deal.

He should be remembered as a great Cincinnati Reds player, but that he is gone is good. He allows Peraza to play every day and may allow the Reds to keep top outfield prospect Jesse Winker around as the back-up outfielder. The hope is that in retrospect Phillips realizes that this is best for his career and him personally. The Reds’ fans are sorry to see him go, but are glad that the drama is over. Now they can focus on Peraza, Winker, and Dilson Herrera who came over in the Jay Bruce deal last year.

C70: Who do you think will be the staff ace by the end of 2017?

RR: I’ll say Anthony DeSclafani. He’s been the most consistent arm for the Reds for the past few years, and I can’t say that we can count on Homer Bailey to stay healthy at this point. The Reds have a ton of young high-ceiling arms outside of that, and one or two of those guys could take that “ace” spot eventually, but I don’t think any of those guys will take a step that big in 2017.

CRB: The top candidate for staff ace is Homer Bailey. Homer struggled some in 2016 during his return from Tommy John surgery, but hopefully another offseason to rehab will put him back in top form. The Reds are paying for his best and need him to reach it and stabilize the rotation. After him will come Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and whomever wins the spring training competition. Early guess: Cody Reed and Robert Stephenson.

CSG: By last count, I think there are 38 pitchers currently competing for the Reds’ starting rotation. In theory, Homer Bailey should be the ace, but since I cringed when I typed that, I really don’t know the answer to your question. I feel like every pitcher who’s contending has “if he takes the next step” attached to his name. 2017 is apparently the year that Robert Stephenson finally figures things out, but we’ve been hearing that for five years, and he had a 6.00+ ERA last season, so…

RN: I think it’ll be Anthony DeSclafani. Disco is coming off a very strong 2016 that saw him improve across the board. He’s striking out more batters while walking fewer, and his curveball and slider have each established themselves as huge swing-and-miss weapons (not to mention his outstanding four-seam fastball). The Reds hope that DeSclafani, who will be 27 this season, confirms that he’s the staff’s ace.

Over at FanGraphs, however, Eno Sarris made the bold prediction that Brandon Finnegan could establish himself as the Reds’ ace. There has been debate about whether Finnegan’s future is in the bullpen, but I’ve always been of the opinion that he had good enough stuff — above-average fastball, slider, and changeup — to be an effective starter. Over the last couple of months of last season, Finnegan was mostly brilliant, thanks in part to a new grip on his changeup that was taught to him by none other than Dan Straily.

I wouldn’t be surprised if DeSclafani and Finnegan both looked like solid #2 starters this year. If two of the three big pitching prospects — Reed, Stephenson, Garrett — pan out, by the end of 2017, the Reds could have four guys that are at least mid-rotation talents. (I think Reed and Garrett are poised to have breakout seasons, establishing themselves as solid big league starters.)

BRM: In the starting rotation Anthony DeSclafani is the ace. He was last year and he will be this year. He is the one starter who could throw a shutout any time he takes the ball.  Last year DeSclafani injured his oblique in spring last year and only made 20 starts last year in his second season with the Reds. He came over with catcher Chad Wallach in exchange for Mat Latos and isn’t looking back. He made all 31 of his starts his first year in the Reds’ rotation.

In the bullpen Michael Lorenzen will be the closer and ace if the Reds let him. He has experience as a college closer and was the best reliever on the team last year hands down. When he joined the bullpen, it got dramatically better in very short order.  Last year Lorenzen had 35 appearances registering 10 holds. He had a team leading WHIP of 1.08 and was second in ERA to bullpen mate Raisel Iglesias with an ERA of 2.88. He also surrendered only one home run per ten innings which is impressive with Great American Ballpark as your home field.

Lorenzen will be the ace of the staff for years to come whether as a closer or as a starter. He was a first round draft pick in 2013 and pitches like one. The question is whether the Reds will let his talent lead the way or not. 

C70: Is there an unheralded player that people should keep an eye on this season?

RR: Can I say Joey Votto? No?

I’m going to go with Scott Schebler. After a walk-off win early in the year, he cooled off and ended up losing ABs to Adam Duvall and spent most of the season in AAA. Without Jay Bruce in the fold, the RF job is Schebler’s to lose, and he excelled at the end of last year, hitting .323/.393/.448 in September. He’s going to have top OF prospect Jesse Winker nipping at his heels, but Schebler showed flashes of potential last year that should make the early season interesting.

CRB: A key will be who emerges out of the young pitchers. There’s a lot of opportunity available. Also, if they can push Phillips aside, Dilson Herrera looks ready to make a breakthrough.

CSG: Amir Garrett is the name we Reds fans hear a lot. I’m not sure what his progression plan is, but from what we’ve heard, he’s the real deal. Luis Castillo, one of the guys the Reds got from the Marlins in the Straily deal, is supposed to be one to watch, too.

RN: Arismendy Alcantara. The Reds claimed Alcantara off waivers from the A’s, and there are signs that this could be a steal. As recently as a couple of years ago, Baseball America rated Alcantara as the 33rd best prospect in baseball, so the pedigree is there. He hasn’t performed in brief trials in the big leagues, but he’s still just 25 and he can play a bunch of different positions. Just after he was signed, I noticed that Alcantara’s career track looks an awful lot like another former top prospect that the Reds once acquired at the age of 25: Brandon Phillips. (Others have noted that we all may be overlooking Alcantara, as well.)

I’m not saying that Alcantara will go on to have the career that Phillips carved out, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he won the second base job in Cincinnati at some point this year. At the very least, I expect Alcantara to be a valuable utility guy, capable of hitting a little and playing credible defense at a number of positions.

BRM: There are three players that fans should keep an eye on this season who are unheralded as of yet. For the position players, it is former Tampa Bay Ray Desmond Jennings. On the pitching staff it is Tim Adleman and Nefi Ogando.

Jennings comes over from the Rays as a non-roster invitee. A spot for him on the 25-man roster was opened when the Reds lost Richie Shaffer to the Indians via the waiver wire when they had to clear a spot for free agent signee Scott Feldman. That opened up the primary pinch hitter role and Jennings could take advantage.  With Scott Schebler and potential back-up outfielder Jesse Winker both batting left-handed, Jennings could pinch hit for either in a high leverage situation against a left-handed reliever.

Jennings also would be the only true center fielder on the roster to back up Billy Hamilton. Last year when Hamilton was shut down early, the Reds went through Jose Peraza, Schebler and then finally minor league infielder Hernan Iribarren as his replacement. Tyler Holt spent most of last season as the back-up center fielder, but he was injured too and is no longer with the organization.

On the pitching side Adleman is the often forgotten starter from last season. He saved the Reds by starting 13 games last year in what amounted to Homer Bailey’s spot in the rotation. With Bailey’s elbow injured again, Adleman is projected as the number three starter entering the season.  Scott Feldman wants to be in the rotation, so things could change. Adleman, though, is a number five type pitcher on a contending team. He should show himself as an integral part of the staff, if the Reds give him a chance.

Speaking of Feldman and chances brings us to Ogando. Ogando is in line to make a play for the same role in the bullpen that the Reds initially mentioned Feldman filling. He would make a great low leverage middle inning reliever who could come in mid-inning.  Ogando has been a reliever his entire professional career. He came up for a cup of coffee with the Miami Marlins and impressed last year. He looks like he could be enough of a groundball pitcher to come in when a double play was needed.

Jennings may have the highest hurdle of the three as he isn’t on the roster yet. Adleman and Ogando both have to take advantage of every opportunity they get. On a team looking to be competitive again, these are just three of the players who may not be on fans’ minds right now.

C70: What’s your projection of the team’s record and/or where will they finish in the division?

RR: I think they’ll be a little bit better than they were last year, and go something like 72-90. I’d project them to finish 4th in the NL Central, after the Cubs, Cards, and Buccos, and ahead of the Brew Crew.

CRB: It’s another rebuilding year and the Reds figure to lose about 90 games again.  This should be the last year of that, if the plan works.

CSG: Oh, boy. The Reds‘ bullpen was absolutely dreadful last season (they did improve in the second half, though). Assuming things are somewhat cleared up in that department — and they appear to be — I expect a slightly better season than 2016. The offense should be serviceable, but I have a feeling it will take a while to get the pitching rotation settled. I can see them winning 10 more games, which would put them at 78-84.

RN: I’m more optimistic than most (some would say delusional), but I predict 81-81 and third place. Something like 77-85 is probably more realistic, but I do expect the Reds to make significant gains. The young guys are starting to appear on the horizon, and I really believe the low point in the rebuilding process is behind us.

BRM: 75-87. The Reds are going to better this year and shouldn’t be worried about coming close to 100 losses as they have the past two season.
Last year the Reds couldn’t compete with the Chicago Cubs. That match-up cost the Reds any chance at .500 last season. This year they should be able to compete, but they’re still a few steps behind.

Looking at the pitching staff there are enough decent starting pitchers to get to close to .500. Anthony DeSclafani should be about 15-10. Brandon Finnegan figures to go 10-10 or there about this year. If Tim Adleman stays in the rotation, he should go 12-12. Amir Garrett is the projected number four starter and likely is going to start about 5-10 for his career.  Robert Stephenson is a big question mark. If you pencil him to go 8-12, then the starting staff with go 50-54 with 25-23 left for the bullpen. Given the rebuilt bullpen that sounds to be in the general vicinity.

For the Reds 81-81 would be better than perfect. That just isn’t happening with the Cardinals and Cubs in the same division. 75 wins would be a good sign that the rebuild is working. What matters is how the pitching develops. If they can get to 70 wins and the pitching looks good, everyone will be happy.

C70: Who is your all-time favorite Red and why?

RR: The answer to this question depends a lot on the time period for when you grew up with the team, so my answer here has always been and will always be Barry Larkin. Hometown boy who played for the local team for his entire career, and capped it off with a trip to Cooperstown, and most importantly, hasn’t stuck around to embarrass his city like other local players have.

CRB: Johnny Bench is and was my favorite.  The cleanup hitter of the Big Red Machine was my childhood and forever hero.

CSG: Barry Larkin. It’s incredibly rare for a player to spend his whole career with one team, so getting to see Larkin rise up to become an eventual World Series champ and MVP was pretty special. I made the trip to Cooperstown to see him get inducted into the Hall of Fame. I can’t think of another Reds player (from my time) that I would consider doing that for.*

*Apologies to Corey Patterson

RN: Barry Larkin, mostly because he spent his entire Hall of Fame career with the Reds, and his career really took off during my formative years. But I really wanted to answer “Adam Dunn” to this question, because Adam Dunn is probably the greatest player in the history of the Cincinnati Reds. Probably. 

BRM: Hmmm, I think all-time is always hard. It would be easy to say Joey Votto or Adam Dunn because they are the two most likely Reds to be voted to the MLB Hall of Fame next. Neither of them is my all-time favorite.

My all-time favorite is Ken Griffey, Sr., because he lived across the street from me when I was young. People forget that Senior came back to Cincinnati during the off-season even when he played for the Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees. He was my first exposure to the MLB.  He was a back-up outfielder/first baseman by this time in his career, but not enough players have position flexibility anymore. His ability to change positions, even just left to first, was something has stayed with me to this day.  He also had a good eye the entire time that I watched him played. Even though he wasn’t as fast as he was in his prime, he was always a good base runner too. Watching him play was a pleasure.  Of course watching his son was fun too. By the time Junior was a Red he was on his way down. He still had an irrepressible smile.

For the enjoyment of watching a player because of his skill is another story. My favorite Red that I saw play was Eric Davis. He was the definitive superstar of the Reds’ 1990 World Series team. He also had 40-40 in his sights until an injury knocked him off.  Much like the Reds current centerfielder, Billy Hamilton. Davis repeatedly injured himself playing an elite center field. 

If we’re going to the legends, only one player resonates with me more than Frank Robinson and he is Ted Kluszewski. The Big Klu as he is fondly known to Reds’ fans. He was a four time All-Star from 1953 through 1956.  He was the National League MVP runner up in 1954 when he led the league in home runs, RBI, and fielding percentage. The Big Klu retired following the 1961 baseball season after bouncing around a bit following his Reds career. He was a member of the Big Red Machine as a coach, though.

So I guess that is my four or five favorite Reds, but they have been around over 125 years. One per 25 isn’t bad. In the end all of the Reds are my favorite.

Lots of great stuff here and my thanks to everyone for contributing.  Hopefully Cincy will be on its way up sooner rather than later!

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Last updated: 10/06/2022