Playing Pepper 2021: Cincinnati Reds

Opening Day is just around the corner (knock on wood after 2020, of course) and as such, that means it’s time for everyone’s favorite post series!  OK, maybe second favorite after Top Cards on Twitter.  It’s Playing Pepper!  Year 13 of our intrepid series finds us, as always, asking questions of bloggers (both former and current) of other teams, seeing how they view the upcoming season.   I think it’s a solid way of getting a handle on MLB as a whole.  So get your bats and ignore that sign on the fence–let’s play some pepper!

Cincinnati Reds
31-29, third in the NL Central, lost in the Wild Card Round
Website | Twitter
Last year’s Pepper

The Reds actually made the playoffs last year, which is what many thought the team was capable of before the season started and the COVID hit.  Of course, they only made it due to the expanded postseason and went out quickly (like all Central teams did) so maybe that’s not the truest gauge of their progress.  Can they contend this year when the season is the full 162?  We’ve got some folks to discuss just that!

Blogger Site Twitter
Abby Caldwell abigalrae_94
Shawn Weaver coweaver
Jim Walker Redleg Nation jn_walkerjr
Doug Gray Redleg Nation dougdirt24
Wick Terrell Red Reporter wickterrell

C70: Baseball in 2020 was like nothing we’ve ever seen before. What are your thoughts on that season? Did you like the rule changes? How was following baseball the same or different during the pandemic?

Abby: Different is an understatement I think, but then everything was. I was admittedly skeptical of some of the rule changes. But I found that once I was actually watching a game I didn’t notice so much. I still don’t like starting the 10th inning with a runner on second base, it seems totally unnecessary to me. But I have come around to the universal DH. As a Reds fan I absolutely love Joey Votto, but I also know that he’s approaching 40 and he can’t fight off father time forever. The universal DH would allow him to play longer. He can easily fill that role and would only have to focus on hitting. We also have a problem in the outfield right now, there are about 4 players with strong bats that we need in the lineup and only 3 outfield positions to fill, the DH would help out there a ton. I’m sure it’ll become a permanent change eventually, but I was hoping it would happen this year.

The biggest difference was not being able to go to games in person for me. I usually go to several and I really missed that last year. I also found it weird watching on TV with no one there. The Reds have an outstanding grounds crew that was faithful to cheer them on for us in home games, but I can’t help but wonder if they wouldn’t have had a better season with the energy that fans bring to the game. I’m glad MLB took steps to protect their players, staff, and fans while we still knew very little about the virus; but I’m most looking forward to watching a game from the stands this year. 

Shawn: Wow, 2020. Pandemic, who knew? Everything was weird, including baseball. Glad they played some games, and glad I got to watch several on TV. It was the first year I hadn’t been to a game in person for a long time. Hope I get to one this year. The only rule change I liked was the three-batter rule for a pitcher. Not a fan of 7-innings for doubleheaders or expanded playoffs. The NL DH was all right, I guess. I didn’t hate it like I thought I might.

Jim: Aside from the changes being caused by this terrible pandemic and the season being too short, I liked the way the season unfolded for the most part.

Universal designated hitter was overdue. I’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t find its way into the 2021 season. Whenever and however a new collective bargaining agreement for 2022 and beyond comes into effect, it will almost certainly include universal designated hitter; why take half a step back for 2021? Sunday doubleheaders were almost the norm as I was coming of age which made the return of doubleheaders a welcome event for me. However I would like to see one of the games be a full 9 inning affair. My proposal is to schedule the first game as a 7 inning game with the second game being a 9 inning game if the first game doesn’t go to extra innings. In cases where the opening game does go longer than 7 innings, shorten the second game to 7 innings also. Fair enough? I am a hockey fan; and the MLB 2020 season opened as the NHL playoffs were underway, so the extended playoffs seemed normal, natural and overdue for me.

The only change I really didn’t take to was the free runner at 2B to start extra innings.

Doug: I was glad there was a season. It was weird, it was different – but so was literally everything else that happened in 2020. As someone who makes a living writing about baseball, following the game (and doing my job) was very, very different. That may not be the case for everyone, but for me it was a very different experience. At least for now, it’s still very different, too.

As for the rule changes… I mostly liked them. I don’t mind the extra-innings runner on second rule. I have covered minor league baseball for over a decade and that rule has been in place there for a while, so that wasn’t even really “new” to me. The designated hitter needs to be in the National League. I’m not really DH/Anti-DH as much as I am fairness. The DH isn’t going away in the American League, and since we know that, put it in the National League. Having it in the AL gives their teams unfair advantages in free agency (they can offer guys longer contracts and more money because in that last year or two they don’t have to worry if that guy can still play defense somewhere to make it worth it). Fix THAT rule.

Wick: The spectrum of answers that just flooded my brain when reading this is, I suppose, exactly what probably happens to everyone when they think about anything 2020 related, let alone the odd, odd baseball season that sprung out of it. Following it was different, of course, with no concept of ‘going to the game’ ever a possibility, but it was also a scenario where it became perhaps even more of our usual focus from afar. It was, for a long while, THE THING actually going on during the pandemic, and with so little else to follow with any enthusiasm, it was very much a release for me.

It was a season. It was different, but it counts, and the backs of baseball cards and FanGraphs player pages will reflect it forever accordingly, even if it wasn’t what we’re accustomed to following. Some of the rule changes seemed apt – the 7-inning doubleheaders to expedite things meshed well, for instance – but on the whole I hope the future of baseball isn’t what the 2020 season featured. I really do hate the runner-on-2B-in-extras rule, as baseball is never supposed to be a game with any sort of time-cap, but the DH did at least level a playing field for all teams that has been too skewed for too long.

So, naturally Rob Manfred chose to keep one I hated and bypass one that I thought worked.

C70: After an aggressive couple of seasons in acquiring talent, the Reds were more quiet this winter. What are your thoughts on what they did do?

Abby: I wish you could hear me audibly sigh right now. To put it mildly, I’m whelmed. I didn’t realistically expect that Trevor Bauer would stick around, but I wasn’t expecting to feel like they didn’t do anything this year. I think Sean Doolittle is their biggest addition and I’m really excited to see him in a Reds uniform. Non-tendering Curt Casali was a tough one for me. I’m personally a big fan of both him and Tucker Barnhart, but with Tyler Stephenson very ready for a permanent move to the big leagues it made sense. The apparent lack of effort to find an upgrade at shortstop is the kicker for me. I’m not confident in anybody they currently have on the roster and there isn’t anyone left on the market right now who would be a serious upgrade. Maybe they pull off something, but I’m not holding my breath. 

Shawn: After spending a lot of money in the 2019-2020 offseason and then just barely clearing .500 and making the expanded postseason, the Reds front office seemed this offseason to say, “Nah, wasn’t worth it.” They let their top starter and top reliever go, and did not find a shortstop to plug that hole. They also didn’t bring in any top talent, just spare parts. Any improvement this year will have to come from within, which seems overly optimistic. Still, the team could well finish .500 again with the club they have in Arizona. That’s not exciting, but with the current NL Central it could be enough to get a playoff spot, and it’s better than a 90-loss season again.

Jim: Disappointing is the only word which fits here. While no one expected the Reds to be serious players in the Trevor Bauer free agency circus, beyond Bauer, the team’s performance borders on inexplicable aside from concluding the team’s actions were being driven almost solely by pocketbook considerations rather than baseball needs. Perhaps their greatest position player need was at shortstop; and, they’ve done nothing but line up a cast of never have been and past prime guys for open auditions during spring training. The only reason for hope here is if legitimate prospect José Garcia learns to hit MLB pitching sooner rather than later.

The bullpen, seen as a team strength, was essentially gutted. Closer Raisel Iglesias was moved in what was surely a salary dump at its core. Arbitration candidate Archie Bradley was nontendered. Robert Stephenson, also arbitration eligible, was shuffled off to Colorado. Michael Lorenzen is now penciled in for the starting rotation, filling a spot created by Bauer’s departure. The arrivals, Noe Ramirez (for Iglesias), Jeff Hoffman (for Stephenson), Sean Doolittle (FA signing) and a number of guys brought into camp on minor league deals would seem to have much in common with the casting call crew at shortstop. Holdovers Amir Garrett and Lucas Sims along with promising internal candidates Tejay Antone and Jose DeLeón will have to step up if the bullpen is to get its job done.

Doug: They traded their closer for a guy I didn’t know was a big leaguer until the trade happened. They let Archie Bradley walk after trading a Top 10 prospect in the organization for him and having him throw all of 7 innings for the organization. And then they stated the goal of the offseason was to acquire a starting shortstop and they came up about as empty as you possibly could. To say it was a disappointing offseason would be an understatement. 

Wick: I thought they got cheap, and did a very poor job admitting it publicly. I feel bad for Nick Krall, specifically, who took over the entire front office after Dick Williams stepped aside, the latter pretty obviously becoming aware the funding for his project was being pulled and being unwilling to ride down that sinking ship. Who says no to an MLB GM job, even if it comes with a directive to tear apart what looked promising? That’s where Krall is and has been all winter, right between a rock and an owner who has continued to fail at the promises he made when he bought the club, with this the latest in a history of putting profits ahead of team success.

This is a rug-pull roster, albeit one that still has enough talent to maybe, maybe rally around that information and create something special, something greater than the individual parts. They’ve leaned incredibly hard into Kyle Boddy and his Driveline crew to uncover pitching talent that has either been overlooked or underdeveloped, a strategy that we’re going to see on display nearly every day with some of the names they’ve compiled. That might work, or it might fail spectacularly, but it’s 100% the strategy they’re using on that side of the roster, so I guess they at least deserve some credit for being bold there. The shortstop issue, though, was simply a complete abdication by ownership to invest in a winning ballclub. All those incredible options and they missed on all of them (though saying ‘miss’ implies they ever swung, which is certainly debatable).

C70: My next question, as there’s a drive into deep left field by Castellanos and that’ll be a home run and so that’ll make it a 4-0 ballgame, is what do you expect out of Nick Castellanos now that he didn’t opt out of the contract and will remain with the Reds?

Abby: Even other fan bases are still making that joke? Oh wow. Let me just say that I wasn’t the least bit sad to see Thom go, however I was thrilled to see Castellanos stick around. He’s an excellent player who’s swinging a powerful bat and I think we’re going to see a lot more out of him this year. Obviously he didn’t perform as expected last year, but considering the circumstances I’m more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I’d rather make my predictions based on his 2019 stats. By those accounts he should absolutely rake at Great American Ballpark this year. 

Shawn: I don’t know if I’m gonna be putting on this headset again…the best thing to come out of the 2020 season may be the change in TV PBP guy, as we seem to now have a guy who might actually watch the game being played on the field in front of him. That would be a vast improvement. That aside, Nick Castellanos is who he is, a guy who goes into great hitting streaks sometimes but is a terrible defender wherever you put him. Hopefully he will hit closer to his career average of .274 than his 2020 batting average of .225, but he’s never been a great hitter, just a good one. .275 with 25 HR and 80 RBI would make the glove easier to live with.

Jim: He was recently quoted as saying it made no sense to have opted out after 2020 because the free agency market was clearly going to be down due to the pandemic. Castellanos has a similar opt out opportunity following the 2021 season which will be his last chance to test free agency until after the 2023 season when he will be heading into his age 32 season. If he does opt out after this season, he will be leaving $34M guaranteed on the table ($32M in salary and a $2M buyout on a mutual option for 2024 at $20M).

My take is Castellanos will be in a very competitive mood with an eye toward possibly exercising his option. How the situation with the expiring collective bargaining agreement looks to be playing out will surely be a factor too. How might his competitive attitude translate to production? Baseball Reference projects him with an .814 OPS line. ZiPS on Fangraphs brings him at .812. Both have him slugging at .484 and are only a couple of points different in the .320- .330 for OPB range. The Reds would figure to be happy with these numbers if they cover 625 or more plate appearances in a full 162 game season.

Doug: Statistically, he had a down year in 2020. But all of the underlying data suggests he was a lot better. While I’m not sure he’s going to repeat what he did with the Cubs in the second half a few years ago, I think there’s no reason to believe he won’t return to a doubles machine with plenty of homers and a solid average. What will be interesting is to see if he opts out following 2021. There are so many factors at play there, including the feeling of the CBA and what that might do for the outlook of the offseason.

Wick: Nick Castellanos hit the snot out of the ball in 2020. He ranked in the 82nd percentile or better in hard-hit rate, exit velocity, xWOBA, and xSLG, ranking in the 95th percentile in barrels per Statcast. His 10.0% soft-hit rate ranked as the 10th lowest by FanGraphs, sandwiched between Mike Trout, Michael Brantley, Francisco Lindor, and Freddie Freeman.

What he didn’t get was lucky, unfortunately. A .257 BABIP (well below his career .329 mark including 2020) sunk his overall numbers despite him mostly being exactly what the Reds had hoped they signed. Assuming that normalizes, I think he’s got a chance to be an offensive dynamo in a park that plays to his strengths, even if taking a walk is not in his repertoire. I don’t think a 4.5-5.0 oWAR season is out of the question for him, honestly, even if his RF defense is going to tank his overall value significantly. He’s still an odd fit for this current roster (with no DH and a plethora of OF options), but I do think he’s got a very good chance to rake in 2021.

C70: What has to happen for this team to contend for the division title this year?

Abby: Well the short answer to that is offense. To expand on that; this was our second consecutive season of outstanding pitching and no offense to back it up. We need several players to return to their 2018-19 form offensively speaking. Particularly Eugenio Suarez, he is an all-star caliber player who just was not himself last year and his performance clearly showed that. They need Jesse Winker and Nick Senzel to stay healthy. Both are talented young players who have had some seriously bad luck with injuries in the last couple seasons. Seeing them play a full season with consistent at bats will be a huge help. I’d like to see more from Mike Moustakas and Castellanos as well. Both were huge signings intended to help boost a lackluster offense and neither lived up to the hype last year. We also need to see something done about the everyday shortstop. Right now it seems that Kyle Farmer is getting a shot at the job, but I’m not convinced he has the chops to play there every day. 

Shawn: For the Reds to contend for a playoff spot, Castellanos and Moustakas, the guys brought in to be middle of the order guys, need to actually hit the ball. Also, Nick Senzel needs to develop. Shogo Akiyama hitting all year like he did in September, after adjusting to the U.S. game, would be a big plus. The pitching should be fine, even without Trevor Bauer. Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Tyler Mahle make a solid front three, and there are enough reasonable candidates to fill out the rotation. Amir Garrett, Lucas Sims, and Sean Doolittle should be able to anchor the bullpen. At the top of their range this team could win 90, but a safer bet is 80 wins.

BOTTOM OF THE NINTH EDIT: The Reds are now experimenting with moving Eugenio Suarez to SS, Mike Moustakas back to 3B, to get rookie Jonathan India into the lineup at 2B. Suarez was the best choice for SS coming into camp, and this is a forward-thinking move. Ain’t no way Geno wins a Gold Glove, but India is a lot better than anyone else who would take the lineup spot, and this should improve the overall defense by getting Moustakas off second. I like this move a lot, enough to get me to improve my Reds forecast to 85 wins. Because, you know, if your choice is having Kyle Farmer or Jonathan India in the lineup, I go for the guy who might be a star.

Jim: In a sentence, the Reds probably need a special dream season; and nobody else in the division except perhaps the Pirates can afford to have the same if the Reds are to win the division.

Depending how others in the NL Central and NL at large play, the Reds could contend for a wildcard spot with slightly less good fortune coming their way. Want specifics? Read on. In his age 37 season, Joey Votto must recover to some semblance of his earlier self in slugging %. He has stated he will risk sacrificing some OBP% to do this (note: Votto has led the NL in OBP 7 times, most recently from 2016-18). On the defensive side of the ball, Votto needs to at least be consistent in catching throws at 1B, a skill he struggled with last season after quietly being one of the better throw pickers in MLB at 1B for many years. Can he succeed? Outfielders Nick Senzel and Jesse Winker need to stay on the field and perform to levels at which they had been projected as they rose through the ranks as top prospects. Both have shown flashes of the expected production at the MLB level; but both have also been plagued by injury and illness. Most concerning perhaps is Senzel’s multiple episodes of vertigo prior to his arrival at the MLB level. Someone, anyone, needs to emerge as a defensively competent SS who is more on offense than a black hole sucking life out of it. At catcher the question seems to be when, not if, Tyler Stephenson (#11 overall draft pick in 2015) replaces Tucker Barnhart as the everyday guy.

Additionally…… Well, you get the picture. There are a lot of balls in the air that have to land right for the Reds to contend with only Mike Moustakas at 2B, Eugenio Suarez at 3B and Castellanos in RF looking like reasonably sure bets to produce at expectations among the position players group. However, remarkably given the loss of Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer via free agency, the pitching should be OK and even a strength barring multiple key injuries

Doug: The pitching has to stay healthy. That’s where the Reds’ true strength is. The offense has some question marks at a few spots – though outside of shortstops you can reasonably make the argument that whatever position could be average of better at the plate. But it’s the pitching, particularly the starting pitching, where it feels the Reds are simply ahead of the division. Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray remaining healthy for 30 starts would go a long way. Tejay Antone isn’t a named starter as of my answering of these questions, and he’s still in a competition for a spot, but he’s been nothing short of outstanding since the start of last season when he showed up throwing 4-5 MPH harder than he used to. I think he could be an unforeseen “x-factor” if you will, assuming the team actually puts him in the rotation and gives him the innings that go with that role instead of having him back in the bullpen and giving him 75 innings. 

Wick: The pitching roll of the dice I mentioned earlier simply has to pay off. Losing Trevor Bauer, Anthony DeSclafani, Raisel Iglesias, and Archie Bradley is a major dent to a rock-solid pitching staff. Knowing that the only major known additions in that wake were Sean Doolittle and Jeff Hoffman means that, on paper, the bedrock of this team has taken a pretty serious blow. If Boddy and pitching coach Derek Johnson truly can work their magic with some of the under-the-radar arms in camp the way they did with Tejay Antone and Tyler Mahle last year, there’s certainly a chance for these Reds to make some noise.

That all assumes that, much like Castellanos, the abysmal batted-ball luck improves. Aside from Jesse Winker, it’s hard to identify a single Reds bat that had a good year in 2020, and you’d simply expect for most of them to be a bit better in 2021 by default. If all that materializes, there’s a chance they can still be a playoff club, though it’s threading a very tight needle to get that all done.

C70: What is your expectation for this team this coming season?

Abby: I expect to see a better team this year. I fully believe that not playing a full season last year was a huge hindrance to the Reds. When you think about it, they really were only at mid-season form when the season ended last year. Some of our best players were just starting to heat up. We’re seeing some good things from our most-hyped upcoming prospects like Tyler Stephenson and Hunter Greene in spring training and I think that shows some good things to come. We’re retaining most of our excellent pitching staff with plenty of guys ready to step up and join the starting rotation. It comes down to the offense, and I think we’ll see some improvements there. I would call myself cautiously optimistic about this season. 

Shawn: This looks like a .500 team. If everything goes right they win 90, if things break down they win 70. But this looks like a .500 club.

Jim: The various projection systems are unanimously placing the Reds 4th in the NL Central. Here is a detailed look at those projections from (my fellow contributor here) Doug Gray. As detailed above, the team did virtually nothing significant in the offseason to enhance their chances against divisional foes. Meanwhile, all three teams projected ahead of the Reds have made significant additions. Therefore, while I can hope for a better outcome, I have difficulty expecting it to materialize.

Speaking of balls in the air, just maybe if Eugenio Suarez who came up as a SS and has taken some work there this spring were moved back to SS opening 3B for Mike Moustakas (his more natural position) with Nick Senzel (returning to the infield) at 2B and Shogo Akiyama/ Aristides Aquino then sharing CF, I’d be more of a gambler on this team’s prospects. Alas, I believe this is too ambitious to expect from the Reds team, however.

Doug: It’s spring training, so things feel a little more “rosy” because we haven’t really seen much of the “disappointment” yet. With that said, trying to be as realistic as possible, I think the Reds are about a .500 team, but I think the error bars on that are pretty big. Nick Senzel and Tyler Stephenson don’t exactly “project” well for 2021 if you look at PECOTA or ZiPS, but the upside for both is rather high. Those two, along with the previously mentioned Antone – if things go right for them, the win total could climb a lot higher. That said, there’s a lot of stuff that could go the other way, too. Joey Votto’s looked good this spring, and the last month of last season after he altered his swing. But he’s not exactly young anymore, which tends to mean health could be a problem over the long course of a season, and of course, declining production. The team doesn’t have a real shortstop outside of Jose Garcia, and he’s a guy that they don’t want to be the starting shortstop because he’s simply not ready to hit big league pitching yet. That could be a big problem area. 

Wick: I expect them to be about a .500 club, a club whose pitching is worse than last year’s and whose hitting is a bit better. Of course, that will put the onus on the front office to make decisions at the trade deadline, and this is a club that’s ripe for a mid-year addition that could help them get over the hump.

Will they, though? Will the owners who balked at every available shortstop open the pocketbooks in July to make an addition for a playoff chase? Will they add a proven starting pitcher at that juncture? I think this team is one key piece away from being legitimate, but being that close without making the move already makes me skeptical they ever will, and that just might be enough to torpedo what chance they do have. Man, that’s a frustrating thing to spell out.

C70: Overall, what sort of grade would you give this organization and why?

Abby: I would give them a solid C at this point. I see the effort, I see the good intentions, but we’re to the point where I need them to show their work. Last season I heard multiple players telling me how much they wanted to win, but I didn’t see the fruit of that labor. It’s time to show, not tell. Like I said, I’m calling myself cautiously optimistic this year, the Reds have every chance to prove themselves and I hope they do. It’s going to be a long season and I’m looking forward to soaking up every moment of it! 

Shawn: C-. The Reds are struggling on the international talent market, and could not pull the trigger on a deal to upgrade at shortstop, where they will be going with a replacement-level player, whoever it is, this year. 2020 was the first winning season for the Reds since 2013, Dusty Baker‘s last year as manager, so it’s been a long dry spell. Reds baseball has long been cyclical, but they need to keep pushing for the next few years to be an up-cycle instead of a continuing down period.

Jim: The current Reds leadership group headed by the Robert Castellini family took over between the 2005-06 seasons. For their entire ~15 year tenure, I grade them at C-. A more concise grading might be A for 2006-2013, D/F from 2014-2017 and C for 2018-present.

They initially did an excellent job evaluating, shaping and organizing talent in the pipeline when they took over. This talent augmented by productive trades and free agency signings produced three 90 win seasons good for 2 divisional titles and a wildcard berth from 2010-13. Unfortunately, the organization’s efforts to create a follow on window of opportunity since 2013 have been marked by fits, starts and ultimately failure. The primary failure was not adequately preparing for the attrition of the 2012 five man starting rotation which started 161 of the 162 regular season games in that 97 win season. By the 2015 trade deadline four of those five pitchers were gone without long term replacements. From 2015-19 the team averaged 68.4 wins per season and surpassed that mark only in 2019 (75 wins) as it struggled to regain stability in the starting rotation. Last year’s skin of the teeth wildcard card berth in the expanded playoff format marked the team’s first .500 season (31-29) since 2013.

Predicting what may be ahead for the Reds organization has become more difficult in recent months. Bob Castellini remains CEO; however, his son Phil has assumed the title of Reds Team President in addition to his prior role of Chief Operating Officer. Dick Williams, architect of the team’s turn for the better starting in 2018, who was presumed to be a fixture at President of Baseball Operations given his family’s long and deep involvement with Reds ownership left the organization in October 2020. The team’s posture this off season under GM promoted to PoBO, Nick Krall, has raised more questions and concerns than it has answered. Is the apparent belt tightening and pull back in talent acquisition merely a result of the pandemic situation; or, is something else afoot inside the Reds organization? Time will tell.

Doug: I would say a B- sounds about right. I believe that from the General Manager and down, the organization is in a pretty good spot when it comes to non-players. The group as a whole seems to be well regarded. But the guys above the General Manager are where I’ve just got a lot of questions. The Reds ownership group is made up of 19 sub-groups and or individual people. I’ve been told that the largest share owned by any one individual is just 15%. I’m speculating here, but that tends to make decisions a lot tougher to make when it comes to spending money. And on top of that, the CEO of the team has said things like he doesn’t get too involved in baseball moves, only that he goes to meetings and gives his ideas of what they should do, and if no one argues too much, that’s what they do. That sounds like a pretty big issue from where I sit. And so that drags down the grade of the organization overall. 

Wick: I’ll give them a C, but I’ll say ‘bless your heart’ to them while giving it. Despite abysmal drafts over the last decade and a lack of winning that has become its own culture, there is still enough to like about them that has me hooked. They are flawed and operating under the control of a spendthrift owner, but they do have a handful of aspects that make the idea of a breakout still somewhat realistic.

It could be Luis Castillo taking the next step, or Nick Senzel staying healthy and putting it all together. It could be Tyler Stephenson emerging as a legitimate two-way catcher. I suppose that’s the classic description of a talented underachiever, an A- student with D- commitment. Maybe, though there’s a 162 game pop quiz they can ace in their future.

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