Red Reporters, it’s just about time for baseball. Real baseball. Not just talking and writing and reading about baseball and what ifs and prospects and projections, but real, actual, on the field baseball. Really, it is. Go check the calendar. I’ll wait.
Are you back? Good. With the season looming, it’s time to break out some predictions. Not just any predictions. DUMB predications. I know it’s still cold outside, and some of you may even be snowed in as we speak. You’re in luck. You don’t need a snow shovel, because I’ve come bearing white, hot takes.
1. The Redlegs will win 90+ games.
There’s been a ton of negativity around these parts regarding our favorite baseball team. "But Derek, Walt didn’t do enough and there’s no money and Skip Schumaker, man!" Hush. Listen, there were some good things that happened last season. Todd Frazier became a real leader of this team and the de facto face of the Reds (#FaceOfMLB). Devin Mesoraco broke out an All Star season and the bat we were all coveting, all while dealing with injuries. Johnny Cueto was 2nd in the Cy Young voting, and that’s only because Clayton Kershaw was the MVP of the whole damn league. Billy Hamilton put up a solid rookie season, the second half notwithstanding. All of that will roll into this season, along with health. Sweet, dear old health. Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, arguably the two most important players if the Reds have a chance to win anything in the near future, had lost seasons in 2014. But guess what? They’re back and healthy*. Speaking of which…
2. Joey Votto will be back to doing Joey Votto-like things… and he’ll finish no lower than 3rd in the MVP voting.
Joseph Daniel Votto. This prediction isn’t dumb enough, because we’re talking about Joey Votto. Votto will finally be able to put that knee injury, and corresponding quad injury, completely in his rearview. In 2015, he’ll pick up where he left off in June of 2012. I’m not going to step out on the limb far enough to say he’ll actually break the doubles record that the was gunning for before that season was wrecked by a Panda, but his season is going to be strong. Unfortunately, I don’t know that he’ll hit enough dingers it’ll take to actually win the award from the arcane writers association (especially if Giancarlo Stanton keeps dingering the dinger out of baseballs), but I’m expecting one-thousand plus OPS from #19. Comeback Player of the Year? Oh, he’s getting’ that fo’ sho’. While we’re on the subject of awards…
3. Aroldis Chapman will pitch ~100 innings… and he’ll finish no lower than 3rd in the Cy Young Award voting.
My esteemed colleague Aaron Michael predicted the 100 innings last year, and I’m one-upping him. Last year, the Cuban Missile didn’t pitch for the Reds until May 11th, and managed 54 IP. By my (very unscientific, cherry-picking) count of games he could’ve pitched in in the time that he missed, he could’ve added around 20 innings to that, and that’s if he pitched only 1 inning per showing. Aroldis still pitched a decent amount in September, regardless of the expanded roster and having nothing to play for, but I do note a 9-day stretch that he didn’t make an appearance. I’d venture a guess that he would’ve pitched more in September had the Reds had something to win, and this year they will. Aroldis de la Cuban Cruz Missile will post his best season yet, and while he won’t become the first reliever since Eric Gagne to win the award, he’ll blow away just as many voters as he does batters with his nasty stuff. Oh,and I fully expect Bryan Price to use him a little more liberally this season, you know, since he won't be coming off a horrific face-mashing.
Basically what I’m saying: Aroldis Chapman is superhuman, and last year he was more superhuman than he’s been before, and he’s about to fascinate you all over again.
4. Zack Cozart will hit at least 15 home runs… and OBP over .310.
We all know Zackuum is capable of some pop. He tallied 15 and 12 big flies in 2012 and 2013, respectively, before the horrible suckitude that was 2014. So, return of the bat meat isn’t such a dumb prediction. But, he’ll finally OBP over .280something, and he’ll beat it by a fair amount. The addition of Eugenio Suarez puts a viable, young player behind Cozart to push him for the everyday shortstop position. I think the Reds would prefer to keep Suarez in AAA. But, that doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t pull the trigger if Zack continues to swing the bat like the worst hitter in baseball. Luckily for the Reds and Zack Cozart, this won’t be an issue this year. It's a renaissance! An awakening! The bat, it's ALIVE. Think Asdrubal Cabrera, but with defense.
5. Tony Cingrani is back, and he’s fantastic.
In 2013, Tony Cingrani filled in admirably everywhere he was needed. He managed 104 IP, while posting 1.099 WHIP and striking out everybody. And we began to dream about what could be, especially if he coupled that devastating fastball with a refined arsenal of secondary pitches. And then 2014 happened. Penciled in to take the rotation spot of the departed Bronson Arroyo, the season for Cingrani was completely forgettable. After some combination of grinding, struggling, and getting shelled, Cingrani was eventually relegated to bullpen duty before being shut down all together, and we just all sat and wondered about what could’ve been. Fortunately for us, the waiting is about to be over. I predict that Cingrani comes back and not only wins one of the open spots in the rotation, but takes it. Forcefully. And then does this:
GET OFF HIM, DESCALFANI! Presumably healthy and strong, Cingrani will regain the form from 2013. And, we’ll all wait for the league to catch up with him and have conversations about when the bottom will fall out (or when his arm is going to fall off) and, it just… won’t. And then we’ll all post Tony Cingrani .gifs and be generally in love with him again. And it’ll be great.
I don’t know how dumb this is, but I think it’s both long term (Padres) and short term (Cubs). They’re the darlings of the offseason, but I predict they both wait another year. Or, for the Padres, end up back at the drawing board.
*Predicting health: the dumbest prediction of all