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An early projection of Cincinnati's 2017 season

An early forecast of the 2017 season has the Reds finishing under .500 once again.

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 MLB season just ended, but it's never too early to start looking ahead to next season. Over the past week Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs has done just that. Last Monday he published an article entitled "Come Look at 2017 Projections Already." So what exactly did this early look at next year have to say about our Cincinnati Reds?

Before answering that question, it would probably be helpful to clear up a few things. Some of you are likely asking, "How can someone project the 2017 season when we don't even know what the rosters are going to look like?" That's a fair question. Here are a few of the qualifications that Sullivan put in place for this article:

  • Free agents were moved off of rosters and on to a "free-agent" squad.
  • Win totals are based on projected fWAR + a constant.
  • These aren't FanGraphs actual projections for the 2017 season.
  • He argues that this is best thought of as a "baseline." "These are the rosters the clubs will be adding to and subtracting from over the following months."
With those caveats in mind, this projection has the Reds finishing 73-89.

There are a few ways that you could look at these results as a Reds fan:

1. On the bright side, this projection has Cincinnati finishing 4th in the NL Central. If that prediction is true, it would snap a two-year streak of finishing last in the division. Thanks Milwaukee? Just as a heads up, don't look at the Cubs projection. A deep sadness will just wash over you as you consider the difficult task of reaching the top of this division any time soon.

2. There are legitimate reasons to question whether or not this method is a good one for giving a team like the Reds a baseline. Sullivan freely admits in his article that this is a very early look, and there is still a lot that could change. However, a rebuilding team like the Reds suffers in a projection system like this because of the abundance of young/unproven players on the roster.

As stated above these win totals are largely based on fWAR projections. In their own explanation of projection systems FanGraphs notes, "We generally have more confidence in projections when we have more data. A player with 200 MLB PA probably has a less certain projection than a  player with 2000 MLB PA because we can draw on more data to make inferences about the player."

This means that it is likely players like Adam Duvall, Jose Peraza, and the young pitchers could easily be undervalued because there simply isn't as much data to go on. Some will question whether Duvall can have another season like he did in 2016, but this projection assumes he'll go from basically being a three-win player (2.8) to a one-win player.

Likewise, Jose Peraza is projected to be a one-win player as well. Many fans who watched the Reds toward the end of last season are likely confident Peraza can outperform that projection. Especially if he ends up getting move to SS due to changes on the roster.

3. One obvious reason to take this projection with a grain of salt is that it's very possible the Reds depth chart will look different on Opening Day than it does now. Over the past week we've heard that Brandon Phillips is more open to a trade this offseason than last, and that the team is open to trade scenarios involving Zack Cozart. This doesn't take into account questions surrounding the final shape of the rotation and bullpen once the season starts. There is still plenty of time for moves to occur which would change the teams 2017 outlook (to be clear Sullivan freely admits this).

If the Reds did win 73 games in 2017 it would be a five-win improvement over last season. While no one will be too excited about a projection like that, it at least projects a team heading in a positive direction. Do you expect Cincinnati to win more or fewer games than this projection? Let us know why in the comments section.