Predictions are dumb, at least when you take them as things that will happen. These particular predictions aren’t going to happen, that much I can assure you, for if I could assure you, I’d be making enough bank off of them to not be wasting my time hammering them into a keyboard for you to read.
That isn’t to say that predictions aren’t some semi-logical collision between should and could. That’s exactly what they are, almost-assertions that have both nothing riding on them and just enough of a boozy backing to be interesting enough to maybe remember down the line. And, of course, these are dumb predictions, the misanthropic younger sibling of educated guesses, something right up the alley of our specific baseball bloghole world.
Around this time each and every year, we channel our inner Miss Cleo - god rest her soul - and attempt to make a few interjections on the potential path of our Cincinnati Reds that are a concoction of one-part sanity, three-parts absurdity. It’s not exactly the same as throwing an entire 52 card deck in the air and picking one of the ones at random, since that would be something that anyone could do. Consider it more, I dunno, the same concept with 37 or so cards.
Last year, I sure as heck made Five Dumb Predictions, and boy, were they dumb. There’s a decent chance that they were the dumbest ones yet, at least in retrospect, though the fact that Joey Votto didn’t win a Silver Slugger still has me steaming to this day. It’s high time I turned the page on last year’s dumpster fire and got on to what’s in store for 2018.
With that in mind, here are Five Dumb Predictions for the 2018 Reds season.
1) Scott Schebler has a 4+ WAR season
In 2017, Scott Schebler’s 531 plate appearances were meritoriously valued at 1.4 fWAR and 1.2 bWAR. Your math skills will tell you that to be worth more than 4 WAR in 2018, Scott Schebler has a lot of work to do, and your math would be absolutely correct.
However, his 30 homer 2017 season also featured a few important subplots. He owned an .858 OPS prior to injuring his shoulder diving for a ball on June 3rd, and while he tried to play through it, he eventually suffered through a miserable 3 for 54 stretch before hitting the DL for a few weeks. After returning, his .831 OPS in the final 40 games of the season looked much more like the pre-injury Schebron.
Adding to my optimism is the .248 BABIP he had in 2017, a number that should rise even though he’s a fly-ball hitting machine. What also stands out to me is the putrid .198/.298/.397 line he hit inside Great American Ball Park compared to the .263/.327/.529 he hit on the road last year, numbers that suggest his 30 dinger output was by no means just a product of GABP’s tiny dimensions. If those splits normalize in the way in which you’d expect...oh boy, that’s a pile of dingers.
The owner of his high school’s record 55 meter dash time, Schebler’s plenty capable on defense, too, despite the wonky defensive metrics not loving him out there. I think this is the year those turn, too, and that paired with a full healthy season gives him some crazy good 4+ WAR upside.
2) Sal Romano leads the Reds in IP
Mustang Sally is six foot fifty and is built like a freight train. He throws a heavy, heavy fastball that can hit 98 mph, and is exactly the kind of kid whose picture you see in dictionaries when you look up ‘workhorse.’
Who am I kidding? Nobody has dictionaries these days. He’s the guy you see on dictionary dot com when you look up ‘workhorse.’ There. Much better.
I think Sal takes his rotation spot and runs with it, posting something along the lines of a 4.25 ERA while staying healthy and going 6ish innings every time he’s tasked with that idea. Will he be the best Reds starter this year? No, I don’t think so, but he fills the role of ‘3rd starter slash innings-eater’ quite well, and I think much of what you saw him provide in a half-season last year translates to a team-leading mark in IP from the get-go in 2018.
3) Joey Votto wins his first career Silver Slugger Award
Joey Votto still hasn’t won a damn Silver Slugger Award, and that grinds my gears into thermal breakdown like the old Castrol GTX commercials.
I predicted this last year, and he got hosed. Just because he’s Canadian can’t possible mean he’s going to be stuck being a hoser his entire life. The Silver Slugger goes to the best damn hitter on the planet at his position as judged by gaggles of yee-haws, and Joey Votto is the best damn hitter at his position on the planet.
I do think this is the year he finally, finally gets to squeeze this award into his burgeoning trophy ward, or else I’m breaking into all of your houses and throwing all of your remote controls at all of your TVs.
4) Jesse Winker hits .310...with power
Jesse Winker hitting .310 is no real limb on which to step out on. He hit .298 in his initial call-up with the Reds last year, is a career .299 hitter in his professional career, and MLB Pipeline’s Jonathan Mayo once picked him to have the single best batting average of any minor leaguer out there of the course of a season - only for Winker to post just a .308 mark.
What bugs me, though, is how folks keep acting like the kid’s got no power. He once won the Midwest League dinger derby as an All Star, and since he’s recovered from the wrist injuries that dogged him while he still hit single after single, I think he flashes enough power to make people take some notice - just as he did with the Reds last year.
.310/.370/.440 is my pick for Jesse, with enough playing time in the OF rotation to see him poke 18 home runs exactly. 18. Write that down.
5) Tyler Mahle wins the National League Rookie of the Year Award
There’s a part of me that wonders why we’ve not freaked out more about Mahle.
He’s the owner of a no-hitter and a perfect game in his MiLB career, just posted an absurd 0.96 WHIP between AA-AAA in 144.1 innings in 2017, and despite not being known for his fastball has reportedly touched 99 mph with it. He’s crept up Top 100 overall prospect lists, but is still viewed largely as a mid-rotation guy, at best, despite peripherals that suggest he’s already perfected the art of slicing up eyeballs.
With Robert Stephenson being officially optioned to AAA on Thursday and both Anthony DeSclafani and Brandon Finnegan not ready to go for Opening Day, the 23-year old is going to get a shot in the rotation from the start of the season. I think he’s the real deal, and that he’s going to be the breakout star of the 2018 Reds pitching staff in much the same way that Luis Castillo was in 2017 - the only difference being that Mahle’s going to get a full year to do his damage, and that’ll result in him not just being the best rookie starter in the NL, but the overall Rookie of the Year for the senior circuit.